GMA: Alternative Medicine Use Rising

When prominent cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz prepares for surgery he does so in a state-of-the art hospital with every tool of modern medicine available to him.

But what might surprise or even shock most doctors is Oz’s use of ancient healing traditions.

He plays hypnosis tapes to soothe his patient’s unconscious mind, and calls on the services of an energy healer to cleanse his patient’s energy fields.

“I have been accused by some of my colleagues as being too open-minded and they say it actually in a very loving way,” said Oz, director of the Heart Assist Device Program at New York Presbyterian Medical Center. “And I understand why they make that argument because most people do have to draw lines in their life just to focus their energies.”

Over the past five years, Oz and his team at the hospital’s Complementary Medicine Program, has studied everything from guided imagery to aromatherapy to garlic. His studies have shown that the hypnosis/relaxation tape combination helps surgical and long-term recovery in his heart patients.

For example, they have less bleeding during surgery than patients who didn’t get the combination and they require almost no post-operative pain medication.

In the first part of Good Morning America’s three-part series: Alternative Medicine: East, West and the Mind, Dr. Nancy Snyderman visited Oz, one of many doctors who are responding to patients’ desires to try alternative medicine.

Not So Alternative Anymore Two out of three Americans use some form of alternative medicine. And whether it’s tai chi or aromatherapy, “alternative” medicine is not so alternative anymore.

The long-running divide between alternative and mainstream medicine is disappearing with leading medical journals now referring to alternative treatments as “complementary” or “integrative” medicine.

Acupuncturists, hypnotists, massage therapists and meditation instructors are working at new complementary centers attached to major hospitals. A Consumer Reports survey this year found that almost 35 percent of readers had used alternative therapies such as herbals, massage or chiropractic manipulation to treat the worst two medical conditions that they had over the past two years.

A majority of respondents, 58 percent, treated their medical conditions with conventional means. But those who used alternative therapies were not shy about it, as they might have been in the past. Some 60 percent of the readers surveyed who used alternative therapies told their doctors about it, according to the survey.

The key to Oz’s technique is integrating traditional Western medicine with complementary techniques to help heal the mind, body and spirit. It’s an approach that even the most high-tech surgeons are supporting.

One reason could be that patients are, literally, buying into alternative medicine. Sales of dietary supplements, including vitamins, reached $14.7 billion in 1999, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. And the Consumer Reports survey found that over two years, readers who tried them spent up to $300 on alternative therapies.

Here are some alternative treatments outlined in Alternative Medicine, The Definitive Guide, published by Future Medicine Publishing, Puyallup, Wash.

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