What is Integrative Health and Why Does It Matter?
By Dr. Erik Reis
Integrative health combines the best standard of care medical treatments with the best complementary strategies for supporting the body’s normal functions of defense, recovery, and repair to achieve best patient outcomes. The goal of this blog is to introduce you to the emerging movement of integrative health, and some of the most compelling technologies driving its rapid acceptance in modern health care.
Integrative health is not the next craze for providing temporary relief from all that ails you. It is the use of science to address the very core issues that have made us one the sickest, most tired, and most overweight countries on the planet.
The US now consumes almost 50% of the total prescribed drugs in the world with less than 5% of its population. We spend over twice as much on healthcare as any other country, yet rank only 37th in the world in total health population according to the World Health Organization.
It’s easy to conclude that something has gone terribly wrong.
One of my peers, Dr. Mimi Guarneri, co-founder and medical director of the Scripps Center for integrative health, says the problem with our current healthcare system is that we focus on sick care and not health care and that integrative health helps move our current system away from doing things to people, towards a more holistic approach of supporting their recovery.
For example, pharmaceutical drugs are designed to alter disease processes in the body providing a basis for the management of chronic disorders. Sounds good, right? Well, it turns out that their toxicity can actually suppress the body’s normal immune functions while in addition causing long-term damage to our glands and organs.
So, while there is definitely the need for life-saving medications, the overuse of pharmaceutical drugs can be absolutely devastating. In fact, the toxic side effects of properly prescribed drugs have become the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
But here’s some good news. Science has shown that specific molecules in nature when used in efficacious amounts, can actually reduce the toxic side effects of drug therapies while supporting the bodies functions of recovery that are being so compromised.
The result? Everybody wins. Patients achieve faster and better results, the need for medications can be significantly reduced, and health care costs can be dramatically cut. The driving force behind the growing acceptance of integrative health from within the healthcare community is the science and proven efficacy of some of nature’s most powerful, nontoxic molecules. Integrative health researchers look for the most potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune enhancing plant sourced molecules. They then identify the amount of these molecules required to maximize those benefits in the human body. It’s these quantifiable results, that distinguish integrative health research from the more traditional nutritional research.
One of the biggest obstacles to the proliferation of integrative health strategies into our healthcare system is that current law restricts the medical community solely to the use of an approved standard of care treatments when dealing with chronic diseases. However, despite this obstacle, doctors are beginning to totally embrace their patients’ decisions to utilize science-based nutrition as an effective supplemental health strategy.
At the practicing physician level, another of my peers, Dr. Tracy Gaudet, former executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine, says that she encounters little resistance once fellow doctors understand that integrative medicine doesn’t entail blindly advocating alternative approaches and rejecting conventional ones. She sums it up by saying, “We all want the same thing-the best care for our patients.” Dr. Guarneri adds, ” For me, integrative health is saying there is a time for supplements and a time for bypass surgery. And we want doctors, nurses, and other practitioners who are comfortable with both.
Just a few years ago, the concepts of integrative health would have been relatively foreign in the health community. But that has changed, and the catalyst for that change has been public demand. A perfect storm of factors, including out-of-control healthcare costs, the rising rates of diet-related health conditions, and a growing concern over the toxic impact of pharmaceutical interventions have given rise to the increasing demand for science-based integrative solutions.
Paracelsus, the father of pharmacology, said “everything man needs to achieve and sustain good health is provided by God in nature. It’s the job of science to find it”.
And that’s exactly what integrative health researchers are doing. Finding the best support solutions for everything from the most chronic health care concerns to the efficient burning of fat. From the optimal production of natural energy to breakthrough technologies for high-performance athletes.
Some of the most advanced integrative nutritional technologies that I’ve found are provided by the Evolv Hope movement, a social business platform dedicated to the eradication of childhood malnutrition. I am excited to share those discoveries with you to help support their amazing mission. My hope is this information can both educate and inspire you to pursue the best quality of life possible through the most compelling integrative health discoveries.