Questions to Ask Before Choosing Between Natural and Conventional Treatments

Questions to Ask Before Choosing Between Natural and Conventional Treatments

doctors office

Going to the doctor just isn’t something that we usually do in our family.

Our journey of learning to treat many of the sicknesses or symptoms that we experience (and realizing just how simple, affordable and effective these natural treatments really are) was a big motivation behind this month of home remedies and natural illness prevention that’s been happening here this month.

However, although I do not have a high degree of trust in doctors and conventional medicine, there are the odd times when we feel that it is the right decision to consult with our doctor or to (very occasionally) accept a prescription medication. For all of my stubbornness and independence when it comes to maintaining our family’s health, I don’t honestly believe that doctors are the enemy.

These occasions require much thought, prayer and consideration for us and are not taken lightly, but yet we do count ourselves blessed to live in a time and place where such medical treatment is available to us when it is truly necessary.

Questions You Might Want to Ask

Below are some of the questions that we typically ask ourselves as we consider whether we can treat an illness ourselves, or whether this situation is one of those that would warrant the consideration of choosing conventional medicine:

1. Have I prayed about this (both for healing, and for wisdom)?

2. Is this a practical area where it just makes sense to use conventional medicine (an accident, a broken bone, poison control, etc.)?

3. What types of natural alternatives could we potentially use in this situation?

4. Do I have the necessary knowledge/skills/resources to treat this issue?

5. What might be the risks of choosing to go the conventional route (side effects- both short and long term)?

6. Are there any risks of attempting to treat this ourselves? Could this situation get out-of-hand or become very serious or life threatening?

7. What are my limitations? Do I have the time, money and availability of supplies to properly treat this?

8. Am I just being stubborn? (Yes, this is a necessary question, at least for me!)

What are the things that you take into consideration before making a choice between alternative and conventional treatments?

Image by brittanyg

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  1. Great reminders! Being a parent is a huge responsibility and not to be taken lightly! Great reminder to ask the Lord for HIS help first and HIS wisdom in deciding major decisions for our children. Thanks!

  2. It’s been years since I’ve taken the children to the doctor for infections (they’ve been very healthy), but I have taken them to specialists for skin and GI issues, and developmental concerns. In those cases, I basically use the doctor’s knowledge and resources (like lab work) for diagnostic purposes only. Then I do my own research, pray and decide what to do with the information they provide. I’m grateful to have access to conventional healthcare, but reject most of their advice if it does not involve using diet and natural remedies (which it almost never does!). Wisdom and God’s direction are key!

    1. @Danielle, No, I don’t. I only take them if I feel that there is something going on, and most of the time I would go to my naturopath before the regular doctor, unless I feel the issue requires the opinion of my doctor.

      For example, my baby girl was having some issues with swollen lymph nodes under her arms. My husband had lymphoma (cancer) only 3 years earlier. I wasted no time in bringing her to the doctor for diagnosis, and was relieved to be told it was nothing. 🙂

      1. @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, I should also note– we don’t vaccinate our children, so bringing them in when they’re babies and toddlers only brings up frustrating discussions about why we are not vaccinating. Definitely a reason for us to not go if we don’t need to.

        For our babies, we have a midwife who doesn’t regular checkup visits to ensure that baby is gaining weight, looking healthy, feeding well, etc.

      2. @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home, Thank you! I was wondering- I felt I wasted so much money with all the prenatal checkups I had- and now all the check ups since he’s been born (really? every three months??). I can monitor my own and his weight here and I’m PRETTY sure I can tell if there is something wrong! I have a friend who doesn’t vaccinate either, but I am wary myself about that… I’m rather new to your blog- so you may have already covered this– but what are the reasons you chose not to vaccinate?

