Medical Treatments

Integrative Medicine: Best of Both Worlds?

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

Perhaps you’re interested in alternative medicine, but don’t feel the need to abandon traditional medicine entirely. Maybe you’re comfortable with conventional treatments for medical conditions, but you’d like some extra attention paid to your spiritual wellbeing. In either case, integrative medicine may give you the best of both worlds: it combines the scientific knowledge of medical school with the long-held wisdom of natural remedies.

Integrative medicine is designed to treat the whole person, not just the ailments from which he or she is suffering. Here’s an example. A woman is in danger of preterm labor – in other words, going into labor before her baby has developed enough to be born safely. In traditional medicine, the approach to treating this condition might involve drugs to prevent the uterus from contracting; a cerclage, or series of stitches in the cervix to stop it from dilating prematurely; and bedrest. Integrative medicine may also involve all these steps, but add to them meditation and journaling to reduce stress. Duke University’s Center for Integrative Medicine is studying the effects of stress hormones on preterm labor, and their research indicates stress-reduction techniques – such as writing in a journal – may help prevent this medical condition from occurring.

A doctor who practices integrative medicine is an MD, meaning he or she has received a degree from an accredited medical school, but he or she may also have training in alternative health practices such as yoga, acupuncture, hypnosis or homeopathy. Psy.D.s, or doctors of psychology, may also practice integrative medicine that incorporates psychology and natural remedies, as may Ph.D.s, or doctors of philosophy.

Integrative medicine specialists won’t try to convince you that a natural remedy works, unless there is scientific evidence to back up that claim; nor will they tout natural medicine as being better than traditional treatments. Their goal is not to ignore science, or, conversely, to treat you like a collection of symptoms rather than a whole person. They aim to heal your ailments the best way they can, with all the tools at their disposal, while preserving their integrity and safeguarding your health.

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Originally published at GrannyMed