The Journal of Patient Safety puts the number of people killed in American hospitals by preventable medical errors at 440,000 yearly. The complete number is much higher, but even using the 440K figure, that’s the equivalent of 60 Jumbo Jet crashes every month killing all on board. How long would we let an industry operate that crashed two Jumbo Jets full of people every day? Would you willingly get on a Jumbo Jet with those odds? Think you might look for an alternative?

American medicine is amazing when it comes to trauma and emergency medicine. But for chronic complaints and illnesses, general overall healthcare, our conventional approach is pretty narrow. The majority of Americans now turn to alternative medicine before choosing conventional. Yet our medical schools — with the exception of the few accredited Chinese Medical Schools — don’t teach holistic methods of treatment. Oh, they’ll mention them dismissively in passing but the two methods — holistic versus allopathic (Western) — are diametrically opposed in philosophy. This leaves an entire spectrum of successful healthcare developed over thousands of years beyond the awareness of most Americans. Here are some healing arts that your average doc doesn’t learn in med school.

Acupuncture Time-tested across five thousand years by successfully addressing nearly every health condition imaginable, this minimally invasive branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine is powerful and remarkable medicine. With Licensed Acupuncturist or L.Ac. after the name, it means, among other things, that the practitioner is licensed by the state of Nebraska, has passed a national board exam and attended an approved college of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture is a safe, cost-effective alternative to conventional American medicine.

Nutrition Probably the single-most influential activity affecting our health is what we eat. Michael Pollan sums it up: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” The key is choosing real food — stuff made by Nature and not man. Processed food is not real food. Learn the difference. Industrial hamburger laced with ammonia and “pink slime” bears little resemblance to a burger made with meat from a pasture-raised, grass fed, antibiotic and chemical-free beef. Start by watching the film King Corn and reading Omnivore’s Dilemma. Follow that with learning about the Weston A. Price Foundation, not the final word on nutrition but certainly great information. Consulting with an institution-trained nutritionist who still believes it’s okay to eat high fructose corn syrup isn’t exactly where I would start.

Chiropractic Doctors of Chiropractic paid their dues. For decades, the field was scorned as quackery by the conventional medical establishment. But now chiropractic is accepted and used by millions with effective results. It’s not just for back pain, either, by the way. What physical condition isn’t affected by the neurological pathways addressed by chiropractic? I’ve known infants with ear infections who benefitted from pediatric adjustments. Research and experience shows chiropractic works, and without drugs, surgery or hospitalization.

Massage Massage therapy, quite deservedly, has come into its own. Perhaps the most accessible and accepted form of therapy, its wide range of modalities gives it a tremendous variety of specializations. One study at UCLA found that even a single massage treatment improves immune system function. Cancer patients have found relief from edema and pain. Regular massage therapy will lower stress levels and helps lower blood pressure without drugs.

Herbal therapies Herbal remedies are accessible and effective. A good resource is Dr. James Duke’s The Green Pharmacy. A respected former USDA botanical expert, his work is an excellent and well-informed guide. Local herbalist Nicholas Schnell is one of many available in the area. Many chiropractors and holistic physicians can also assist. Herbs are far safer than pharmaceutical drugs but can be potent. Be informed.

Meditation Many valid forms of meditation have well-researched health benefits. Transcendental Meditation and the Silva Method are two formal training methods with millions of practitioners worldwide. 

Ayurveda At least 5000 years old, this medical practice has its roots in ancient India. It wisely bases the various healing tenets on the understanding of energy as part of life. Using nutrition, herbs and various treatments, the holistic body is balanced toward health. Two Western-trained MDs associated with ayurvedic methods include Deepak Chopra and cardiologist Dean Ornish. It’s not as easy to find an ayurvedic physician as it is to find, say, a naturopath. The vibrant community in Fairfield, Iowa — specifically a medical spa named The Raj — is a good place to seek a reference.

These alternatives to conventional medicine — and many others — share a commonality: they do not use drugs or surgery.

Finally, if one does find oneself in a hospital, take heart. The same healing power that is recognized by alternative therapies is active wherever you go.

Be well.

Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit

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