Integrative Medicine is a field that bridges mainstream medicine with evidence-based complementary medicine. The backbone of Integrative Medicine is lifestyle, or what I call the “3+1.” The three necessary things we do on a daily basis are eating, moving, and sleeping, with the +1 denoting our mindfulness of spiritual needs.
I think about lifestyle as the fertile ground in which the “seeds” of medications, herbs, supplements, acupuncture and therapy are sown. Just imagine trying to plant a flower in a barren field where the soil has been stripped of nutrients. Obviously, it wouldn’t thrive. Your lifestyle choices regarding food, exercise, sleep and spirituality can fertilize your soil and help your health and wellbeing flourish.
Traditional Western medicine stems from a time when fighting disease was most important. One hundred years ago the top causes of death were infections like tuberculosis, influenza, and pneumonia. The advent of public health systems and antibiotics changed the landscape of traditional care. Now our top causes of death – heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease such as emphysema – are largely driven by lifestyle choices. Integrative Medicine takes a closer look at the root cause of disease, like inflammation, lack of exercise, poor dietary choices, lack of community, and lack of social interaction as modifiable risk factors that can be changed for the better.
Integrative Medicine focuses on the biopsychosocial model, which recognizes that a patient’s experience is a weave of biological, psychological and social factors. Although I am a doctor, I consider myself more like a health coach for my patients because our doctor-patient relationship is less directive and more collaborative.