What is Integrative Medicine?

Virginia Von Schaefer, M.D.
3 min readMar 22, 2023

Integrative medicine is a way to treat your whole body, mind and spirit. It combines traditional medical practices, complementary therapies, and lifestyle changes to improve your health. It can help you feel your best and boost your mood. It can also prevent disease and reduce pain.

It is a growing movement that looks at the bigger picture of your health and wellness, including diet, activity levels, stressors, genetics, and other factors that influence your long-term well-being. It also focuses on your relationships with your doctor, family and friends.

For example, an ulcer patient with a family history of digestive problems and experiencing stress may be advised to change their diet and start doing yoga. Other nontraditional treatments your provider might recommend include osteopathic manual manipulation (OMM) or meditation to help reduce blood pressure, depression and anxiety.

As the name implies, integrative medicine is a holistic approach to health care that considers your life’s physical, emotional, social and spiritual components. It also incorporates self-care strategies to help you stay healthy and avoid disease. For example, your physician may recommend supplements that support your immune system or a magnesium supplement to help boost your mood. Your provider will also discuss diet and lifestyle changes to improve your health.

Integrative medicine is a big deal in the medical community, with more and more patients choosing to take a more holistic approach to their healthcare. For instance, the latest research shows that a diet incorporating foods with low glycemic index and antioxidants can significantly reduce the risks of heart disease and cancer, saving billions of dollars in treatment costs.

Various nontraditional techniques, such as osteopathic manual manipulation, meditation, and massage therapy, can also be used to manage your pain and enhance your overall well-being. These practices all consider the body’s entire system and have been proven effective.

A holistic approach to pain management is a vital part of integrative medicine. During your first visit, an integrative medicine practitioner will look broadly at your physical, emotional, social and spiritual health to help you understand the causes of your symptoms.

The growing opioid crisis and the need for alternative pain treatments are leading medical educators and researchers to explore the effectiveness of non-pharmacological treatments. Integrative doctors in the Sutter Health network include these mind-body techniques in their treatment plans so that you can get back to the things that matter most to you.

One of the most common uses for integrative medicine is to improve your mood. It may be as simple as incorporating critical ingredients, such as tyrosine or tryptophan, into your diet. In addition, taking supplements of vitamins C and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc can help boost your mental health. You should also get plenty of vitamin D from the sun and exercise outdoors.

Some are a lot more impressive than others, so knowing what you are taking is essential. The key to success is to take the time to discuss what supplements you are taking with your doctor. They can provide more information about essential supplements for your health and well-being. This is a great way to ensure that you get all the benefits your body needs.

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Virginia Von Schaefer, M.D.

Virginia Von Schaefer, M.D. is a medical doctor with over 35 years of clinical experience in general and trauma surgery, oncology and endocrinology.