First, you might be wondering what is integrative medicine? Sometimes the terms integrative medicine and alternative medicine are used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. As defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institute of Health, alternative medicine “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.”
Basically, integrative medicine looks at the whole person (mind, body, and soul) as well as lifestyle to provide the best treatment. Physicians who take an integrative medicine approach usually practice a combination of conventional/Western medicine and alternative therapies to care for their patients.
I had the pleasure of having dinner earlier this week with a wonderful doctor-scientist couple. The conversation quickly turned to my career and my choice of medical specialty. After explaining my passion for nutrition and functional medicine, I was surprised to be bluntly challenged on my decision. Why would I choose a medical specialty with “no supporting evidence”, only consisting of “fad” diets? I think I spent the entire hour over our meal defending my decision. After this dinner, I realized that many people are not aware that much of integrative medicine had solid research to back it up. In fact, The Institute for Functional Medicine bases their certification curriculum (which I am currently completing) on scientific studies.
In May I had the honor of presenting at the 2018 International Congress on Integrative Medicine & Health. A majority of the works being presented this year are scientific studies in the field integrative medicine. In fact, this year there was a scarcity if applications that were not research-based studies.
As more and more research is released, I anticipate a day in the near future when integrative medicine is no longer labeled “alternative” or “complimentary”, but rather is the standard of care for preventative medicine and treatment of chronic disease. So call it what you may and challenge it all you like, we know that promoting health from an up-stream approach with non-pharmacologic treatments works, and we are gathering the data to back it up!