Doctors Attack Complementary Therapies

I read with astonishment today that a group of prominent doctors, medical researchers and scientists in Australia have written a letter to the Central Queensland University to oppose a new chiropractic course. Apparently their reasoning is that this course and other complementary therapies are potentially harmful to the public and based on pseudo-science. In my experience, the same could be argued about the practice of many medical professionals.

Some of the comments from this group include:

Prof Morrison (a science writer and broadcaster) commented that, “Alternative therapies may have a placebo effect, but wrapping them up as science and discussing them in the same way as treatments that pass rigorous efficacy and safety tests is harmful for everyone”.

Prof Alastair MacLennan from the University of Adelaide said that “the issue is much bigger than CQU’s chiropractic course and we condemn the “teaching” of unproven beliefs such as homeopathy, naturopathy and iridology in public institutions”. He described these practices as “shonky”.

Complementary therapies are here to stay whether the medical profession like it or not. Wouldn’t it be more sensible to encourage complementary health practitioners to go to university to learn about scientific methods, rather than complain about universities supporting these therapies?

One reason why people are seeking out complementary therapies is because they are not getting answers from doctors. In particular, when it comes to symptoms like chronic fatigue, the type of service and standard of care that I have received by medical professionals could not be described as scientific and could certainly be described as harmful.  These are some experiences I have had when visiting doctors over the past decade:

I visited one doctor due to debilitating fatigue. On my second visit I was told by the doctor that blood test results were normal. He then said, “There’s nothing wrong with you physically, so it must be psychological”. No referrals or follow-up appointments were suggested. Six months later after continuing to be fatigued, I saw another doctor who diagnosed glandular fever. In all my years training as a psychologist, I have never been taught that glandular fever was a psychological disorder.

As the fatigue did not significantly improve (no treatment strategies were suggested after diagnosis), I started seeing doctors again to try and find ways to improve my health. I was told a number of times that the only problem was ‘stress.’ I am now convinced that the term ‘stress’ is conveniently used by doctors when they cannot find a cause for symptoms. After becoming frustrated, I went to another doctor who ordered thorough blood tests. I had a follow-up appointment which lasted about two minutes. I was informed I had rheumatoid arthritis and was given a script for medication. This was despite the fact that I had no obvious symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The doctor was obviously busy and advised me to make another appointment if I had any questions. After taking these pills for two months, I enquired from another GP what would happen if I abruptly stopped the medication. He said “the pain will come back”. Pain was not one of my initial symptoms, so I stopped taking the medication.

After being disillusioned with the medical profession, I turned to alternative therapists. Complementary health practitioners have never told me that the problem was all in my head. They have taken time to comprehensively assess the problems experienced and have made sensible recommendations other than taking medication for symptoms or diagnosing me with conditions I don’t have.

I decided again to see a GP as my fatigue had only slightly improved. I told the doctor that I had seen a naturopath who suggested I ask about getting a full blood test. His comment was “if the naturopath wants a blood test, he should order it himself”. The doctor then told me to leave his office. He didn’t even ask me why I was there. This experience just reinforced my disillusionment with the medical profession. The reason I went to the naturopath was because I wasn’t getting any help from doctors.

I finally found the main reason why I was fatigued. It was due to food allergies. I had asked GPs a number of times if I could be tested for allergies. I was told that “it’s too expensive” and “too complicated” to assess for allergies. Fortunately, I found a doctor who specialised in nutritional and environmental medicine, who assessed and diagnosed me with food allergies.

In the past six months, I have had four appointments with GPs (none of which I’d been to before). The average appointment time was about four minutes. How can one effectively assess, diagnose and provide treatment recommendations in four minutes? Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed and it has made me wonder whether some doctors will start to offer drive-through medical care, where a doctor asks in a disinterested voice “What’s your symptoms?” and tells you to drive to the next window to pick up your script. I was actually told by one of these doctors “I don’t know what’s wrong with you” (which is an improvement from “you’re stressed”) but was then given a script for antibiotics to treat some unknown condition.

