What is ‘Integrative Medicine?’

Integrative Medicine? Functional Medicine? Complementary? Alternative? The buzzwords have changed a lot over the past many decades and public interest has forced academic and western medical attention to the field.

 

For me, it has been lovely timing that I was starting my graduate academic life in the late 1990’s – right around the time that the that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) created the original framework to address the growing conversation and implement a funding paradigm for research into this growing field.

 

 

NIH started with 4 primary domains of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) placed around a central health system of allopathy, or western medicine. (Energy. Mind-Body. Mechanics. Biology)

I most passionately believe that a strong support network is the foundation of well-rounded, grounded, good healthy living. It keeps you in check and gives you something to fall back into. We all long for inspiring confidants, creative professionals, and trusted support beside us on our journey. The current culture of our health care system though often leaves us taking what we can get instead of healing within the creative, comprehensive support we all deserve.

Over twenty years of private practice and 3 integrative health centers later – I now work with an expanded model. This 6-Domain model draws attention to the importance of knowledge and awareness. I have never seen anyone overcome a terminal illness or shed a chronic condition if they did not both deeply understand the disease process at hand and deeply know what they believed about where life comes from, why life is worth living and where we go when we die.

In my professional definition and use of the language – Integrative Medicine, most simply, is a conscious effort toward distributing wellness efforts/resource in a balanced way across these six domains: Knowledge, Beliefs, Biology, Mechanics, Mind-Body and Energy.

It is often true that we tend to ‘cluster’ our care into a few select domains while nearly or completely neglecting others. Working within this 6-domain model allows for the balancing of resources (time, finances, energy, etc.) while still providing comprehensive support and an honest framework for addressing concerns and goals in a balanced, sustainable way.

Knowledge

How much do you know about your health?

Do you get regular physicals, eye exams and dental exams? Do you understand any diagnoses you may have? Do you understand the medications and supplements you take – why are you taking them? and generally what are they doing in your body? Do you have easy access to your medical records and images and understand what’s in them?

This domain is about taking the central position in your health care and assuming responsibility for your wellbeing. If you cannot directly assume responsibility, then it means finding a patient advocate and creating a flawless support network around you.

Actions related to this domain can include getting regular health screenings, asking questions of health care providers, reading, learning, seeking support and using effective methods for organizing your health records.

Beliefs

What do you believe in?

What are your beliefs around where life comes from? What are your core beliefs and how do these translate into your health, spirituality, finances, emotions and relationships? What we believe and our connection to our beliefs has a tremendous impact on our health and treatment outcomes.

First you have to know what you believe in. Then you can find tools you resonate with to sit in an ever-growing space with their beliefs, faith and paradigms. Spirituality is one aspect of beliefs.

There are various health systems around the world – Allopathy (Western Medicine), Osteopathy, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Ayurveda, Chiropractic, Osteopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, etc. They all have very different core beliefs about the origins of health and disease.

Western medicine is the primary medical system we operate within and our insurance payment systems are organized around it. Western medicine is a health philosophy based upon a symptom-response method for assessment, treatment (and payment).

Biology

What are you doing that directly impacts your biological functioning?

This domain includes our diet choices, supplementation, pharmaceuticals, environmental factors, sleep and exercise.

Mechanics

Is your human form mechanically sound, adaptable and of structural integrity?

This domain includes therapies that work directly with structural body mechanics to influence change. Posture, neuromuscular activation, musculoskeletal balance, fascial integrity and structure-function efficiency are the primary focus of these therapies. This domain is working tangibly with bones, muscles, fasciae and neuromuscular relationships.

Mind / Body

How can you bridge the space between your mental and physical experiences?

These somatic techniques train the body to inspire the mind and teach the mind to positively shape the body. The term ‘somatic’ means ‘experiencing the body from within.’ Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. Our bodies can become tools for working with our mental state and our mental patterns can become vehicles of change for our physical bodies.

Energy

Are you aware of and attending to the energy fields in and around your body (biofields)?

These modalities encompasses the use of external energy sources – electromagnetic fields, vibration, sound, frequency, thermography, etc. – to influence health and healing. Therapies in this domain work with energetic fields using aspects of vibration, electromagnetism, light, heat, auras, chakras, meridians, intuition and discernment.

Applying the Integrative Model to Your Life

So … how can you apply this to yourself? Which domains do you tend to most naturally? Are you over-attending to some domains and avoiding others? Do you need help putting your team together?

These are all conversations and resources I am happy to have with anyone! Regardless of what community you live in, the framework still applies. If you are in central Ohio, then we can help even more specifically by plugging reputable providers into the gaps in your network.

Health is a community endeavor. It was meant to take a village. There is a village to support you no matter where you are or what you are going through.