How to Talk to Your Doctor About Complementary and Alternative Medicine

rerun imageThere are many complementary and alternative therapies from which to choose. If you are thinking of trying one, you may be wondering how to talk to your doctor about it. Read on to learn more.

A Look at CAM

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is a range of products and therapies. Complementary therapies uses untraditional methods with standard ones. Alternative therapies only use untraditional methods.

You may find it easy to find a doctor who is open to CAM. Over time, many treatments that were once not traditional like massage are now widely used. In contrast, you may have a hard time finding a doctor who will use alternative therapies without standard ones. They are rarely supported by doctors. There is also not much data to support their use.

Some popular CAM therapies in the US are:

Reasons to Talk About CAM

You may think that CAM is less likely to cause harm, but it can have side effects. You will want to talk to your doctor about CAM because:

  • Some supplements and herbs can cause problems with medicines that you take
  • CAM treatments may worsen some chronic health problems
  • You will get the best care when you tell your doctor about all the ways you are caring for yourself
  • Your doctor can help you sort through all the research and answer any questions you have about what you have found

Talking Points

Here are some tips to get you ready to talk about CAM:

  • Make a list and share it with your care team. Be sure to note:
    • Any health problems you have
    • Over the counter and prescription medicines that you take
    • Herbs and other dietary supplements that you take
    • CAM treatments you use or are thinking of trying
    • Any studies you have found to support using a treatment
  • Learn as much as you can about the CAM treatment that interests you. Reputable websites like the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health have information on a range of therapies.
  • You will have many questions as you learn about the CAM treatment. Write them down and share them with your doctor.
  • Ask your doctor whether CAM is right for you. The best doctors talk to their patients about any treatments that may improve health.

Your care team relies on you to share details with them. If you are planning to try a new CAM treatment or have been using one, do not keep this to yourself. Speak up!

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
https://nccih.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

The College of Family Physicians of Canada
http://www.cfpc.ca

Health Canada
http://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Complementary, alternative, or integrative health: What's in a name? National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website. Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/complementary-alternative-or-integrative-health-whats-in-a-name. Accessed October 26, 2021.

Talking about complementary and alternative medicine with health care providers: a workbook and tips. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://cam.cancer.gov/health_information/talking_about_cam.htm. Accessed October 26, 2021.

Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board  Last Updated: 10/25/2021