What Is Integrative Health?

The practice of integrative health and medicine brings together the knowledge and techniques of numerous medical disciplines to promote health and well-being across a person’s entire life. In integrative medicine, all the aspects of a person’s life are taken into account. Treatments are focused on maximizing a person’s overall health to aid healing and prevent future illness.

Doctors, nurses and other medical specialists who practice integrative health use personalized strategies that focus on each patient’s unique conditions to bring together the best plan to not only treat medical problems, but encourage health, well-being and resilience in each patient’s life. An integrative health plan goes beyond merely treating the symptoms of an illness to address the underlying causes as well.

What Are the Defining Principles of Integrative Health and Medicine?

Integrative medicine takes into account all factors that influence health and disease. This includes a person’s body, mind and their community. Integrative health practitioners use a combination of conventional medical drugs and procedures along with alternative therapies.

Aside from the primary focus on encouraging and promoting each patient’s overall health and wellness, integrative medicine focuses on remaining open to treatments that promote the body’s own healing response and minimally-invasive treatments. Perhaps most importantly, the integrative approach makes both the practitioner and the patient partners in healing and maintaining good health.

An integrative health outlook is beneficial for many conditions, but is most often used in the treatment of chronic conditions. Common conditions that benefit from an integrated medicine approach are:

  • Chronic pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Stress

The medical staff at an integrative health clinic are often trained in a variety of medical disciplines to be able to treat conditions such as these in their patients. Because of the holistic focus on a patient’s health as part of treatment, it’s important for integrative health medical staff to be an integral part of each patient’s ongoing care.

Having a familiar relationship like this can help the doctors and nurses to better understand the long-term and complex interplay between the biological, behavioral and environmental influences of each of their patients.

Integrative Health Is a Team Effort

A strong commitment to continuing self-development from both patients and practitioners is at the core of the integrative health approach to practicing medicine. Leading a healthy life is an ongoing process, and not merely a goal.

Those who are being treated as part of an integrative approach must be committed to making the types of diet and lifestyle changes necessary to aid their treatment. Getting more sleep and exercise, quitting bad habits and big dietary changes are all typically components in an integrative health plan.

The professionals who practice integrative medicine regularly devote time to learning new treatments and specializations while staying current with those they’ve already mastered. Understanding a variety of approaches allows integrative health practitioners a better understanding of each patient’s unique health challenges.

The Integrative Health Approach

Integrative medicine uses science-based procedures and medical concepts to promote the whole-body health of a person and treat medical conditions in as minimally invasive ways as possible. Because of this, many integrative health concepts are based around maintaining optimal nutrition and fitness in each person.

A nutritional assessment, yoga and regular medical checkups can all be part of a person’s integrative health strategy. Alternative approaches to pain management such as laser therapy and acupuncture are also often used as part of an integrative health approach to treatment.

Integrative health practitioners regularly choose from a variety of evidence-based approaches to treating underlying causes for pain or other ailments that won’t interfere with a patient’s overall health and wellbeing the way some drugs or procedures might.