        1. @Danielle, Vaccination… big subject. 🙂 The basic gist of it is this: we want to avoid the preservatives and heavy metals, we feel that the fast/heavy vaccination schedule can really devastate an immature immune system leading to auto-immune disorders down the road, and we have some family health issues that cause of to be wary of our children’s particular sensitivity and ability to handle the load of vaccinations on their systems. That’s a very “in a nuthsell” answer, but hopefully that helps!

      3. I’m being nosey here, but I’m a new reader to your blog and only recently considering more non “conventional” doctor stuff. I was wondering how your husband’s lymphoma was treated? I’m all for using natural rememdies for minor things, but I’ve been wondering what I’d do for something more serious like cancer. Thanks. @Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home,

        1. @Cori, We certainly did a lot of reading and researching before making any decisions, including persuing a lot of alternative methods of treatment, and seeing a naturopath. In the end, we opted for the conventional chemotherapy treatment that the doctors recommended for him, for a variety of reasons. Our naturopath also concluded that in his case, it was the right decision.

          To prepare his body, he went through a detoxification cleanse before beginning the chemo, and then one again at the end. We also supplemented him with various things throughout the chemo, working with another naturopath who specialized in helping cancer patients, and tried to use natural treatments to deal with chemo side effects (rather than using more drugs than what he was already on) as much as possible. It was a very, very difficult decision, but I still feel that it was the right one, for us.

  3. This is a hard one. I’m dealing with it right now. I posted about it on the forum, but its not checked much and its also an uncommon issue (sebaceous cyst that is infected and really hurts). They want me to take antibiotics, which I am really especially leery of. I’ve been trying natural things, but so far, no help. I’m going to keep trying. My cyst isn’t getting worse or life threatening so I am waiting but may have to take the stuff in the end. Its a tough one. With my health issues this is major for me.

    1. @Nola, I had a really good result with dissolving a cyst with poke root oil packs, and Essiac tea as a healing detox. Email me if you want more info! 🙂

  4. I think we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater! I know conventional medicine has a lot of faults, and I don’t go see a doc unless I totally need to (and sometimes I don’t take what they’ve prescribed, because I do my own research) but seriously, medicine can do a lot of good too. Yes we need to be wise, discerning and think for ourselves, but sometimes, in my humble opinion, this aversion to conventional medical practice seems like little more than pride.

    I’m sure some will disagree with me, and I don’t have my own kids so it’s hard for me to consider that aspect.

  5. We don’t go that often and don’t go for checkups either. I have basically go on my gut feeling. My kids were “sensitive” to foods that were causing behavioral and stomach issues when they were young. I asked about 3 doctors and went to a nutrtionist becasue my daughter was diagnosed as “failure to thrive” and we also went to an allergist. They wanted us to pack on the weight by giving them snack pack pudding etc. At that point I decided to figure it out myself. I asked again and again if food could be causing these and other issues. I was told no on several accounts. They were wrong we took care by avoiding some foods and then reintroducing them and by leaving other foods out indefinitely! We still go when we need to. We have used the ER a few times and had to have a surgery, but for general check up, I feel I know what is best for my children. This is what I am comfortable with and when I worry about something I do take them in to see what their opinion is and then decide with a biti of research what is going to be done to rectify the problem. Everyone has different comfort levels, but this is what works for us.

  6. Great post! We go in for the biggies – the emergency c-section; the hernia repair (and now another repair to fix the first repair!) and a head injury! With DS, I do do the well child visits, because my ped is very agreeable to delaying and selectively vaxing – if I keep up with my well child visits. I also like having the well visits so i have a good rapport with her when I do need DS to be seen for something more severe.
    For myself, I debated this weekend whether to go in to get a tetanus booster after a bad bite from a horse. Went through very similar questions in my head! Decided that the booster was less risky than lockjaw and that considering I work with horses routinely – probably not a bad idea! However, spent way too long than I should have, arguing with the doc about why I did NOT need antibiotics and xrays since I already knew the finger was broken – already had it splinted and the skin abrasion was minimal! I think it all comes down to common sense and comfort levels and individual knowledge base.

