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An Alternative Way of Thinking

 
As a complementary and alternative medicine therapist, I am asked a lot of questions about the role of complementary medicine and the different types of natural therapies available to people. Unfortunately, I, like many alternative therapists, also field a lot of criticism about our approach. So, I want to start by saying that alternative medicine is just that – it’s an alternative. It’s a different way of thinking about your health and wellness concerns, with some methods dating back to the beginning of mankind.
 
There is no denying that our scientific advances in western medicine are lifesaving and necessary. There is also no denying that this approach does not work for everybody, for all conditions and concerns. The same can be said for conventional therapies. I don’t want you to take me to a kinesiologist if I need stitches or have a severe life threating condition that requires an Emergency Department visit.
 
Increasingly though, there is science behind many of the complementary and alternative therapies I write about. Acupuncture points, for example, have been scientifically shown to change the electrical current in our bodies when stimulated. However, there is not as much research into natural therapies, when compared to conventional medicine, due in large part to a lack of funding.
 
So, complementary and alternative therapists are not here to replace or denounce science. We simply seek to connect the dots between what your head is thinking, body is feeling, and you are experiencing. You see, the body is a beautiful, complex piece of art. It has so many layers – from organs, bones, muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons to glands, intricate connective tissues, blood vessels and trillions of cells – each working hard to keep us in good health.
 
With all this going on inside of us, and so many types of complementary and alternative medicine therapists and therapies out there, how do you make a decision? It can be hard to know who to see with your health and wellness concerns and when to see them. So, here’s my explanation on natural therapies and what each specialises in. This list is by no means exhaustive – instead I have written about the therapies that I know, trust and use.
 
· Acupressure
 
· Acupuncture
 
· Aromatherapy
 
· Bowen Therapy
 
· Energetic Medicine & Reiki
 
· Homeopathy
 
· Integrative Medicine (GP)
 
· Iridology
 
· Kinesiology
 
· Naturopathy
 
· Nutritional Medicine
 
· Mind Body Medicine
 
· Integrative Complementary Medicine
 
o Tissue Salts
 
o Flower Essences
 
o Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupressure

 
Exactly like acupuncture, except no needles. The basis of this therapy is the concept of life energy, or qi, flowing through meridians or channels in the body. Each of the acupoints in the body have different meanings for physical conditions and emotional wellbeing. The acupoints are rubbed or held through manual pressure to stimulate the flow of qi or life energy to restore health and wellness.
 
I use acupressure all the time in clinic. I find the acupoint or points that are stressed and hold them to restore the flow of qi. At the same time I discuss the meaning of the point with my client in relation to what we are working on. I feel something like a pulse in the point, and I am looking for the pulse to even out, and return to a regular steady rhythm, which takes 20+ minutes each time. I often use essential oils with these points to help promote the flow of qi and reinforce what we are working on.
 
For me, the benefit of acupressure over acupuncture is connecting the meaning of the acupoint with what is going on for the client and why. It promotes faster healing and helps the client to understand how to prevent this issue from recurring in the future. As I’m talking to my client, I’m working on the acupoint to promote a true mind-body therapy to help them resolve an issue both emotionally and physically.
 

 Acupuncture

 
The basis of this therapy is the concept of life energy, or qi, flowing through meridians or channels in the body. Each of the acupoints in the body have different meanings for physical conditions and emotional wellbeing. However, the acupoints are activated with specialised fine needles to stimulate the flow of qi.

Aromatherapy

 
The use of aromatic oils, extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant. This is used to promote physical and emotional wellness. Known as ‘essential oils’ they can be used safely in a variety of ways to promote healing. Aromatherapy is special as the smell of an oil gets directly to our limbic system (our survival centre) and can cross the blood-brain barrier and placenta.
 
