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Alternative medicine gaining acceptance August 14, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Alternative medicine.
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Alternative medicineDreamhealer Blog

ONALASKA, Wis. — When Julie Diermeir’s 8-year-old son, Drew, was diagnosed with asthma last year, she worried it would be a lifetime treatment.

He was prescribed a daily medication while still a second-grader at Eagle Bluff Elementary School in Onalaska. Doctors said he would need to carry an emergency inhaler everywhere.

Although she compliments the treatment her son receives at Franciscan Skemp Medical Center, Diermeir decided to look at other options.

“There has to be some other way than just drugs,” Julie said. “The traditional Western medicine (doesn’t) subscribe to necessarily solving the problem.”

So she turned to Dr. Bee Lo, a certified naturopathic medical doctor with a practice in Onalaska. As an adherent to holistic medicine — sometimes dubbed “natural” or “alternative” medicine — Lo said he aims to cure the cause of an illness, not just treat its symptoms.

That meant eliminating the boy’s allergies to pollen, dander and dust through the Nambudripad Allergy Elimin-ation Technique, a field of holistic medicine with roots in acupressure, applied kinesiology and traditional Chinese medicine.

Since he began the treatments in January, Drew’s allergies “are just gone,” said Diermeir.

Along with NAET, holistic medicine can include acupuncture, tai chi, herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, Reiki, toning, aromatherapy and yoga.

The philosophy behind the Eastern-based holistic medicine is a person’s physical, mental and spiritual health are interconnected. U.S. interest has spread in the past three decades, to the point where Gundersen Lutheran and Franciscan Skemp medical centers now offer holistic health treatments in addition to private practitioners.

Holistic treatments often can’t be tested in the same manner as evidence-based Western medicine, leading some health professionals to dismiss alternative medicine as quackery.

According to Lo, this amounts to a “brainwash” campaign by the American Medical Association and other Western medical organizations that prioritize standardized medical practices, prescription drugs and lifelong treatments. Most health insurance policies will cover hospital stays and medications but not holistic treatments.

“Natural medicine has always existed. It’s just that we are small,” said Lo, who runs the Natural Health Center in Onalaska. “We have our own followers. We see people that seek us.”

But Dr. Nedira Haik, an integrative medical specialist with Franciscan Skemp’s year-old Center for Health and Healing in Onalaska, said Western and Eastern medicine can work in tandem.

She looks at a patient’s “mind and spirit” when trying to treat health problems, and may recommend nutritional, lifestyle or environmental changes in lieu of prescriptions. She also can schedule patients with Franciscan Skemp’s staff acupuncturist or massage therapists or direct them to supplements sold in the clinic’s pharmacy.

“I cannot say that (Western and holistic medicine are) fundamentally different, because a lot of what defines integrative medicine is a very similar definition for really good primary or general care, where you’re looking at the whole person,” Haik said.

Although Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center does not have a department devoted exclusively to holistic health, some of its physicians practice mind/body healing techniques.

Dr. Gene Kolaczkowski, a psychotherapist with Gundersen Lutheran, uses a peripheral bio-feedback machine to get patients to control their own symptoms. Somewhat similar to a mood ring, the biofeedback machine measures a patient’s fingertip temperature, muscle tension and breath rate to display measures of internal health on a computer screen. Kolaczkowski then would teach breathing exercises and calming techniques to lower internal stress.

While he combines bio-feedback work with Western medicine, Kolaczkowski said the mental exercises allow patients to control anxiety, headaches, digestive problems and other ailments. Kolaczkowski said he ultimately expects holistic treatments to be common in most Americans’ health regimens.

“I think there’s so much in the news about the amount of medicine that we take as a society, and parents of young children are especially concerned about that,” Kolaczkowski said. “So if there’s anything that might be beneficial other than taking a pill or taking medicine, I think a lot of parents are going to want to pursue that.”

Adam Bissen is a reporter for the Onalaska Community Life.

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