What is Integrative Medicine?

Most people have heard the term ‘integrative medicine’ used before and perhaps many health care providers will say they offer integrative medicine, but I find that there is still confusion about what integrative medicine is.  If you read this blog, you will understand what integrative medicine means to me and the medical team at Amber Life Clinic.

Some of the earliest records of medicine over 5000 years old in China and in Ayurvedic texts stress repeatedly about the need to balance the body, mind and spirit to achieve or maintain optimal health.   The obvious implication is that disease and illness is the result of disharmony of the body systems.  To achieve harmony and health required evaluation of what is not in balance and then re-balancing the body systems by multiple different therapies.  No one way worked for every situation and there was always more than one path to wellness.

The modern concept of integrative medicine started in the early 1960’s when western culture started to investigate eastern culture, philosophy and science.  Over the recent years the concept of integrative medicine has incorporated many different names, including ‘functional medicine’ and ‘complementary medicine’.  The term alternative medicine is usually referring to the medicine therapies that are not yet adopted by the average standard medical doctor.  I don’t like the term alternative medicine because the only alternative to health is illness and I find this term causes confusion and further alienation between medical professionals.  The term integrative medicine is inclusive of all medicine therapies, traditions and philosophies at an equal level.

The reason I insist on a philosophical basis that integrative medicine view all medical traditions on an equal level is because if we believe that one medical tradition is somehow better than other medical traditions, then that will create bias to use only a limited set of therapies.  This bias will cause prejudgment against other medical therapies that are new or old, but not fully understood by the health provider.  Integrative medicine is thus best utilized in the hands of people who are curious and practical in their nature.  Open to what ever works to get the body back in optimal health.  This goes both ways, if a client is close minded and stagnant in spirit then they will not likely be interested in the full spectrum of health possibilities we can offer with integrative medicine.

On a practical level, integrative medicine quite simple means that we incorporate into a treatment strategy for a client the best available therapies from as many medical traditions as possible.  They are all evidence based.  The issue about evidence base is sometimes hard for health care providers trained in western standard care medicine to understand.  Different medical systems have different evaluation points and different measurement methods.  It is often impossible to apply the measurement methods or evaluation end points from one medical tradition to another different medical tradition.  It rather like asking an air conditioner repair person to use the carpenters level bar to measure the function and effectiveness of an air conditioning system.  Or like asking the painter to use the carpenters saw to paint the walls.  In the same way, if allopathic standard care western medicine doctors insist that every other specialty in medicine must use the same evaluation methods and treatment tools as they do, it will not work and it is foolish for those doctors to then declare that they tried other forms of medicine and found that they didn’t work.

There are many forms of evidence.  Integrative medicine specialist should recognize on an equal level the power of the science of history, sociology, philosophy and spirituality.  All of these sciences are given equal credit at a university level when we study, yet those same doctors forget that when they become medical doctors.  It is biased and short sighted for doctors to only value chemistry or biology and ignore and reject all other sciences. 

There is so much more to say about integrative medicine, and in other blog posts I will be exploring the other dimensions of integrative medicine.  Thank you for reading to the end.  If you liked this article, please share it and subscribe so that you will not miss any important information.

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