The Many Connections Between Urgent Care and Alternative Medicine

When using the traditional, if somewhat outdated, framework of Western vs. Alternative Medicine, urgent care is clearly part of mainstream, western medicine. With few exceptions, rapid onset symptoms and conditions require direct intervention and acute care. One of the ways in which proponents of alternative medicine use urgent care is as a kind of substitute for primary care. They follow their own tenets for a healthy lifestyle, while seeking our urgent care as a kind of al a carte solution for their acute medical needs.

 

Seen a different way, however, urgent care is very much alternative medicine—with people of pretty much any medical background and proclivity calling it an “important alternative to emergency care.” Urgent care is also undergoing a rapid and dramatic transformation itself. From sleep disorders to allergies to physical therapy to weight loss, urgent care providers are offering a greater range of healthcare services that are more in line with chronic conditions that may respond better to long-term alternative medicine practices.

 

Put another way, if integrative medicine assimilates multiple medical philosophies into a holistic practice, it’s no surprise that urgent care centers have been the natural landing spot for implementing a more integrative medicine. Here are a few featured urgent care centers from around the country that are good examples of this trend:

 

Known as “acute alternative,” this urgent care clinic in the U.S. Virgin Islands offers a range of primary care, supplements recommendations, and a Smoothie Bar, but what they’re perhaps best known for is their accredited sleep center and sleep disorders program.

 

Despite their reputations, most followers of alternative medicine want to do so under the guidance of a highly qualified medical professional. This Clemente, CA urgent care practice introduced new alternative medicine services after feedback from their patients indicated a lack of services in the area.

 

Some urgent care centers put their connection with alternative medicine front and center. This holistic urgent care center in Scottsdale, Arizona doesn’t just incorporate aspects of alternative medicine into its practice. They “accommodate acute illness, infections, and injuries with an emphasis on natural medical remedies and modalities whenever possible.”

 

More and more providers are combining urgent and comprehensive care services.

This metro Denver urgent care provider is pushing the boundaries of what healthcare services can be effectively offered at their sites. Their adult and pediatric clinic locations have services that include family medicine, occupational medicine, weight loss, mental health, physical therapy, and allergy care.

 

Health education, especially for parents and their kids, can be hugely important for the patient and their family to consistently make the best possible healthcare decisions. Urgent care providers are positioning themselves as a natural authority and arbiter over the practices and philosophies of alternative and traditional medicine. This Coppell, Texas pediatric urgent care center clearly and succinctly lays out the differences and commonalities, between alternative, western, and integrative medicine.

 

Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil is the third most commonly taken supplement in the U.S., but is it worthy of such popularity and widespread use? We do think there’s enough evidence to use fish oil—and other omega-3 supplements—as a dietary supplement for targeted results, but to simply say that fish oil is good for your heart and good for weight loss isn’t good enough. And depending on how it’s presented, it can be downright misleading.

 

While there is some evidence to suggest that fish oil can be good for overall heart health, the big thing it can do for you is to lower your triglyceride levels. (Triglycerides are a kind of fat cell in the blood that the body can use to store energy.) This alone should have some benefit in promoting a healthy heart and metabolic system. Still, it’s a long way to go from showing lower triglyceride levels to showing better health outcomes overall.

 

Take weight loss, for example. Studies show that fish oil may not help you lose weight so much as prevent and mitigate abdominal weight gain in particular. In other words, if you struggle with weight in your midsection, fish oil may be a smart supplement to take in combination with a leaner diet and healthier exercise routine. (For men and women alike, abdominal obesity is the most dangerous kind in terms of health outcomes and mortality rates.)

 

The studies and claims made surrounding cancer, mental health, and other health conditions are mixed and inconclusive. For cancer, in particular, you can find studies that suggest fish oil increases your risk of some cancers and decreases your risk in others. Looking for a roundup of various studies on fish oil? Check out this news resource.

 

Still, alternative medicine isn’t isolationist medicine. We do think taking a fish oil supplement can be right for a lot of people. On the other hand, many people also have limited resources. It might make more sense, for example, to spend your disposable income on higher-quality foods that are rich in omega-3. But maybe you can’t stand fish and aren’t all that crazy about other sources of omega-3 (walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and soy). The best use of a fish oil may not be as a diet “supplement” so much as a diet “substitute.”

 

The Chemistry of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This article does a good job of explaining the different health benefits between the two acids. Although EPA is better for many of fish oil’s purported health benefits, especially as an anti-inflammatory, it’s the less well known DHA that’s likely better for stroke prevention and brain health, as it’s believed the longer DHA chain does a better job in maintaining a healthy brain. The article also reminded us that both EPA and DHA are shown to reduce triglyceride levels, which may help explain why this effect is so widely observed.

