To integrate is to “form, coordinate, or blend into a functioning or unified whole”.
Integrative medicine blends together traditional Western medicine with Eastern healing traditions and other complementary and alternative therapies. It also integrates the patient as an active participant in their own treatment, with an emphasis on patient directed issues such as stress reduction, spiritual connections, diet and exercise.
By focusing on the whole patient and not just an isolated symptom or disease integrative medicine provides a more holistic approach to healthcare. Patients may receive input from a team of practitioners, resulting in otherwise diverse elements coming together to forge a unified treatment plan. This might include a medical doctor, naturopathic doctor, acupuncturist, health coach, nutritionist, psychologist, chiropractor, exercise physiologist, physical therapist, massage therapist, yoga or tai chi instructor, and more.
A “unified whole” for human health is not simply a physical body, with its structures and chemicals arranged like so many pieces of hardware in a machine. The wondrous and magical body we inhabit depends on much more than the obvious physical components to maintain good health. Scientific studies have clearly shown that the mind has a tremendous impact on the body. The energy or “chi” that flows through us has been the focus of acupuncture and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Faith and strong social relationships has been shown to improve health. Thought and belief truly does manifest in biology.
More then just medications
Similarly, we doctors don’t have all the answers and we sure don’t have the magic pill for health and wellness. To help patients achieve good health we need to look beyond the standard tools that were provided in medical school. For example, many natural remedies were used long before drug companies came along with the latest FDA approved “wonder-drug” to be peddled on TV.
Many of our modern medications originated from the plant kingdom and instead of shunning natural remedies we need to objectively evaluate these therapies and provide much needed guidance for our patients in sorting out the real evidence based treatments from the “snake oil”. These natural remedies simply complement the incredible medications developed in more recent time.
Putting it together
We have a wide variety of talented alternative health care providers in the Grand Valley. By wisely combining the best of these “complementary” providers with our more traditional medical specialties we are able to access just about any healthcare area imaginable.
Last, and perhaps most critical, is to note that the formal integration of medicine involves not just seeing different providers but having those providers work together to develop a unified, comprehensive treatment plan. As a patient, you must inform each member of your healthcare team of your various treatments and providers. As physicians, we must recognize and integrate the world of alternative and complementary health into our patient’s overall treatment plan.
Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement for men and women, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call (970) 245-6911 for an appointment or more information.