5 Reasons Alternative Cures Don’t Work as Well as Pharmaceuticals

Alternative medicine and supplements.


We are more likely to comply with doctor’s orders. Many people elevate their health professional to “god status,” so they will take a standard, conventional medicine exactly as prescribed. If their doctor tells them to take a medicine every 8 hours, most people will follow through with it..

Of course, it is essential to good health to take your doctor seriously (and to get additional opinions for more serious health concerns). Listening to your doctor is indeed good practice. It’s also important to be aware that this level of compliance usually stops at the doctor’s office.

Conversely, even when research clearly indicates that a supplement, or alternative treatment needs to be taken consistently or on a schedule to achieve the desired result, most think nothing of skipping doses, taking it intermittently, or once in a while.

The result is that non-standard therapies that require consistency and adherence to dosing schedules aren’t given the same opportunities as conventional drugs.

Lack of Side Effects

This may sound strange, but side effects of pharmaceuticals often give the reassurance the prescription is working because its users can feel it doing something, even if it’s a negative effect.

The presence of side effects, both good and bad, is often perceived to be a harbinger for the beneficial effects to come.

Poor Product Choices

Not all supplements are created equal, and not all supplement companies submit their products to independent third parties for testing. Lack of regulation by the FDA is often perceived to be a negative thing.

While it’s true that supplements are not regulated the same as drugs, it’s false to claim they are not regulated at all. Supplements are regulated as food, and are subject to truth in labeling laws.

Beyond the basic regulation guidelines, independent testing companies such as consumerlabs.com regularly test brands of supplements for quality and purity. It is up to each of us as consumers to research the supplements we take, and the brands we choose.

There is no shortage of well-researched, unbiased supplement information available on the internet, on sites such as examine.com.

In order for a supplement or alternative treatment to be effective, we must get a quality product, and take the same form, standardization and according to the same dosing schedule as found in the research.

“If It Worked, Everyone Would Do It”

Popularity and efficacy aren’t necessarily correlated. What is convenient, easily believable, or already aligned with the prevailing collective biases is the formula for popularity. The effectiveness of something cannot ultimately be determined by its popularity.

For example, science has shown that fast food is unhealthy, and that nutrient-dense foods lead to fewer health problems, yet this doesn’t prevent fast food from dominating our culture.

Many may hold to the belief that it costs too much money to eat healthy, yet the cost difference between eating healthful foods in place of unhealthful foods is about $550.00 per year. This translates to about $11.00 per week, an expense that most Americans can handle.

The popularity of something has more to do with cultural beliefs, ease of access, and simplicity of the message than how useful it is.

Our Attitude about Treatment

We’ve all heard the naysayers, and despite how much one may claim they believe in a natural approach to health, no one is impervious to influence. Having an optimistic attitude about a course of treatment helps any protocol, whether alternative or conventional.

In fact, expectations are incredibly powerful, they are a driving force behind the placebo effect. Here is an example:

Say you are experiencing pain and spontaneously decide to eat a sugar pill – chances are you won’t feel better. However, if you describe your symptoms to a physician, who then prescribes you the same pill (unbeknownst to you, it’s just sugar), you expect that pill to have a therapeutic benefit. This expectation activates reward pathways in the brain, in turn stimulating the release of substances called endorphins, which are chemically similar to opiates like morphine. Like morphine, these endorphins bind to opioid receptors and cause pain relief. Therefore, in response to positive expectations of treatment, your brain becomes flooded with its own supply of natural painkillers.

The inverse is also true, and it’s called the nocebo effect, where we will receive no therapeutic benefit, or even a negative outcome influenced by our expectations. Since most of us will get more support for taking the conventional approach, and endure much criticism for taking an alternate route, this feedback can alter our expectations and influence the outcome.

To be sure, the conventional route is often the best option, but alternatives should not be overlooked. Arming yourself with good, independent research should help make you more confident in your decisions.

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When trying a supplement or alternative approach to reaching a health goal, take exactly according to established protocol, including dosage, standardization and brand when possible. In other words, treat as you would any other prescription in order to give it the best possible chance of helping you.

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