Attacking the practice of complementary health is not only disrespectful to a person’s right to decide what treatment they want to have. It is also disrespectful to those in the medical profession who practice complementary health. There are many doctors who practice complementary health care such as acupuncture and nutritional medicine. Given the increase in people turning to alternatives in health care, I’d have to say I’m rather sceptical about this group’s reasoning that it will protect the community from harm.  It would be wiser to look within their own profession to improve practices and prevent harm to the community, before attacking other health professions.

Read more about the doctors attack on complementary medicine here:

The Age Newspaper

Medical Search

The one doctor who did help me, Dr Greg Emerson, has a great web page that can be found here:

Dr Greg Emerson

About Suzanne

has written 37 post in this blog.

Suzanne is the owner of Food, Mood and Attitude. Suzanne is passionate about sharing healthy messages about how we relate to food and our bodies. Life is too short too worry about big bums and diets that don't work.

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Suzanne is the owner of Food, Mood and Attitude. Suzanne is passionate about sharing healthy messages about how we relate to food and our bodies. Life is too short too worry about big bums and diets that don't work.

6 thoughts on “Doctors Attack Complementary Therapies”

  1. I find this debate interesting. I too have had some great results with ‘alternative’ therapies including chiropractic and osteopathy. At the end of the day, it was knowing my body, that drove my decision making. In saying that, there are some shonky practices out there. I wonder how many people know that procedures such as IVF are ‘experimental’ due to their limited success rates? I also believe that making claims should be backed up by evidence. I think that is where these medical practitoners are objecting. The lack of ‘proof’. As we increase our understanding of energetic medicine and placebo, our system will have to change. We just aren’t there yet. The best thing we can do is continue to vote with our feet. Question everything (both alternative and orthodox), know and listen to our own bodies.

    1. Hi Krishna

      Good points! I didn’t know that about IVF. Listening to our bodies is probably the most important lesson I’ve learnt as a result of my experience. The body can feel quite different to mental stress as opposed to physical stressors on the body. I’ve also learnt to keep a more open mind about what will help me and what won’t. It’s important to have concern about practices that can be harmful or practices that have limited evidence to support them. However, I don’t think the way this group is going about it is a great way to express their concerns. It just seems like scare mongering. Labelling whole professions, particularly ones that have been around for longer than westernized medicine, such as acupuncture, as unproven pseudo disciplines is just silly.

  2. I am fortunate enough to have a great doctor who is open to alternative therapies. His only request is that after I have finished my treatments I come back and take tests to make sure they have worked. I find this to be a fair combination of both. I think it is important in our defence of alternative therapies that we don’t scrutinise doctors too much either otherwise we are doing the same as they are. I think it is important to find ways to combine the two and to find a balance that works. At the end of the day we all need to have an open mind and find a way that suits us as individuals. I believe there could great benefit from doctors and other practitioners working together.

    1. Sounds like the approach your doctor takes works well. The article just concerned me because it was some very high profile doctors and scientists condemning natural therapies. For me that created quite a bit of resistance and I imagine it would for others who have found complementary therapies to be beneficial. What helped me in the end was a doctor that specialised in nutritional medicine.

  3. What is very interesting is how much cancer is on the rise, and how many “New illnesses” are discovered every year!
    Since we saw “Don Tolman” speak on Stage in Brisbane about two years ago, we have never been to a doctor.
    We heal the body from within and listen to what we need to get well. Its a matter of doing what is right for ones inner health, and listening to the heart – it will always let you know what you need!
    On a note about cancer….
    Did you know that the leading cause of skin cancer is due to our sunscreen – one of the main ingredients attracks the deadly RV rays – and yet if you used Pure Organic Coconut Oil you would never burn nor have skin cancer!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      I’ve also seen Don Tolman speak. He certainly has a powerful message about how food can heal. What we put on or in our body makes a huge difference in how the body functions. I did know that sunscreens have harmful chemicals in them. I know some people who order sunscreen from New Zealand as they have tried to find a sunscreen in Australia without harmful chemicals but haven’t found one.

      I didn’t know that about coconut oil though. Coconut oil is so versatile!

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