Making sense of complementary or alternative health

Complementary or alternative health options can be valuable supplements to managing a chronic illness. But certain techniques touted as natural or alternative medicine aren’t backed by rigorous scientific study and might even be capable of causing harm.

Often, too little research has been done to truly prove or disprove natural health trends. But a few strategies can still help you evaluate their safety before jumping into one.


Talk to a professional

The first and most important one is to talk to your own health care provider. They will tell you if they know of any side effects and may even encourage you if something might help.

Knowing that, you can consider either finding more information or deciding if something is worth asking your care provider.


Check the science

Start by searching for recommendations on the alternative health method in questions from health organizations. Stick to the most reputable sources:


Dive deeper

If you’re interested in diving deeper with higher level or first-hand sources, you can also try medical journals. Also note that your library card can often give you access to research journals if you find them through your library’s website.


Patient organizations

Check with your disease-specific patient associations to see what they recommend. Often, these have sections of their sites devoted to spelling out the evidence behind alternative treatment options. Examples:


Further reading

Finally, take a look at a few common mistakes to avoid when seeking medical advice:

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