Alternative and Complementary Medicines
by Nicole Berardoni M.D, Paul Lynch M.D, and Tory McJunkin M.D
The use of complementary and alternative medicine has increased over the past decade. Traditional Western Medicine is actively finding use for alternative medicine and treatment options. A variety of studies have suggested that the use of alternative treatments is even more widespread in people with symptoms or diagnoses of anxiety and depression. In general, clinical trials suggest that diets high in calories or fat along with excessive weight are directly linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers. Adjusting your diet to include more vegetables and fruits will help decrease these risk factors. In addition, there are dietary supplements (ginseng, nuts, ginkgo balboa, garlic, and more) that may affect the development of certain age-related diseases and immune system functioning. The most commonly used natural products include Echinacea, Ginseng, Ginko Biloba, and garlic supplements (Saeed 2007). Furthermore, there are studies that suggest nutrition in childhood and as early on as the fetus may influence the later development of diseases and lifespan (Everitt).
In a large cross-sectional study, information was obtained on patients from a sample of long-term users of multiple dietary supplements. The study concluded that this group of people were more likely to have optimal concentrations of chronic disease-related biomarkers, and less likely to have suboptimal blood nutrient concentrations, elevated blood pressure, and diabetes compared to non-users of supplemental herbs and multivitamins (Block 2007).
Although there are many products that are routinely found at health food stores and common grocery stores, some of the most common products that are supported by clinical research and may be beneficial are:
- Coenzyme Q10 - Coenzyme Q10 is a natural product found in certain cells of your body that are required to produce energy (ATP). Co-Q10 also functions as an antioxidant and is believed to increase your physical energy and decrease the aging process. Co-Q10 may also lower blood pressure and assist in weight loss.
- Echinacea – Echinacea is a flower that is used to boost the immune system and prevent upper respiratory tract infections (Zink 1998).
- Flax Seed Oil – The benefits of flax seed oil may be due to the present of lignans within the flaxseed. Lignans have various pro- and anti-estrogenic properties. Flaxseed oil is rich in linolenic acid, which is frequently deficient in our diets. These essential fatty acids are important in our body because they maintain the integrity of cell walls and membranes. They also help in energy production and the regulation and consumption of cholesterol and triglycerides. Flax seed oil may reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, which might reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Fax seed oil may also improve the symptoms of inflammatory conditions (eczema and psoriasis), and may reduce the risk of certain cancers.
- Garlic – Garlic is a common supplement that is extensively being studied for its cholesterol-lowering properties (Zink 1998). Garlic seems to thin the blood and lower blood pressure which might reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.
- Ginseng – Ginseng is a popular supplement used in the United States to decrease stress and increase cognitive function. Other situations where ginseng has been used for are athletic performance, immune system enhancer as well as Diabetes Type II Mellitus (Xie 2007).
- Ginkgo Biloba - Ginkgo Biloba is made from the ginkgo tree and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. It may increase mental sharpness and memory (Kennedy 2005), thin blood, assist in Alzheimer’s disease, as well as having some anti-depressant effect (Kalkunte 2007).
- Glucosamine – This is a well known and researched supplement that is a natural product within the cartilage that makes up your joints. Protective effects that are seen in people taking Glucosamine supplements are improvement of osteoarthritis and joint protection (Mehta 2007).
- Kava Kava – Derived from the root of a pepper plant, Kava kava is commonly used as a sleep aid, anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, as well as a mood stabilizer.
- Lycopene – This product is similar to beta carotene (found in vegetables) and is known to work as an antioxidant and may be protective against cardiovascular disease and some cancers.
- Melatonin – Melatonin is a natural substance produced in your body to help maintain a normal sleep cycle. When used as a supplement it can be used as a sleep aid, and is commonly used in the recovery of jet lag.
- Milk Thistle – Milk Thistle is taken by many people for protection and restoration of damaged liver tissue and to decrease bile production (Ligeret 2007).
- St. John’s Wort – St. John’s Wort is a yellow flower that has been used for centuries for a multitude of symptoms, most commonly depression (Cauffield 1999). St. John’s Wort may decrease symptoms of depression and mood disorders, increases energy levels, aid in wound healing, boost the immune system, and encourage weight loss.
Living with chronic pain is very difficult. Some supplements may complement your current treatment plan. Contact Arizona Pain Specialists today to discuss a supplement plan that addresses your specific needs!
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