What should I know about taking alternative treatments safely?

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Answered by: Pamela, An Expert in the Alternative Treatments Category
Alternative medicines have become increasingly popular over the years. Many individuals have turned to alternative treatments over pharmaceutical treatments for a variety of conditions. While alternative medicine has its benefits, there are a few things to remember to ensure you're taking alternative treatments safely.

Pregnant women and those breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare provider before beginning any alternative medicine. Remember that many alternative medicines have not been evaluated by the FDA. This means that there might not be information about how the alternative medicine could affect an unborn child, or whether it is excreted through breast milk.

Use caution when you are taking other over the counter medicines. Even though many alternative medicines are natural, that does not mean they will not interact with other medications. Supplements can interact with not only prescription medication but also over the counter medication. They can interact with blood thinning medications, and some can lessen the effectiveness of current medications. The safest way to be sure you are taking alternative treatments safely is to discuss all over the counter and prescription medications you are currently taking with your doctor to minimize interactions.

Many alternative treatments are very vague on the dosage instructions, leaving many to simply guess what the right dosage is. You should discuss with your doctor the proper dosage of alternative medicines. Even though many of these treatments are labelled as "natural" that does not mean that you can not overdose on them. You and your doctor should determine the proper dosage based on factors such as weight, height, reason for taking them and other medicines.

Parents should speak with their children's pediatrician before starting their children on any form of alternative medicine. Majority of supplements target adults when it comes to proper doses. Not many studies have been done involving alternative medicines overall, but those studies which have been done typically consist of adults and no children. There could be specific risks involved with children taking alternative treatments that your child's doctor will make you aware of.

Never stop traditional treatments to attempt to use alternative treatments. Discuss with your doctor your wishes for beginning alternative treatments, so they can help you determine the best course of action. Stopping traditional treatments in order to explore alternative treatments can complicate future problems that arise from your current condition. When your doctor is not aware of natural treatments being started life threatening complications could occur and treatment could be compromised.

Some alternative medicines can interfere with medical procedures, so it's important to make sure that all your doctors are aware that you are taking them. Medical procedures, such as surgery, can be complicated by the use of supplements and other alternative medicines. A rise in blood pressure is common with a number of herbal supplements. Patients may need to stop taking these for a period of two to three weeks before their procedure.

The only way to know for sure that you are taking alternative treatments properly and safely is to include your health care provider in your decision. Many doctors are willing to discuss the issue with their patients and ensure all medications, natural and pharmaceutical, are taken safely, properly and correctly. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with your current health care provider then don't feel ashamed to find a doctor that you feel comfortable talking with. Your doctor's input, decisions and monitoring are all part of the process to ensure that alternative treatments help you rather than harm you.

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