Health advice is everywhere around us today. You can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without being confronted with some new advice, advice that often conflicts with the last lot of advice you came across. Social media has only amplified this effect - enabling people to spread information, correct or otherwise, much faster and more widely than has ever been possible in the past.
In the face of so much conflicting information, lots of people are choosing to play it safe and reject conventional pharmaceuticals and treatments in favour of natural alternatives. There are a number of other factors behind this shift in attitudes and understanding these reveals a lot about our modern relationship with medicine.
Trust and Distrust
If patients don’t think that they can trust the medical industry, they are more likely to reject pharmaceuticals in favor of natural alternatives.
Historically, people have been willing to trust their doctors. In the days when doctors were prescribing leeches and bloodletting for their patients, their authority was taken as read. Today, with formalised medical degrees, peer-reviewed journals and a considerably higher standard of public education, patients seem to have less faith in their doctors, not more.
There is no shortage of examples of big pharma behaving appallingly around the globe. The current opioid epidemic ravaging communities in the US hasn’t been seen in the UK, but the global nature of pharmaceutical businesses means that the same businesses and people are operating in the UK. The result is that localised events can damage trust globally.
If patients don’t think that they can trust the medical industry, they are more likely to reject pharmaceuticals in favour of natural alternatives.
Returning to the Source
There are numerous products that people buy and use on a regular basis that represent a concentrated or refined version of a natural product. In some cases, this is undeniably a really good thing. For example, isolating aspirin from willow bark gives us an effective painkiller that works better than using the willow bark itself to make an infusion containing aspirin.
However, sometimes this extra processing can have negative health effects. In the case of something like white bread, the extra refining doesn’t make the product unhealthy, but it does make it considerably less healthy. Articles like this look at different types of vegetable oils highlight how straying too far from a natural source can result in a product that bears the name of a natural ingredient but which provides none of the benefits we would normally expect.
A growing number of patients who are receiving conventional treatments for diseases like cancer are using natural alternatives as a means of augmenting their existing protocols, and of providing them with a level of psychological comfort. Most doctors are quite happy for their patients to supplement conventional treatments with natural alternatives, as long as they don’t conflict.
For a lot of patients, adding their own natural treatments to the mix can provide them with an enormous sense of comfort and control. When a serious illness befalls someone, one of the most difficult aspects of it to deal with psychologically is often the feeling of helplessness that comes with not being in control of your present circumstances. Many patients find that they feel more at ease when they are using natural treatments to manage their symptoms.
With so much conflicting information out there about our health and how we should be looking after ourselves, it can be hard to know what to do or who to trust. We are all very aware of the sins and excesses of the pharmaceutical industry, and many people simply feel that they can no longer trust these mega-corporations to look out for their best interests. For these people, natural alternatives can represent a seemingly safer path.