A guide to integrative medicine, its difference with functional medicine and why it facilitates better treatment

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Integrative medicine is quite a new yet increasingly popular branch of the medical industry. It combines many different branches of medicine to provide accurate and best healthcare to the patients. Mainly integrative medicine is a combination of conventional and alternative medicine. Functional medicine too is a new branch of medical industry. Its specialty lies in the system of diagnosis and treatment planning. To understand the difference or similarity between integrative medicine and functional medicine you have to first understand what conventional and alternative medicines are.

Conventional medicine

Western Medicines

Conventional medicine is the traditional western medicine that is generally practiced by doctors and surgeons worldwide. It uses synthetic medicines and invasive surgeries for treating different ailments. Conservative medicine diagnoses ailments by looking at the outer symptoms alone in strictly pragmatic manner. Often it fails to consider the deep rooted causes of the ailment and the long lasting consequences of it.

Alternative medicine

Reiki healing

Alternative medicine is very different from conservative medicine. It has not yet got scientific validation. Alternative medicine diagnoses by judging an individual’s lifestyle and habits. Ayurveda, Yoga, meditation, acupuncture, massage, Reiki, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, aromatherapy, music therapy and a lot more different therapies are used for treating patients in alternative medicine.

Integrative medicine

Integrative medicine

Integrative medicine combines both alternative and conservative medicine to provide the patients with better treatments and preventive care. Integrative medicine does not just cure the outer symptoms of ailments but also strengthens and nourishes the body from inside to revitalize the immune system. Integrative medicine uses holistic, naturopathic, functional, regenerative and osteopathic medicine apart from conservative and alternative medicine for treating patients.

According to Andrew T. Weil M.D., a leading advocate of integrative medicine, the defining aspects of integrative medicine is that there is appropriate use of conventional and CAM methods; patient participation is mandatory; focus on health promotion and disease prevention; and a preference for natural, minimally-invasive methods.

He describes the principles of integrative medicine:

  1. A partnership between patient and practitioner in the healing process
  2. Appropriate use of conventional and alternative methods to facilitate the body’s innate healing response
  3. Consideration of all factors that influence health, wellness and disease, including mind, spirit and community as well as body
  4. A philosophy that neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically
  5. Recognition that good medicine should be based in good science, be inquiry driven, and be open to new paradigms
  6. Use of natural, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible
  7. Use of the broader concepts of promotion of health and the prevention of illness as well as the treatment of disease
  8. Training of practitioners to be models of health and healing, committed to the process of self-exploration and self-development

The functionality and effectiveness of integrative medicine

CAM therapy

Integrative medicine certainly works and in some cases, it has proved to be more effective than conventional medicine. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that in 2007, 38% adults in America opted for CAM or a combination of conservative and alternative medicine. They spent near about $34 million for getting CAM therapies. Due to the great popularity of integrative medicine many hospitals have started facilitating this kind of treatments for their patients. Integrative medicine does not neglect the capabilities of modern medicine but it complements the modern treatments and conventional medicine with various alternative therapies and treatments.

The value and effectiveness of integrative medicine has not been scientifically proven yet. Scientists and doctors have collaborated to conduct researches to prove its functionality. The patients are interested in integrative medicine because it gives them more importance, attention and time. Their habits and lifestyle is analyzed thoroughly and carefully by the competent and learned integrative medicine practitioners. Doctors who provide integrative medicine treatments study conventional medicine in details and then acquire knowledge about alternative medicine. Every patient is treated in a different manner. The therapies they get depend entirely on the state of their body, mind and spirit. Different alternative therapies are used to supplement the conventional medical treatments. Massages, Reiki, acupuncture and Ayurvedic medicine helps in boosting the immunity of the patients.

Integrative medicine – the holistic approach

Integrative medicine

Conventional medicine comes to aid when a patient is afflicted by a certain disease but integrative medicine attempts to eradicate the root causes of the ailments. This special approach of integrative medicine makes it more effective than conventional medicine. Integrative medicine is also cost effective. Patients are turning towards it so that they can get better health without breaking their banks. There are some misconceptions regarding integrative medicine.

The most wrong misconception is that it only provides complimentary or alternative treatments to the patients. Integrative medicine actually offers all the healthcare treatments provided by modern medicine and at the same time it uses alternative medicine therapies to make the conventional medicine work better. Integrative medicine involves the patients in the treatment procedure and helps them take better health related decisions. The practitioners of integrative medicine believe in enhancing the body’s strength and ability to resist diseases through better diet and physical activities. 

Alternative medicine facilitates better treatment when integrated with conventional medicine

Boosts immunity

There was a time when alternative medicine was considered to be an adversary of conventional medicine. In the modern world both alternative medicine and conventional medicine are being used together to provide better health care to the patients. They both are integral for maintaining good health and curing different ailments completely. In today’s world people have become more aware about the value of wellness.

