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Natural Awakenings Austin

Integrative Medicine: The Good Medicine of the Future

By Gabriela Pichardo

Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affects a person’s health. The care is personalized to best address everyone’s unique conditions while focusing on the whole person, changing the emphasis in medicine to one of health and healing rather than disease. Aristotle was one of the first holistic physicians who believed that every person was a combination of both physical and spiritual properties with no separation between mind and body.

Integrative medicine combines mainstream medical therapies and complimentary and alternatives therapies (CAM) for which there is some scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness. CAM is not synonymous with integrative medicine; rather, CAM is a collection of therapies, many of which have a similar holistic philosophy. These days, more and more people are attracted to alternative forms of healing. Reasons can include the high cost of health care, unwanted drug side effects, or conventional treatments failing to heal a condition. In addition, many people feel unheard by their doctor as the medical system allows less and less time for doctors to spend with patients. 

Currently, is estimated that 42 percent of the population uses CAM.

One of the principles of integrative medicine is putting the patient rather than the disease at the heart of health care. A quote from Dr. Andrew Weil, founder and director of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, best explains this: “Imagine a world in which medicine was oriented toward healing rather than disease. Where doctors believed in the natural healing capacity of human beings and emphasized prevention above treatment. In such a world, doctors and patients would be partners working toward the same ends.”

In addition to addressing and handling the immediate health problem(s) as well as the deeper causes of the disease or illness, integrative medicine strategies also focus on prevention and foster the development of healthy behaviors and skills for effective self-care that patients can use throughout their lives. For example, people addressing their health with better nutrition and lifestyle choices to help them prevent coronary heart disease or another chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.  

An integrative medicine provider uses all healing sciences to facilitate the body’s innate healing response. They always try to use effective interventions that are natural and less invasive, whenever possible. Another important principle of integrative medicine is time spent listening to patients. The patient and the clinician are partners in the healing journey and process. Integrative doctors take the time to help each patient figure out what is preventing them from achieving their best possible health. This healing encounter takes time, since the clinician needs to have a solid understanding of the patient’s culture, beliefs and lifestyle.  This invaluable information will help facilitate changes in behavior resulting in improved health of the patient and more value to the health care delivery.

Integrative medicine is the good medicine of the future. It can provide the balance needed for both the physician and patient.  It is refreshing to see that this ancient practice—based on a balance of mind, body and spirit that has been around since the time of Aristotle—is making a comeback. Each day more health care providers and health centers are implementing integrative medicine practices thus changing the ways they approach health and healing.

The 10 most used CAM therapies among adults include: 
1) Deep breathing
2) Natural products 
3) Meditation 
4) Chiropractic and osteopathic care
5) Massage 
6) Yoga
7) Diet-based therapies 
8) Progressive relaxation
9) Guided imagery 
10) Homeopathic treatment

Source: Integrative Medicine, by Dr. David Rakel

Did you know? 

Chronic or acute pain is one of the most common reasons for people to seek out CAM. Low back pain accounts for the highest percentage of CAM use. A past review, from 2002 to 2007, showed an increase in the use of CAM in those who did not have access to conventional medical care, thus showing the importance of CAM as an option for the uninsured.

 Gabriela Pichardo, M.D., is an integrative physician at West Holistic Medicine, in Austin. She has a passion for women’s health, hormone-related issues and gut health as well as overall optimization of health.  For more information, contact her at 512-814-0148 or visit

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