What’s the Difference Between Conventional and Integrative Medicine?

What's the Difference Between Conventional and Integrative Medicine?

One Is About Symptom Management, the Other Is About Improving Health

by BodyLogicMD

With healthcare laws and regulations rapidly changing, who will you be able to trust with your health? When it comes to complex, chronic disease, conventional medicine may not be the best option.

Conventional medicine (also known as “insurance medicine”) is great at addressing serious and urgent medical conditions such as heart attacks, broken bones, and physical trauma. These conditions are typically treated with patented pharmaceutical drugs or surgery in a one-size-fits-all model. This is essential for visits to the emergency room, but what if your symptoms are not easily defined or diagnosed? What if you have nagging, persistent, chronic symptoms that are robbing you of your quality of life, but no doctor has been able to give you answers or a resolution?

Women in their childbearing years, for example, often experience hormonal symptoms such as irregular menstrual cycles, mood swings, and sleeplessness—all of which can be caused by low progesterone levels, or progesterone deficiency. But conventional gynecologists are not trained to identify these types of hormone deficiencies and correct them. They are trained to dispense oral contraceptive pills, sleeping pills, or antidepressants that may or may not alleviate symptoms for a period of time but may not resolve the actual cause of your problem. They also mask underlying imbalances, which could develop into bigger problems down the line if left unchecked, such as endometriosis, depression, infertility, and even a higher risk of reproductive cancers.

Or perhaps you’ve already been diagnosed with a chronic disease, such an endometriosis or polycystic ovarian syndrome, and the only option you’ve been given is medications whose side effects sound worse than the actual illness?

In recent years, many healthcare leaders, politicians, and socioeconomic analysts have acknowledged that the U.S. healthcare delivery system is coming up short. While we have the best healthcare system in the world for acute care medicine, it is greatly lacking in its ability to adequately address and provide solutions for chronic disease, which comprises more than eighty percent of all healthcare spending. The vast majority of ailments afflicting Americans, including autoimmune disease, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and obesity, are considered chronic illnesses.

Here’s where integrative medicine, which offers much broader treatment options than are available with mainstream medical therapies, enters the picture. While integrative medicine does have some similarities to conventional medicine, such as being evidence-based, utilizing advanced diagnostic testing, and offering treatments prescribed by licensed medical professionals, it also makes use of scientifically validated alternative therapies and addresses the whole person’s life, including the nutrition, lifestyle, and environmental factors that influence their health. Perhaps most importantly, integrative medicine aims to achieve one main thing that conventional medicine too often fails at: going beyond the mere treatment of symptoms to identify and reverse the causes of an illness.

What Is Integrative Medicine?

The American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM) defines integrative medicine as “the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.”

Integrative medicine has a focus on prevention as well as treating illness in the least invasive and most productive way possible, while treating the patient as a partner in their own healthcare team. It utilizes both conventional and alternative methods of treatment to encourage the body’s natural healing response, while pinpointing the root cause of physical symptoms, which are actually the body’s warning signs of trouble. Taking all factors that influence health and wellness into consideration, physicians are able to treat the person as a whole—mind, body, and spirit—to optimize health and prevent disease. Consultations typically run between 30 to 60 minutes as the physician develops a plan of action, taking all aspects of a patient’s history, physiology, environment, and current lifestyle into account.

Integrative medicine delivers real solutions, not short-term fixes. When compared with conventional medicine, which will always medicate symptoms, integrative medicine tailors testing and individualized treatment plans to address the root causes of your fatigue, weight gain, poor focus, sexual dysfunction, and other symptoms. Utilizing an integrative methodology, treatment will focus on what is causing these symptoms and how to correct the underlying issues, instead of simply prescribing a pharmaceutical drug—though it may at times include medications as well. Integrative medicine is personalized and addresses your unique health conditions, physiological needs, and life circumstances.

Integrative Medicine Conventional Medicine
Health-oriented Disease-oriented
Patient-centered Doctor-centered
Looks at underlying cause of disease Diagnosis based on symptoms
Emphasis on biochemical individuality Emphasis on one-size-fits-all approaches
Cost effective Expensive

While conventional medicine is certainly necessary and required in some instances, and there is always time and place for medication, many people have found out the hard way that it is not the solution for long-lasting, recurring symptoms or chronic disease. If you have been suffering from symptoms that are reducing your quality of life—or you simply don’t feel as good as you think you could feel—and, like many other patients, haven’t received adequate help from your medical providers, contact a BodyLogicMD-affiliated physician today. Physicians within the BodyLogicMD network specialize in integrative medicine and can get you back on a path to vitality. Take the first step today to reclaim your health and wellbeing.

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