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Integrative Medicine (IM) presents a broader notion of health and treatment, and even outcomes. IM is concerned with the holistic health of the whole person, and seeks to integrate not just different branches of knowledge, but also to take into account all physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and environmental dimensions of life. Thus, and perhaps must significantly, IM does not limit its attention to symptoms of presenting pathologies. Further, IM exploits the most appropriate interventions from all available validated scientific and traditional disciplines.

The importance of the microbiome in modern medicine brings fresh perspective on Traditional Medicine’s long-standing emphasis on digestion and the state of the digestive tract. New directions in medical practice are also building on knowledge of the microbiome, notably “personalized medicine,” in which genetic studies of the individual and the microbiome are beginning to substantiate the traditional body-typing models of Ayurveda. The emerging field of “lifestyle medicine” also reflects a broad view of health, based on diet, behavior, and interaction with the world, focusing on the holistic health impact of stress and disadvantageous lifestyle choices.

Traditional medicine is a general term that can refer to any healing methodologies from any culture or era. Research focuses on methods which are already well defined and systematized, including Transcendental Meditation©TM, Maharishi AyurVeda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other evidence-based complementary and alternative healing practices.

The core knowledge of these traditional systems is taught in coordination with the modern allopathic component in one integrated whole-body healing approach. A new program in Integrative Medicine is being considered for the future.

The first declaration of the World Health Organization’s constitution asserts: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”  We can expand this definition by reference to the fully holistic approach of classical Vedic medicine—Ayurveda—which addresses the whole person as a spiritual being.

The very existence of a term like ‘wellness’ points toward a health strategy that, in the West, has long been based on the study of sickness, malfunction, and disease.

This ‘repair-oriented’ approach to health is not well suited to the advancement of strategies for prevention, since it is based largely upon conditions that have already become serious, even pathological.

In other parts of the world, and even in the West during previous historical periods, a variety of health-oriented practices has evolved for maximizing health. While curative practices are universal, a systematic strategy for optimizing health and well-being has been curiously missing from western medical (and psychological) science.

In the last decade, however, as deeper biological understanding has revealed the viability of various “folk remedies” from other cultures and times, medical science has begun to examine new areas of biological functioning. Not surprisingly, some of the most specific and deeply developed forms of health technology come from the oldest cultural traditions on earth, including Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Drawing upon traditional medical practices in other cultures, and from ancient practices among our own ancestors, the new field of Integrated Medicine is achieving both attention and success, in the form of unexpected outcomes, new areas of research, and newly holistic views of how we live and function as biological beings, promising less invasive and less dangerous treatment of disease, and perhaps best of all, new insights into how human biology itself is integrated into the full spectrum of earthly life.

There are centers established in well-known hospitals and medical schools at Harvard, Stanford, Duke, University of Maryland, Northwestern, Ohio State, University of California at San Francisco, and the Mayo Clinic. Due to the efforts of a philanthropic organization called The Bravewell Collaborative, a significant contribution has been made over the past two decades to the field of Integrative Medicine, with rapid growth in the number of clinical centers providing integrative medicine and medical schools teaching integrative strategies. In 2011, Bravewell commissioned a survey on 29 integrative medicine centers, and found that 75% reported success using integrative practices to treat chronic pain. More than half of the centers reported positive results for gastrointestinal conditions, depression, anxiety, cancer and chronic stress.

 

References:

Dey, S and Pahwa, P, Prakriti and its associations with metabolism, chronic diseases, and genotypes: Possibilities of newborn screening and a lifetime of personalized prevention. J Ayurveda Integr Med 2014; 5:15-24

Barnes, PM et al., CDC National Health Statistics Report #12. The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the United States. Findings from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Statistics. December 2008

For information on The Bravewell Collaborative see www.bravewell.org/