AskDrNancy is not just a memorable email address — it is what her patients do all the time. Dr. Nancy is Nancy Gahles, a chiropractor who is also certified in classical homeopathy. She operates two Health and Harmony Wellness Education resource centers for complementary and alternative medicine — one in Belle Harbor and another on East 58th Street in Manhattan. If you visit Gahles, you will find that she can offer far more than chiropractic adjustments, however. Gahles is a bit of a human clearinghouse for information on complementary and alternative medicine. A patient can consult with her and she will then make recommendations as to what type of intervention that patient needs. If the care is not in her field, she has an extensive network of reliable, appropriate resources that she will offer as references. Dr. Gahles, who has been practicing for 24 years, first became interested in homeopathy when her son began suffering with asthma. As she studied the conditions that brought on an attack, she began to investigate what could be done to stop the onset. Although initially puzzled, she continued to study and was successful in finding a treatment that could control his asthma most of the time. Now, as a certified classical homeopath, Dr. Gahles hopes to advance the understanding that homeopathy can be a viable alternative to traditional medicine. “Complementary medicine is traditional medicine combined with alternative methods, such as homeopathy, massage, yoga, and even meditation. Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine,” she explains, adding, “The key to learning what a patient needs is to assess each person individually. There is no one magic bullet. People must understand that health and growth go together. They must understand that what they eat and how they exercise makes a difference. I want to empower people by putting them in charge of their health care.” Typically, Dr. Gahles will spend at least an hour with a patient on his or her first visit. She takes a thorough history; she wants to know who that person is, what stress that person might be under, what that person’s life is like. She will then ask about medical ailments and whether or not they are recent or chronic. Tina Franki, of Belle Harbor, went to Dr. Gahles once it became clear to her that her infant son was suffering from something chronic. “When my son was a baby, he cried day and night. He looked like he was in terrible pain when he cried and nothing I did helped him.” Even after her son was past the typical colic stage, his pain continued. “I took Nicholas to every kind of doctor — a pediatrician, an ear, nose and throat specialist. I would have taken him to a witch doctor! I just wanted to help my son find some relief. “ Finally, when Franki saw Dr. Gahles, she was asked about her pregnancy history, her son’s birth, and his behavior as he got through his first months of life. Dr. Gahles recommended one herbal remedy, which didn’t work. But the second herbal remedy did the trick. Franki is still enthusiastic when she talks about that day. “I gave Nicholas one dose, just one dose, and within a day, his pain was gone. There was no more intense crying. He started sleeping and was much calmer, which means that I started sleeping and was much calmer, too!” Dr. Gahles also helped Franki’s young daughter. Very different from her brother, Olivia slept well from the time she was 10 weeks old. However, when she was a little over two years old, she started waking at night, crawling into bed with her mother, or asking that her mother come into bed with her. Again, Dr. Gahles recommended an herbal remedy and that one pellet, crushed, calmed down little Olivia and she started sleeping through within two nights. Franki exclaims: “What can I say? We call Dr. Nancy our ‘Angel Doctor’”. Dr. Gahles is as passionate about her work as her patients are about her. “I want to give people hope. I want people to know that someone cares about them and their health and well-being.” Dr. Gahles adds that she will refer people to a traditional doctor if the need arises. “I have a tremendous referral network. I will help a patient find relief, even if that relief doesn’t come from one of my therapies. I will certainly refer that patient elsewhere.” Dr. Gahles can be reached at (718) 634-4577 or at [email protected]
Health and Harmony through CAM
By Dr. Nancy Gahles
There are many systems of healing that are outside of the realm of conventional medicine as practiced in the United States. Increasingly, people are searching for and using alternative health care approaches. While most of these are safe and effective, there exists a lack of clinical, scientific evidence for their use. The literature is replete with anecdotal evidence of the effectiveness of several of the most popular CAM therapies.
What is Complementary and Alternative Medicine? Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, is a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices and products that are not presently considered to be part of conventional medicine. While some scientific evidence exists regarding some of the CAM therapies, for most there are key questions that are yet to be answered through well-designed scientific studies.
Are Complementary and Alternative Medicine different from each other? Yes, they are different.
• Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine. An example of a complementary therapy is using homeopathy, aromatherapy or guided imagery to help lessen a patient’s discomfort following surgery. • Alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. An example is using chiropractic or acupuncture to treat a condition such as chronic back pain.
What is integrative medicine? Integrative medicine, as defined by NCCAM, combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. An example of this would be using a Doctor of Chiropractic along with a physical therapist for back pain. Or, using a Doctor of Chiropractic who specializes in cranial work and nutrition along with a pediatrician for babies and children with chronic ear infections (otitis media).
What are the major types of Complementary and Alternative Medicine? 1. ALTERNATIVE MEDICAL SYSTEMS Alternative medical systems are built upon complete systems of theory and practice. Often, these systems have evolved apart from and earlier than the conventional approach used in the United States. Examples include Homeopathy and Naturopathy.
2. MIND-BODY INTERVENTIONS Mind-body medicine uses a variety of techniques designed to enhance the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function and symptoms. Some techniques that have been considered CAM in the past have become mainstream (for example, patient support groups and cognitive-behavioral therapy). Other mind-body techniques are still considered CAM, including meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.
3. BIOLOGICALLY-BASED THERAPIES Biologically based therapies in CAM use substances found in nature, such as herbs, foods, and vitamins. Some examples include dietary supplements, herbal products, and the use of other so-called “natural” but as yet scientifically unproven therapies (for example, using shark cartilage to treat cancer).
4. MANIPULATIVE AND BODY-BASED METHODS Manipulative and body-based therapies in CAM are based on manipulation and/or movement of one or more parts of the body. Some examples include Chiropractic and Massage, both of which are licensed professions by the Department of Education and fully recognized for their safety and effectiveness.
5. ENERGY THERAPIES Energy therapies involve the use of energy fields. They are of two types: —Biofield therapies are intended to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body. The existence of such fields has not yet been scientifically proven. Some forms of energy therapy manipulate biofields by applying pressure and/or manipulating the body by placing the hands in, or through, these fields. Examples include qi gong, Reiki, and Therapeutic Touch. —Bioelectromagnetic-based therapies involve the unconventional use of electro-magnetic fields, such as pulsed fields, magnetic fields, or alternating current or direct current fields.