The paradigm shift from treatment to prevention – A more natural approach without the prescription drugs.
Integrative medicine is a type of complementary healthcare that entails a holistic approach at treatment—an approach that is designed to treat a patient as a whole person, analyzing and incorporating an individual’s overall physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being when recommending a course of treatment. While conventional medicine often treats an ailment with the focus of suppressing symptoms, alternative medicine seeks to cure the root of the problem so as to promote self-healing. As such, many patients of alternative medicine are prompted to be active participants in self-care. Examples of alternative treatments include acupuncture, meditation, intermittent fasting, and herbal supplementation, among others.
Integrative medicine can be particularly effective for conditions that do not have a specific “cure,” but can benefit from both holistic and traditional treatments. Cognitive impairment, digestive disorders, inflammation within the body, high cortisol levels, and insomnia are some examples that have been shown to respond favorably to alternative treatments. For example, meditation—defined as the act of attempting to clear the mind through concentrated focus on an object, sound, breath, or other movement—serves to promote the practice of mindfulness, or awareness of the present moment, and is designed to reduce stress and promote relaxation. A 2016 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Psychiatry journal analyzed the findings from nine randomized controlled trials in which patients who had depression were randomized to participate in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), along with their usual regime of medications or other therapies. The study found that participating in MBCT reduced the risk of patients experiencing a relapse of major depressive disorder over a 60-week follow-up. In essence, meditation, previously relegated to the “alternative medicine” category and sometimes given less credence by health and medicine experts, may alter brain function to improve attention, emotion, and self-awareness.
Choosing to adhere to a regime of integrative medicine does not entail a complete rejection of conventional treatments. Rather, integrative medicine seeks to “integrate,” or find a balance, of the two methods that optimizes overall health. For example, the conventional cancer treatment of chemotherapy may actually be complemented by the alternative treatment of ozone therapy. Ozone therapy entails infusing the body with oxygen, and has been shown to bolster the immune system by stimulating the production of white blood cells in addition to regulating inflammation. As a potent regulator of the immune system, ozone calms the immune system down if it is over-active in cases of auto-immune diseases, or will stimulate the immune system in cases where it is under-active (e.g. cancer and chronic infections). As such, if ozone therapy were to be combined with chemotherapy (a treatment that has been shown to profoundly depress immune response), a new approach which simultaneously augments immunity while preventing local immune suppression is created. Therefore, a more effective treatment with greater positive results could exist through a combination of a conventional and alternative treatment.
In short, in implementing an integrative approach, the focus will shift to improving quality of life, addressing health maintenance, and treating chronic, stress-related illness that will serve to reduce high chronic disease rates. Such a change, however, requires a paradigm shift—one that shifts the focus from treating sickness and disease to one of wellness and prevention. I strongly encourage you to become an advocate of your own health – through utilizing integrative practices to align yourself with your body’s needs, and subsequently understanding that the body should be treated as a whole, not merely its parts.