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Integrative Medicine: Therapy For the Body, Mind and Spirit

Updated on November 29, 2016
Walking is a part of many integrative medicine programs.
Walking is a part of many integrative medicine programs. | Source

What Is Integrative Medicine?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, an agency of the National Institutes of Health, integrative medicine "combines mainstream medical therapies and complementary and alternative medicine therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness." The gold standard of proof of the safety and effectiveness of any medical therapy is the large-scale, randomized, controlled clinical trial. In practice, then, integrative medicine combines mainstream therapies with elements of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) which have been studied and proven to be safe and effective in randomized, controlled clinical trials. Integrative medicine is based on several principles, some of which include: consideration of all factors that influence health, wellness and disease including mind, spirit and community in addition to body; use of natural, effective less-invasive remedies whenever possible; a partnership between patient and doctor in the healing process.

Hospitals and medical centers in the United States are beginning to incorporate integrative medicine into their treatment options.
Hospitals and medical centers in the United States are beginning to incorporate integrative medicine into their treatment options. | Source
Aromatherapy is believed to decrease anxiety and instill a sense of calm in patients.
Aromatherapy is believed to decrease anxiety and instill a sense of calm in patients. | Source

Dr. Andrew Weil on Integrative Medicine

Examples of Integrative Medicine

Cancer is one therapeutic area that has embraced the concepts and practice of integrative medicine. The Integrative Cancer Care Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, uses complementary and alternative medicine treatments along with the mainstream cancer treatments that comprise surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Cancer patients get diet enhancement and nutritional supplementation to maintain their strength during the treatment process. They are also offered stress reduction therapies that include meditation, yoga and psychotherapy. Other alternative treatments include massage therapy, acupuncture to relieve cancer-related pain and intravenous vitamin C. In an article published in the March 2011 issue of "The Journal of Translational Medicine," a group of oncologists, alternative medicine practitioners and basic researchers discuss the use of intravenous vitamin C as a way to treat systemic inflammation (sepsis) related to the presence of cancer somewhere in the body.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the practice of integrative medicine can also benefit patients with coronary heart disease. Along with the customary advice about the role of a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise at an appropriate level, the Cleveland Clinic emphasizes the importance of attaining emotional and spiritual health by reducing stress and coming to grips with any emotional issues that are affecting your life. By doing this, the patient may not only slow the progression of coronary heart disease but also reverse its course. Integrative medicine programs offer patients several ways to achieve emotional and spiritual health. In addition to things like yoga, massage and meditation mentioned above, other ways for patients to improve their emotional and spiritual health include:

-Aromatherapy. The scent of essential oils from flowers is believed to decrease anxiety and induce a sense of calm.

-Music Therapy. The effect of music on a patient's emotional and spiritual well being has been the subject of many years of research. There is ample evidence that music helps patients deal more effectively with pain, and can help reduce stress and anxiety.

-Imagery. This is a very unusual integrative medicine technique in which the patient is encouraged to bring up mental images of healing and progress to recovery from illness. Typically, medical practitioners provide the patient with audio tapes that help the patient evoke mental images that will have a positive impact on recovery. Listening to mental imagery audio tapes is becoming a common practice for patients who are about to undergo surgery. Randomized, controlled clinical trials have shown that patients who used imagery techniques before surgery experienced decreased anxiety, decreased post-operative pain and spent less time in the hospital after surgery.

The connection of mind and spirit to the wellness of the body has been medically established, and it is certainly a good development for patients that a growing number of hospitals and medical centers are adding complementary medicine to their conventional array of treatments.


This hub has been written for the sole purpose of providing information to the reader. It is not intended to be a source of any kind of medical advice or instruction, and it should not be used in the diagnosis of any illness, disease or condition. You should consult your doctor if you have questions about a specific medical problem.


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    • healthwriterbob profile image

      healthwriterbob 5 years ago from United States

      Hi KimberlyLake,

      Yes, I agree with you. The practice of mainstream medicine can be very cold and inhuman if you don't add to it some of the elements of complementary and alternative medicine. Thanks for your comments. Take care.

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 5 years ago from California

      Totally awesome, integrating natural therapy and alternative. Is the best way to go I recently watched a documentary on a subjectsimilar