What is Integrative Medicine?
May 02, 2018
Submitted by Karla Akwa, MD, Center for Integrative Medicine
Twenty years ago, there weren’t many different approaches for treating various health conditions. A doctor was a doctor and practicing medicine was practicing medicine. However, more recently, we are hearing the terms “mainstream medicine,” “western medicine,” “complementary medicine,” “alternative medicine,” and “integrative medicine.” Let’s take a look at what these terms really mean.
This is the type of medicine which is familiar to most people. It may also be referred to as western medicine, conventional medicine, or traditional medicine. Generally speaking, medical doctors and other health care professionals focus on treating the symptoms of disease, often using drugs or surgery.
Many Americans — more than 30 percent of adults and about 12 percent of children — use healthcare approaches developed outside of mainstream medicine. When describing these approaches, people often use “alternative” and “complementary” interchangeably, but the two terms refer to very different concepts. If a non-mainstream practice such as herbal supplements, aromatherapy, or homeopathy is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.” If a non-mainstream practice is used along with conventional treatments, then it is considered “complementary.” True alternative medicine is uncommon. Most people who use non-mainstream approaches use them along with conventional treatments.
Most complementary health approaches fall into one of two subgroups: natural products or mind and body practices. Natural products include herbs, vitamins, probiotics, and other dietary supplements, such as fish oil. Mind and body practices include a large and diverse group of procedures or techniques administered or taught by a trained practitioner or teacher. Yoga, chiropractic and osteopathic manipulation, meditation, and massage therapy are among the most popular mind and body practices used by adults. Other mind and body practices include acupuncture, relaxation techniques, tai chi, hypnotherapy, and movement therapies such as the Alexander technique and Pilates.
Integrative medicine combines conventional and complementary approaches together. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) at the National Institutes of Health, integrative medicine, “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” Integrative doctors focus on chronic conditions and disease and seek to uncover the root cause of medical issues rather than just treating the symptoms. The approach is very individualized and the goal is for the patient to achieve true wellness, which is different than the definition of health as being the absence of disease. To achieve true wellness, a person’s physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and environmental influences must all be considered as they all relate to a person’s health.
According to Andrew Weil, M.D., a world-renowned leader and pioneer in the field of integrative medicine, “integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.”
Dr. Weil outlines the following principles of integrative medicine:
- A partnership between patient and practitioner in the healing process
- Appropriate use of conventional and alternative methods to facilitate the body’s innate healing response
- Consideration of all factors that influence health, wellness, and disease, including mind, spirit, and community as well as body
- A philosophy that neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically
- Recognition that good medicine should be based in good science, be inquiry-driven, and be open to new paradigms
- Use of natural, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible
- Use of the broader concepts of promotion of health and the prevention of illness as well as the treatment of disease
- Training of practitioners to be models of health and healing, committed to the process of self-exploration and self-development.
Many people simply do not feel their best. They may suffer from anxiety, fatigue, headaches, pain, lack of energy, or any number of maladies. The integrative approach is a comprehensive, individualized process that takes time and requires the patient to be an active participant to improve their health. Are you ready?
For more information, you may contact Dr. Akwa’s office, The Center for integrative medicine, at 309-789-8057 or visit her website www.drakwa.com.
Dr. Akwa is board certified in family medicine and provides holistic care primarily for women. She has a special interest in bio-identical hormone therapy, weight loss, and nutritional cleansing.
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