Each oil has a different purpose, so it is important to know your oils and to know safety precautions for dilution and ingestion. It is important to never ingest an essential oil unless you are specifically advised to do so by a properly trained aromatherapist. Dilutions of oils should be at around 1-2% of a carrier oil unless otherwise advised by a properly trained professional therapist. This may not be the person selling you an oil, so make sure you check this for your own safety and wellbeing.
 
Essential oils are natural. Let’s consider lemon essential oil. There are around 75 lemons in that bottle of oil. In the case of peppermint oil, there is about half a kilo of peppermint leaves to make that oil. There’s about 250 drops of oil in an average bottle, meaning about 1/3 of a lemon per drop, and a huge handful at least of peppermint leaves. Are you going to eat that much of a product or rub that much into your skin?
 
Essential oils do have fantastic healing properties for a wide variety of concerns. They are very beneficial when used correctly. I use oils in my clinic daily and offer aromatherapy massage.

Bowen Therapy and NST

 
A remedial body therapy that works on the soft connective tissue or fascia in the body. It is a relatively pain free therapy that works by resetting the body’s muscles and connective tissue through gently manipulating the muscle tissues.
 
I use a form of Advanced Bowen Therapy called NeuroStructural Integration Technique (NST). Clients that benefit from NST have pain issues, and to be very honest, I was initially surprised at how effective it is. It’s so successful that I now do this therapy first for all pain conditions. I’ve used it on Plantar Fasciitis, slipped discs, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel, headaches and migraines, all types of joint pain, and hip issues. I use it regularly on sports people, dancers and other types of athletes. It helps athletes with movement and recovery, and helps dancers with turnout, flexibility and core stability.

Energetic Medicine and Reiki

 
There are many types of energetic medicine, and they all do the same thing, which is work on the body’s energetic field. You know how you can feel someone almost touching you, but not quite? That’s your energetic field. Energetic medicine is simply a practitioner, such as myself, working on your energetic body as opposed to your physical body. There are practitioners that work only with the energetic body. I use this as a part of an overall plan of what my client needs, and I never use it without their informed consent. How I do this is through my hands, with crystals and with Reiki therapy.
 
My husband calls this my weird hippie stuff. To be honest, I thought it was rubbish – until it worked on me – I had back pain that day, and it was gone after my session. I still thought it wasn’t possible, it was coincidence – until I used it on a client that had some severe menstrual issues all her adult life. Her issues went away after one session with me.

Homeopathy

 
Homeopathy is regularly dismissed as quackery, woo and not evidence based – all of which are not based on fact. The principle of homeopathy is the infinitesimal dose. This is micro doses of a plant, mineral or even animal substance that are used to stimulate the body to heal itself. The body is incredibly intelligent and able to heal itself. When you get a cut, the body stops the bleeding and repairs the skin. Sometimes your body needs some help to heal itself. Homeopathy is one of the great things to help to body remember how to solve its own problems.
 
Up until recently, science had not been able to detect these micro doses through the available scientific testing methods. This led to the belief that homeopathy was nothing more than water. Recent scientific advances have been able to detect these micro doses. When we research how homeopathy was discovered by Dr Samuel Hahnemann, it was a very scientific method to discover this wonderful therapy.
 
My own children, and myself, have benefited from homeopathy, and it is such an amazing therapy. Sometimes, it can take a little bit of time to find the right remedy, but remember, there are over 3,500 remedies, and each has its own profile. I use about 50 remedies myself and refer to a homeopath when more specialised attention is required.

Integrative Medicine (GP)

 
Integrative medicine is exactly that – integrative. You can find an integrative GP that has a medical degree and has also studied further in complementary and alternative medicine therapies. There are some circumstances that require specific types of therapy. There are other circumstances that require an integrative approach. An integrative GP, if you can find one, is a wonderful person to know. Having said that, I don’t see an integrative GP – I have a GP who is just amazing. She listens to me most of the time (we do disagree on homeopathy, despite the change she can see in my son) and I haven’t had the need to see anyone else.
 
