Unconventional medicine moves mainstream
Nine years ago Kellie Krasovec, a local acupuncturist, received a heartbreaking phone call: a neurologist had diagnosed her younger brother, Mark, with multiple sclerosis (MS). “It was horrible, I’ve blocked out the exact date but I still remember where I was and hearing the news. It was horrible,” Krasovec said. “And for a man in his 30s, it was difficult thing for him to swallow.”
Mark had been having trouble walking and his vision was blurred. Krasovec, a longtime believer in alternative medicine practices, convinced Mark to change his diet and start getting acupuncture treatments. He works out almost daily now and takes herbs. For the past two years, Mark’s been symptom free, and a few months ago, his MRI showed that of the original four brain lesions, there are only two left, and they’ve shrunk considerably in size. His neurologist had told him there was no cure for MS, and though technically Mark hasn’t been “cured,” Krasovec said, “he believes he’s not going to have the MS diagnosis for much longer.”
Eagle-Vail resident Jeff Sandoval regularly makes alternative therapies – acupuncture, massage therapy, and physical therapy – a part of his life. It was six years ago that he started getting acupuncture for stress management. Krasovec, who has been practicing acupuncture in Eagle County for a year and a half, calls Mark her inspiration for pursuing acupuncture as a profession. “I knew (a cure for Mark) was possible with Chinese medicine, but I didn’t know how back then,” she said.Holistic medicine on the riseKrasovec is one of the growing number of natural and holistic medicine practitioners practicing in the valley. The trend is fueled in part by Americans who are increasingly searching for alternatives to traditional Western medicine treatments. People who like herbs and nutritional supplements over prescription drugs. The National Institute of Health released a survey in 2004 revealing that 36 percent of adults in the U.S. use some form of alternative medicine, such as naturopathy, acupuncture or massage therapy. When vitamins and the use of prayer for health reasons were included in the classification, that percentage skyrocketed to 62 percent.
“It helped, immensely. It’s hard to describe exactly what I was feeling, but I felt better, more grounded, more centered. When things in my life were getting to me, if I found I was getting really irritated or annoyed, I’d go get acupuncture and it would balance me out. I felt more calm, more equipped to deal with stress of daily life.” Sandoval, an avid tennis player, has also used acupuncture in conjunction with physical therapy to help with shoulder and sciatic nerve problems. “It’s really helped,” he said.Seeing doctors spend only 10 minutes with their patients bothered Deborah Wiancek back when she was an X ray technician at Denver area hospitals, she said.”I really didn’t like the way people were being treated; they had 10 minutes with a doctor and for each doctor, they’d get a different diagnosis according to their symptoms,” Wiancek said.And so, after 20 years spent working in traditional Western medicine field, Wiancek decided to pursue a new direction, eventually she enrolled in one of the four professionally recognized universities of Naturopathic medicine in the U.S.: John Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. She opened her practice, Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards in 1998.The goal is preventionDr. Wiancek said she strives to identify and treat the cause of her patient’s problems, not just mask their symptoms. She, like all Naturopathic doctors, endeavors to educate her patients on preventative medicine as well. The overall goal is prevention of disease through healthy lifestyles and education. Conventional medicine, on the other hand, tends to diagnose and treat the disease after the patient is sick.Since Wiancek began practicing in the valley nine years ago, she said she’s seen a definite increase in people’s interest and willingness to explore alternative medicine.”I think people are realizing that drugs are not really working for them,” Wiancek said. “There was a study recently that showed drugs have become the fourth leading cause of death today – 1.4 million people die each year from drugs. That’s amazing.”People are recognizing that it’s important to change their diet and use preventative medicine to live longer, she said.Wiancek treats a lot of people in the Vail Valley suffering from allergies and high blood pressure, to high cholesterol and diabetes. But one of the cornerstone’s of Wiancek’s practice is preventative medicine. “There’s a lot we can do before a patient (illness) gets really bad,” she said. “We all get symptoms and warnings, whether we pay attention is a different matter.” Most insurance companies cover visits to Wiancek, she said, because it’s more cost effective to do preventative medicine than treating an illness with drugs after it’s out of control.Dr. Wiancek would like to see the integration of traditional and natural medicine where, in the end, the patient’s needs are put above all else. She realizes that people will still need surgery and concedes that there’s definitely still a place for medical doctors.”Some people will need surgery, with no way around it. But with something like a knee surgery, where the person tore their ACL or something, we can work a lot with reducing the inflammation, and reducing the pain. I think we could do so much working together.”Caramie Schnell can be reached at 748-2984 or firstname.lastname@example.org.