What is Integrative Medicine?
Integrative medicine is the combination of conventional medicine and complementary approaches. Complementary medicine is different from alternative medicine in that it ‘complements’ or goes alongside another approach. Conventional medicine is the type of treatment usually found in Western mainstream healthcare – if you go to a hospital in most countries in the world, you will receive care which is based on the same body of evidence. Integrative doctors recognize the essential value in conventional medicine, which is based on increasingly stringent research and evidence, and alternative therapies, which may or may not be as research-based, but which stem from age-old remedies, common sense, anecdotal reports, and experience.
The Western world reports more and more health crises stemming from the unhealthy aspects of a modern lifestyle. Obesity-related illness, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer are on the rise and are closely linked with poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Modern conventional medicine is incredible but there are limits to what can be achieved by a single approach, and there are limits to what invasive treatments should be used for; there are times when aggressive medicine is necessary, and times where it is not appropriate. Integrative medicine has always advocated for healthy living as the best way to achieve and maintain health – even mainstream conventional public health promotion is taking an increasingly integrative approach to preventing disease. Healthy eating, exercise, self-care and a strong community are all
With an integrative approach to medicine, practitioners aim to treat their patients holistically, based on a full assessment of their interactive and individual lifestyle and health, as well as the condition they’re seeking treatment for. Integrative doctors can be less dependent on the flow charts and proformas of conventional medicine and can choose the best-evidenced treatment from both conventional and alternative medicine to create a truly individualized treatment plan.
What does an Integrative Doctor Do?
At an appointment with an Integrative Practitioner, they will assess you not just as a patient with a condition that needs treatment, but as a whole person. They recognize people’s choices and lifestyles as of paramount importance and encourage true equal partnership in learning about and treating conditions[i]. The first meeting between an integrative doctor and a person seeking treatment will take longer than a normal conventional doctor’s appointment – this time is essential to fully assess the person: the priorities, values, and stressors of their life, their needs, and desires for an outcome from this treatment[ii]. The patient can bring family members or a friend to support them, and if they wish, their families can be a valuable part of the partnership of care.
An integrative doctor will assess their patient both by talking with them and by physical examination as appropriate – they will always ensure that their patients are comfortable and understand what is happening at every step, and will be able to arrange a chaperone if needed. Some integrative doctors work in health centers and clinics, and some can visit people at home. Clinics will be able to facilitate assistance for access and mobility requirements or other extra needs.
What can Integrative Medicine Treat?
In theory, anything that can be treated with an integrative approach. As integrative medicine combines the best parts of conventional, complementary and alternative treatments, nothing is off-limits. Where the best treatment for a condition is a conventional approach, but the benefits of that can be enhanced, or the side-effects mitigated, by a complementary therapy, that is integrative medicine. Where a truly holistic assessment of an unwell person helps to determine the type of treatment that is likely to work best for them as an individual, that is integrative medicine.
Integrative medicine means non-restrictive practice and a chance to choose the best treatments for individuals, and the open-mindedness to adapt to changing responses and circumstances[iii]. As well as holistically assessing the needs of the individual, an integrative practitioner will strive to find an approach that is as safe, natural, and non-invasive as possible, while still giving the most effective treatment to suit the medical needs of the individual[iv].
Why Should I Choose Integrative Medicine?
The Budwig Center[v] is run by experienced professionals from a range of backgrounds[vi] – we have medical doctors with grounding in conventional medicine, highly qualified naturopaths, and a multi-disciplinary team to call on for all of our clients’ needs. The study of health and medicine is as old as humanity, and we believe that being able to choose the best approaches from all cultures and disciplines is one of the greatest gifts of the modern age.
With integrative medicine, no approach is off-limits, and no subject is taboo. Integrative doctors respect and utilize the excellent clinically researched evidence base for conventional medicine, but do not dismiss those treatments which show results or simply follow common sense, even if they have not been the subject of as many trials as some conventional treatments. Integrative medicine includes health promotion and values an approach designed to prevent problems where possible.
Integrative medicine offers the best of all branches of medicine, alternative and complementary therapies, unrestricted by the cherry-picked research topics of conventional medical research[vii]. The best way to find out if it’s for you, however, is through a consultation with a holistic integrative practitioner. A full assessment of you and your needs will guide your treatment and management, health and lifestyle. Integrative medicine can offer options from all or any branches of treatment, and integrative doctors can recommend health-saving care without compromising your quality of life.
At Budwig Center, we keep doing what we do because we see the results.
[i] Maizes, V., Rakel, D. and Niemiec, C., 2009. Integrative medicine and patient-centered care. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 5(5), pp.277-289. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.explore.2009.06.008
[iii]Viscuse, P.V., Price, K., Millstine, D., Bhagra, A., Bauer, B. and Ruddy, K.J., 2017. Integrative medicine in cancer survivors. Current opinion in oncology, 29(4), p.235. https://dx.doi.org/10.1097%2FCCO.0000000000000376
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