I wanted to write a short post, in honor of Wellthoughts’ one year anniversary, on the topic of integrative medicine. The purpose of Wellthoughts is to encourage readers to become advocates of their own health, particularly through educating them on non-conventional therapies. I believe we need a more integrative approach in treatment today – one that combines conventional with alternative. The purpose of integrative medicine is to build upon Western medicine’s strengths through supplementing conventional treatment methods in an effort to improve quality of life while simultaneously making treatments more-effective and less painful.
What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine is a type of complementary healthcare—one that utilizes a holistic approach in treating a patient—and is often used in conjunction with conventional medicine. So what exactly is conventional medicine? Conventional medicine, also known as western medicine, is the most commonly used system of medicine in the United States. It relies on using drugs, radiation, or surgery to treat a patient. Unlike conventional medicine, integrative medicine focuses on a holistic approach that entails focusing on the patient as a whole person, particularly through recognizing the significance of the relationships among mind, body, and spirit—as each has a significant effect on one’s overall health
Why might one pursue integrative medicine?
Patients who seek to cure the root of an ailment rather than merely seeking to suppress symptoms in addition to wanting to minimize the potentially harmful side effects of conventional treatments may decide to choose a complementary path. However, choosing to adhere to the teachings of integrative medicine does not entail completely rejecting conventional treatments, but rather seeks to create a combination of the two that optimizes one’s overall health.
In the world of integrative medicine, many different treatments have been explored with promising success rates.
Some of the most commonly used alternative treatments include:
- Acupuncture: a treatment in which fine needles are inserted into the skin along specific meridians of the body to stimulate and improve the body’s natural functions and promote self-healing
- Meditation: a technique that encourages one to develop clarity, concentration, and emotional stability through calming and silencing the mind
- Reiki: a treatment technique in which energy is channeled from the therapist to the patient to promote the body’s natural healing processes
- Nutritional dietary changes: daily altercations one can make to his or her diet that often include a reduction of sugar and simple carbohydrate intake, and an increase in green foods and complex carbohydrates
All of the treatments mentioned above ultimately have the same effect of reducing one’s stress levels. This relates directly to the core belief of holistic medicine—that how one feels emotionally plays a significant role in how the body heals. Stress is often the source of many ailments as it causes the body to release hormones that have disruptive effects on immune function. A suppressed immune system not only lowers the body’s natural ability to heal but also lowers its ability to ward off disease. In essence, at the heart of the mind-body healing approach of integrative medicine is the assertion that a reduction in unhealthy stress hormones—through complementary practices—in the body may lead to increased immune function and an increase in overall wellness.