Integrative Medicine: Beyond Alternative Therapies

By Anna Fox, CNP, NCMP

Many people think the term Integrative Medicine refers only to “alternative” practices to traditional medicine, like acupuncture or reiki. While practices such as these complement traditional medicine and may be considered in an integrative medicine treatment plan, they make up only a small part of what is Integrative Medicine.

Integrative Medicine is an approach to a person’s overall health, and it takes into consideration a person’s total physical, emotional, social, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Some describe it as a focus on a person’s health and wellness rather than simply a focus on disease. Integrative medicine combines the best of traditional medicine with complimentary practices to help patients heal and live well. For example, a patient with a heart condition may be prescribed appropriate medications including supplements, introduced to a dietician to adopt a plant-based diet rich in omega 3s, and recommended to try yoga or meditation to reduce stress.

The success of integrative medicine really relies on the relationship between the patient and their provider so that the provider can gain a complete picture of the patient, and using evidence-based practices, prescribe a holistic approach to the patient’s health. Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices are better equipped to practice an integrative medicine approach because providers and patients have more time together than in traditional primary care settings. A DPC provider can help create a personalized health and wellness plan – that might include traditional medicine and complementary therapies – based on data that shows success.

Talk with your healthcare provider about developing a wellness plan that addresses your total well-being, from medications you might need, lifestyle habits, mental health and what feeds your soul. He or she can help provide personalized, evidence-based recommendations specifically for you.