The other benefit of integrative medicine, is that several practitioners work together, collaboratively, for the best benefit of the client or patient. I work with naturopaths, homeopaths, psychologists, psychiatrists, general practitioners, massage therapists and specialists, a lot of the time. This is so beneficial to a client to ensure they are getting the very best solution for their health and wellness needs.

Iridology

 
This really is a tool used by natural therapists as opposed to its own therapy a lot of the time, however some people do practice as iridologists. Iridology is study of the iris as a diagnostic tool to uncover information about a client’s systemic health. Iridology is very useful for therapists such as myself and naturopaths to tell us about specific body systems and organs, such as the liver and the lymphatic system.
 
Many practitioners, including myself, use it in conjunction with other methods of information gathering. It helps us to understand what is going on for their client, and then create an action plan to move forward to achieve the client’s health and wellness goals.

Kinesiology

 
Kinesiology is literally the science of muscle movement. There are all different types of kinesiologists, but the basis is that we use the body’s muscles to interpret the stress patterns in the body. This taps into the body’s subconscious and even deeper, beyond any bias, conscious or unconscious that we may have. After that, how we use this information, is what differs between kinesiologists. Some have done short courses such as Touch For Health. Some have studied it as an addition to a chiropractic qualification (this is known as applied kinesiology). Others have studied it at Diploma or Advanced Diploma level, such as myself.
 
In my case, I use mind body medicine, to interpret this through Traditional Chinese medicine. Then I move into Integrative Complementary Medicine to find the best possible solution for a client’s health and wellness needs. This is a holistic therapy to address a client’s needs on a physical, emotional, biochemical, structural and spiritual basis.

Naturopathy

 
A complete natural therapy from a biochemical basis, as opposed to an emotional or constitutional basis. Naturopaths use many different modalities themselves, such as herbalism, homeopathy, and nutritional medicine, and they really understand the body’s biology and biochemistry. They do diagnostic work and look more deeply into this work than you often find in conventional medicine. Very often, people need supplementation in their diets, and support in how to achieve wellness through food as medicine. The advantage of a naturopath over a GP in this is that a GP does about a week’s worth of nutrition training, whereas a naturopath does 4 years of this.
 
I have some naturopathic training, and I investigate this field with a client, and sometimes I need to refer to a naturopath, as they do with me, and sometimes we work together. This is decided on a case by case basis depending on the client’s presentation and health and wellness goals.

Nutritional Medicine

 
If you are seeing a nutritionist, ask about their qualifications. There are no rules and regulations around calling yourself a nutritionist in Australia. In fact, with my training, I could call myself one if I wanted to. You can do an online course, for a few days, weeks or months, and call yourself a nutritionist. If the person in front of you advises you to eat as per the current dietary guidelines or provides you with advice or an eating plan based on them, seek a second opinion. Our current dietary guidelines are worthy of a blog on its own. In short, there is strong evidence that these guidelines are directly contributing to the rapid increase in lifestyle illnesses that we see.
 
There are nutritional medicine qualifications that are extensive enough to have an excellent understanding, knowledge and practice. The one I looked at was about 2 years.
 
Nutritionists are separate to dietitians. The Dietitians Association of Australia has stands at their conference trade shows occupied by such health experts as Nestle and McDonalds. I have nothing more to say on this, they get a little angry when this is mentioned.
 
I saw a very well-known dietitian talk once. She said things like you should not drink soft drink, or artificial sweeteners and so on. While she had a can of Diet Coke in her hands. Apparently, it didn’t apply, because – get this – she hadn’t had a chance to eat or drink all day and just needed something to get her through the night’s presentation and water just wasn’t going to cut it. She then offered an eating plan for kids with only one packet snack per day. Then showed slides of examples – with 3+ packet snacks in each example. I switched off after that.