  7. Great question! I have one I’ve meaning to ask – how do you find a good naturopath? I suppose a personal recommendation would be best but what if you can’t find one? Are there some good questions to ask? I’d like to find a naturopath familliar with the GAPS diet for my husband.

  8. Truthfully, I’d try to seek an “alternative” doctor before I sought a conventional one. There are times that I recognize that I don’t have the necessary training or expertise to deal with a particular issue, but I would look for a naturopath, a homeopath, or other “alternative” practitioner first. And the ones I consult with, I trust would tell me if I really NEEDED to go see a conventional doctor. Basically I know that they believe that if you are extremely sick, you MAY need a conventional doctor to basically “save” you, then you return to natural means to actually improve your health. This is how I tend to view it.

    Of course, if there were an accident or something like that, we would go to a doctor! I have respect for trauma medicine. Not much more, though.

  9. We avoid the doctor as well – not completely on purpose 😉 I’m very comfortable with conventional medicine, because both my parents are pediatric nurses and I grew up with the whole idea. But I’ve seen less drastic, more gentle and natural methods work repeatedly as well if not better than the conventional treatments, even for something as scary as cancer.

    Sadly, the last time I went to the pediatrician (one of the only ones I could be seen by, as the government health plan limits our options severely) I felt incredibly threatened because I did not plan to vaccinate our children. The NP literally stood in front of the door, telling me all the horrible things that would happen to my babies if I didn’t give them all their shots. 🙁

  10. We also tend to generally avoid the doctor. We believe that God has made our bodies in an amazing way with an incredible ability to heal itself. When our bodies are properly fed and cared for, they can do what they were created to do! So far, my kids (ages 4 and 6) have never had antibiotics and are very healthy. Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made!

    Thankfully, we are blessed to have a doctor who likes to try natural and homeopathic remedies before prescription drugs. So even if I do take my kids in to see her, I feel confident knowing that she will honor and respect the decision I make as to how to treat my children. She also understands our desire to avoid vaccinations.

  11. My latest post was just on doctors being paid off by pharmeceuticals! The Atlantic this month has an interesting theory from a Dr. Iondidis (sp?) about how the data in research studies is skewed to favor the researcher (publishing, tenure, etc.), very compelling. I really like the trend that this website is hosting, accountability for our own condition and responsibility for our own health. Often times, traditional medications are not shown to be more effective than a placebo. There is some good research being done with neurofeedback by the Othmer’s in California; this is more for sleep problems, ADHD, depression, and epilepsy. Some studies are even showing a 50% improvement rate with autistic spectrum.

  12. I feel like I’ve lost faith in a lot of doctors, lately. With recurring migraines I’ve had 3 doctors just prescribe medication without even asking that many questions. They just wanted to solve the problem and get me out of there.

    Then the Naturopath I went to felt a lump in my armpit and didn’t say anything other than “keep an eye on it.” My coworker’s friend had a lump like this, and less than three months later passed away. They only diagnosed her with breast cancer during her autopsy.

    Then she put me on a massive detox, which completely messed up my body–intestines and my cycle. So at this point I don’t really trust anyone…

    1. @Kait Palmer, I’m sorry, Kait. That’s so tough. Unfortunately, even natural doctors can fail us, because they simply don’t have all the answers. Migraines sound to me like they could definitely be a hormonal issue, especially if you are concerned about lumps as well. Have you pursued anything for hormone balancing?

