Updated: Feb 4, 2021
In the last decade, we've seen an increase in alternative, complimentary, integrated, holistic approaches to health care. People are seeking other ways to heal and curtail health issues without or in addition to medications. It's a good thing that people are taking charge and responsibility for their own health instead of hoping doctors can "fix" the problems. Even doctors are noticing the benefits of alternative treatments. All medicinal practices contribute to our lives by improving conditions and a positive outlook. However, there are certain aspects that make each unique.
Conventional medicine is common, mainstream practice. It is treatment based and aims to fix symptoms. It's also an immediate response to an urgent complaint. It often focuses on reducing symptoms and treating conditions with a “one size fits all” approach. This includes traumas, emergencies, and diagnosis and/or treatment of illnesses. Examples of conventional medicine support include treating an outbreak rash that's spreading uncontrollably, emergency care post traumatic events, a prescription for a chronic cough, or chest pains. Any and all of these cases would require acute care, which engages the protocols of conventional treatment and/or pharmaceuticals. We want conventional medicine in urgent situations where time is of the essence. It is standard medical care.
In additional to conventional medicine, there is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). It works in tandem and / or independent of standard medical care.
Functional medicine is within the CAM category and uses non-mainstream practices. It focuses on whole person treatment as opposed to just symptom response. It is cause-based and engages additional therapies aside from conventional methods. For example, if you have a tense neck, you might get a massage or schedule a spa day for full relaxation and treatments. It looks for ways to improve the person's wellbeing in the long term. A patient’s lifestyle, stress level, and overall health are considered. Doctors use traditional medications when it’s appropriate, but incorporate functional, holistic approaches like reflexology, nutrition, exercise, talking therapies and acupuncture to assisting in improving conditions. Functional medicine tends to emphasize non-toxic interventions, such as botanical medicine and nutritional supplementation, rather than exclusively relying on pharmaceutical agents.
Similar to functional medicine, integrative medicine also focuses on the patient’s overall wellbeing. It incorporates the conventional and functional concepts, but is more focused on lifestyle and behavior changes, prevention, and improvement before conditions become acute. It's concept is around maintaining a state of wellbeing. However, if health issues arise, as they can no matter what health regimen we follow, integrated medicine can compliment a patient's health plan. It also addresses a full range of influences and lifestyle factors that might jeopardize future health. A holistic health approach of the mind, body, and soul is important.
Integrative practices aim to introduce people to healthy behaviors so they can take charge of their wellness, engage preventive measures and reduce symptoms. It is becoming increasingly supported by allopathic physicians and healthcare delivery systems world-wide.
Generally, a doctor, practitioner and patient work together as a team, with the patient as the common factor, to establish which areas need improvement. A good patient-doctor-practitioner relationship is essential for integrative and functional protocols to work.
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VKNOX is a holistic nutrition wellness practitioner, certified behavior change specialist, certified fitness nutrition educator, lifestyle transformation coach and author. She is the creator of the R.A.W. Lifestyle System.