Integrative medicine is a mental and physical healthcare approach that considers all aspects of your well-being. It offers patients the best of both worlds by partnering conventional medicine with alternative therapies to prevent and treat complex chronic conditions.
Today, we’ll explore integrative healthcare and how it can help you.
What does integrative health mean?
Integrative health refers to the “integration” between conventional western medicine and the ancient wisdom of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).
It’s an evidence-based, patient-focused practice that understands that nurturing the mind, body, and soul is essential to achieving well-being. Instead of focusing on disease, integrative healthcare is all about promoting optimal health.
Patients also play an active role in the healing journey as behaviour and lifestyle changes are a large part of integrative healthcare.
What is an integrative medical approach?
Integrative medicine is a gentle approach that, when possible, starts with lifestyle changes, natural treatments, and non-invasive interventions. If necessary, more invasive treatments and medications are incorporated.
Integrative medicine uses physical, psychological, nutritional, and lifestyle modalities, including:
- Conventional medical testing
- Nutritional therapy
- Pharmaceutical medications when necessary
- Psychology and psychotherapy
- Herbal medicine
- Mind-body therapies
- Meditation and breathwork
It usually combines two or more conventional healthcare treatments with complementary therapies. For example, someone with depression and anxiety may be treated with antidepressants and psychology to balance their mood and improve sleep. In addition, the practitioner may suggest dietary changes along with natural health practices like acupuncture treatments, exercise, and meditation.
The goal is to support the body to return to homeostasis and optimal health.
What are the benefits of integrative healthcare?
Integrative medicine supports your body’s natural healing ability using various resources and techniques1.
Research has found integrative care (when used in a conventional hospital setting) helps patients make significant progress toward their health goals2.
It’s especially effective in cancer treatment, helping to reduce pain, anxiety, nausea, neuropathy, and other side effects3. It may also improve sleep, immune function, mobility, and general well-being.
It’s often used in the treatment of a wide range of symptoms and conditions, including:
- Autoimmune conditions
- Mood disorders
- Hormonal imbalances
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Digestive disorders
In addition, healthy people use integrative medicine to maintain good health. Prioritising preventive healthcare can save you on healthcare costs in the long term.
What can you expect during an appointment?
Your integrative practitioner may be your primary care physician or another practitioner who works closely with your physician.
They will take a thorough health history, and ask about your life circumstances, current and past stressors, environment, emotional state, and physical state.
They may suggest functional medical testing if necessary. These approaches help the practitioner to identify the root cause of the problem.
Integrative doctors and practitioners work together (and with their patients) to develop a comprehensive, individualised healing plan that nurtures mental, physical, and emotional health. This collaboration is crucial to integrative medicine – as is the patient-practitioner relationship.
Is integrative the same as holistic?
Integrative and holistic medicine are very similar as both approaches take each individual’s lifestyle and life circumstances into account. Integrative and holistic medicine also focuses on preventive health by optimising well-being before problems arise.
However, integrative medicine uses conventional medical approaches along with evidence-based complementary therapies.
What are examples of integrative health?
Practitioners can be primary care doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, osteopaths, chiropractors, doctors of Chinese medicine, and doctors of Ayurveda medicine.
Integrative health approaches typically include the following categories:
Conventional doctors: Primary care doctors, specialists, and conventional medical treatments
Mental health services: Psychology, hypnotherapy, and mindfulness
Diet and nutrition: Nutritionists, dieticians, and nutritional therapists
Traditional medicine: Doctors of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine
Movement therapy: Exercise, yoga therapy, tai chi, qigong, and breathwork
Integrative medicine is helpful for people who want to manage chronic symptoms and conditions naturally and with minimal side effects. It’s also great for preventing health issues before they arise.
However, if you have an acute health emergency, please seek urgent care from a conventional medical professional.
- Rees & Weil. (2001). Integrated medicine. BMJ.
- Scherwitz et al. (2003). An integrative medicine clinic in a community hospital. Am J Public Health.
- Armstrong et al. (2018). Integrative medicine and the oncology patient: options and benefits. Support Care Cancer.
DISCLAIMER: The Site cannot and does not contain medical / health advice. The medical / health information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Accordingly, before seeking any form of medical advice, diagnoses or treatment based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with your GP or other qualified health practitioner. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something mentioned on this Site. The use or reliance of any information contained on the Site is solely at your own risk.