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Roanne Weisman with Brian Berman, M.D.

- About the Book

Choosing the Best from Alternative & Conventional Medicine

by Roanne Weisman with Brian Berman, M.D.
Published by Health Communications, Inc.

Almost everyone is concerned about health these days, but the more information that is available, the more confusing it all becomes. Conventional medicine? Millions of people are dissatisfied with the care they receive from their doctors, including: The lack of personal attention; drug side effects; contradicting advice on diet, cancer treatments and hormone replacement, the list goes on.

Alternative medicine? Millions have turned to it: yoga, vitamins and herbs, traditional Chinese medicine and others. But are they safe?

So what really works -- and what doesn't? How can we live longer, healthier lives? How can we draw on the best from both alternative and conventional medicine and, yes, own our health? The answers are here in one volume that breaks through the confusion of how to reduce stress, prevent heart disease, treat chronic pain or illness, combat depression, fight cancer, manage menopause, and much more.

Written by an award-winning medical writer and the distinguished physician in charge of one of the first complementary medicine programs supported by the National Institutes of Health, this is an indispensable resource for understanding the best of both approaches. Containing interviews with -- and stories from -- more than 100 doctors, practitioners and patients, and filled with practical advice, easy-to-follow tips, reference sources and Web sites, this is one book on health every family needs.

"For readers interested in pursuing alternative treatments, this is a first-rate guide."
-- Publishers Weekly

"I recommend this book to all people who want to know how to navigate the confusing world of alternative medicine and choose sensible therapies that work."
-- Andrew T. Weil, M.D. author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health

"We learn through stories even more than facts, and especially through stories that illuminate and inspire. This book helps all of us to see what is possible -- when we open our eyes to the latest information on the world's medical traditions, when we open our hearts to our own healing potential."
--James S. Gordon, MD, Clinical Professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown Medical School; Former Chair, White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy

"Own Your Health is truly a landmark book in integrative medicine. It combines moving, personal stories with the latest scientific research in alternative medicine. Most importantly, Dr. Brian Berman is one of the few international authorities with the depth of both clinical and research experience to accomplish this task. With this practical guide, he and Ms. Weisman have elegantly articulated the potency of individual empowerment and informed choice as the cornerstone of health and healing."
--Kenneth R. Pelletier, Ph.D., M.D., clinical professor of medicine, University of Arizona and University of Maryland Schools of Medicine; former director, NIH Complementary and Alternative Medicine Program at Stanford School of Medicine; author, The Best Alternative Medicine: What Works, What Does Not

"Own Your Health is an impressive combination of the inspirational, the factual and the potential for integrative medicine. By telling the stories of patients who became 'medical pioneers,' determined to discover how to choose the best medical treatments from both worlds of medicine, this book is a welcome breakthrough and valuable tool for all patients and their doctors.
--H. Eugene Lindsey Jr., M.D., cardiologist, internist and chairman of the board, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates

"A responsible book for getting the best out of medicine. Inspiring yet grounded in science, Own Your Health is for everyone."
--Wayne B. Jonas, M.D., director, Samueli Institute; former director, Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health; coeditor, Essentials of Complementary and Alternative Medicine

"Own Your Health is a book with several important messages. For patients it is an exciting, beautifully written and well-informed guide to alternative medical strategies. In particular it offers direct first hand experience of several of these treatment options, with a careful discussion of the contribution each approach made possible. As a teacher of medicine I also found the volume important. Many of the comments are of great significance in a medical world increasingly incarcerated by technology, and in which the individual contribution of the physician as healer is being neglected. Finally it is essential for all physicians to be made aware of the other therapeutic routes available outside their normal professional experience - and this book eloquently describes many of the additional advantages of a clinical practice that integrates these.
--David V. Morris, MA, Associate Professor of Medicine (Reproductive Endocrinology), McGill University, Canada; Member, Royal College of Physicians

Copyright ©2003 by Roanne Weisman and Brian Berman. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Health Communications, Inc. Please feel free to duplicate and distribute this file as long as its contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact.


- Excerpt


Choosing the Best from
Alternative & Conventional Medicine

by Roanne Weisman and Brian Berman, M.D.


Own Your Health is the first comprehensive guide to Integrative Medicine -- an emerging practice combining conventional and alternative treatments. The book draws from three primary sources: conventionally-trained doctors who have become experts in alternative therapies; scientific studies compiled by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Cochrane Collaboration; and first- person accounts from patients who have successfully blended conventional and alternative treatments.

Own Your Health is co-written by Roanne Weisman, a medical journalist who works with the Harvard Medical School hospitals, and Brian Berman, M.D., director of the Complementary Medicine Program at the University of Maryland, who oversees a massive NIH program studying alternative medicine in the treatment of pain. Dr. Berman is widely regarded as America's leading authority on integrative medicine.

