These Are Some of the Top Reasons You Should Try Integrative Medicine

Do you think health should be focused more on addressing root causes and healing than treating disease and symptoms with medication? Are you someone who takes a proactive role in your mental, physical, and spiritual well-being? Do you want to find a health practitioner who incorporates Western medicine and holistic methods of healing in your treatment plan?

If so, you may be looking for a doctor who practices integrative medicine.

What Is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine is an evidence-based, healing-focused practice of medicine that evaluates a whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle – not just an isolated organ system, biological factors, or symptoms – while placing great value on the therapeutic practitioner-patient relationship.

Integrative medicine fully embraces the use of both conventional (allopathic or Western) practices and alternative/complementary (i.e., acupuncture, nutrition, yoga, meditation) therapies, as appropriate, for the well-being of each patient. As such, it also strives for well-coordinated care among providers to focus on the whole person.

Integrative medicine is a great option for those who value holistic health, but not to the exclusion of conventional medicine and all that it has to offer.

Here’s a closer look at this exciting approach to medicine.

Origins of Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine isn’t new. Medicine has always involved the blending of old traditions – questioning their validity and sifting out the ineffective practices – with new knowledge and medical interventions, according to a study on integrative medicine history.

However, with the advent of modern scientific and empirical study in Western medicine in the 20th Century, the body-mind-spirit/personality connection – a hallmark of traditional medicine practices – was abandoned for a time.

Medical historians note that a patients’ rights movement began to emerge around the time of the civil rights and feminist movements, which pushed for an equal partnership between patients and medical care physicians, and a more holistic approach to health.

History of Holistic Health

Holistic health is an approach to wellness that encompasses the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual components of health. It focuses on the uniqueness of each patient, the mutuality between the physician-patient relationship, personal responsibility for health and well-being, and promoting health over disease care.

Until roughly 30 years ago, holistic therapies were very much separate from Western medicine – limited to the offices of osteopaths, licensed acupuncturists, chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, and the like.

However, in 1994, with the founding of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson by Harvard-educated internist, Dr. Andrew Weil, allopathic medicine and the holistic approach were finally unified.

In 2004, the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health was developed to promote policies and actions to advance integrated healthcare throughout the U.S.

Today, centers of integrative medicine are training medical doctors and professionals, as well as providing patient care across the country at top medical schools and institutions including Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, George Washington, and UCLA – to name a few.

Here Are the 8 Defining Principles of Integrative Medicine

While each center for integrative medicine may have nuanced ways to define the discipline, the founding center (mentioned above) developed 8 defining principles of integrative medicine, which serve as an instructive doctrine.

  1. Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
  2. All factors that influence health, wellness, and disease are taken into consideration, including mind, spirit, and community, as well as the body.
  3. When appropriate, conventional and alternative methods are used to help facilitate the body’s innate healing response.
  4. Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
  5. Integrative medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically.
  6. Good medicine is based in good science. It’s inquiry-driven and open to new paradigms.
  7. Alongside existing treatment methods, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
  8. Practitioners of integrative medicine should exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.

The different types of complementary/alternative approaches used by integrative medicine practitioners generally fall into one of the following categories:

  • Nutritional (nutritional supplements, herbs, special diets, etc.)
  • Psychological (psychotherapy, hypnosis, mindfulness, meditation, etc.)
  • Physical (massage and spinal manipulation)
  • Mind/Body practices (yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, sound therapy, grounding, etc.)

Who Can Benefit from Integrative Medicine?

There are a host of health issues that may be improved with integrative medicine – many that may not be helped by either allopathic or alternative medicine alone. Even in cases where a health issue isn’t totally healed, symptoms (especially pain, nausea, etc.) may be significantly lessened with integrative therapies.

Examples of issues that can benefit from integrative medicine may include:

Try Integrative Medicine

If integrative medicine sounds like something you’d like to explore, ask your primary care physician about it. Also, you can visit one of the integrative medicine centers mentioned above and use their online locator to find practitioners in your community.


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Kim Henderson