Faced with a dizzying array of health issues and options, consumers are increasingly choosing to combine the best of western medicine with other practices such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs. This broader approach, known as integrative, complementary or alternative medicine has the potential to offer consumers more benefits and better health than conventional medicine alone.
This is one of the reasons why a perceptible shift has occurred in the way people address their health and wellness needs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) 38 percent of adults and about 12 percent of children under 18 used some form of alternative medicine in 2007.The same study showed that out-of-pocket spending on complementary and alternative medicines was estimated at $34 billion in a single year.
So what exactly are they spending their money on? Integrative medicine is a broad term that includes many different methods and modalities. What unifies them is an approach that puts the patient at the center of care, and takes into account the full range of influences on a person’s health — physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental factors.
Integrative medicine might include acupuncture, tai chi, deep breathing and other relaxation techniques to reduce pain and stress; nutritional and herbal supplements to manage disease, boost immune function and optimize health; and group support, yoga and meditation to change unhealthy habits.
Although Integrative Medicine may be considered a brand-new approach, the fundamentals come from longstanding practices. Disciplines include Chinese medicine, meditation and yoga as well as ancient herbal healing remedies that have been used for millennia. It is also informed by modern knowledge from other disciplines like psychology, nutrition, physical fitness, and environmental health. All of this collective wisdom across disciplines and through the ages come together to increase our health today.
This offers many advantages for a consumer.
- First, integrative medicine takes a holistic approach, which is lacking in our current medical system. Typically, a patient has a different specialist addressing each of their health issues separately, which obscures the big picture. This increases the possibility of important clues falling through the cracks that might have led to a cure.
- Second, our health is not a matter of body alone. Mind, body and spirit are interconnected and each play a role. All aspects of a person’s life affect their health. Ideally, Integrative Medicine does not treat symptoms alone but tries to get at the root of the problem.
- A third benefit of the holistic approach is that practitioners tend to spend more time getting to know and understand the patient, which helps them treat the patient more effectively. For instance, at Duke Integrative Medicine, Integrative Health Coaches are an essential part of their healthcare team. These coaches form a supportive, structured partnership with the participant which facilitates successful health outcomes.
Because Integrative Medicine includes lots of different therapeutic options, it also means more patients can find a solution to their particular health issue. Fewer patients are disappointed, more patients are helped. For instance, people respond differently to treatment. Whereas one diabetes patient may have a successful outcome with insulin shots alone, another might need more support if their baseline health is not as good. They could benefit from working with a nutritionist and by taking herbal supplements that strengthen their circulation or ability to stabilize sugar levels.
Another example might be a patient with fibromyalgia or cancer who is dealing with a lot of physical pain that negatively affects their emotions which in turn might hinder the healing process. This patient could be helped with guided meditation or relaxation techniques to reduce pain and stress.
The most important aspect of integrative medicine is the idea that each of us has within us an innate capacity for healing that can be supported and enhanced in order that we can each experience an organic and optimal vitality. We at WellnessFX support all methods which put you in control of your health.