COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE’S ROLE IN HEALTHCARE

A common misconception about complementary therapies is that they are somehow in competition with Western medicine. Some of this may be due to confusion about the role both play within the healthcare system.

Complementary medicines, including Kinesiology, fit together with Western medicine like puzzle pieces. One is preventative and focused on maintaining wellness (complementary therapies), while the other intervenes only when you’re overtly sick (Western medicine).

Western medical doctors are not trained in preventative medicine or wellness; they’re trained to identify diseases and disorders because it is a disease-based model. Their number one priority is not a patient’s ongoing wellness, but keeping them alive. This means doctors are typically only looking at one piece of the puzzle when, really, all the pieces affect each other. In saying this, there are times when a medical doctor is the best option. For example, when you’re seeking a disease diagnosis or in need of urgent medical intervention. You wouldn’t see a complementary therapist for a broken leg or after a stroke.

Complementary therapies are concerned with the whole puzzle and will intervene in the early stages when you’re just starting to feel less-than-great. The purpose is to move the person towards an optimal state of health and maintain this long-term so you won’t necessarily need a medical doctor down the track.

It’s important to stress that it isn’t a case of Western medicine versus complementary therapies. It is not a battle.

The secret is balance

Kinesiology is focused on restoring homeostasis. This word is derived from two Greek words: homeo meaning ‘similar’ and stasis meaning ‘equilibrium’ or ‘no change’. So homeostasis means keeping the body’s systems balanced and maintaining a constant internal environment. We don’t stay unwaveringly stable all the time, however, because the body is continually reacting to different stressors to hold this equilibrium.

You might recognise some of the systems that depend on balance:

  • Body temperature
    Our temperature must be kept at 37 degrees Celsius and the body has several mechanisms to do so (e.g., sweat or shiver, surface capillaries construct or dilate, and metabolism increases or decreases).
  • Digestive acids
    There is just the right amount of acid in the stomach to digest food but not enough to harm the stomach lining.
  • Glucose (blood sugar)
    The body balances insulin and glucagon to keep blood sugar stable. Diabetes is the result when blood sugar levels are constantly too high.
  • Fluid
    When water levels are high (say, you’re drinking a lot), you’ll find yourself visiting the toilet more and urine will be more diluted. However, when water levels are low (you’re exercising), more water is reabsorbed and you’ll visit the toilet less and urine will be more concentrated.

States of compensation

The body’s number one priority is to stay alive so it doesn’t immediately fall in a heap when things are off balance; it compensates. You might still feel and look fine because the body is doing its job to keep you functioning. The body is so efficient at compensating, sometimes you don’t even realise your health has been going downhill gradually. We see this all the time in Kinesiology clinics and, sadly, this is the stage most of the Western world lives in. You’re not overtly sick but you don’t feel great. This isn’t good enough but it’s something people somehow accept as normal.

There are several common ways we get ourselves into this state:

  • Lack of (or poor) sleep
  • Little exercise
  • Poor food choices
  • Stress

Have you ever noticed when you’re eating well and taking care of yourself, you feel wonderful? But then you have a few days – maybe after Christmas or holidays – where you eat bad food continually and you feel horrendous? The difference is incredible. The trouble is, if you keep eating awful food your body will eventually compensate and you will simply get used to feeling this way and carry on unaware. But the problem hasn’t gone away. We’re slowly walking ourselves toward an unhealthy, unhappy life and even an early grave.

I honestly believe we need to empower people to make the best choices for their own ongoing health. Complementary medicine plays a very important role in healthcare by assisting people to maintain wellness and avoid chronic illness. This will have knock-on effects in the healthcare system by lessening the burden on hospitals and medical doctors, and saving billions of dollars. I think that’s a win-win for all.

By Tania O’Neill McGowan, O’Neill Kinesiology College Managing Director

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