The World Health Organization defines Health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of infirmity.” Healing would be the various processes one might undergo to achieve health. It implies taking the steps necessary to reduce stress, improve the diet, increase and promote social and spiritual connections.
“It is much more important to know what sort of patient has a disease than what sort of disease a patient has.”(Sir William Osler, MD).
Integrative Medicine emphasizes the central role of the Doctor-Patient Relationship. Understanding the patient as a whole person is absolutely essential to healing and takes a central position in integrative medicine. Without this, a doctor cannot guide the patient to a position where their responsibility for healing is realized. Integrative medicine changes the focus to a collaborative process between patient and doctor. In conventional medicine healing occurs outside the patient and is viewed as something that is done to the patient. In integrative medicine, healing occurs within the whole patient and requires their active participation.
“Patients carry their own Doctor inside. They come to us not knowing that fact. We are at our best when we allow the doctor inside to go to work.” (Albert Schweitzer, MD).
Integrative Medicine respects the body’s built-in capacity to heal. For more than 5000 years both Western and Eastern medical doctrine has recognized the innate capacity to heal without any outside help. Known to the Greeks as “Homeostasis”, it acknowledges that life corrects itself away from discord and illness… given the proper environment and materials. No better definition of the process of healing has ever been expressed. Today, we refer to this as “Spontaneous Healing”. In any medical study, a proportion of the people recovered “spontaneously” whether they received treatment or not (also called a Placebo Effect). This effect has to be “controlled” in every scientific study or the results are rendered invalid. You might view what Albert Schweitzer is saying as a call to doctors to respect and utilize this effect. Integrative Medicine attempts to do this by reducing barriers to “Spontaneous Healing”.
“The job of the physician is to cure sometimes, heal often and support always”.(Hippocrates)
Integrative Medicine respects the interacting roles of mind, body, spirit and community in promoting healing. Success is not measured by the absence of disease but by his ability to help the patient regain optimum health, prevent disease, and become resilient to the barriers that reduce his or her health.
Integrative medicine seeks to combine the best techniques from our current (allopathic/osteopathic) medical system with “complementary” and/or “alternative” medicine. Treatment decisions are based on the best science available for the technique, whatever their source and neither rejects conventional medicine or blindly accepts alternative or complementary practices. Integrative Medicine does not promote the use of non-mainstream treatments over more established treatments- but judiciously chooses the best of both, trying to combine them in harmony when this can benefit the individual patient. As with any good practice, focus is placed on choosing the least toxic, most effective, least invasive and least costly methods in collaboration with the patient.
We have a three trillion dollar a year medical system waiting at the bottom of a cliff for people to fall off and injure themselves. When we suggest building a fence at the top of the cliff to prevent people from falling off in the first place, the answer from the bottom is, “We can’t afford it. We’re spending all our money down here.” (Robert Elliot, MD)”
Integrative medicine focuses on the prevention of disease and optimum health through lifestyle modification and screening. The largest body of scientific evidence in support of a complementary approach to medical care involves changes (diet, exercise, nutrition) that could significantly reduce the epidemic of chronic disease (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.) When combined with preventative screening techniques from mainstream medicine, there is no doubt that each individual and society, in general, would benefit greatly.
Integrative medicine respects the role of the doctor as a teacher. The word “Doctor” is derived from Latin “Docere” translated into English means “to teach”. To employ lifestyle modifications, the patient must understand what they are and how to begin change. To choose therapy requires the patient’s consent – something that can only be obtained when the patient understands his or her options.