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Carrington College Blog

Alternative treatments for common illnesses are becoming more popular

February 22, 2014

More doctors are suggesting alternative therapiesHarvard Medical School has conducted a survey to explore the trend of doctors prescribing alternative treatments for their patients’ symptoms. The report explained that an increasing number of doctors and medical assistants are advising their patients to try less invasive, more holistic approaches to their treatments of arthritis, anxiety, and stress-related illnesses like chronic fatigue and muscle pain.1

As of 2011, 38 percent of adults in the U.S. used some form of alternative or complementary medicine to treat stress-related or orthopedic problems.2 Until recently, many doctors rarely prescribed holistic treatments. However, according to the study from Harvard Medical School, the medical community is becoming more comfortable with suggesting other methods of treatment, including yoga, meditation, deep breathing and diet changes. In the past, patients who were referred by their doctors to use alternative therapies were sicker and utilized more medical services than individuals who tried more holistic therapies without direction from a doctor. The researchers reported that those findings indicated that doctors were using alternative methods as a last resort  when traditional remedies had failed. Today, doctors and medical assistants are exploring whether advising their patients to try alternative treatments earlier on in their treatment will have a more positive effect on their recovery.2

Yoga and meditation help patients with many different ailments

Yoga is one such alternative therapy that doctors are suggesting to their patients who are suffering from a variety of different ailments, from arthritis to cancer. Patients with joint pain have found relief after practicing yoga for several months because it helps with flexibility, mind-body connection and stress, thanks to the deep breathing that is encouraged. Research has reported that yoga can also help with osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis.2 Studies have also been conducted on the effects of yoga on cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. One study tested how yoga and stretching affected a group of women in radiation therapy for breast cancer treatment, versus another group that did not do any stretching or yoga practice. The women that were assigned to do yoga for several weeks reported less fatigue than the women who did not practice it, and more of a reduction in cortisol levels.2

Another form of therapy that is gaining popularity amongst doctors is meditation. Patients suffering from stress-related illnesses like insomnia or irritable bowel syndrome have found that practicing mindful meditation several times a week improved their condition much more than those patients that did not meditate. Doctors are even suggesting that caregivers, such as registered nurses, try meditation as a form of stress-relief to help with anxiety, sleeplessness and memory retention. Tai chi, a form of Chinese martial art that combines slow, graceful movements with meditation, has also been found to help seniors with balance and stress management.2

Fruits and vegetables have been found to affect health

Dietary changes have been prescribed by medical professionals to treat various illnesses for decades, but recent research has reported on the healing effects of simple and easily accessible foods.3 Many fruits have restorative and healing properties. Bananas have been found to relieve stress with a mild boost of sugar and vitamin B6, that helps the brain produce serotonin, which works to calm the mind when stressful situations arise. Apricots are helpful for patients suffering with kidney stones. Apricots’ fiber, sodium and potassium content keeps minerals from accumulating in urine and forming stones, so they are a good preventative option. Pears have fiber in them in the form of pectin, which works to remove bad cholesterol – a major risk factor in heart disease.3

Doctors and medical assistants are also well versed in the various healing properties of vegetables. Cabbage, for example, contains a powerful compound that can combat the effects of bacteria which cause ulcers and gastric tumors. Potatoes can relieve stress-related headaches by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain. Mushrooms have been studied for their ability to fight cancer by boosting the immune system using lentinan, which slows tumor growth.3

Acupuncture is gaining popularity for relieving chronic pain

Acupuncture is another example of a therapeutic treatment that is gaining popularity with doctors. Patients who suffer from chronic pain are encouraged to try acupuncture. Back pain is the most common ailment that is reported by patients who use acupuncture, but joint pain, headache and neck pain are also common complaints. While more research into how this traditional Chinese treatment works is underway, regulating the flow of vital energy throughout the body seems to have restorative and healing effects for many people.4

Today, more doctors, nurses and medical assistants are suggesting alternative treatments for their patients who suffer from a variety of different ailments. Yoga, meditation, acupuncture and dietary changes are just a few examples. Keeping the lines of communication open between patients and health care providers will ensure that a patient’s needs are being met and that they are getting the best treatment for their condition.

1 Staff, “Trend: More Doctors Prescribing Yoga & Meditation,” Live, May 10, 2011,

2 Cool, Lisa Collier, “More Doctors are Prescribing Mind-Body Therapies,” Yahoo, May 23, 2011,

3 Capiello-Firpo, Robert, “16 Simple Healing Foods,”, Feb. 2012,

4 “Acupuncture for Pain,” National Center for Complimentary and Alternative, Aug. 2010,

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