FAQ: INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE

What is Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM)?

CAM is a term used to encompass a wide variety of diverse treatment and diagnostic techniques that are currently outside of the mainstream of medicine in this country. The treatments may be used in conjunction with conventional medicine (complementary) or they may be complete (alternative) systems in their own right, such as traditional Chinese medicine.

Many of these systems have deep historical and intellectual roots in the cultures of other countries and have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. In fact, for over 70 percent of the world’s population they are not "alternative" but in fact the primary source of health care.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has defined CAM as: "those healthcare and medical practices that are currently not part of conventional medicine."

What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine incorporates elements of complementary and alternative medicine alongside conventional, mainstream methods of treatment and diagnosis. At its heart, however, it aims to do more than just add new tools to the medicine bag. Integrative medicine aims to enhance current medical practice and, although perceived as a "new movement", it in fact re-focuses medicine on its ancient roots and values. These values include:

  • Whole Person Care: Attending not only to the physical but also to the psychological, emotional, social, spiritual and cultural dimensions of each person
  • Relationship & Patient-centered Care: Recognizes the fundamental importance of the relationship between the patient and the health care provider, is deeply respectful of the wishes and experience of the individual patient, and values the patient as an active partner in their own care
  • Self-care: Believing that health care providers should be teachers, facilitating patients in caring for themselves in order to both prevent and alleviate illness. At the same time, providers should themselves embody a philosophy of self-care and, in being truly attentive of their own health and well being, better serve the needs of others
  • Evidence-based: Supporting informed decision-making based on the best available evidence on the safety and effectiveness of all treatment options

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is a distinctively natural approach to health and healing that recognizes the wisdom of the natural healing process. By emphasizing the treatment of disease through the stimulation, enhancement, and support of the inherent healing capacity of the patient, Naturopathic Medicine achieves a deeper level of healing.

Naturopathic Physicians are trained to serve as primary care general practitioners who are experts in the prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of both acute and chronic health conditions.

Naturopathic Medicine is based on the following principles:

  • Do No Harm: Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective.
  • The Healing Power of Nature: The human body possesses the inherent ability to restore health. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process with the aid of natural and nontoxic therapies.
  • Identify & Treat the Causes: Physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
  • Treat the Whole Person: The multiple factors in health and disease are considered while treating the whole person. Physicians provide flexible treatment programs to meet individual health care needs.
  • Doctor as Teacher: The physician’s major role is to educate, empower, and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health for knowledge is truly power. Creating a healthy, cooperative relationship with the patient has a strong therapeutic value.
  • Prevention is the Best “Cure”: Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists. Physicians assess patient risk factors and heredity susceptibility and intervene appropriately to reduce risk and prevent illness. Prevention of disease is best accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports health.
  • Wellness: Naturopathic physicians establish and maintain optimum health and balance. Wellness is a state of being healthy, characterized by positive emotion, thought, and action.

Does healthcare insurance pay for Integrative Medicine?

It depends on the coverage of your policy. Many insurance companies recognize the benefits and cost-effectiveness of complementary therapies and offer coverage to include them. Spending on most complementary therapies is considered a medical expense and may also be eligible for a healthcare flexible spending account.