Integrative medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and physician in a therapeutic partnership. It is a change in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, integrative medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms. Integrative medicine physicians spend their time with patients, listening to their histories and studying the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease.
Why Do We Need Integrative Medicine?
- Our society is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
- The system of medicine practiced by most physicians is oriented towards acute care such as the diagnosis and treatment of trauma or illness that is of short duration and in need of urgent care, such as appendicitis or a broken leg. Physicians apply specific, prescribed treatments such as drugs or surgery that treat the immediate problem or symptoms.
- This acute-care approach to medicine, while quite effective, often lacks the tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases, it does not take into account the genetic makeup of each individual or factors such as environmental exposure to toxins and the aspects of today’s lifestyle that have a direct impact on the rise in chronic disease in modern Western society.
- Many physicians do not assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and therefore do not apply strategies such as proper nutrition, supplementation, diet, exercise, and hormone balancing.
How Is Integrative Medicine Different?
- Integrative medicine involves understanding the origins, prevention, and treatment of chronic, often complex, disease.
- Patient-centered care. The focus of integrative medicine is on patient-centered care. By listening to the patient and learning his or her story, the physician brings the patient into the discovery process and customizes treatments that address each patient’s unique needs.
- An integrative, science-based healthcare approach. Integrative medicine physicians look for the root cause(s) of a patient’s symptoms by considering the complex web of interactions in the patient’s history, physiology, and lifestyle that can lead to illness. The unique genetic makeup of each patient is also considered, along with both internal (body, mind, and spirit) and external (physical and environmental) factors that affect total functioning.
- Integration of the best available medical practices. Integrative medicine includes traditional Western medical practices with what is sometimes referred to as “alternative” medicine, creating a focus on prevention through nutrition, diet, supplementation, and exercise.
- Use of the latest and most advanced laboratory testing and other diagnostic techniques.
- Prescribed combinations of medication and/or botanical medicines, supplements, therapeutic diets, detoxification programs, or stress-management techniques.