Conventional medicine is not sufficient enough for the overall wellness of an individual. Conventional medicine does not address the deep lying physical, psychological and spiritual problems that make us vulnerable and causes diseases. Together alternative and conservative medicine have broadened the horizon of medical treatments.

Often Conventional medicine fails to look beyond the symptoms and does not try to prevent diseases. Treatments are available only when an individual is ill and not otherwise. Alternative medicine has not got scientific backing but it has proved to be beneficial and effective in many chronic ailments.

Alternative medicine treats the three parts of our being which are the body, mind and spirit. It does not diagnose ailments just by looking at the outer symptoms but takes time to investigate their root causes. Through individualistic diagnosis alternative medicine easily finds out the weaknesses that a patient has and focuses on strengthening the body immunity from inside.

The different treatments and therapies that fall under alternative medicine are Reiki, acupuncture, homeopathy, Ayurveda, Yoga, meditation, guided imagery, herbal medicines, hypnosis, Tai Chi, meditation and psychotherapy. It also uses dietary changes and physical exercises as a part of the treatment procedures.

When combined with conventional medicine, it enhances the effectiveness of the modern treatments and reduces the harmful side effects caused by synthetic medicines and invasive surgeries. Alternative medicines complement the conservative medical treatments and help patients recover faster from various ailments.

Guidelines for getting better health through integrative medicine

nutritious diet

Good health cannot be achieved by visiting your doctors once in a while and gulping down tablets prescribed by your general physician. To achieve the goal of good health you have to understand the needs of your body and give it the care it requires. Integrative medicine has shown a new way of getting better health by improving both the mental and physical conditions of patients.

Patients suffering from chronic depression, headaches, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer can recover more easily with the help of integrative medicine. It boosts a patient’s immunity and strengthens their desire to fight back a disease.

Each patient is evaluated individually and there is no set method of treatment. Integrative medicine is very flexible. It prescribes different treatments to different individuals. The integrative medicine practitioner checks a patient’s previous medical records and questions him or her about their lifestyle and habits to give them the best treatments possible. Integrative medicine promotes good health by emphasizing the importance of prevention of chronic diseases. It helps you to make better lifestyle choices so that the chances of your falling sick decreases.

Most people think about their health only after being down with a disease. Integrative medicine teaches us that with the help of proper, nutritious diet and exercising we can prevent the chronic diseases. Even when a person is ill they should try to enhance their body’s inner strength and boost its vitality to drive away the ailment.

Integrative medicine is cost effective and can help you get better health at a low cost by suggesting alternative methods of treatment. Chronic pains, stress and depression can be countered with the help of alternative therapies like Yoga, massage and acupuncture. Cancer and diabetes patients are treated with a combination of conventional and alternative therapies. Integrative medicine strives to make your body immune to most chronic diseases and lets you take informed decisions regarding your health.

Benefits of selecting integrative medicine for thorough healthcare


Achieving perfect health is not impossible. Through proper care you can lengthen your life span and live without falling sick too many times. The goal of perfect health cannot be attained if you just take care of your body. You also have to take care of your spirit and mind. Integrative medicine can help you keep your mind, body and spirits in the best shape for a longer period than the traditional medical therapies and procedures.

Each time you visit your family doctor or a GP you only get 5-10 minutes of their time and have to pay a hefty fee for consultation. In such a short period of time the doctor can only check your body apparently without taking into account the effects of the illness on your mind and spirit. As a result you do not get complete care and cannot heal from inside.

Integrative medicine combines alternative medicine and western medicine to provide the healthcare you need.

You are the centre of attention:


Integrative medicine is all about you. Your lifestyle, habits, health related history is evaluated thoroughly. Unlike the GPs, the integrative medicine practitioner looks at every angle related to your health and tries to understand the deep rooted causes of your ailments. Integrative medicine does not just cure a disease by eradicating the symptoms of your illness but analyzes your body, mind and spirit completely before suggesting therapies and treatments.

Time is given to you: Each and every patient is treated with utmost care and patience. No haste is made in integrative care. Your body, mind and spirit cannot be healed properly in a short span of time. Healing is a slow yet steady process that requires time. Integrative medicine offers you both time and attention to heal completely.

Combines conventional and alternative medicines: Integrative medicine does not recommend only alternative or conventional medicine or treatments. It combines the best of both conventional and alternative therapies to heal you from within. Some aspects of an ailment can be controlled only by traditional western medicines or surgeries. Some other aspects need to be treated through effective alternative therapies like massage, acupuncture and meditation.

Flexible and goal oriented: Integrative medicine does what is best for your overall health and fitness and makes it a mission to achieve better health for you. It is not rigid and is not limited to any particular type of medicine may it be conventional or alternative.

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