It’s Complementary! Combining Natural Medicine with Western Treatments

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When Sarah was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2015, her doctor prescribed steroids and immunosuppressants; she was told she’d need to take them for the rest of her life. Although this was not what she wanted, her symptoms were severe and she was told the potent drugs were the only way to treat her disease.

After years of taking the medications and experiencing side effects, Sarah decided to listen to her inner sense that told her she could feel better than she did. She began the journey to treat the Crohn’s more naturally along with using modern medicine. After a few ups and downs and pushback from her doctor, she eventually found a new integrative doctor, a different diet and a mindset shift that changed her life for the better.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the practice of integrative medicine focuses on the whole person and combines the most well-researched conventional medicine with the most well-researched, evidence-based complementary therapies to achieve the appropriate care for each person. Initially called alternative medicine, the most recent term that we use in the United States is complementary and integrative medicine or CAM.

Over half of Americans say they have tried some form of alternative medicine, such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, chiropractic treatment or energy therapies, at some point during their lifetimes. About a fifth of Americans say they have tried alternative medicine instead of conventional medicine; and roughly three in ten adults have tried CAM, or complementary and integrative medicine, in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.

Many common advantages of integrative medicine or CAM are noted by patients and practitioners. CAM offers natural approaches for addressing health and medical concerns, and it emphasizes less-invasive treatments whenever possible.

CAM can cut or decrease the use of prescription medication. While prescriptions can be helpful or needed, some have serious side effects and can be costly for patients.

The integrative approach places emphasis on promoting health and well-being as well as illness prevention through healthy living. It strives to prevent disease, which generally translates to fewer medications, visits to the doctor and hospitalizations.

CAM treats the whole, unique person rather than just the symptom or disease. It also focuses on addressing the root cause of sickness. CAM incorporates eastern medicine, the oldest system of medicine in the world, with western medicine. Treatments can include herbs, acupuncture, tai chi and more.

Finding a practitioner who uses integrative medicine can be challenging. Experts recommend selecting someone who will be part of a team to offer support in the quest for optimal health in body, mind, emotions and spirit. A doctor’s interests and practices may vary widely. For instance, some integrative practitioners may work mainly with nutrition and herbs, while another might deal with the spiritual side of health and disease. Integrative medicine has varied practices, so partnering with a doctor who has similar philosophies and uses treatment modalities that align with the patient is apt to be a good fit.

Research suggests that people who have a strong relationship with their physician not only report greater satisfaction with their care, but also reap better health. Finding the best integrative medical practitioner is much like choosing any other doctor. A patient wants to feel comfortable with him or her while being able to trust their care and judgment.

Experts note that just like any other medical practice, there are risks to integrative medicine and the treatments of integrative medicine are not substitutes for conventional medical care. They should be used along with standard medical treatment. Certain therapies and products aren’t recommended at all or they may not be recommended for certain conditions or people. The website of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is a good tool for researching therapies someone might be considering. It’s a good idea for patients to talk with their regular health care provider before trying something new.

In our busy, often stressful lives, many of us have begun to look for balance and healing. Long before western medicine was abundant, natural health healers were encouraging whole body wellness. Integrative medicine is medicine made especially for each individual and care is centered around a patient and their needs. A thorough integrative physician spends time and works in collaboration with each patient to consider all the appropriate remedies and aims to treat the whole person, not just the symptom or disease.

While Sarah is still living with Crohn’s disease, her symptoms have almost been eliminated, and she is no longer taking drugs to manage her symptoms. To be truly healthy requires not only physical but also emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. Today’s integrative health practitioners follow in the footsteps of those ancient healers and are in greater demand than ever before

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