Are you struggling with a health problem? Has traditional medicine failed to provide you with the answers and result you had hoped for? If so, then you are among a growing number of people who are searching for a better way to restore and maintain health and wellness. While traditional medicine (pharmaceutical medicine) does have its place in the healthcare landscape; it is by no means the only option you have. So how exactly are they different and why would you consider an integrative approach to your current health issues? Let’s take a look at integrative medicine and you can decide for yourself if this is an approach that meets your needs. There are 3 major differences between traditional and integrative medicine that I will discuss today.
1.Treating the Whole Person
There are different definitions and descriptions of integrative medicine but one concept they all have in common is the “whole person” approach to restoring health.
This is very different than traditional medicine, where health problems are isolated and there is little consideration given as to how the problem started, what other body systems may be affected and how to reverse the decline of health. For example, if you suffer from IBS and you see your gastroenterologist, you will probably leave the appointment with instructions to increase the fiber in your diet, drink more water and take a medication to reduce your symptoms. This approach does not consider the other systems of the body that may be causing your IBS and other than water and fiber, your lifestyle habits are not addressed at all. This approach is very system-isolated; not integrative and not considering you as a whole.
Integrative medicine on the other hand makes more sense, if you consider the medical fact that NO SYSTEM IN YOUR BODY WORKS ALONE. For example, your digestive tract is affected by other systems and organs in your body. Your brain, hormones and immune system for example exert a powerful influence over digestive function. Then there are lifestyle choices that come into play, especially diet. Your diet influences inflammation and nutrient status which among other things will affect how well your digestive tract works. Integrative medicine doctors look at multiple systems and act as “multiple specialists.” If we stick with the IBS example, an integrative medicine doctor acts as a gastroenterologist, endocrinologist and neurologist…considering the digestive tract, hormones and neurological function. Integrative healthcare considers you as whole; that means looking beyond the one system you are suffering with; in this case the system of digestion.
2.Treating Causes vs Effects
Causes create effects. Loss of normal function in your body is the cause and the effects are illness and poor health. Causes are like a drop of water falling into a body of water. The effects ripple through the body; this is similar to what happens in your body.
The next major difference between traditional and integrative medicine is the focus on causes and effects. If you have a hormone imbalance, traditional medicine will “solve” the problem…the “effect” by giving you hormones. Integrative medicine will focus on the “cause” of the hormonal imbalance. Many hormone problems are due to nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, poor diet, stress, etc.
This is a very important concept to keep in mind because causes often contribute to more than one health problem. Let’s say your hormone problem is due to elevated inflammation your body. You are only aware of the hormone symptoms, but the chronic inflammation can be causing damage to your brain, heart, liver or connective tissue. None of these problems will be helped by taking prescription hormones! Treating, or more accurately, “suppressing” symptoms with medication does not improve your health and hides clues that should be used to identify underlying causes. Failure to identify and remedy these causes will deteriorate your health and quality of life over time. The facts regarding this are obvious. Traditional medicine reigns in this country and so does chronic illness and skyrocketing medical costs…by the way, chronic illnesses are the cause of escalating healthcare costs. The projected costs of managing chronic illness in the future are shocking!
Consider the management of Alzheimer’s disease. We spend $277,000,000,000 (yes, that is billions) per year managing only one chronic disease and in 30 years it will cost over $1,000,000,000,000 per year (yes, that is 1 trillion dollars). Treating effects and ignoring causes is a shortsighted and destructive model of healthcare. Not only for health reasons but for financial reasons.
3.Health vs Disease Management
What is the difference between restoring health and disease management? Disease management is what traditional medicine hopes to achieve. If you have high blood sugar, high blood pressure, hormone imbalances or an immune system problem the solution is always the same; suppress the problem with medications. How do drugs accomplish this? They block or alter what your body is doing. Drugs also carry side effects. Are side effects good things? Does the list of side effects for a medication say things like increased energy, sense of wellbeing, restful sleep and more youthful appearance? No, they list all sorts of things you don’t want to experience! Do you know what a side effect is? A side effect is a NEW DISEASE / NEW HEATLH PROBLEM that is caused by the drug. You are exchanging one disease for others. Traditional medicine focuses on disease management, not health.
Integrative medicine sets its sights on restoring health and does not focus on disease. This is because the body (in most cases) is able to fix itself if permitted to do so. Give it the food it likes and does well with, provide the nutrients it needs and treat it like a friend (lifestyle). Yes, I said a friend…many people do not treat their bodies well, yet they expect it to work properly. Seek out and remedy the underlying causes of poor health and HELP YOUR BODY do it’s job…help it restore itself and work properly. This is what health is. Integrative medicine uses this approach to restore health, wellbeing and quality of life.
I hope the article has given you useful information about integrative medicine.
I wish you success on your quest for better health!
If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton contact our Naperville office or go to www.napervilleintegratedwellness.com
Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.