The excerpt, below, is called "An Introduction to Integrative Medicine." It provides an excellent overview of this new field, concluding with a rousing call for patient empowerment. More information about the book, Own Your Health, and authors Weisman & Berman follows the excerpt.

An Introduction to Integrative Medicine

by Roanne Weisman and Brian Berman, M.D.

Janet Madden McCourt of Pembroke, Massachusetts, hit what she describes as "rock bottom" in 1997, when she was fifty- five. Both kidneys had failed -- one of the effects of a deadly bone marrow cancer called multiple myeloma. She suffered from near constant pain in her bones and from an eruption of shingles on her legs (a searing rash caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox in children). She needed kidney dialysis (a several-hour procedure that uses a machine to perform the blood-cleansing work of normal kidneys) three times a week, which left her weak and nauseated for the entire day following the procedure. "I couldn't even walk up the stairs," she says. To make matters worse, her construction company was on the verge of failure because she was too ill to manage it.

Janet could not tolerate chemotherapy for the cancer because of her failed kidneys, so her doctor prescribed steroids. "The steroids tore a hole in my stomach, ruined my esophagus and blew me up to a size twenty-six," she says. "I gained so much weight that I could barely fit into extra large sweatpants. I hated to go out because of the stares and whispered comments about women who 'let themselves go.' I couldn't believe that as a former model I had once thought that appearance defined who I was." As a final indignity, she had to cut off her long blonde hair because it kept getting in the way of the vomiting.

She knew she did not have long to live: After a bone marrow scan, her doctor asked her if she wanted to know the truth. "I guess you've just told me," was her answer. Later she learned from another doctor that her life expectancy was less than one year. As the weeks went by, her weakness, pain and despair grew. "You get to the point where you either want your life back or you just want it to be over," she says. Then, in October 1997, Janet's oldest daughter called with news: She was pregnant. "Right then, I decided that I was going to live long enough to see my first grandchild born," says Janet. "I had been a successful businesswoman all my life, able to do anything I set my mind to. I decided that I could conquer this illness, too."

Four years later, Janet has not only one, but three small grandchildren. Her cancer has been in remission most of that time, and she has a healthy new kidney, transplanted from her sister. At age fifty-nine, she once again has the long, silky hair and striking features that earned her modeling jobs in New York at nineteen. But today, that hair is coppery red instead of naturally blonde. "When I realized a few years ago that I wasn't going to die after all," says Janet, "I decided it was time for a new color."

~ Take Charge ~

Janet Madden McCourt is one of a growing number of people who are seeking creative solutions to serious, even life- threatening health problems by combining the best treatments available from the worlds of conventional medicine and "complementary" or alternative therapies. This book tells the stories of several women and men who recovered from injury, disease and trauma, managed chronic pain and other health problems through each stage of life, and took care of their families and children in the same way. Their methods may be varied, but they share one important quality: At some point during the course of the illness, they made a decision to "take charge" of their health by broadening their search for physicians, practitioners, and particular treatments that would help them. They made the decision to own their health.

Later in this chapter, you will learn how Janet, for example, battled "incurable" cancer by adding meditation, other "mind-body" techniques and nutritional supplements to her conventional cancer treatment. She then became the first person in the world with multiple myeloma and kidney failure to undergo a life-saving experimental kidney/bone marrow transplant at one of the finest conventional hospitals in the world. (The procedure has since been used successfully in other patients.)

Janet knew that neither conventional medicine nor alternative health systems alone would save her life: She wanted both. By taking charge of her health care the way she had always taken charge of her life -- and "owning" her health -- Janet embodies the concept of the "patient as healer" who works in equal partnership with caregivers in the search for health. I hope the stories of patients, physicians and alternative practitioners in this book will resonate with you, and that in reading them you will gain insight, ideas and, perhaps, hope.

~ Health Explorers ~

An increasing number of people feel, like Janet, that their greatest chance for good health lies in combining the best that conventional medicine has to offer with alternative or complementary therapies. In most cases, these people are like "health explorers" -- entering largely uncharted territory: Outside the world of conventional medicine, the health care choices are overwhelming and often confusing. Which to choose? Meditation? Yoga? Acupuncture? Which herbal supplements? What kind of massage? How to combine the various possibilities? And what to tell my doctor?

