There has been an increased demand for complementary or holistic medical care in recent years and there are several reasons behind this growing trend: the perception that too many prescription medications are being used; the desire for a more natural, less intense healing process; the desire to treat the entire individual rather than a body part or system; and a better understanding of these complimentary modalities and the discovery that they are effective and produce no side effects.
Complimentary or integrative medicine integrates established practices from Ayurveda (Hindu) medicine, which is 5,000 years old, and traditional Chinese medicine that dates back 4,000 years with current evidence-based western practices. In other words, the best from all recognized medical systems are combined to “complement” current medical practice.
The National Institutes of Health describes integrative medicine as “combining mainstream medical therapies and complimentary alternative medical therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.”
Andrew Weil, M.D., one of the leaders in integrative medicine care, defines the practice as “a healing-oriented medicine that takes into account the whole person – body, mind and spirit.”
Practitioners of integrative medicine often will prescribe meditation, mindfulness, Tai-Chi, yoga and acupuncture in addition to standard medical care. For example, heart patients may be prescribed beta blockers, statins, aspirin and ace inhibitors as well as meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. The treatment plan for chronic back pain patients may include acupuncture and Tai-Chi along with aromatherapy and acupressure for nausea.
Integrative medicine is not to be confused with “alternative” medicine, which can conjure up thoughts of bad medical practice with no basis in science. In my opinion, alternative medicine is unproven and potentially dangerous. It is quackery and fraud.
Integrative medicine will continue to grow as it is being introduced and taught in medical schools, including University of Miami and Florida International University, and becoming an integral part of most academic medical programs across the country.
You may be surprised to discover that in 1898, two brothers from Michigan began practicing what at the time was considered “alternative” medicine. They believed in fresh air, exercise, sleep, enemas and a vegetarian-type diet that included flaked oats and corn. One brother opened up a sanitarium, which was a predecessor to what we now know as a spa. The brothers, who were medical doctors, were the Kellogg brothers and the flaked corn product is the corn flakes we know today.
Jorge Bordenave, M.D., an integrative cardiologist in Coral Gables, is also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at FIU and Nova S. E. University and an Adjunct Professor of Medicine at Des Moines University. Certified by NOAA, UHMS as a dive/hyperbaric medicine physician, he can be reached at 305-446-2444.