East Meets West: Alternative Medicine Becoming More Mainstream
There was a time not so long ago when the term “alternative medicine” conjured up visions in many people’s minds of shamans, charlatans, and crackpots.
However, times are changing.
In the past few years, many doctors and conventional healthcare institutions have shown a new acceptance of treatments and philosophies that historically have not been part of mainstream medicine.
In fact, now the term “alternative medicine” is out, and “integrative medicine” is in. Proponents explain that integrative medicine addresses the full range of a patient’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental influences. It also deploys therapies that extend beyond the surgeries and drugs that have historically defined the medical establishment.
What is integrative medicine?
Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship [between patient and physician] and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.
Integrative medicine doctors do not reject conventional or allopathic medicine. They insist there is room at the table for all options.
What is an Integrative Medicine session like?
The integrative visit is just as much about “a time for the practitioner to get to the know the patient as it is about understanding the disease.” Since integrative practitioners are interested in the full spectrum of health and being – mind, body, and spirit, understanding the nuances of each of these facets provides a rich context for understanding how and why they came to be where they are. Integrative doctors often provide many of the same tests that a conventional doctor performs, from basic physical exams and blood work, to Pap smears and cholesterol screening. However, it’s the emphasis on prevention and maintenance of health that’s different; and, in the opinion of integrative practitioners like Dr. Aman, whose clinic sees around 15,000 patient visits a year, it’s a difference that really counts.
What does this mean for the future of medicine?
Integrative health care models are currently being explored. Dr. Aman and his colleagues at Sparsh Clinic encourage open- mindedness and transformative ways of thinking that will heal both the broken health care system and its patients. According to them, “by rebalancing the focus of the health care system between treatment of disease and maintenance of health, the future paradigm will bring us closer to the achievement of the goals of medicine: to promote health and wellness, prevent diseases, ease human suffering, and improve quality of life in a cost-effective and timely manner.”
Prominent integrative medicine practitioners say that while pills and procedures still help millions of patients, the evidence is mounting that diet and nutrition, natural therapeutics such as supplements, vitamins, herbs, and acupuncture, along with lifestyle behaviours such as exercise also have a direct impact on disease.
The more natural approach can even lead to reversals and cures.
The focus is on healing and putting all of our being on balance. The mind the body the spirit.