Certain alternative and complementary health therapies, previously looked down upon by conventional western medicine, are now being embraced by physicians and patients. They will be the subject of a talk by Dr. Kesav G. Nair on Tuesday, March 5, 10 a.m., at Wilton Library. The Bulletin is the event’s media sponsor.
Nair is a board-certified medical hematologist/oncologist and senior attending oncologist at the Norwalk Hospital C. Anthony and Jean Whittingham Cancer Center. This program is part of the library’s Health Literacy series.
His talk, Nair told The Bulletin, will be focused on identifying the differences between complementary and alternative therapies “and how these can be integrated into the practice of conventional medicine.” Nair was part of the task force that created the integrative medicine program at Norwalk Hospital.
Complementary medicine, he said, includes a number of treatment practices, “some of which are age-old, some obtained from the wisdom of our forefathers over several centuries” including mind-body practices or botanical agents.
Alternative medicines are outside the realm of conventional medicine, such as homeopathic, Ayurvedic, or Chinese medicine used in lieu of what is prescribed for a particular disease.
While some of these practices may be benign and helpful, others may interfere with a patient’s care and that is why all vitamins, supplements, herbal and other products and treatments should be reported to a patient’s physician.
“Tell your physician everything you take outside what is prescribed,” he said. “It is important to make certain these medicines have met the test of scientific rigor and these are agents that are proven to be effective, otherwise you could be wasting your money.”
Some may also cause harm if a person believes an alternative agent will cure their disease, thus delaying curative treatment. This is especially true with diseases like “childhood leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, testicular cancer, early breast and colon cancer, which should be treated by conventional medicine without question,” he said.
Some agents may cause direct harm, such as Laetrile, which some people take for malignancies, falsely labeled as vitamin B17. There is no such vitamin, Nair said, adding Laetrile “is actually poisonous,” and “can lead to death, not only by delaying therapy but by causing harm.”
On the positive side, Nair will talk about complementary practices that can be very helpful, such as therapeutic massage, Reiki, yoga, meditation, tai chi, and qi gong. They have been found to be effective in alleviating several symptoms for different diseases.
Endorsed by the Society of Integrative Oncology, meditation, yoga, massage and music therapy have been found to be effective in helping with depression and mood disorders in breast cancer patients. Acupuncture and acupressure have been found to help reduce the side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting, he said.
Conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and sometimes osteoarthritis and inflammatory bowel disease can respond to meditation and yoga. “Yoga can’t prevent heart disease, but may help in the management of cardiovascular disease” and it, along with tai chi and qi gong can help improve the balance of patients who have suffered a stroke or TIA (trans ischemic attack).
Some medicines, such as medical marijuana and CBD oil, once thought of as complementary or alternative, have become more conventional and he will talk about them as well.
“Public awareness is what we need and knowledge of the limitations [of these therapies] and what they can do,” Nair said.
Following his presentation, there will be a question-and-answer session moderated by Dr. Saraswathi Nair, former chair of the pathology department at Norwalk Hospital and a trustee of the library.
To register, call 203-762-6334 or visit wiltonlibrary.org and click on Events.