Alternative Medicine: A Primary Care Doctor’s Take

Last month, after celebrating my birthday, I started to reflect while sipping my coffee and asked myself some simple questions: Do I feel happy and healthy? Have I made the right choices for myself as a patient? Do I feel well?

As a primary care doctor, most of my training for the past 20 years has been in conventional biomedical medicine, also known as evidence-based medicine. But recently, I have found myself thinking more about alternative medicine.

Known as complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, alternative medicine is medical treatments that are not part of “traditional” medicine, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, yoga, or energy therapies such as Reiki.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 38 percent of American adults have used some form of alternative medicine to address health issues or just to improve their overall health.

Even though I am not physically ill, I wanted to try something more. I want to feel well, so I thought, why not try some form of alternative medicine?

I decided to try yoga, since it has been recommended to me by lot of my patients and I was very curious to try it. Personally, since I started to practice yoga, my sleep quality has improved, I am eating better, I feel more energized, and I am less stressed. I have experienced a better connection between my thoughts, my body and my spiritual being.

My recommendation is to consider talking to your doctor about trying alternative medicine if you feel anxious, tired, are coping with mild to moderate pain or a chronic illness, or want to engage in some form of gentle exercise.

To minimize the health risks of an alternative treatment:

  • Read the research. While the research on the benefits and risks of alternative medicine isn’t always conclusive, you’ll learn more about whether it’s right for you. Here are some key phrases to look for when reading medical research.
  • Choose practitioners carefully. Ask your family, friends and neighbors if they have any recommendations. Many forms of alternative medicine have a national association that requires practitioners to be certified or licensed to be listed on their website, so check there too.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you meet a practitioner for the first time, ask about his or her experience. If the practitioner is promising big results in a short time, be careful. 
  • Discuss alternative medicine with your primary care provider. Your treatment might have side effects or interact with medicines you currently take. Talk to your doctor before starting alternative treatments, or be sure to tell a new doctor about any alternative therapies you use.


Don’t be afraid to talk to your primary care doctor about alternative therapies. When used safely in combination with traditional medicine, they can help you feel your best.

Dr. Leyda Delgado is accepting new patients. Click here to learn more about her and request an appointment.