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Are certain disease states well suited for Integrative Medicine?

All disease and healthy states are well suited for Integrative Medicine.  Many patients want to maintain their youth and good health and desire knowledge on recommended supplements and lifestyle changes.  We also see many patients that have seen numerous providers and have not found a cause for their symptoms.  It’s not unusual for patients with autoimmune, fatigue, fibromyalgia, GI disorders, menopause, thyroid disease or cancer to visit integrative centers.  Often times patients are seeking comprehensive care for a complex, long standing disease state.  It is important to remember that it takes years for disease to manifest and it will take time to support the body to heal, however with a committed provider and patient partnership, positive outcomes will result. Often times patients say, “I wish I would have found you sooner”.

How is Integrative Medicine different from Conventional Medicine?

Although integrative providers often consult with patients that already have significant disease, prevention is practiced while halting existing disease progression, or better yet reversing disease; is ultimately the goal of therapy.  Many patients we evaluate are healthy without manifestation of disease and want to maintain their current level of health.  Typically they seek recommendations on supplements, lifestyle, nutrition, and disease surveillance.  The treatment plan often includes recommendations on a realistic, attainable nutritive diet, cardiovascular and resistance exercise, restorative sleep and stress reduction.  A significant amount of the visit includes education on evidence-based research and systematic reviews surrounding their particular condition.  The patient provider relationship is truly a partnership, whereas they identify achievable and attainable goals, evaluated and measured in a stepwise approach.

Integrative Medicine: What is it?

To integrate means “To make into a whole by bringing all parts together; unify.”  Integrative medicine is a term that describes a design of caring for patients considering mind, body and soul.  Integrative practitioners globally assess patients, examining [in depth] the role of genetics, environmental exposures, risk factors for disease, the role of nutrition, exercise, stress and sleep on the manifestation of disease (see model below).

Integrative-Medicine-Model

Is Integrative Medicine the wave of the future?

Many hospitals throughout the nation are developing Integrative Medicine Centers including the most recent at Cleveland Clinic, directed by Dr. Mark Hyman.   Patients are willing to pay out of pocket to ensure comprehensive and detail oriented therapy.  Research is promising and ongoing regarding Integrative Medicine.

What can I expect when visiting an Integrative Medicine Practice?

Integrative medicine devotes time to listening to the patient and globally assessing the entire life history.  This process can take 1 to 1.5 hrs.  Much discussion surrounds genetics, childhood stressors or illness, environmental/occupational exposure, social habits, diet, stress, relationships and how this related to disease manifestation.  The physical exam is detail-oriented. The plan of care is comprehensive, including but not limited to supplements, intravenous therapy, identification of a dietary plan, exercise, adequate sleep and stress management.  A significant amount of time is devoted to education and explaining how to operationalize the treatment plan. Laboratory analysis is extensive and often involves testing of many nutrients and hormones that may demonstrate deficiencies.  The plan of care is modified based on the laboratory analysis and any food allergy testing required.  Often, patients can be titrated down and sometimes eliminate the need for certain pharmaceutical medications just through the comprehensive plan of care.

What shall I ask a prospective provider to determine if this practice is right for me?

First and foremost, gather literature from the practice to determine if the practice has a similar philosophy, belief system and values.  Make a phone call and ask to speak with the provider or one of the nurses, inquire about your health concern and seek some guidance.  Identify if the practice has a mission and vision that corresponds with your values.  Perhaps the practice will have a health fair or an open house that would enable you to see the environment and meet the staff to assess congruence.

Why is Integrative Medicine Important?

Integrative medicine is the future paradigm for holistic health care.The cornerstone of care is preventive medicine. The focus is identifying the root cause of disease or symptomatology. Patients are more educated than ever before and desire to be a partner in their healthcare decisions. Many patients that seek IM are interested in a patient-centered relationship, whereas there are informed decisions and treatment options. They value spending time with their provider, feeling heard and developing a trusting relationship where healthcare beliefs are considered and valued.

The CDC reports that baby boomers are between the ages of 50 and 68 as of 2014, increasing the possibility of multiple co-morbid conditions.  IM has a particular significance in this day and age as our baby boomers have reached the age of typically having chronic medical conditions.

Due to the American lifestyle and diet, we are experiencing an increasing amount of pediatrics with chronic disease.  In fact, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 44% of children have some type of chronic condition. We are also seeing increasing rates of autism, ADHD and mental health/behavioral alterations in pediatrics, which makes them excellent candidates for the comprehensive lens of IM.

The Affordable Care Act has put a strain on the medical system with an increasing population of patients entering the healthcare system, coupled with a primary care provider shortage. All of these developments support the comprehensive concept of IM, where there is a patient-centered paradigm along a seamless continuum that affords time to comprehensively evaluate the multivariate root cause(s) of disease manifestation.