Complementary or Conventional ?

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“ALL YOU NEED IS …”  A Healing Myth. 

This phrase – “all you need is …”  is something I have come across from more than one therapist, more than one conventional doctor and indeed more than one teacher, in my healing and learning journey.  This therapy, that affirmation, this dietary approach, this drug, that way of healing – this One Thing is all you need, to fix everything.   With experience I have become uncomfortable with this ‘myth’.  It is too simplistic, too one-sided, sometimes used in a controlling way, to discourage or prevent people from exploring more widely.  We are complex Beings.  If One Thing – whatever it was – fixed everything, humanity would be in a very different place. 

I have a foot in both camps, the first almost 20 years of my working life in the NHS - the conventional medical world -  and the more recent 20+ years in the complementary/ energetic world.  I have experienced the different sides of ‘healing’ – as a patient/client, and as a member of staff/therapist/teacher.  It is not a case of ‘either/or’ with conventional versus complementary therapy.  It can be ‘both/and’, depending on what you need at the time. 

Terrible things can happen with a “one thing only” approach without applying any common sense.  A child famously died because her parents insisted her serious physical condition be treated only with complementary therapy.  The therapist tried to tell them she should be seen by conventional medics, but they insisted.  My own mum almost died and was admitted to hospital twice as a direct result of polypharmacy from conventional medicine, and the many drugs she was on contributed greatly to her suffering and her death.  Polypharmacy is defined as the over-prescribing of conventional medicine - more than 5 or 6 conventional drugs at the same time – and is dangerously common, particularly for older people. 

Mum was rushed to hospital both times because of serious side effects from the number of drugs she was being given.  She was on 21 different drugs when she finally died!  She suffered agonising drug-induced gout the first time and almost died from drug-induced renal failure on the second occasion.  I was less than impressed when the doctors involved took a very unpleasant approach when I questioned why they would prescribe for someone to the point of almost killing them.  First do no harm? Both times Mum had to be taken off all her drugs for at least 2 weeks.  And surprise, surprise, she did not die.  Alas, the doctors soon began to put her back onto the whole poisonous cocktail, without considering which drugs she might actually need, which might have been given for the side effects of others, which ones she might be better off without or which could be given at a lower dose, in order to reduce the load on her system.

There is the worrying ‘conventional -v- complementary’ view where conventional medicine ridicules and dismisses ALL complementary therapies.  And some people with very alternative views revile anything conventional.  Extreme views and it’s easy to see where other extremist views lead in the world.  My view is that we need BOTH, in an open-minded, balanced approach, each respecting the best the other has to offer. 

Conventional medicine has its place.  A good GP - although there are not many of those available since lockdown - can be a source of useful tests or a doorway to specialist investigations.  Emergency Medicine is fast-acting and saves lives.  If you are in in a road traffic accident you don’t need an energy healer at that moment.  What you need is swift, efficient treatment in an Accident and Emergency Department with pain relief, oxygen, blood if necessary, x-rays, possibly an MRI scan and hospital care.  Energy healing or homeopathy can come later, when the hospital has saved your life!   Surgery is sometimes necessary, as are some conventional drugs. 

However, conventional drugs ALWAYS come with side effects, some of them very dangerous, and patients are so often given more drugs to deal with the side effects of the first, leading to other side effects and yet another drug.  This issue is well described by Dr. James LeFanu in his excellent book, “Too Many Pills”.

I was aghast one morning, listening to Classic FM, to hear an advert for a new version of some conventional medicine.  It stated that a large percentage of over-50s were on at least 4 different drugs and it must be so awkward swallowing so many pills every day!  The advert went on to trumpet a 24-hour version of a particular drug, so - Ta-Da! – you only had to take this drug once a day.  I could guess what the 4 drugs mentioned might be – statins for apparently ‘high’ cholesterol, then NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories) for the aches and pains caused by the statins.  Then probably a drug for mildly raised blood pressure (because NSAIDS tend to raise blood pressure) and indigestion medicine because NSAIDS irritate the stomach lining.  This is part of the ‘cascade of drugs’ described in detail by Dr. LeFanu in his book.  In my 60s I am on just one replacement conventional medicines and given the issue of side effects and more drugs to combat them, I hope to keep to just that one.   