 

Don’t Overdo It

There aren’t a lot of acute dangers with taking in a bunch of omega-3 fatty acids, but you still don’t want to overdo it. Excessive amounts can lead to heavy bleeding and anticoagulant properties. Rash and nosebleeds are another potential side effect. Daily consumption of up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids is generally recognized as safe. But again, it’s also important to account for the omega-3 that’s already in your diet.

 

  • Practical Tip—Burping, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea are also potential side effects with fish oil. Look to eliminate these side effects by freezing and/or taking the supplements with a meal. If you still experience negative side effects, you might try krill oil or isolated EPA or DHA supplements. You may also want to talk to your doctor about the trade-offs and alternative supplements and medications that can help you achieve comparable health benefits.

 

Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements are commonly used as a sleep aid, managing jet lag, high-blood pressure, endometriosis, anxiety, and certain other situations. It even works as a sunscreen. Generally speaking, there’s a popular misconception that because melatonin is a “supplement” and because it’s naturally-occurring in the body, that it’s relatively harmless. Nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Even apart from a list of side effects that includes headaches, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, cramps and irritability, it’s hard to know exactly how your body will react. Made by the pineal gland, melatonin is a hormone that’s a little like but not quite a neurotransmitter. It definitely has an effect on the uptake of neurotransmitters including serotonin. Melatonin can have complex physiological effects based on its ability to affect other things in the body.

 

Now, we’re not saying that the benefits won’t outweigh the adverse effects. Moreover, there is something you can do to make smarter choices about your long-term melatonin use:

 

  • Practical Tip—Your thyroid is one of the things that can be affected by melatonin use and chronic use in particular. This can be a good thing for one person and a bad thing for the next person. So next time you’re at the doctor’s office, and ideally before starting a regimen of melatonin, have your thyroid levels checked. This should give you something of a baseline to measure future thyroid activity, a notoriously difficult thing to track.

 

 

Cannabis—The Ultimate Alternative Medicine

To us, cannabis is something of a singular case when it comes to alternative medicine. In a lot of ways, it’s the ultimate alternative medicine. Due to antiquated laws, information, and attitudes about the drug, the DEA continues to classify cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. For this reason alone, it can’t be considered a mainstream medical treatment. On the other hand, in many states, it’s possible to find a doctor and have an honest conversation based on the latest medical evidence and a personal health evaluation about whether cannabis is a medically appropriate treatment, as well as the potential hazards and benefits associated with its recreational use. It’s culturally accepted in a growing number of contexts and yet outside of the law in many jurisdictions.

 

Cannabis is also like a lot of alternative medicine in that, even outside of a traditional healthcare provider, it’s widely available to a lot of people who must make a personal choice about whether or not to use it. And, unfortunately, this choice has to be made with limited information and an incomplete understanding of the potential consequences. Of course, this can also be said about a lot of widely accepted medical treatments, too. It’s not like you or your doctor can know for sure how you’ll react to a painkiller, especially if you’ve never taken an opiate before.

 

One of the things we consistently advocate for at Alternative Medicine Channel is more research. Not just in the number of studies but also in the replication and honest inquiry into the basic questions of health policy and medical practice. In other words, when, how, and at what cost can cannabis be used as an effective medical treatment? Surely, this is another thread that ties cannabis to the larger history and movement of alternative medicine: What would we know and where would be now if we had invested in more research and development of alternative medicine?

 

How is Alternative Medicine Different than Holistic Medicine?

We see alternative medicine as different than holistic medicine in that alternative medicine is always outside the mainstream. Holistic medicine, by definition, takes an inclusive approach that includes “western medicine” and health protocols that are widely accepted by the medical community. Alternative medicine, in contrast, focuses on these treatments, practices, and lifestyle choices beyond the mainstream. It’s like a syllogism for subsets: Alternative medicine is holistic, but holistic medicine isn’t necessarily alternative.

 

Put another way, we have nothing against holistic medicine and mainstream healthcare. If we break a bone, hit our head, or have a sharp abdominal pain, we go to the ER or at least make an appointment with our doctor. But there’s also a long list of preventative steps and experimental treatments that can be utilized outside of acute care services. There are yet undiscovered and underutilized alternative medicines that are destined to become the mainstream.

 

Moreover, many chronic medical conditions resist first- and second-line treatment protocols. Many medical conditions aren’t cured only managed. And when it comes to not feeling like crap, when you’re experiencing a host of intermittent symptoms of indeterminate cause, it’s tough to know what parts of your diet, exercise, and daily habits are contributing to or mitigating your symptoms. Krohn’s. Asthma. Arthritis. Obesity. Fibromyalgia. Orthopedic pain. Nausea and vomiting. Migraines. The list goes on and on.

 

Let’s get back to the original question: How is alternative medicine different than holistic medicine? Alternative medicine picks up where mainstream medicine leaves off. It seeks attention, further study, and legitimacy when it’s due. Or at least that’s how the Alternative Medicine Channel sees it. Do you see it a different way? Tell us your views. Send us an email with a note about your organization or personal expertise, and we’ll share it with our audience.