Integrative medicine is the practice of combining alternative medicines with traditional western biomedicine. Integrative Medicine is focused on the treatment of the whole person; the overall health, psychological, and spiritual well-being of the patient, rather than the treatment of disease. Integrative Medicine practitioners emphasize their relationships with their patients as a key factor in successful treatment.
How is Integrative Medicine Practiced?
Physicians who practice integrative medicine utilize traditional Western medicines where appropriate, for example, chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer. However, they also make use of alternative, natural medicines, such as using ginger to treat chemotherapy induced nausea. Acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal supplements, hypnosis, and other “complementary alternative medicines” (referred to as CAM) have all gained wide acceptance among physicians who practice integrative medicine.
Integrative medicine practitioners also consider lifestyle changes such as a healthier diet and regular exercise to be essential to the health of the whole person. For example, in communities throughout the United States, physicians have begun to make use of fruit and vegetable prescription programs for patients suffering from obesity and type 2 diabetes. These programs have been found to significantly improve fruit and vegetable consumption, reduce childhood obesity, and reduce food insecurity among low-income families.
How Effective is Integrative Medicine?
A 2010 review of current medical research and studies conducted by corporate wellness programs and insurance companies found that immediate and significant health benefits and cost savings could be realized throughout our healthcare system by utilizing three integrative strategies:
- integrative lifestyle change programs for those with chronic disease
- integrative interventions for people experiencing depression, and
- integrative preventive strategies to support wellness in all populations
In other words, not only is integrative medicine highly effective in treating patients, it is also significantly more cost-effective than treating patients through traditional Western medicine alone.
How Are Supplements Used in Integrative Medicine?
Nutritional supplements, particularly vitamins, have long been an important part of even traditional western medical treatments. For example, pregnant women have been advised for decades to take folic acid supplements. Increasingly, more nutritional supplements have gained popularity among integrative medicine practitioners. Many physicians recommend a daily supplement of Vitamin D-3, for example, for the prevention of osteoporosis, or fish oil, to treat inflammation and improve mood health. (Before taking any supplement, check with your doctor about any possible drug interactions or adverse conditions.)
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