I often get questions about alternative approaches to health, probably because I wrote a book that focused on how to be healthy without first turning to drugs, surgery, or radiation. The basic premise of the book – and my involvement in health – is that our bodies are wonderfully made and they are capable of almost miraculous healing.

Sadly, we have lost our way in the past few decades and now firmly believe that “there is a pill for every ill”.

That is not only untrue, it is dangerous. Too many of us take too many pills, have too many surgeries, and believe doctors when they tell us we’ll get better when we allow them to shoot potent rays into our bodies.

The saddest questions come to me in the following form: “My cousin has been diagnosed with cancer and he is scheduled to start chemotherapy and radiation treatments – tomorrow. Can you offer some suggestions for alternatives treatments?”

While I do my best to assist, I also think it is way too late to start doing something alternative. The treatment path has already been chosen and it is all but impossible to divert that train when it is due to leave the station tomorrow. The time to look for alternatives and seek other opinions is long before a determined action is taken.

On a simpler note, people ask me about alternatives to surgery for back, knee, or hip surgery. I suggest getting another opinion – but NOT from another surgeon. They wonder why and I explain that a different surgeon is only going to respond with a slightly different approach that is likely to still involve surgery. That really isn’t a second opinion. If all you have is a scalpel, every problem can be solved with a scalpel. Surgeons solve problems by cutting. If you decide to see a surgeon for a problem expect to have a surgical procedure recommended to you.

If you don’t want surgery don’t visit a surgeon.

Let’s get back to the problems with cancer and chemotherapy – especially after the decisions have been made to proceed tomorrow. It is too late to switch roads – except in the most unusual circumstances. The doctors have been visited. The treatment plan has been agreed to and treatment has been scheduled. That’s the way it is and to suggest it’s too late isn’t unkind, just a stark reality.

There are few medical emergencies that need immediate attention. Gunshot wounds, deep lacerations, and being hit by a bus come easily to mind. Everything else comes on us slowly and there is plenty of time to seek out alternative ways to approach what we see as a problem. The long standing approach to prostate issues has been a cautious watching and waiting. That has been replaced in recent years with “action NOW”. Sadly, many men suffer permanent harm from that approach.

No, I am not suggesting that all surgery or all drugs or all radiation is unnecessary, but there are alternatives – many of which can delay the need for the more drastic approaches. Why allow someone to cut and burn your body if you can gain relief and mobility by exercising, seeing a chiropractor, and maybe even receiving some help from an acupuncturist?

Going to a doctor for a problem is a good idea – sometimes. I firmly stand by my ten day rule – except in a real emergency (gunshot wound?) I wait at least ten days before seeking help. If I’m worse or no better, a visit to a doctor may be in order. It’s only ten days. If during that time things get really bad, seek help – by all means. You’d be pleased to know that our problems go away if we give them time and proper care (there’s that food, water, and exercise thing again).

So, when the path is already set it is inappropriate and foolish to begin looking for alternatives. They will only confuse the issues at hand and may even make life difficult with the treatments you have already agreed to accept.