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What is Integrative Holistic Medicine?

September 29, 2020
Sarah Falcone RN

You’ve heard it said "the only thing constant is change.”

Healthcare is no different. Similarly, it continues to evolve as time goes on. Telemedicine is a great example. Patients now have convenient access to doctors and specialists in the privacy, safety, and comfort of their homes. Another example is the field of integrative holistic medicine. You might be asking, just what is integrative medicine? And how is it a change for the better?

What is Integrative Holistic Medicine?

Integrative holistic medicine, or just integrative medicine (IM), is a specialized approach that looks at the whole person. It is a different way to treat what ails us. This medical subspecialty takes into account the "whole body" and the many influences that affect a person's health. For example, these can include physical, mental, social, and spiritual factors.

This movement in healthcare combines conventional schools of mainstream medicine with alternative medicine. That is to say, it focuses on a holistic view of the patient which makes care personalized. Doctors in IM choose therapies that work best for each person and can be linked to better outcomes. Here are some basic principles of IM that they follow.

The patient and the practitioner are partners.

The doctor-patient relationship is collaborative. In other words, the two partners work together to achieve an outcome. Practitioners spend time with the patient to get to know about them. IM doctors may ask questions to learn more about the origin of symptoms. Likewise, they will explore the background behind the illness or injury.

This practice of spending more time to understand the root problem is helpful. Firstly, patients are empowered by information. Secondly, understanding the "why" behind their problems gives them hope.

Treatment considers all factors affecting health.

Patients are considered more than just human bodies. Similarly, wellness and illness are more than the physical functions of the body.

Symptoms can be complex. For instance, they can involve physical, social, psychological, and spiritual manifestations. IM takes into account the whole body, mind, spirit, and community. Providers do this by working to understand how a person’s experiences may have caused illness. They are able to devise an effective treatment plan as a result. Importantly, they seek to treat the person and not just the illness.

Also, lifestyle and stress play a huge role in illness, health, and healing. Integrative holistic doctors understand this relationship and try to help patients manage their stress.

Interventions are more natural and less invasive.

In the IM field, doctors seek the most natural path. This is to say that they prefer minimally invasive treatment. In IM, traditional western care is blended with more eastern philosophies to treat and manage a variety of conditions. For example, non-invasive therapies that may be recommended include yoga, meditation, and herbs.

Care addresses health promotion and prevention.

The goal of integrative care is optimal wellness for the client. Prevention is key. This means that there is an emphasis on health, rather than on the illness.

Care is highly personalized.

The IM field focuses on what works for the patient. For example, care may include an evaluation of genetic factors that could be contributing to the current health status. The provider and patient then work together to sort out what might be causing illness. Providers try to figure out where the patient is coming from. With this more patient-centered approach, patients are often motivated to make changes and work towards the goals they set.

Why Choose an Integrative Medicine Practitioner?

There are many benefits to choosing a provider with integrative holistic medicine expertise.

Improved Mental and Emotional Health

Studies show patients working with IM providers report improved mental and emotional wellbeing. This could be related to symptom relief and improved disease management that are reported also.2

Improved Outcomes

IM treatment involves a customized regimen tailored to the individual. The doctor spends time getting to know the patient, and he or she feels more valued. A study on IM in pain management found that an individualized, relationship-centered approach, meeting the patients where they are, can help determine which modalities may be used synergistically3, optimizing the outcomes.

Backed by Research and Trials

The IM field continues to evolve. Therefore, there are more clinical trials and research studies going on to examine some of the non-traditional approaches. You can trust that there will be good evidence-based study behind the treatment plan you are participating in.

More Therapeutic Options

Patients have more options working with an integrative holistic care provider. This is because non-traditional therapies give doctors and patients more tools to work with. By using treatments such as massage, biofeedback, or sound therapy, patients have access to more choices in their treatment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, this valuable care model has many benefits for patients. The integrative holistic medicine approach is a change in how some doctors are addressing patient care.

Highly personalized treatment and a focus on prevention are beneficial to patients. Additionally, the use of minimally invasive and natural therapies makes this field stand out from more traditional approaches.

IM does not exclude traditional methods, however. Think of it as an "add-on" to increase the success of treatment and increase benefits. Get away from the adage "a pill for the ill." Replace it with "medicate and meditate."

As times change and healthcare evolves, doctors must continue to meet the demands of today's patients. The future of medicine must recognize the complexity of the social, physical, developmental, and genetic influences on health and disease.1

Dr. Daniel Kessler of MyVirtualPhysician is double board-certified in Family Medicine and Integrative Holistic Medicine and holds full certifications in Functional Medicine. Dr. Kessler and other doctors are available for consultation. MyVirtualPhysician treats conditions including allergies, earaches, cold and flu symptoms, and more. If you want to schedule an appointment with our integrative holistic care practitioner at MyVirtualPhysician, you can click the buttons below to book an appointment. If you have any suggestions for additional topics you want to read about please let us know! Don’t forget to follow us on social media.

Sources

  1. McEwen BS. Integrative medicine: Breaking down silos of knowledge and practice an epigenetic approach. Metabolism. 2017 Apr;69S: S21-S29. DOI: 10.1016/j.metabol.2017.01.018. Epub 2017 Jan 11. PMID: 28118933.
  1. Gannotta R, Malik S, Chan AY, Urgun K, Hsu F, Vadera S. Integrative Medicine as a Vital Component of Patient Care. Cureus. 2018 Aug 4;10(8):e3098. DOI: 10.7759/cureus.3098. PMID: 30338174; PMCID: PMC6173273.
  1. Hillinger MG, Wolever RQ, McKernan LC, Elam R. Integrative Medicine for the Treatment of Persistent Pain. Prim Care. 2017 Jun;44(2):247-264. DOI: 10.1016/j.pop.2017.02.008. PMID: 28501228.

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