Alternative medicine

Lifestyle strategies and alternative medicine

When he returned to his native Colorado 20 years ago to treat people with multiple sclerosis, Allen C. Bowling, MD ’88, Ph.D. ’88, believed he was well prepared. After earning an MD and Ph.D. in pharmacology at Yale, he completed his residency in neurology at the University of California, San Francisco and spent three years as a fellow at Harvard.

“I was thinking, ‘Wow! I have such a great toolbox to do clinical practice at a high level.” Before long, however, Bowling recognized gaps in his knowledge. I don’t know, so many things I haven’t learned, in over a decade of training.”

This realization grew out of the nature of multiple sclerosis (MS): this disease of the central nervous system is incurable and unpredictable and causes a constellation of symptoms. Although his patients typically took conventional MS medications, Bowling found that most were interested in how lifestyle issues such as diet and exercise affected the disease. More than half pursued strategies they hadn’t dreamed of in medical school: reflexology, removal of dental fillings, marijuana, magnets, pressurized oxygen, and prayer. However, at the time, there was no reliable source of Member State specific information in these areas.

“I realized that the quality of MS care could be improved by providing objective information about the safety and effectiveness of these unconventional lifestyles and approaches to people with MS as well as healthcare professionals. health.

“My patients were immersed in these therapies that were clearly important to them, whether there was evidence that they worked or not.” Even doctors and scientists who were patients used unconventional therapies and were interested in lifestyle approaches, said Bowling, who runs an MS practice affiliated with the Colorado Neurological Institute and is a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Colorado.

Bowling set out to evaluate these unconventional and lifestyle strategies. His approach is to critically examine articles on a topic related to lifestyle or alternative medicine and distill them into a friendly form for clinicians and people with MS, he said.

The result is Optimal Health with Multiple Sclerosis: A Guide to Integrating Lifestyle, Alternative and Conventional Medicine. For each of the main manifestations of MS, the book briefly describes potential therapies and lifestyle modifications. Under “walking problems,” Bowling mentions standard medications, then lists 10 other “potentially effective lifestyles and unconventional therapies,” including cooling, tai chi, and therapeutic horseback riding. Much of the book is devoted to Bowling’s elaboration on 49 approaches ranging from acupuncture to yoga. For each, Bowling discusses effectiveness, possible interactions with standard care, dangers, and side effects. It cites studies and recommends further reading. Lifestyle, alternative and conventional medicine strategies are integrated into a seven-step approach that can be easily followed by patients and professionals alike.

“I encourage my patients to explore things and extract what’s helpful to them,” Bowling said. He has tried much of what his patients pursue, both to understand his patients’ experiences and for his own well-being.

For example, he now eats a vegetarian diet on weekdays and has worked to understand his psychological makeup, aided by “a few decades of free home psychotherapy” courtesy of his psychologist wife, Diana S. Bowling, Ph.D.

Bowling provides lifestyle information and alternative therapies on its website,