Integrative medicine is an approach to health and well being which considers all aspects of a person's well being as well as disease processes. In this day and age it is becoming absolutely critical that more physicians think in this way. And for many complex issues that people are dealing with, it is the only way to create a roadmap back to health.
When it comes to treating acute problems like a broken arm or heart attack what is useful is to focus on the single problem at hand using the latest technology available to us.
However, many patients come to me not with an acute issue like this but with longstanding health complaints that often begin with “I just don't feel well and nobody has been able to tell me why”, or “I hurt all over but all my tests are normal.”
It is in these cases that taking an integrative approach works best. It is critical to look at a person's health like an interconnected web. It is inescapable that each aspect of a person's body and health will affect the others.
For example a person who has not gotten a good night's sleep for weeks or even years will not have the energy to exercise, is likely to make poor food choices and may be more prone to pain.
At first approaching issues like these can be overwhelming and it is impossible to effectively address them in a 20 minute visit. For this reason your integrative doctor should allow at least one hour for a first patient appointment, and ask that a questionnaire be filled out in advance. Often filling out a questionnaire allows the patient to see aspects contributing to their issues in a way they had not before including the level of stress that they had been dealing with in their lives.
From there, the approach is deceptively simple. I make sure that the person is getting a good night's sleep. Concealed sleep disorders are quite common and fairly easily fixed. I focus on the GI tract, where health must be restored if the person is to feel better. Then I deal with hormones, including thyroid, adrenal and reproductive hormones in both men and women. Finally I deal with nutrition, search for toxins, and make sure there are no other impediments to metabolic pathways in the body.
While some people's health issues require other interventions, this type of integrative approach is effective for a very high percentage of people and can be very satisfying for all involved.