Why are these people "explorers?" Because, despite the fact that more than 40 percent of all Americans now use some kind of complementary or alternative (CAM) treatment, they are, for the most part, making these healthcare choices on their own. More than 70 percent of them do not inform their conventional doctors. In 1993, David Eisenberg, M.D., of the Harvard Medical School, reported that there were more annual visits to providers of alternative medicine (425 million) than to all U.S. primary care physicians (388 million), at a cost of $13.7 billion. In 1998, Eisenberg and his colleagues found that between 1990 and 1997, the number of annual visits to CAM practitioners went from 400 million to more than 600 million, and that the amount spent on these practices rose from nearly $14 billion to $27 billion, most of it not reimbursed. People seem to be patching together (and paying for) medical care from two separate worlds.

A visit to any major bookstore in search of healthcare information can be an overwhelming experience. One group of shelves -- with titles such as "Your Guide to Illness and Surgery" or "The Complete Family Medical Encyclopedia" gives you information about conventional medicine. The group of shelves next to it is filled with such titles as "Meditation is Good Medicine," "Herbal Remedies" or "The Complete Book of Chinese Healing." On this second set of shelves you will find information about "alternative" forms of treatment.

But few if any books help you combine both types of medicine: conventional and alternative. That is the purpose of this book. First, let's look at the difference between these two "worlds" of medical treatment.

~ Conventional Medicine ~

The world of conventional or allopathic medicine includes powerful and well-financed academic medical centers -- perhaps epitomized by the vast and imposing Greek architecture of the Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospitals. Conventional medical education, research and clinical care are supported by billions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health, as well as private infusions of funds from the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries in search of ever more effective medicines.

Some doctors trained in this world deliver their services in sleek medical institutions, filled with the high-tech tools of the trade: magnetic resonance imaging machines capable of "seeing" blood flow and brain activity inside the human body; chemotherapy infusion centers delivering the latest chemical weapons against cancer; new laboratories capable of high-speed identification of disease-causing genetic defects in human DNA; gleaming operating rooms equipped for minimally invasive microsurgery. Other conventional doctors practice family medicine in community health centers and small private practices, even providing services from vans on the street to the homeless.

Public health relies on conventional medicine to prevent and treat disease. Conventional physicians and researchers are identifying the origins of disease at the cellular level, scrutinizing even the genetic information contained in the DNA within our own cells. They then use this information to design ever more specific treatments, targeting disease-causing cells while sparing healthy cells. In the treatment of cancer, for example, such methods hold the promise of less destructive, more effective chemotherapy treatments. Conventional medicine is the method of choice for the treatment of trauma (if you have a heart attack or are injured in an automobile accident a conventional hospital emergency room is where you want to be!), infectious disease and surgical care.

Those who practice conventional medicine are justifiably proud of the achievements of their profession -- especially the diagnostic, pharmacological and surgical advances of the twentieth century. Conventional medicine has limitations: It cannot treat most viral infections or cure most chronic, degenerative diseases, allergies or autoimmune diseases. Treatments can be toxic. It is ineffective in treating diseases that are psychosomatic, and it still cannot cure many forms of cancer. Perhaps the most visible limitation of conventional medicine is in its delivery through an unwieldy and expensive managed care system. Despite efforts to control costs and improve services, the managed care system often puts tremendous economic stress on doctors and hospitals, resulting in hurried relationships between patient and caregiver that do not promote healing.

~ Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) ~

Practitioners in the world of alternative medicine are trained in much smaller schools in this country or around the world. (For the purpose of this book, I use the terms "alternative" and "complementary" interchangeably, although there is a growing preference for the latter term, since most of these practices are considered as "complements" to conventional medicine, rather than "alternatives.") Often, the medical traditions date back several thousand years -- for example, Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic practice. In addition to the more widely known Oriental techniques such as acupuncture, alternative disciplines include homeopathy; energy medicine; such "mind-body" techniques as meditation, guided imagery, and the Alexander technique; herbal and botanical therapies; and neuromuscular therapies such as craniosacral work, Trager and Shiatsu massage, and other therapeutic massage techniques; and specialized exercise methods such as Pilates.

CAM remedies are usually less toxic than conventional medicines, and the techniques used by CAM practitioners are almost always less expensive than conventional treatments. CAM methods can help people cope with the effects of chronic illness and often focus on healing rather than curing; on the health of the spirit and mind as well as of body. There is also a strong emphasis on disease prevention. CAM therapies are generally less effective in treating serious infectious illness and often are no substitute for surgery.

Growing numbers of patients are turning to alternative remedies, often because of dissatisfaction with aspects of conventional medical care. And the world of conventional medicine is beginning to pay attention. In 2001, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the National Institutes of Health, had a budget of $92 million (up from $2 million in 1992) to fund studies on the effectiveness of alternative remedies, including gingko biloba to prevent Alzheimer's disease, yoga for insomnia, and massage for lower back pain.

