Integrative Health 101

Grace Malinoski
Oct 1, 2018 · 3 min read
A fluid approach.

After getting a basic understanding of alternative and complementary medicine and approaches, we are now ready to tackle the third common term: integrative.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, every definition of integrative care involves “bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.” They (and other professionals) generally use it when discussing or adding complementary approaches to a conventional treatment plan.

In layman’s terms, integrative medicine and/or approaches are when a person, under the guidance of a professional, combines a selection of alternative methods alongside of a conventional treatment plan.

This may include such things as a new diet, a tailored exercise plan, or yoga.

Integrative Vs. Complementary

What’s the difference? After all, the definitions of integrative and complementary sound just about the same. You just have a doctor along for the ride in integrative approaches.

The major difference is the amount of structure behind each approach. Integrative approaches are overseen by a professional and are backed by the professional’s expertise. They tend to be more researched and ‘proven’ than a less structured complementary method.

As with almost everything in the alternative medicine field, the results tend to be unique. Integrative methods can place you into a pattern that simply doesn’t solve your problems.

Complementary medicine, on the other hand, is up to you and your own research. You can try out many different things on your own and see what really works for you. You can contact the specialists in different fields and see what they have to say. You have the control.

Some people need the guidance and structure a professional can give. Others are comfortable with flying solo and making their own decisions based on their knowledge.

Benefits of Integrative Approaches

Here are the top three benefits of integrative medicine.

  1. A personal approach
  2. Medically approved
  3. Focused on the root cause

Let’s break these down to understand the why behind integrative medicine.

1. A more personal approach.

In the medical world, the doctors and nurses who are open to complementary and integrative treatments tend to view the patient as a whole. You are not just the problem or situation they are facing at the moment. Naturally, this leads to a whole-person treatment of the problem.

In a world where the medical profession can be viewed with a lot of distrust and dislike, an integrative approach can break down a lot of those barriers, particularly for people who come from the alternative medicine world.

2. Medically approved.

On the flip side, people who are used to conventional ways of doing things can take comfort in that these alternative approaches are medically approved and tested. You don’t have to worry about snake oil claims, quackery, or messing something up as much. Your health care professional is in charge and responsible.

In the case of treating children, it also provides an extra layer of security and comfort in stepping outside the conventional methods.

3. Focused on the root cause.

Integrative methods focus on finding and solving the root cause. Whether this come from a hereditary situation, a poor habit, or a freak accident, integrative medicine looks at the whole picture and treats the situation accordingly.

In many cases, this includes moving at a slower pace so as not to shock the patient’s body and systems. It can include a person’s personal beliefs, unique lifestyle choices, and previous experiences. Most importantly, integrative methods take into account more than just what is hurting or the problem of the moment.

In Summary

In the wake of the general movement to alternative medicine, the professional world is slowly incorporating more and more of these methods into general care. Sometimes, they are harder to find than a solely conventional practitioner, but it can be done. It just requires a little more searching.

For those who are interested in making the switch to alternative medicine, but want a little more guidance than they can give themselves, integrative approaches combine the best of both worlds. For the people who work primarily with alternative methods, integrative practitioners can provide conventional treatment when really needed, with a focus on a less invasive treatment plan.

And for those who would simply prefer another option, the growing field of integrative medicine offers just that.