Integrative doctors are also referred to as holistic doctors. These doctors draw on conventional and alternative treatments to help individuals heal from disease and prevent future health problems. Integrative doctors generally take a holistic approach to treatment that involves addressing a patient’s mind, body and spirit. Most integrative practitioners utilize less invasive procedures that are intended to trigger the body’s innate healing ability.
Integrative doctors treat the whole person. While conventional medicine might focus on testing, diagnosis, surgery and medication as the sole form of treating disease, an integrative doctor will assess all aspects of a patient’s lifestyle and symptoms. When patients visit an integrative doctor, they commonly answer questions related to diet, exercise, stress levels, sleeping patterns, digestive and elimination issues and skin health. Some of the physical and mental conditions for which integrative medicine is sometimes used include cancer, heart disease, digestive issues, breathing problems, depression and women’s health issues.
Integrative doctors draw on a combination of mind and body approaches when developing treatments. They generally have extensive knowledge of nutrition, offer dietary suggestions for treating illness and emphasize the use of dietary supplements and herbs. These practitioners also often focus on the emotional and mental well-being of a patient, sometimes applying mind-body-spirit approaches such as meditation and breathing techniques. Some integrative doctors also recommend that the patient seek additional treatment from chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists.
A visit to an integrative doctor will usually entail a lengthy conversation and an examination. Depending on the health condition, integrative doctors might also ask that the patient undergo numerous tests. A blood test, stool sample, urine test, saliva test, and hair sample are just a few of the special tests that may be required by an integrative doctor. Through examining the results, the holistic practitioner is able to determine, for example, whether a patient is deficient in particular vitamins and minerals, has a hormonal imbalance or is suffering from excessive toxicity.
Most integrative doctors are consulted as an adjunct to conventional therapies. A cancer patient who is recovering from the effects of chemotherapy, for example, might seek an integrative doctor to help rebuild her immune system and to rid her body of the toxic remnants of chemotherapy. An integrative doctor might help such a patient strengthen her immune system through adjustments to her diet and through the use of nutritional supplements. The doctor might also provide guidance on detoxification procedures using specific herbs and cleansing treatments.