~ Integrative Medicine: The Best of Both Worlds ~

Increasing numbers of healthcare consumers want the best of both worlds: They want the technological arsenal of conventional medicine to take care of traumatic injuries, provide lifesaving intervention for heart attacks and strokes, and treat serious illness both medically and surgically. They want the latest techniques emerging from clinical research studies, the most highly trained, skilled doctors and the best, most advanced equipment.

But they also want caring, compassionate and prevention- oriented relationships with caregivers. They are growing increasingly intolerant of the frequent tendency of conventional doctors to consider CAM treatments as archaic or ineffective, and of the resulting divisiveness between those who favor alternative therapies and those who oppose them.

Physicians who practice "integrative medicine" (a term coined at the end of the twentieth century) address these concerns. While they may incorporate aspects of both conventional and alternative therapies, they do not uncritically accept either. The integrative physician explores a wider range of options to select the most effective, least invasive, least toxic and least costly medical interventions that are appropriate to the patient's situation, regardless of whether these methods are conventional or alternative.

Most importantly, integrative physicians create relationships with their patients that are compassionate partnerships, in which the physician recognizes and respects the patient's goals, healthcare preferences and autonomy. Studies have shown, in fact, that the more patients feel that they "own" their own healthcare, the better the outcomes. There are, of course, many conventional physicians (my own among them) who practice this kind of "partnership medicine" as well.

In addition to providing the best conventional care, integrative medicine focuses on the preventive maintenance of health by attention to diet, exercise, stress management and emotional well-being, according to Ralph Snyderman, M.D., Chancellor for Health Affairs, and Andrew T. Weil, M.D., Director, Program for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. In an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine (March 2002), Snyderman and Weil identify several characteristics of integrative medicine, including an insistence that patients become active participants in their own health, and that "doctors view their patients as whole persons -- minds, community members and spiritual beings as well as physical bodies." They also note that, "Most Americans who consult alternative providers would jump at the chance to consult a physician who is well trained in scientifically based medicine and is also open-minded and knowledgeable about the body's innate mechanisms of healing, the role of lifestyle factors in influencing health, and the appropriate uses of dietary supplements, herbs, and other forms of treatment, from osteopathic manipulation to Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine."

David Spiegel, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine, points to a weakness in conventional, Western medical practice as one reason for the increased interest in complementary medicine: "By and large, doctors no longer conceive of talking, comforting, guiding, and educating patients as 'real' interventions. Rather, it is something to do until the injection is ready. An illness can be a lonely journey and patients crave people who understand what the journey is like and can stay the course with them. Thus, the apparent appetite for complementary and alternative medicine is stimulated by the vacuum of modern medical care. This vacuum, by the way, is being intensified by the business managers of modern North American medicine who pump even more time and energy out of the doctor/patient interaction by saddling doctors with more patients per hour, reducing their autonomy, and treating them like assembly line workers instead of professionals."

As you embark on your exploration of integrative care and finding practitioners who are respectful of your desire to be in charge of your life, here are several points to consider:

You are at the center of your own healing; it is your self- healing process that the therapies you use and the practitioners you consult should be trying to facilitate. There is no one "right" approach for everyone, just as there is no one "right" system of medicine. Both conventional and alternative medicine have their weaknesses and strengths; both have their share of wisdom and foolishness. The challenge is to look around objectively and take those elements that make sense to you for your condition, and then to work with knowledgeable, experienced practitioners who will help guide you and assist you.

Remember that medicine is an art -- and art that uses the tools of science and the information gleaned from scientific research -- but that draws on human qualities such as compassion and trust and works with the beliefs, preferences, and needs of each individual person to make its practice truly effective. You, therefore, are an integral and vital part, an active participant in the process.

.Copyright ©2003 by Roanne Weisman and Brian Berman. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Health Communications, Inc. Please feel free to duplicate and distribute this file as long as its contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact.

About the Author

Roanne Weisman is an award-winning writer specializing in science, medicine and health care. Her clients include Harvard Medical School hospitals and many other major Boston universities. She is principal of Words That Work, a communications consulting company that provides writing services to medical, academic and corporate clients. She is based in Newton, Massachusetts.

Brian Berman, M.D. is founder and director of the Complementary Medicine Program at the University of Maryland, the first university-based center of its kind in the U.S. focusing on research. He is professor of family medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and has trained extensively in complementary therapies. He is principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) center grant for the study of alternative medicine in the treatment of pain. In addition to publishing widely, Berman also helped establish and now directs the Complementary Medicine Field of the International Cochrane Collaboration, an organization dedicated to evaluating all medical practices.


Copyright ©2003 by Roanne Weisman and Brian Berman. All rights reserved. Reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Health Communications, Inc. Please feel free to duplicate and distribute this file as long as its contents are not changed and this copyright notice is intact.

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