What should you share with your doctors?

Contributing ColumnistApril 13, 2014 

According to the National Institutes of Health, 38 percent of American adults and 12 percent of American children use some type of complementary/alternative practice on a regular basis to relieve stress, improve health or increase their sense of well-being.

While the most common is the use of natural products — vitamins, minerals and probiotics — practices vary from person to person. Regardless of what is used, there is potential for interactions between a complementary practice and conventional medicine.

For example, someone taking daily herbal supplements may find a newly prescribed medication is not providing the desired effect. Someone practicing yoga daily is on bed rest, and develops physical discomfort from lack of activity. Another person meditates daily to relax yet is unable to do so in a busy hospital setting. Each of these situations shares a common problem: a lack of communication.

Communication is key, whether in the hospital or in the doctor's office. Because of potential interactions, one of the most important things you can communicate to your doctor or nurse is information on all medications, supplements, and practices you use regularly. This information can help your doctor determine what precautions need to be taken and can make a difference in the effectiveness of your care.

Here is a list of things you want to consider sharing with your doctor. Everything you take and practice is part of your health care, so when your nurse asks for a list of your medications include everything. Be sure to share how often you take these products or use these practices:

 Herbal medicines (folk medicines), vitamins or other supplements, including dosage, purpose and form.

 Essential oils (aromatherapy) and why and how you are using them

 Dietary protocols — are you vegan, vegetarian, or on a macro or micro diet?

 Chiropractic, naturopathic, osteopathic, or homeopathic services, including acupuncture or traditional Chinese or Ayurvedic medicine

 Yoga, meditation, guided imagery, tai-chi, or breathing exercises

 Massage or reflexology

 Energy practices such as healing touch, Jin Shin Jyutsu, or Reiki

 Other stress-reducing practices such as art, music, or dance.

Sharing this information can help your doctors and nurses work to keep you safe as well as aware of complementary or alternative services you may need.

Cathrine Weaver is a registered nurse and integrative practice program coordinator at Baptist Health Lexington.

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