As the physician owner and medical director at New Beginnings Health Care, an integrative medical practice in east San Diego County, I am passionate about providing an integrative approach to medicine. So what does that really mean?
Integrative medicine is holistic, taking into account the patient’s lifestyle choices and habits. The aim of the practictioner is to treat the whole person rather than just dealing with a specific symptom or illness. Some modern illnesses are either caused or exacerbated by poor lifestyle choices, and integrative medicine seeks to deal with the underlying causes as well as the symptoms. It focuses on the patient’s mind, soul and body to bring healing and improve overall well-being.
This approach encompasses uses a broad range of modern healthcare practices to diagnose and treat patients. Treatments can range from massage to osteopathy as well as using traditional medication. For example, a patient who has diabetes might benefit from nutrional and fitness advice as well as, or as an alternative to, insulin and other medical treatments. An integrative approach might also look at the psychological effects of a diagnosis on the diabetic patient and address some of the problematic mindsets and habits that may have contributed to its onset or development.
An alternative to pill-popping
Prior to going medical school, I worked for several physicians who took a more holistic approach to health. I had the opportunity to meet Jeff Bland, who co-founded the Institute for Functional Medicine in 1991, which also happens to be the year I graduated from an osteopathic medical school.
During my time at a traditional medical school, I became disillusioned with primarily being taught how to diagnose disease. While this is important, the emphasis was on how to treat these diseases with medication. I knew that when I went into practice I wanted to be able to look for the causes of health problems as well as treating the symptoms.
Unfortunately, most physicians are taught the following approach: “Have a problem? Here’s the pill.” This snowballs when another medical issue crops up, to: “Have another problem? Here’s another pill.” Often, the patient ends up needing further pills to negate the symptoms the other pills are causing.
Pursuing integrative medicine
I knew I could never operate like that, so I opened my own practice in 2001. This was my ‘new beginning’ and I also wanted it to be a new beginning for the patients who came to my practice. In my opinion, it’s really important for patients to seek out medical providers who help them achieve better health by looking at the possible reasons why they might have gotten sick, such as diet, lifestyle, gastrointestinal issues, infection, stress, genetics, and so on.
Unfortunately, most providers don’t have the time to go beyond what they were taught in medical school. If you or your loved one is battling a chronic health condition, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner of integrative medicine who will help you go beyond simply treating the symptoms of that disease. Understanding the causes can really help to change long-term habits that may be harming your health or the health of someone close to you.