Treating the Whole You
According to The Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health, integrative medicine and health is “a holistic system that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.” This model, where all modalities are available to treat each patient uniquely, case by case, using different protocols for each person, runs contrary to the mainstream model of specialists and specific protocols for each disease or condition or symptom. The “whole person” is forgotten often in the mainstream model.
For this reason, many patients are searching for an integrative medicine practitioner to be part of their health care team who can manage both conventional and complementary health approaches in a coordinated way. While pharmaceutical medicines can give quick relief of symptoms, they do not address the underlying cause of the symptom. An integrative medicine approach would use pharmaceuticals when necessary to stabilize a dangerous condition or provide relief from a troublesome symptom, while working with all available modalities to help correct the underlying cause of the symptom or condition.
This involves but is not limited to nutrients, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, reiki, compounded prescriptions, or pharmaceuticals along with lifestyle changes such as diet modification, exercise, stress reduction, meditation, therapy and sleep adjustments. Patients that are on pharmaceuticals can be helped with integrative medicine, as many drugs cause nutrient depletion which then can lead to other health issues and a decreased effectiveness of the medication.
An integrative practitioner is not a specialist in all modalities. They are an expert at determining what combination of therapies would be best for the patient to assist the healing of the body, address the main complaint that brought the patient to the office, and are willing to have other practitioners be part of the team approach to health. Such as when work is done on a house, homeowners may need an electrician, plumber, carpenter and painter, each of which has an area of expertise that they excel in and has the proper tools in their tool box to accomplish the task. To help co-ordinate the work, one usually hires a foreman to keep an eye on the whole project.
In medicine, each practitioner specialist has a skill set and a specific set of tools in their tool box. So too does the healthcare foreman (integrative practitioner), but the most important tool is their knowledge of the many different modalities and practitioners available and necessary for a joint effort in helping a patient get well. They understand that there is not one specific protocol, but rather an individual path that brought each person to where they are healthwise, and likewise a uniquely designed treatment plan that evaluates and explores multiple therapies and modalities to find the right combination for the safest, healthiest path to returned health.
In its earliest form of integrative medicine, the general practitioner from previous generations knew the family dynamics, their patients and their lifestyles, and as they received information from specialists, they put a protocol together to manage the care. Often that approach can get lost in the current medical model of modern medicine due to a lack of communication between practitioners, and many times no one is coordinating the therapies.
Now that patients are becoming their own health care advocate and searching for an integrative approach, the health care system can shift to “treating the whole you” and not just “treating symptoms”. This will lead to better health of the patients, and in the long run, decrease health care costs.
Dr. Gary Kracoff is a naturopathic doctor and registered pharmacist at Johnson Compounding and Wellness Center, located at 577 Main St., Waltham. For more information, call 781-893-3870 ext. 2 or visit NaturalCompounder.com.