How Is Naturopathic Medicine Different From Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine has become a popular approach to medicine. Many cancer centers around the U.S. have taken an integrative approach to cancer care. Medical systems have also introduced integrative healthcare and many medical doctors have embraced this approach to medicine.

By definition, integrative medicine coordinates the use of conventional and non-conventional medical therapies to promote health and wellness in a patient. Cancer centers, for example, have engaged with naturopathic doctors to support patient care through natural medicines and approaches to improve recovery and enhance quality of life. From this view, integrative medicine includes both conventional and non-conventional approaches. In a sense, this is correct, but not entirely.

The reality is that naturopathic medicine is integrative medicine.

Integrative Care – the Definition of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine takes a holistic approach to patient care. A naturopathic doctor seeks to treat the whole person, which, yes, includes physical health, but also the mental, emotional and even spiritual health. To accomplish this, the naturopathic physician applies the most appropriate medical therapies possible to achieve the best result with least amount of harm, aka side effects.

This approach is well-defined by the Therapeutic Order, a guideline to treatment protocols for naturopathic doctors. It begins with an effort to identify the root cause and applies the least invasive treatments to achieve the best, fastest and most complete recovery possible. As problems, disease or illness become more severe, the naturopathic doctor applies more directed treatments. In the most serious cases, especially where life and limb require aggressive treatments for survival, the naturopathic doctor will engage and employ conventional medical therapies.

In this way conventional medicine fits into the naturopathic doctor’s care options. It also means that naturopathic medicine is by its very nature integrative medicine. This may explain why many people have begun to choose naturopathic doctors as their primary care providers.

The Benefits of Integrative Medicine

Perhaps the biggest benefit of integrative medicine is the way it empowers patients. The combination of conventional and natural medicine creates more options. This allows patients to regain control over their health and have greater input into their own care.

Patients also become empowered by the knowledge they gain. More options means an opportunity to learn new ways to address the challenges presented by a condition. Patients also come to understand the relationship of every aspect of their life from diet, exercise and environment to their overall health.

Another benefit includes a strong, trusted relationship with their doctors. Options and knowledge give patients more reason to engage with their doctors, ask questions and, with the holistic aspect of integrative medicine, discuss their health on a much deeper level. This builds trust.

These represent a few of the big benefits integrative medicine offers patients. Less side effects, attention to the emotional needs created by an illness, and the focus on the person rather than the pathology being treated are among many others.

Is Integrative Medicine for You?

Today, most major medical facilities offer integrative medicine. This makes it easy to request and find integrative medical care. Many medical doctors have embraced it as well and may be able to refer you to a naturopathic doctor or specialized healthcare provider (think acupuncture) as needed.

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