Integrative medicine is a type of medical care that incorporates both conventional (Western) medical treatments with alternative (sometimes Eastern) therapies. It’s a holistic approach that treats not just physical health, but also the patient’s emotional, mental, and spiritual needs.
This approach to medical care is not new, but it is evolving, and many physicians are embracing the concept because it’s proving to have results.
Here is a look at the top five benefits of integrative medicine that every doctor should know.
Treats the Entire Person
Unlike conventional medical practices that focus on treating a specific illness or disease, integrative medicine treats the entire person, inside and out, from top to bottom.
In addition to physicians, patients with an integrative medicine team may have a wide variety of professionals on their side, including:
- Mental health professionals
- Ayurvedic practitioners
- Massage therapist
- Yoga instructors
Depending on the individual’s physical, mental, and behavioral needs, an integrative medicine doctor may incorporate any number of other therapies into a treatment plan.
Here’s an example:
Integrative medicine is often practiced on cancer patients, as the treatments for the disease and the disease itself are frequently associated with mental and emotional issues, including anxiety and excess stress. A cancer patient’s team may include a radiation oncologist to provide radiation therapy, a psychotherapist to strengthen the patient’s mental health, and a massage therapist to assist with relaxation and ease physical pain.
Radiation oncologists are a prime example of what it means to be an integrative medicine professional, as they are experts in working closely with other physicians to deliver the best patient outcomes. See this guide for more information on how much radiation oncologists earn per year and where they’re in the highest demand around the country.
Helps to Address the Root Causes of Diseases
With a holistic approach to patient care, doctors are better able to address and identify the root causes of diseases. For example, someone with type 1 diabetes may have an underlying condition of poor gut health. Someone with hyperthyroidism may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance. Atopic dermatitis may be the result of a food allergy.
Addressing the entire person allows physicians the opportunity to consider or rule out the root cause of a disease. The focus then turns to treating the underlying cause rather than simply treating the disease itself.
Improves Overall Health and Well-Being
When an integrative team gets involved in a patient’s care, they see results. Because the focus is on emotional health and mental health in addition to physical health, patients often see improvement in a variety of areas of their life. The benefits include, but are not limited to:
- Improved sleep
- Reduced pain
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved appetite
- Improved emotional functioning
- Less distress over their condition
- Less fatigue
Integrative medicine promotes health, wellness, and healthy living in all aspects of life. This can even help to reduce illnesses and prevent disease.
Helps Reduce and Prevent Illnesses
Because integrative medicine works to improve overall health, it’s also an effective tool in preventing illnesses and reducing the likelihood of getting certain diseases. Here are some of the many ways it may help:
- Reducing inflammation through improved nutrition
- Lowering blood pressure with diet and exercise
- Improving hormone levels and glucose levels
- Exercising to build strength and reduce pain
Integrative medicine also puts a strong focus on mental health and how to cope with stress.
Because stress can lead to a wide range of physical illnesses. Learning stress management techniques and improving mental health can reduce illness, improve one’s overall quality of life, and prevent the need for invasive treatments and medications.
Improves Patient Satisfaction
Everyone has different medical needs, and integrative medicine increases patient satisfaction simply for the fact that it’s a personalized approach. Physicians work collaboratively to determine the best treatment plans and wellness plans, and patients like the idea of treating various aspects of their physical and mental health at the same time.
Integrative medicine encourages patients to feel empowered by the fact that they are working towards improving their overall health. The more in control they feel, the more likely they are to continue with various treatments and preventative plans in order to attain a happier, healthier lifestyle.
There are many benefits to integrative medicine, and doctors that perform conventional medicine may want to consider working with an integrative team.
With a balanced approach that treats the mind, body, and soul at the same time, patients see better outcomes and become more proactive about their own health and wellness. For most physicians, that’s the ultimate goal.