Integrative Medicine

When Pamela Wible MD held a meeting to find out what would create an ideal medical experience for patients in her town, she discovered they wanted an integrative approach to their medical care. What exactly is that? And why would they want it?

What is integrative medicine?

According to Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada,

Integrative health focuses on the individual’s wholeness encompassing body, mind and spirit as well as all aspects of lifestyle.  It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies – conventional, complementary and alternative.

   Complementary and alternative therapies are therapies that are not taught by western medicine. They are not generally available in hospitals. They are also known as…holistic or wholistic health care or non-traditional treatments. A simple way to understand each approach is:

     Complementary describes treatments that are used with conventional medical treatment. An example of a complementary therapy is massage.

     Alternative therapies are described as those used instead of conventional medical treatment. An example of an alternative therapy is homeopathy.

     Integrative health is a blend of the best practices from conventional, complementary and alternative therapies.

The webpage goes on to describe the philosophies underlying this approach, which have to do with wholeness, patient empowerment, appreciation for the body’s wisdom and healing capacity, individualized approach, self-responsibility of the individual, working on the basis of best evidence, and restoring balance in mind, body and spirit.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health makes this distinction:

  • If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered complementary.
  • If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered alternative. True alternative medicine is uncommon. Most people who use non-mainstream approaches use them along with conventional treatments.

Why would patients want an integrative approach?

Simply put, an integrative approach broadens our treatment options. As Dr. Frank King said in a recent interview, “When medicine says something is incurable, that is true only by their tools of surgery and drugs.”

Dr. King has degrees in both naturopathic and chiropractic medicine, and specializes in homeopathy, which strengthens the body by awakening its natural ability to heal. His view is that when we address the whole person, we get whole-person results.

Learning about alternatives

The University of Minnesota has an excellent on-line resource in their center for Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing. Their stated intention is to “provide information for the general public about enhancing wellbeing, exploring complementary and integrative healing practices, and navigating the healthcare system.” Equally important for good consumer information is that they do not receive funding from advertising or displaying commercial content.

If you have a particular condition, you can look it up to learn what the conventional treatments are, what lifestyle changes are recommended, and a description of integrative therapies to consider.

There’s another section which describes twenty-seven holistic therapies. Some are more familiar and available, such as Naturopathy and Reflexology. Some less so—Tibtan Medicine, Shiatsu, and Osteopathic Medicine.

The Therapeutic Order

In this short video, naturopathic doctor Jolene Brighten speaks to functional medicine practitioners about the philosophy of naturopathic treatment.

Below is a graphic showing the specifics of the therapeutic order. This is from an article by naturopathic doctor Laura Figoski.

She introduces the therapeutic order by saying, “This is a fundamental approach that Naturopathic Doctors use.  The goal is to build from the bottom up, creating a solid foundation from which to support your health and healing. Every person is different, so this is a framework, more than a mandate.”

The Therapeutic Order

image via Laura Figoski, ND

As you’ve probably gathered from my past blogs, I’m a fan of bringing together everything I can to get well and stay that way. Anyone else?

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