Understanding How Integrative Holistic Medicine Differs From Functional Medicine

Integrative Holistic Medicine, Expect Wellness

The CDC recently explored how common the use of nontraditional complementary medicine is among those 50 and older. They found that 37% of people regularly take herbal and dietary supplements. 22% receive types of bodywork like massage. Nine percent practice mind-body health.

As people explore a broader vision of how to get healthy and stay healthy, we hear a lot of terms: holistic medicine, integrative medicine, functional medicine, alternative medicine. These practices often seem very similar but have major differences. Understanding these differences helps you get the best care to experience the most optimal health. On the surface, functional medicine looks very much like integrative holistic medicine, but that major difference is important. Let's take a look at what functional and integrative holistic medicines share and what sets them apart.

What is integrative holistic medicine?

Holistic medicine recognizes that everything is connected: body, mind, emotion, spirit, your environment, and more. Each influences other aspects of your health, and in order to treat a certain ailment or health challenge, holistic medicine recognizes that a doctor must treat the whole person in a highly personalized manner rather than treating a disease.

For example, if a person is depressed, a doctor may prescribe medication for the depression. That medication may mask the depression and make the person feel better, but it doesn't look holistically at how the person can become healthier to battle the depression. They may lack exercise, have unresolved family challenges, a poor diet, negative thought patterns, hormone imbalances, and more. If you only address one of these, the depression persists; but if you treat a whole person and not just a disease, then something as terrible as depression can be eliminated. So can many chronic diseases.

The integrative part of integrative holistic medicine refers to the integration of traditional medical practices with well-studied and established lifestyle and healing practices from around the world like:

While traditional medicine works on the specific ailment, other healing methods work to heal you from the inside out. Integrative medicine requires a patient to be an active participant in the healing process because you only get out of it what you put into it. It's not unlike if you were to go to the gym every day and just walk around instead of trying to work up a sweat on the elliptical. Going to the gym won't help you get in shape if you're not actually doing the exercise. Integrative holistic medicine is a partnership between Dr. Hall and yourself to achieve optimal health.

This includes addressing things like diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, chronic pain, and even cancer in a holistic manner. While traditional medicine often treats these conditions as lifelong chronic illnesses with which you must just suffer or take medication, holistic integrative medicine looks at the mind-body-spirit connection and asks:

What is functional medicine?

Functional medicine strongly adheres to the philosophy of integrative medicine, employing many of the same techniques, but it differs in one important way. Functional medicine just focuses on one aspect of the body rather than viewing a patient holistically.  Functional medicine ascribes to the notion that every disease in the body has a primary cause, and ultimately when you get sick, it's because your body for one reason or another isn't functioning well in the natural world. 

Once functional medicine has rooted out a cause by looking deeply at what's going on with the body, it applies integrative techniques to remedy them. But it leaves things like mind and spirit out of the equation, and this can strongly influence the outcome.

Holistic matters

On the surface, functional medicine may appear to be similar to integrative holistic medicine because they have the "integrative" part in common. But because functional medicine typically only focuses on treating the ailment and the body, it's missing out on the mind-body-spirit connection. If you believe that a doctor should treat you like a whole person and respect the fact that it's all connected, you're looking for holistic integrative medicine.

If you're struggling with a health issue or just want to experience better overall health, seek out a doctor who treats you like the whole person that you are. Contact Expect Wellness to schedule an appointment.

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