Until recently, the gulf between natural therapies and conventional medicine has seen some practitioners in each field vehemently criticise the other. However, over the past few years a marked shift has been taking place, narrowing the divide between the two camps. Terms like 'preventative medicine' and 'holistic approache' have paved the way for the two medicines to co-exist. Despite this, there are still a number of controversial topics with opinions strongly divided. Bernhard Vock explains.


Intervention vs support

One of the major differences between the two camps (natural therapies and medical science) is the issue of the root cause of health problems and what to do about it.

Natural therapists strongly believe that the body has a natural tendency to heal itself; a view supported by science in the concept of homeostasis. Homeostasis is the body's constant attempts to maintain a stable environment, achieving equilibrium necessary for survival and good health. If homeostasis is disrupted, the body takes steps to restore it. So, if body temperature becomes too high, the body must take steps to bring it back to normal in the form of sweating, drinking cold water etc. If homeostasis cannot be restored adequately, the person's health may suffer and the body may not be able to function correctly, eventually resulting in disease and illness.

Medical practitioners consider illness as an 'attacker' and believe the only way of defence is to destroy the 'attackers'. For example, medical practitioners might prescribe antibiotics to kill off bacteria, or surgically remove a problem. Although in many cases this is a useful approach, this philosophy has also resulted in a multibillion-dollar 'disease industry', where costly medical intervention is preferred to preventing the problem in the first place.

Natural therapists on the other hand, consider illness as a challenge that should be met by supporting the body to heal itself, rather than externally intervening to re-establish homeostasis. Basic treatment approaches usually include rest, use of exercise or diet, nutritional supplements, medicinal herbs, etc. In other words, the focus is on maintaining and supporting health, rather than a disease-based approach. This is a fundamental tenet that defines the difference between natural therapies and orthodox medicine.