      Sigh… I wish I knew how to help, but the truth is, I’m just as unsure as anyone else. Only the Lord knows. That’s why He’s #1 on my question list. 🙂 *hugs*

  13. Thanks for making prayer your #1! I was raised to look to God for healing first. I somehow got out of that habit for a few years, and it’s amazing how much better everything is now that I’ve returned to it. Even when he doesn’t heal miraculously, he gives wisdom and peace.
    Because of God’s leading, we’ve been doing more this past year to maintain, grow, and heal our bodies naturally. Our health issues make conventional medicine a must every now and then; however, I’m hoping that, the longer we’re on the natural path, the fewer visits we’ll make to the doctor. I am very thankful that we’ve found doctors who aren’t 100% traditional, so going to see them doesn’t mean throwing all the natural stuff out the window.
    I’d love to hear anyone’s suggestions for handling asthma and/or progesterone deficiency naturally. Those are the two main health issues in our household, and I’m trying to glean as much info as I can.

  14. It has been very interesting reading. I too love God and believe we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made. However, after the fall sin entered the world including disease. Our bodies are not ideally made to fight all infections. I believe that God helps those who help themselves and that includes judicious use of antibiotics and vaccinations. This is most recently evident in Australia with an outbreak of whooping cough in which several new born babies have died – which could have been prevented with vaccination.
    I absolutely understand concerns over vaccination, I am a medical student and what I read on the internet scared me half to death after the birth of my twins. The key point here is finding credible resources – I was worried about heavy metals and thimersol but after checking a credible source found out that these substances have been banned in vaccinations for the last 15 years in Australia.
    I certainly don’t condone overuse of antibiotics or all of vac schedule (esp Hep B in infants) however I will not be relying on herd immunity and good nutrition to protect my children from diseases that kill. It is fantastic that people question modern medicine and seek alternatives – but it is easy to forget that doctors are people too – just as fallible as everyone else 🙂 However, the level of training, experience and knowledge that doctors go through, in my opinion makes them a very credible source of information !

  15. This sounds very much like what we do. Very good list of questions. They are similar to what I ask. We don’t vaccinate either (at least not yet…) so we don’t do well-child visits. I try to treat things at home, but my dr just this week prescribed Amoxicillin for my precious 9 month old like there was no other choice. He has a double ear infection and I decided to do garlic oil drops in his ears several times a day, then I went to another doctor today to get a 2nd opinion. He said as long as M was nursing and sleeping fine, then there was no reason to give it to him. Praise God! I prayed a lot, not wanting to make the wrong decision. I feel great about my decision now.

    1. @Ruth, I am glad you had a good experience with the garlic oil for ear infections! My mom used to do that for us and it worked great every time, although we walked around smelling a little garlicky. 😀

  16. I have mixed feelings about conventional medicine. I used to suffer from severe chronic asthma attacks. I contracted double pnemonia when I was a young teenager and would have died in a matter of hours if not for quick, skillful intervention by some of the best drs. and specialists in the country. I also delivered our first daughter via emergency C-section. Even my anti-medical intervention midwife agreed that it was necessary. So I think conventional medicine holds an extremely important role in our overall health. That said, I think that there are more natural and practical solutions to a lot of our health problems. After my scary asthma/pnemonia incident, my mom did some research and started giving me an immune boosting supplement that seemed to help elminate my need for long-term asthma meds. We also moved into a home with fewer mold and mildew problems, which eased the constant attacks as well. Now, I use my asthma meds when I need them, but I don’t need them every day anymore. I found a pediatrician who is relaxed about vaccination and believes in delaying most vaccinations and eliminating some of them entirely, so I am blessed in that regard. For those struggling with difficult pediatricians, I reccommend Dr. Sears list of vaccine-friendly Drs … I think the list only covers the U.S. though, but I’m not sure. For common things, colds, normal flu, etc. – we just drink water and herbal tea and use acetaminophen for high fevers. However, I’d like to learn more about herbal remedies for fever and pain, since I’ve learned that acetaminophen can be toxic to the liver.

  17. I have to ask myself that stubborn question too! Sometimes it is a good thing, but not always. Thanks for these questions, they are really great thoughts. I SO wish I would have gotten to chat with you more at Relevant. I am ready your ebook Real Food on a Real Budget and loving it. I also read your about me page and clicked on your 100 things about me post. I totally want to adopt and African child too.

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