Armed and Opinionated: Access to CAM in the U.S. - What We Have v. What We Need

You may not be familiar with the acronym "CAM", and that is OK. You are about to learn what it means and why we need more of it in the United States. CAM stands for "Complementary & Alternative Medicine". Now, let's clarify one thing first - these practices are not considered complimentary or alternative in many countries around the world. The United States' economy relies so heavily on western (profitable) medicine that, in order to survive, the fed attempts to quash the popularity of CAM with sometimes mythical (but sometimes not) tales of the dangers of going the natural route. That rant is for another day.

This article is not to bash the U.S. health care system, just to point out some reasons why it needs to be more accepting of CAM. For today, I just want to focus on the fact that we need more CAM in this country.

The United States has the world's largest economy in 2014, according to CNN.com. Yet, we can't seem to figure out why, despite also being the world's biggest spender in the health care sector, Americans are sicker than ever. As of 2014, kff.org reports that the U.S. spends over $8k per capita on health care costs - nearly double its closest followers in the rankings. So, we have more money than all the rest ... and we spend more money on "health care" than everyone else ... why aren't we healthier than everyone else? It's almost as if retroactive medicine in the form of pills is less effective than the preventative and proactive approaches taken by most other countries. Diet, activity levels, and personal standards are higher in many of the countries that fare better than we do in this category. Now the system isn't always to blame. The U.S. is also notorious for being lazy and addicted to junk - it's who we are, folks. The doctors do tell us we are overweight - and they tell us we need to lead healthier lifestyles free from cigarettes and McDonald's. Do we listen? No.

Enough with the lesson in economics - but why is this information relevant? Well, CAM is cheaper than western meds! It's cheaper than diabetes care. It's cheaper than cancer treatment. It's cheaper than needing special equipment to live because obesity has destroyed the body's ability to heal. Living well and preventing illness works better and ultimately saves money. Now, this is not to say that healthy people never get sick. However, CAM treatments for these cases are also inherently cheaper. Western meds are simply imitating the natural stuff. Chinese medicine, for example, practiced for about 2,500 years now (according to nih.gov), is quite effective. Herbs and extracts that induce certain effects are simply copied chemically in western labs to achieve the same results. If it exists naturally, you may wonder, then why recreate it in a fake form? Well, the FDA has one valid point. Nature is ... perfectly imperfect. Thus, one dose of valerian root could prove much more potent than another. One essential oil could render into a much less pure form than another, and so on. So, the FDA says they create the medicines chemically to ensure consistency.

Sure, FDA, we believe you (smile and nod). Um ... but if it's all natural and people aren't scared to use and can grow it themselves or obtain it for a small cost (think rosemary or melatonin here), wouldn't that mean the FDA loses a great deal of money? Why, yes it would! The FDA needs to control everything to maintain its financial footing. For the same reasons the raw milk and homemade yogurt are villainized, natural medicine is, too. Bottom line - the FDA is a profitable corporation that can't be trusted to only care about our well-being. Do they do a lot of wonderful things? Yes. Is it nice that our medications are consistent, safe, and reliable? Yes - although I am not too sure how safe it is to destroy your liver with chemicals that your body can only recognize as plastic!

So, what types of treatments and preventative steps are taken by those of us who embrace CAM? A wide range of treatments that fall into this category exist. The most common and familiar are acupuncture, massage, and tai chi. There is so much more! Others include guided imagery, meditation, botanicals, dietary supplements, probiotics, and my personal favorite, yoga. Learn more here.

CAM treatments are generally not dangerous and typically do not require a great deal of money. This is another reason that most physicians will warn you of dangers of CAM. Green tea and Blue Cohosh are surely deadly compared to plasticised chemical with "rare side affects" including death. Are we learning yet? The U.S. health care system, though it is miraculous in its accomplishments, is a bit broken. It is too controlled by profiteering industries. It needs to be controlled, or at least jointly controlled, by a board that doesn't receive financial incentives from the decisions it makes.

Access to CAM is limited, since many insurance companies won't cover supplements, vitamins, massages, or most other CAM practices. However, dropping your insurance and paying cash for CAM is less expensive than carrying regular insurance. Should you still have catastrophic coverage? I would.

If you took anything from reading this, I hope it was inspiration. Inspiration to go and research for yourself. To break free of daily pills. To take control of your weight, your mood, your skin health, and your overall well-being. CAM not only is effective, but makes you feel good. It is all around wonderful.

Kingman has very few practitioners of CAM, but they exist. We have a couple osteopaths (doctors with an education in CAM), and lots of chiropractors. Most chiropractors double as naturalists. You can certainly get all the CAM care you need within driving distance of here, so there is really no excuse to not even learn more about it. If not for the sake of interest, for the sake of the acquisition of knowledge, you owe it to yourself to dig. So go, dig!