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What is Integrative Medicine?

Relating Integrative Medicine to Holistic Medicine

Maybe you've heard about holistic medicine and alternative medicine, but what about integrative medicine? It falls in line with the other two terms, as it's often used interchangeably with alternative medicine. Using them as synonyms is incorrect, however, as they are two different concepts. They both use alternative and holistic approaches to healing, but integrative medicine also incorporates some conventional practices.

What is Integrative Medicine?

Some professionals use the term "CAM" to describe this style of doctoring, which stands for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. As noted above, CAM practitioners often incorporate a few different techniques. When addressing a patient's symptoms, they'll often combine both holistic and conventional treatments.

For example, if a patient is suffering from a specific symptom, a practitioner following holistic medicine will often use particular alternative treatments to address the issue. In integrative medicine, however, the entire body contributes to the treatment plan rather than just the symptom or disease the patient experiences. And because of this approach, doctors may also use some form of conventional medicine.  

Let's say a patient has anxiety. Instead of recommending a single treatment like meditation, CAM doctors will examine the entire body. They make connections with other functions beyond psychological ones. Perhaps they'll also look at digestion, thyroid function, and sleep patterns, for example, and prescribe other treatments (some possibly conventional) in addition to something like meditation.

Integrating Holistic Medicine into Mainstream Approaches

The concept of integrative medicine is starting to shift the paradigm in how mainstream medicine approaches treatment. All around the world, traditional primary care practitioners hear from their patients that they want more alternative and holistic approaches factored into their treatment plans. As a result, more and more doctors are prescribing holistic methods instead of or in addition to conventional ones.

Some holistic treatments complement conventional methods. They include acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, dietary supplements, deep breathing exercises, counseling, reflexology, and more. Let's continue with the anxiety example from above. Many doctors are still quick to prescribe medicine to tackle something like anxiety. However, some are starting to take a more integrative approach. They either prescribe more holistic treatments or combine traditionally prescribed medication with alternative methods like acupuncture and meditation to ease anxiety. 

Because of the demand and the subsequent shift, we're starting to see more academic health centers incorporating integrative medicine. Even large and prominent hospitals and clinics are taking note. Many throughout Europe and North America have embraced the connection between alternative and holistic medicine and conventional methods.

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