Integrated medicine: What it is and why it may help you


stethoscopeAlongside the advancements of modern medicine, it’s becoming more widely recognised that natural therapies can continue to be effective – especially when it comes to issues such as stress and burn out. ‘Integrated medicine’ combines modern medical practice with evidence-based, scientifically validated natural therapies.

Dr Frances Pitsilis, who starred in the 2012 television show Is Modern Medicine Killing You, offers her opinion on how integrated medicine may help enhance your health.

As a general practitioner who uses integrated medicine and has an interest in chronic illness, stress and burn out, I often encounter patients who feel powerless after long periods of testing and treatments that have failed to resolve their underlying health problems.

I treat these patients by going back to fundamentals. As we know, we all have basic needs – clean air, good food, clean water, adequate sleep and a balanced system. We also need physical, financial and social support. When we become unbalanced we get sick, and if we don’t address the causes of the loss of balance, illness can become chronic.

The World Health Organization states that 63% of premature deaths are caused by chronic illness. In the United States, chronic illness takes up 75% of the total health spend. Many define this type of illness as incurable and permanent, but this is not always the case.

Modern lifestyles and chronic illness

Take any person in midlife who is busy working, raising a family and juggling many balls. They typically eat poorly, with high-sugar and high-fat processed food, and do not get enough sleep. The end result is a combination of chemical messengers being released in the body that promote fatigue and weight gain, as well as poor health.

Lifestyle factors like these also deplete the body of vitamins and minerals and upset bowel bacterial balance, and therefore are at the root of all ill health. In addition, as a person ages, they may not absorb all the vitamins from their food, possibly compounding the problem.

How integrated medicine can help

Integrated medicine combines modern medical practice with evidence-based, scientifically validated natural therapies. These therapies include fish oil, diet, meditation and relaxation techniques, and natural therapies like vitamins, minerals, herbs and hormones. The idea is not to turn away from conventional medicine but to embrace it along with anything else that works, so I use these modalities in combination. I do not shun drugs – they can save lives – but I believe that we can reduce the need for them with the right approach.

For New Zealanders to enhance their health, I think they should seek out more validated, quality information about how integrated medicine can help them when they need it, to strengthen their own resilience and physiological health.

Internet searches and self-diagnosis

These days, everyone turns to ‘Dr Google’ for information, so it’s important to know what to believe on the internet. When researching conditions and therapies, it is wise to think about who is publishing the information and whether they may have any underlying motivations. Look at whether the information is coming from a centre of excellence in the world, a research-based site or a governmental site. Check if the site is trying to sell you something or whether there may be other motives. With a research study, look to see if anyone sponsored it. Think critically about whether an offer is too good to be true – if so, it often is.

Above all, it is important that you trust your family doctor to discuss with you what you have learned from your own research. You must not diagnose yourself from the internet – this is what your doctor is for. If you don’t feel entirely satisfied, you are free to ask for a second opinion or seek one independently.

Dr Frances Pitsilis is a medical doctor specialising in holistic and integrated medicine. She holds diplomas in obstetrics and occupational medicine and international qualifications in nutritional, preventative and regenerative medicine, and is a Fellow of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs.

Image / FreeDigitalPhotos.net – winnond

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