Integrative Medicine is just a fancy term for Real Medicine. In my world and my patients world, using prayer, food, breathing, plants, stretching, drawing, resting, playing and connection as medicine is what it’s all about. It’s not sticking our patients with a pill for every ill. It’s getting downright deep to the root-cause and really tuning into what the body, mind or spirit needs and wants to be balanced and optimally healthy. IM combines the best of both worlds, using conventional medicine for what it excels at and adding in whatever ingredients or essentials are needed to help the body do its thing. Because our bodies want to be healthy, ‘well-thy’ and balanced.
Integrative medicine is grounded in the definition of health. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
According to Duke Integrative Medicine: IM seeks to restore and maintain health & wellness across a person’s lifespan by understanding the patient’s unique set of circumstances & addressing the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect health. Through personalizing care, integrative medicine goes beyond the treatment of symptoms to address all the causes of an illness. In doing so, the patient’s immediate health needs as well as the effects of the long-term and complex interplay between biological, behavioral, psychosocial and environmental influences are taken into account.
In my practice, I adopted integrative medicine long before I knew its name. I became a juice fanatic about five years ago and would preach about juicing as medicine for my metabolically challenged chronic illness patients. Anyone with inflammation that showed up as pain, anxiety, diabetes, acne, ADD, autoimmune disease, even cancers would get my food as medicine discussion, information, grocery list and recipes. But first, I would always listen to my patients and gather their story and insight before anything was changed. If they were a single mama with four kids working two jobs, my approach was prayer if she was spiritual, 'spa' day if she had time or just fifteen minutes of active listening. I learned early on, if people are on 'fire' as I like to call it, totally inflamed, anxious, rushed or just want someone else to 'fix' them, the best thing I could do was give them space, time and love. This was integrative medicine too. Knowing that our bodies have self-healing powers, but also knowing when there barriers to accessing those gifts, especially in our modern day. Then I went to Harvard to study meditation and the relaxation response, then yoga teacher training for healthcare pros and my toolbox got bigger and bigger and now includes all kinds of tools and techniques that really helps me guide patients to their optimal, best and happiest, healthiest, whole self.
So that's really it. Integrative medicine isn't woowoo witchery. It's real, root-cause, compassionate, intuitive care presented and delivered with us as a partner or guide, not an authority that knows exactly what is right for our patients.
According to the Bravewell Collaborative, Integrative Medicine follows these principles:
· The patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
· All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration.
· The care addresses the whole person, including body, mind, and spirit in the context of community.
· Providers use all appropriate healing sciences to facilitate the body's innate healing response.
· Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive are used whenever possible.
· Because good medicine is based in good science, integrative medicine is inquiry-driven and open to new models of care.
· Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
· The care is individualized to best address the person’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances.
· Practitioners of integrative medicine exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.
Don't you want to take a bite out of IM for your practice?
Fortunately, like anything else we pass on to our patients, we must practice what we preach first. Dig into whatever area below sounds right for you and do what you can in your life using what you learn. It's not about knowing everything, it's about learning what is most useful and right to you that you can pass onto your patients. For example, I work with breathing, meditation, yoga and essential oils. Sometimes I throw food in there because I love food, but mostly I start with their nervous system. But if there is a need for acupuncture, I'm sending them to Nel or John. If they need a deep dive into food, I'm punting to Lauryn. If they need more functional medicine approaches, they're going to any one of the brilliant clinicians I know. If they're suffering from thyroid issues, McCall from Modern Medicine is my girl. I've created a community of healers that allow me to do what I do best and encourages them to do what they do best. All of us knowing we can't 'fix' anyone, they have to be ready to change and do the work themselves and we'll be there to guide them when they get off course.
So here is a non-exhaustive list of areas that you can try your hand and your studies in IM: