With integrative medicine, it is up to you to try out your treatment program and see if it helps you. If a treatment option helps you, stay with it. If it does not lead to improvements in your health or it actually worsens your health, it is time to move on. This sounds simple and obvious, but many people fall into a rut with this aspect of the process.
Look At Your Plan Objectively
Many times, for example, I have seen people with a history of depression whose doctor had put them on a particular antidepressant drug. Even if they were still depressed a year or two later, no one – not the patient or any provider – had questioned whether or not it was time to move on to a different antidepressant drug or even to a different form of treatment.
Somehow having connected the patient with a treatment that was supposed to help, even though it didn’t, was mistakenly seen as enough by everyone involved. People settled for labels instead of results of treatment. This is the kind of situation where it is not enough to “get some help.” It is up to you first, and your provider(s) second, to look objectively at whether or not the help is helping.
A Word about Conventional Medical Drugs
Most people with chronic disease are on conventional medical drugs when they start a fuller treatment plan. Do not stop your prescription drugs before it is time to try to do so or in a manner that is counterproductive – and only make changes under the supervision of a qualified prescribing doctor. Many people – but not all — find that they can gradually lower their medication doses or eventually stop the drugs altogether as other treatments begin to work.
However, it is not safe to reduce or stop your drugs too soon, at a time when nothing else has actually helped yet, unless the risk of doing so is minimal in your physician’s judgment and you agree (e.g., some increased pain or discomfort but not a flare in disease activity or death).
It is also often especially risky to stop drugs suddenly. Drugs are usually suppressing disease activity. Sudden removal of a drug from the body, which likely has generated a compensatory increase in disease activity behind the scenes to fight the drug effects, will unleash unopposed, increased disease activity. This is often dangerous and usually unnecessary.
Use common sense — I have heard of tragic cases of insulin-dependent diabetics, for instance, who stopped their insulin and died in diabetic coma with high blood sugars at the recommendation of an ignorant CAM provider who told them the new treatment would replace the insulin from the start and who misinterpreted the adverse effects of high blood sugar as a temporary healing crisis. It is easy enough to test your blood sugar and see if the insulin requirements go down – then it makes sense to reduce the drug accordingly in collaboration with the physician who prescribed it. If nothing changes, then you still need your insulin at the dose that your doctor originally prescribed.
For most chronic diseases, prioritize your choices. The best way to get unstuck and to heal is to start with and prioritize the two most powerful levels of health care options. These are spiritual and constitutional.
The other key practical decision is to continue your drugs for now, as discussed above. Continue the essential aspects of your biochemical level – i.e., your Western conventional treatment, in consultation with your physician.