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Alternative Medicines: Talking to Your Doctor

Medically reviewed by Karyn Eilber, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MDAsma Khapra, MD, and Marianne Madsen on March 18. 2023

Your doctor recommends a certain course of treatment but you’d rather opt for an alternative one. Or maybe you’d like to combine alternative or complementary treatments with the treatment he or she recommends. How exactly do you broach this subject? Will your doctor treat you differently after you voice your opinions? Is it best to keep your thoughts to yourself? Here’s what you should do if you’re considering alternative medicine instead of or in conjunction with conventional therapies.


Do your own research


Before talking to your doctor about an alternative or complementary treatment you’ve heard about, do some research on your own. Browse the internet for credible sources and compile a list of your findings. Then, once you’re face-to-face with your healthcare provider, you’ll be prepared to discuss the matter in depth.


Listen to your doctor


Even if you’re sure that you want to avoid conventional treatment or that you definitely want to use another treatment in conjunction with it, you should listen to what your doctor has to say first. Keep an open mind and see if your doctor presents a valid argument against your chosen method of treatment. It’s possible that he or she will be interested in what you’re proposing. Have a reasonable conversation. While doctors don’t know everything, they’re still qualified experts in their field, and you’ll want to listen to their opinion before you make any decisions. 

Ask questions


Chances are, your doctor has heard of the alternative or complementary treatment you’re considering. Ask him or her about its potential risks, benefits, and overall effectiveness. Ask if any other patients have pursued this avenue of treatment and what the results were. See if your doctor knows of any scientific studies that have been done on the subject. Ask if the treatment you’re thinking of has any known side effects or if it interacts with any other drugs or medications. 


Take notes


You’ll want to go home with as much knowledge on the topic as possible. Bring a notebook and start writing, or record your conversation using your mobile phone. If your doctor tells you about any specific websites or resources, ask for links to the information or simply write down the names of the sites. 

Don’t stop prescribed medications or therapies


If you’ve been prescribed a certain drug or are undergoing a particular therapy, make sure to continue your treatment until you’ve made a final decision. Some diseases, such as cancer, require aggressive care, and adding on a treatment or stopping treatment prematurely can be dangerous to your health. 


If you’re not satisfied, get a second opinion


If your doctor is unreceptive to what you’re trying to say or you’re not happy with the advice, don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. Doctors often have varying opinions on what the best course of treatment is, so it’s your right to talk with more than one healthcare professional until you’ve come to a decision. 


Written by Natan Rosenfeld

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