Mind Body Medicine

 
This is quite simply, any therapy that works on both the mind and the body, treating both as one – which they are. The way that I use mind body medicine is to interpret signs and symptoms through traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory. TCM is thousands of years old and has withstood the test of time to show its relevance today in modern medicine. It simplifies what western medicine complicates and unifies what western medicine divides. TCM is especially useful for analysing seemingly unrelated symptoms and bringing them together, along with physical and emotional representation. It really gets to the root cause of what is going on.
 
Chinese medicine comes from the basis that all physical symptoms come from an emotional base, and this is where a true mind body approach is needed to completely resolve an issue. You cannot address the body without addressing the mind.

Integrative Complementary Medicine

 
Integrative Complementary Medicine, which is what I do in total. I bring in the best parts of all different types of complementary and alternative medicine therapy into one holistic therapy session. This is why it is an advantage to see me. I am trained in several different modalities, and I draw on my broad knowledge to combine an individual therapy for each client that I see, based on their specific individual needs. When a client needs more specific therapy, such as more specialised knowledge in homeopathy or naturopathy, then I refer the client on, or we work together.
 
My personal brand of integrative medicine is to use kinesiology to interpret what the body says, and what the body needs, traditional Chinese medicine theory to analyse why the body is having the issues that it has, acupressure to stimulate the body’s healing properties, and other complementary and alternative medicine modalities as required for that specific client’s circumstances. This is an uncommon and specialised, advanced qualification in the complementary and alternative medicine field.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

 
There are a few types of TCM practitioners – acupuncturists, herbalists, and people like myself that work with Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and apply it to the modality that they are trained in. TCM is thousands of years old and has withstood the test of time to show its relevance today in modern medicine. It simplifies what Western Medicine complicates and unifies what western medicine divides. TCM is especially useful for analysing seemingly unrelated symptoms and bringing them together, along with physical and emotional representation to really get to the root cause of what is going on.
 
Then there are some therapies that many complementary and alternative medicine practitioners use within their clinics:

Flower Essences

 
Have you ever used Rescue Remedy? You might be surprised to know that this is a flower essence. Flower essence therapy works on an energetic level, and for me, it really is part of energetic medicine. They work on a subconscious level, helping to address emotions, beliefs and attitudes that may be getting in the way of improving your health and wellness.
 
Famous flower essences are Bach Flower, Australian Bush Flower Essences, and Desert Alchemy Essences. I also love Tribe of The Tree essences as well. I used one of their essences once to let go of some emotional baggage I was carrying with me, and I have never decluttered my house so much, in one weekend, in my entire life. I use flower essences as part of an overall balance, or therapy session, to enhance the outcomes for my clients.

Tissue Salts

 
Also known as cell salts, these are found to naturally occur in the body, and an imbalance in these can lead to patterns of illness and disease. This therapy was discovered by Dr Schuessler, a physiological chemist and physicist through his research and study. Tissue salts are prepared by homeopathic principles, and although are minerals like magnesium, they stimulate cell metabolism and help the absorption of minerals into the body, as opposed to filling the body’s mineral reserves.
 
Tissue salts are commonly used as part of a therapy program by practitioners such as myself, naturopaths and homeopaths. They are very effective when used in relation to specific symptoms – although you can safely take all 12 salts all the time, better results are achieved when used according to presentation.

Who to Choose

As you can see, there are many ways to approach your health and wellness from a complementary and alternative medicine perspective. In all cases, I would choose someone that wants to work with other practitioners, so that you can ensure that you will get the help and support that you need. I would choose the therapist that best resonates with you in relation to your perceived concern and desired outcomes. Naturally I would suggest a kinesiologist or integrative complementary medicine therapist, such as myself, because this therapy is so broad and so specific at the same time. I may be biased (OK I am) but I really believe that all physical issues come from an emotional base and will not resolve completely until you address both mind and body. But – the choice is yours. That is the beauty of complementary and alternative medicine – the choice is yours.

KinesiAlice

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