Welcome to the first in a bi-monthly series of columns on Integrative Medicine. Integrative Medicine is also known as Functional, Nutritional and Environmental, Wellness or Holistic Medicine. It is unique in that it treats the whole person, taking into account mental, environmental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease. This specialty is hugely popular in America and is growing over here, as more people seek natural and holistic solutions to health problems that conventional medicine cannot provide.
Why Do We Need Integrative Medicine?
- We are experiencing a rapid increase in the number of people who suffer from complex, chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, mental illness.
- Traditional medicine is best suited for acute care, e.g. appendicitis, urine infections or a broken leg.
- Unfortunately, this traditional approach to medicine doesn’t have the tools for preventing and treating complex, chronic disease. In most cases it doesn’t factor in our unique genetics or factors such as environmental exposures to toxins and our lifestyles.
- Most doctors aren’t adequately trained to assess the underlying causes of complex, chronic disease and to advise on nutrition, and exercise to both treat and prevent these illnesses in their patients.
Around 42 percent of hospitals in the U.S. now offer nonconventional medical services. Overall, 38 percent of all adult Americans use some type of alternative therapy. In New Zealand as far back as 1997, 74% of New Zealand households used vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbal remedies, or other complementary products and this number increases every year. The reasons for peoples increasing use of complementary medicine are diverse. Frustration with conventional medicine is a common reason. I often hear patients who have been told by their GP that there is nothing wrong with them, or who are fed up with just being given a pill for their symptom. There are also many examples of pills being given to counteract the side effects of another pill. One example is the stomach protecting pill Losec being given to counteract the potential side effects of anti-inflammatory pills like Voltaren. Complementary medicine is cost effective, has few side effects, and is often less invasive.
The (American) Institute of Functional Medicine summarises the benefits. “Advocates for Integrative Medicine point to deep dissatisfaction with a health care system that often leaves doctors feeling rushed and overwhelmed and patients feeling as if they’re nothing more than diseased livers or damaged joints. Integrative medicine delivers more time, attention, and a comprehensive approach to healing.”
Check out the next column for my top strategies to help you reach maximum wellness.