Your primary care physician is charged with monitoring your overall health. A conventional physician will encourage annual screenings, vaccinations and prescribe medications when needed. In addition to the standard care, an integrative doctor will examine your health from multiple angles—including your physical health, environment, and emotional well-being—and will help you learn about self-care and alternative practices such as acupuncture, yoga, meditation, diet, and exercise to support your overall health and strengthen the conventional blueprint.
Here are the three pillars of health and wellness:
- Conventional Care: Annual physical exams, regular dental visits, screenings like pap smears, colonoscopies and vaccinations when appropriate.
- Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM): Acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, nutrition, exercise and yoga.
- Self-care: Mindfulness meditation, journaling, nutrition and exercise.
Creating a Health Blueprint
As a baseline, your physician should allow you to explore CAM therapies that you’re interested in exploring, provided they don’t pose a threat to your health or safety. But a truly integrative health partner will go a step further and actively promote evidence-based CAM practices that correspond with your current and future needs as a patient.
By examining your personal medical history as well as your family medical history, your doctor should be able to establish a loose blueprint of your health and help you to create guidelines that will increase wellness. For example, if you suffer from chronic pain, your integrative doctor should talk about drugless approaches to pain management—such as acupuncture and chiropractic—alongside more traditional pharmaceutical options.
Examples of Conventional Screening Components:
- Yearly mammograms for women 40 and older,
- Colonoscopy for all adults 50 years and older,
- Monitor cholesterol,
- Blood pressure (every two years)
- Monitoring for type 2 diabetes (every 3 years if you’re high risk, meaning your blood pressure is consistently over 135/80).
Examples of Integrative Screening Components:
- Discussion of diet and perhaps probiotics for digestive health, immune support;
- Yoga, meditation and qi gong or some other type of exercise to support physical health as well as promote mind/body wellness
- Practices to support good sleep, stress management, and self-care
- Discuss all medicines used whether pharmaceuticals or supplements
A good integrative doctor is tapped into a network of nutritionists, physical therapists and other alternative practitioners that can give you the tools you need for success. A good integrative physician will promote proven, evidence-based CAM and self-care therapies, incorporating them into your treatment plan in an educational manner. These specialists will guide you through your diagnosis and examine all aspects of care while creating a treatment plan that is specific to your unique needs.
Being a Self-promotional Patient
Just as your doctor should promote wellness through a number of proven methods, it is equally important that you promote your own health. Stay on top of annual screenings and check-ins with your medical team, and if something seems off or out of the ordinary, it is your job to report that to your doctor. You should also never be afraid to speak up with any concerns, ideas, or questions for your doctor. Open and honest communication with your physician is key.
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Meet Jenny Leyh
Jenny Leyh is a mother, freelance writer, cancer survivor and integrative health advocate living in Haddon Heights, New Jersey.