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Are Americans Spending More on Alternative Health Care?

Americans spend more than $30 billion every year on dietary supplements and alternative health care such as yoga, massage or chiropractic.

Americans are spending their own money on alternative health care. An analysis from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that in 2012 people spent more than $30 billion out of pocket on dietary supplements as well as chiropractors, acupuncturists, yoga instructors and massage therapists. They also purchased books, videos and other self-help educational materials.

No Insurance for Alternative Health Care:

Because insurance rarely covers such treatment, the authors speculate that people must value the care they are receiving. Yoga, for example, is becoming increasingly popular. People see it as a way to promote wellbeing.

You can get more details on the survey completed in 2012 from the National Institutes of Health. The investigators found that adults were using the lion’s share of alternative health care.

Nutritional Supplements:

People are using slightly fewer nutritional supplements than they were several years ago. Studies that found a lack of effectiveness from herbs such as Echinacea and Ginkgo biloba may have reduced interest in these herbs.

Supplements (including vitamins and minerals as well as botanical products and other compounds) still constitute a multi-billion dollar industry. Leaving vitamins and minerals aside, supplements are the most commonly used alternative health care approach. More people than ever are taking fish oil, for example.

Coordinate with Your Doctor:

A spokesperson for the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine recommends that people taking supplements or seeking complementary care coordinate with their primary care provider to avoid incompatibilities. Herbs and other supplements may interact with certain prescription drugs.

National Health Statistics Reports, June 22, 2016

If you would like to learn more about choosing supplements wisely, you may be interested in our combination offer of an hour-long interview on CD with Tieraona Low Dog, MD, along with her informative book, Fortify Your Life: Your Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and More.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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