Complementary Medicine & Prevention

The core of complementary medicine is the prevention of disease. All providers have tools at their disposal to help detect disease before it progresses to an advanced state. Screening tests such as fasting blood sugar for diabetes, the Pap smear for cervical cancer, colonoscopy for cancer of the colon and rectum, and mammography for breast cancer are just a few examples of these important screening tools.

Prevention-oriented providers (such as Naturopathic Physicians and Nurse Practioners) use all of these tools, but take a more aggressive approach to prevention. Prevention is more than early diagnosis. Prevention is about keeping disease from developing in the first place. There is a wealth of data in the medical literature about the effects of diet and lifestyle in the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Incorporating this information to provide truly preventive medicine is at the heart of integrated medical practice and is one of the factors that set complementary providers apart from our conventionally oriented colleagues.

Identifying Risk Factors

For example, there are simple blood tests for known risk factors for heart disease above and beyond the standard cholesterol check offered by most physicians. Research has shown that inflammation may be more dangerous to cardiovascular health than high cholesterol. Inflammation can be evaluated by a test called a high sensitivity (or cardiac) CRP. Homocysteine is another marker that can be assessed by a simple blood test. When elevated, homocysteine is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. These tests are frequently not offered to patients despite the fact that these important risk factors can be modified with natural therapies.

Progressive & Individual Prevention

Prevention should be progressive and individualized. We look at each patient's family and personal history for patterns. We screen for modifiable risk factors and use dietary, lifestyle therapies, nutritional supplementation, botanical medicines or conventional therapies to address any areas of concern. Each person is metabolically and biochemically unique. It is our job to evaluate each individual and help her/him make the adjustments necessary to decrease the risk of developing chronic illness and to live in optimal health.

Did You Know?

Compounds present in the cruciferous family of vegetables, such as broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and mustard greens may protect against the development of tumors in the lung, stomach, colon and rectum.

Verhoeven DT, Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk.

Did You Know?

Consuming flavonoid-rich foods such as apples, onions, wine, tea and dark berries is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease.

Hertog MG, Dietary antioxidant flavonoids and risk of coronary heart disease: the Zutphen Elderly Study.

Did You Know?

Curcumin, which is the naturally occurring botanical medicine and spice turmeric used in curries, has shown benefit in the prevention of colon cancer.

Curcumin affects many different pathways involved in the development and progression of colon cancer including: decreasing cancer cell growth and proliferation, increasing normal and necessary cell death, scavenging free radicals and inhibiting inflammation.

Primary prevention: phytoprevention and chemoprevention of colorectal cancer, Turini, M. Hematology/oncology Clinics of North America.