Integrative Medicine

This specialty has been around with many different names for decades but has come into general public awareness only within the past 5 years or so.

It reflects a change from “disease care” to “health care”

which is a wonderful development with enormous potential for improving our health and well-being on a global scale.

As someone who has been part of the beginnings of Preventative Medicine (even though I don’t want to sound like a dinosaur!) and who has seen it evolve into Holistic Medicine, Alternative Medicine, Complimentary Medicine, then Integrative Medicine, Functional Medicine, Anti-aging Medicine, Restorative Medicine…

I have witnessed firsthand the morphing that is needed as we learn more and more about the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual body we each have.

New ideas about diagnosis, treatment, and prevention present exciting possibilities, but they also need to be tested to verify that they work without causing permanent harm, and must be discarded if they do.

To me, this whole idea of how we find knowledge and use it or let it go is of critical importance when it comes to our health. How do we keep an open mind and not get set in the beliefs of the past (which may or may not be true, or worse may not even have been studied or proven)?

The concept of having an open mind is critical if we want to go beyond the confines of the status quo, which has led us into this state of “disease care” rather than “health care”.

This is how the pioneers of Integrative Medicine looked at medical knowledge, and how all of us need to continue to assess health care. Just because something has not been done before does not invalidate its potential usefulness.

Then once a new idea is conceived, we have to relate it to what we do already know in science, thinking through the effects on physiologic pathways, systems, functions and assess its potential for harm. For sure, we do not want to utilize something that shows definite harm. But even then we have to be open minded for we know that, in some cases, even small amounts of what is called “poison” can create improved health.

I always come back to the principle of doing what supports the body’s systems to help them re-gain their original balance.

When we do this, we are using the natural intelligence of the body to re-create health. And, we have to humble ourselves and realize that we don’t know everything about this incredible body/mind/spirit we each have! Even the smartest and most educated among us, can’t explain everything we see happening in the physical body, let alone the rest of what we are (known and unknown).

Look at the progression in knowledge and approach in the field of gastrointestinal medicine over the past 2 years.

Things have really been turned upside down for the Western Medicine approach to gastrointestinal health. Now Western Medicine recognizes what leaders in Naturopathic and Integrative Medicine have known and taught for years! The function of the gut is a fundamental basis for good or bad health. That good bugs in the gut are critical for good health. That bad bugs cause health problems. That inflammation of the gut and “leaky gut” can be scientifically proven to be a major cause of poor health that negatively impacts our whole body.

This is just one example of an entire field that is shifting. Others have been emerging in the past few years… like how we view cholesterol and the use of statins – which have caused diabetes in many women and are now suspect as a major cause of the rise of dementia and Alzheimers in our population. The science behind bio-identical hormones is another area of more recent knowledge. And what about birth control pills? They are synthetic hormones. What role are they playing in the health of younger women who are using them? What should we be asking and discovering?

And I am sure we will discover so much more as we go forward. Both Integrative and Western Medicine clinicians will need to change their clinical approaches with that new information, avoiding getting stuck in old ways of thinking and doing.

This revolution in health and health care, where clinicians and patients alike are taking the opportunity to try new things, to get preventative results, and ultimately to improve quality of life, is very exciting to me!

What a changed world for a clinician compared to when I started practicing over 30 years ago!

I’d like to share with you some of the wisdom I have gained over this time. And, I invite you to feel free to share your insights with me at any time.

  • Keep an open mind to everything
  • Evaluate ideas based on potential for irreparable harm vs something outside the box that could help
  • Teachers have soap boxes – learn from them all but remember that their world view (treatment view) is theirs, compare it with others and other research, and find what works
  • Take the middle path
  • Don’t be the first to embrace a new finding, treatment, supplement or drug
  • Always do what supports the body systems
  • Do what works with the least side effects
  • Treat the individual patient – everyone is different
  • Educate and empower patients to take self-responsibility for their own health
  • There is an appropriate place for drugs – they are not villains, they just need to be used appropriately
  • Same for Western Medicine – it is filled with many conscientious people trying to help
  • Read, learn, evaluate and talk with folks who have been in the field – you can learn from everyone
  • There is both a SCIENCE and an ART to all effective healing – Integrative Medicine recognizes that mix

Let’s keep talking about new things in the field, and I will promise you that I will keep attending the latest conferences and webinars and keep reading to stay up to date and on the cutting edge of knowledge and treatment while continuing to have an open mind for all the new things we will discover!

I’ll meet you there!

Jane Kennedy, CFNP, MN, MPH

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