Many acute and chronic conditions are often better dealt with by complementary or dietary means if at all possible and certainly as a first effort.  This avoids the issue of side effects because complementary therapies don’t come with the damaging side effects of drugs, and complementary therapy can lead to an actual cure rather than a suppression of symptoms.   Most of us are aware by now of the overuse of antibiotics, which has led to some bacterial infections becoming almost immune to treatment.  It is time for a more balanced approach.  We should also be aware of the role the pharmaceutical companies play in all this.  They are, after all, out to make a profit. 

Have you ever considered, for example, who exactly decides on the ‘normal range’ for a measure in blood tests?  Cholesterol is an interesting example.  Thirty years ago, living what I imagined was a ‘healthy’ lifestyle – eating gluten and dairy, working long hours, ignoring emotional stresses in my life, but dashing off to the gym and ‘enjoying’ a busy social life – my cholesterol was tested and was just at the top of the (then)  normal range at 6.1.  I was warned about it, but nothing more was done. 

More recently, living a more balanced life, gluten and dairy-free (which suits me, but may not suit everyone), my cholesterol measured 4.4.  However, by then the top of the ‘normal range’ had been brought down to just 5.0.  Bear in mind, when changes like this are made, pharmaceutical companies sell more drugs because more of the population will fall into the new ‘abnormal’ category.  There is now a move from the pharmaceutical companies to bring the top measure of cholesterol down further.  This will mean almost every person will apparently have ‘high’ cholesterol.  But it will mean lots more profit! 

Humans are complex, with physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects.  We are Spiritual beings, in physical bodies, experiencing a human life.  It seems foolish to think we only need one thing, one approach to healing, one kind of medicine.  There is, in my opinion, no single cure-all.  People need different approaches at different times in their lives;  different dietary approaches from when we are a teenager to when we are 60.  We may need acupuncture to help with one condition, homeopathy will be best for another and so on.  Our exercise needs – and abilities – change across a lifetime.  My days of jogging, 20-mile walks and high impact aerobics are gone.  I now walk shorter distances regularly, practice tai chi qigong, sometimes yoga, swimming or cycling.

We need – as James Le Fanu says in “Too Many Pills”, to become OUR OWN PHYSICIAN, working out what works for us, and what we need at any one time.  We need to understand our bodies and how they work.  We need to ask questions, research, explore, experiment and make our own decisions.  I would much rather try the gentler, safer, complementary approach first.  If it isn’t enough the ‘big guns’ of conventional medicine are always there. 

I have my own history of dis-ease and stresses.  I’ve tried many different forms of healing/diet/exercise over the decades, to find the ones that worked for me.  And my approach has changed as I have grown older and changed.  This is a powerful way to look after your health.  It puts you in Command and it doesn’t have to be either complementary OR conventional.  It can be “both/and”,  choosing the approach which suits you at any given time. 


Here are some websites and books I’ve found helpful over the years:  (about osteoporosis) (Blood type diet) (good for looking up medical conditions)

 BALL, John, “Understanding Disease”, The C. W. Daniel Company Ltd.

D’ADAMO, Peter J., “Live Right 4 Your Type – The Blood Type Diet”, Penguin Publishing, London

LEFANU, James, “Too Many Pills”, Little Brown Publishing


DISCLAIMER (The Small Print)       

These are just my current thoughts. 

Thoughts can change as we learn and grow.

You may disagree with me, but I am nevertheless entitled to my thoughts.

It is important you always make up your own mind - about everything.

I am not you, and don’t know you or the details of your life. 

Therefore, you are responsible for any decisions or changes you make as a result of reading my thoughts.

Finally, nothing in any of my blogs is intended as nor should be taken as medical or health advice.  Always research for yourself and talk to doctors or therapists you trust (conventional or complementary).