Doctors to Debate Health Care Alternatives

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/03/2008 - 11:41pm.

Two medical heavyweights are squaring off in a debate today on the merits of alternative medicine vs. standard Western care.

Best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil will debate Dr. Michael Wilkes, PBS commentator, Bee medical columnist and director of global health at UC Davis Medical School.

In separate interviews, the doctors gave a preview of what's to come:

Weil: We spend more per-capita on health care than any people in the world, yet by every measure of health outcomes, we're at or near the bottom compared to other developed countries. What we call health care is intervention and dependent on expensive technology … that's why our health care system's on the verge of collapse.

The integrative medicine I teach is really training doctors and other health professionals to focus on health maintenance, prevention of disease and low-tech intervention such as dietary adjustments.

Everybody should take 2 to 3 grams of fish oil a day - it's a protection against depression, cancer, heart disease all the diseases of aging and optimizes mental function. I also recommend vitamin D-3 (to help prevent many cancers and multiple sclerosis).

Reduce consumption of refined, processed and manufactured foods. Practice stress management, exercise and breathing. Inhale through the nose for the count of four, hold the breath for the count of seven, exhale through your mouth for the count of eight, four cycles twice a day. You can do it sitting at a red light.

Breathing changes the tone of the involuntary nervous system and other imbalances at the root of disease, This affects cardiovascular function, blood circulation, digestion, mood and energy.

Wilkes: I'm skeptical. There may be a placebo effect, but if breathing actually resulted in people being healthier and living longer, we would have evolved in a way that allowed us to breathe that way. Let's have an independent group study where half get taught to breathe the way Weil does it and see how they do after three months or six years.

And there's no data that vitamin D does anything for most people. In the absence of data that show it would work, save your money. He's gotten to be such a wealthy man, put some of that money into clinical trials and see if that stuff works or not.

Medical schools have done a systematically poor job acknowledging this whole field of complementary alternative medicine. Americans spend billions on this. Patients go to see complementary doctors for all of our failures - for needs we can't meet with Western medicine, and if they don't feel listened to.

Weil: I have a patient in his mid-60s with bile duct cancer. He had extensive surgery and had to make tough decisions about chemotherapy and radiation. He opted for a milder form of chemo and consulted with an integrative oncologist from my program. He took up tai chi, used Chinese herbs to reduce toxicity and help with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, did mind-body techniques using hypnosis and tapes that helped him through surgery. He's done better than anyone expected. You do whatever works, working in all areas.

Wilkes: Medicine shouldn't be about business and money, it should be about people's health and welfare. The bottom line is we don't know a great deal about what works and doesn't work in general. Scientists, M.D.s, Eastern and alternative providers are all guilty of not having an open mind.


Stephen Magagnini - March 3, 2008 - posted at

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 03/03/2008 - 11:41pm.


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