What is Integrative Medicine (IM)?


Integrative medicine (IM) is an approach that combines conventional medicine with complementary treatments. The goal of IM is to treat the whole person, not just a health problem.

Because IM is holistic, it can target behavioral, social and environmental aspects of a person’s life and help treat the underlying health problem.

Many people ask for more complementary therapies as part of their treatment plans, especially in certain areas of health, such as cancer. Having said that, it is important to note that people should not replace their prescribed clinical treatments with complementary approaches only, as this could lead to poorer health outcomes.

Instead, people should discuss their current therapies with a doctor who can advise on the best treatment.

Read on to learn more about instant messaging, including the risks, benefits, and some of the conditions where it can be useful.

IM is a comprehensive treatment plan that intended to treat body, mind and spirit. It integrates and coordinates in particular the use of complementary therapies alongside conventional medicine.

Usually, a complementary therapy practitioner will suggest a combination of treatments to improve a person’s well-being. For example, they may suggest that a person practice yoga to reduce stress, but also recommend that they contact an acupuncturist.

Practitioners tend to group complementary therapies into three key areas: nutritional, psychological and physical.

Nutritional approaches

Complementary nutritional therapies include products such as herbs, vitamin and mineral supplements, and probiotics. Supplements are coming many shapes, such as capsules, liquids and powders. A person can also be given a specific diet.

A person should always consult a doctor before taking any supplements in addition to the prescribed treatment. This can cause certain interactions. For example, vitamin K can reduce efficiency warfarin, which is a blood thinner.

Psychological approaches

Psychological forms of complementary therapy aim to calm the mind and reduce stress. These therapies include:

There is a lot of overlap between the practices of the mind and the body. For example, although yoga and tai chi are physical practices, they also promote psychological well-being.

Learn more about the types of meditation here.

Physical approaches

Physical approaches to complementary health can include some form of muscle manipulation, such as massage. People can also receive treatment from a chiropractor, who can manipulate the spine to reduce pain or relieve other health problems.

Alternatively, acupuncture is a physical treatment in which a practitioner inserts thin needles through the skin to stimulate specific pressure points.

Physical therapies that a person can try on their own or as part of a class include yoga and tai chi.

The use of integrative care is growing, particularly in centers specializing in cancerology, where more and more people are asking for complementary approaches in addition to clinical treatments, such as chemotherapy.

In fact, a Systemic review 2017 found that 45 National Cancer Institute treatment centers had increased the number of complementary treatments offered on their websites over the past 7 years, from 2009 to 2016. The most popular therapies included acupuncture, meditation and yoga.

When a healthcare professional introduces complementary therapies as part of a person’s treatment plan, the goal is usually to relieve some side effects of conventional medicine.

For example, the authors of a Meta-analysis 2018 Note that acupuncture seems particularly effective in reducing fatigue in people with breast cancer who receive cancer treatment.

However, a supplement Systematic review 2019 Studies that have examined the relationship between complementary therapies and cancer indicate that more robust study designs are needed to fully understand the effectiveness of complementary therapies in an oncologic setting.

Another area that can benefit from complementary therapy is fertility. A 2018 review suggests that women who practice Hatha yoga alongside other body and mental therapies may feel less stressed and anxious during IVF treatment. Their psychosocial health may also improve.

The introduction of instant messaging may have some advantages. For example, a 2018 review notes that, overall, IM helps people cope with difficult illnesses and reduces their distress.

Plus, in some cases IM can actually improve health outcomes. For example, a 2018 study based in South Korea found that when people received MI after having a stroke, they had higher survival rates at 3 and 12 months than those who received conventional medicine alone.

Although integrative care is more expensive, it has prevented future hospital admissions, which can help hospitals save money in the long run.

People should be aware of the risks associated with certain complementary approaches when including them in their regimen.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves all conventional drugs before manufacturers can sell them, but supplement manufacturers do not need FDA approval to bring their products to market.

Additionally, some supplements can interact with certain medications. This can increase the risk of complications if a person is also taking another medicine.

It is also important that people do not view supplements and other herbal remedies as a cure or a replacement for conventional drugs. If a manufacturer promotes their supplement as a “cure”, the product is probably unsafe.

Study design is also an important point people should think about when researching the health benefits of certain complementary therapies. Complementary health studies do not usually have robust study designs that other researchers can replicate, meaning the results and conclusions could be inaccurate.

Having said that, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health funds more studies to explore the health benefits of complementary therapies and how healthcare professionals can use them in addition to conventional medicine.

IM and alternative medicine are two terms which describe treatment that is outside of conventional medical care.

If a person uses an unconventional treatment option in a coordinated manner next to conventional medicine, the practice is IM.

If a person is using an unconventional treatment option in the place of conventional medicine, the practice is alternative medicine.

Integrative Medicine (IM) includes both complementary and conventional treatment approaches and specifically coordinates the use of both as part of a holistic treatment plan.

Some benefits of IM include reducing distress and helping people cope with difficult illness. Some healthcare professionals are expanding the use of IM, particularly in the treatment of cancer.

Although researchers take a proactive stance toward studying the possible benefits of IM, studies that support complementary approaches often have design flaws, which means their conclusions could be inaccurate.


About Shirley A. Tamayo

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