Integrative medicine is, in its most simplest terms – a “full body” medicinal approach to health and wellness. It’s an approach that looks at the physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences that affect your health.1
Let’s say that you currently go to a general practitioner for your stomach complaint, a therapist for your emotional needs, and an acupuncturist for stress release. These are all great medical professionals.
But the chances of them exchanging notes with each other to come up with a whole body solution to your lifestyle are pretty close to zero.
A doctor of integrative medicine specializes in bringing all of these components together, and more, for a “big picture” look at your health. Integrative medicine is, by definition, a holistic approach.
The Defining Principles of Integrative Medicine
All integrative medicine specialists are guided by a similar set of principles. These guidelines represent how they view optimal health care – and how they’ll work with you. The following principles are common among all integrative physicians:
1. You and your integrative specialist are partners in your health journey.
2. All aspects of wellness and disease are considered when looking at your health – mind, body, and spirit.
3. You will be introduced to both conventional and alternative methods to encourage your body’s natural healing response.
4. Your doctor will, wherever possible, favor natural, less-invasive interventions.
5. Your doctor will not reject conventional medicine nor accept alternative therapies without a critical study of either.
6. Integrative medicine believes that “good medicine” is based on good science. So, it should be continually investigated, and your doctor should be open to new scientific models that arise.
7. The promotion of your good health, and the prevention of illness, are the most important factors.
8. Your healthcare should be individualized to your unique conditions, needs, and circumstances.
9. Your practitioner should also be committed to their own ongoing self-exploration and self-development.2,3
Is a Doctor of Integrative Medicine a Legit Medical Expert?
In order to be accepted by the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), a practitioner of integrative medicine in the U.S. must meet the following legitimate medical qualifications:
- They must be board certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), American Osteopathic Association (AOA), Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) Board, or College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).
- They must have completed an approved residency program.
- They must have completed an approved fellowship in integrative, naturopathic, or Chinese medicine.4
Modalities of Integrative Medicine
In integrative medicine, modalities are the components that can make up your “holistic” treatment program. These include conventional medicine, alternative therapies, exercise programs, and/or lifestyle changes.
Some of the most common include:
How Integrative Medicine Works
When you first visit a doctor of integrative medicine, they will often spend a lot more time with you than your traditional medical doctor. This is because they want to understand you as a whole person, including the lifestyle you lead. For example, your integrative specialist will want to know:
- Your medical history
- Your diet and exercise habits
- Your social habits
- How you deal with stress
- What medications you’re currently taking
It’s important that you be as open as possible during this session, so your doctor can best assess what you need.
Here’s an example of how integrative medicine might work…
Say you’re having sleep problems. Normally, your doctor might write you a script for sleeping pills and usher you right out of the office. But an integrative physician would take a holistic approach by trying to get to the root of your sleeping problem. Have you been experiencing any work or family stress? Are you practicing good sleep habits? They might then develop an approach that incorporated some stress-relieving practices – like deep breathing exercises, acupuncture, or yoga. They may also look at whether you’ve been exercising, and dive into your dietary habits.6
When all parts of your health are optimally functioning – when your physical health is in peak condition, your mental health is in balance, and your sense of community and social bonds are in harmony – you can live your healthiest, happiest life.
Your body was designed to work as one whole unit. That means getting to the root of a problem, not just medicating it. And, it means learning to understand that your mind, body, and soul are all part of an intricate system. Each has a pivotal part to play in your good health.
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