Principles of Integrative Medicine
Updated: Jun 22, 2019
Principles that differentiate Integrative Medicine from Conventional Medicine:
The principle of non-harm (Hippocratic Principle): Safe treatments are emphasized and the safer the better. This means pharmaceuticals are used far less frequently, and wherever possible, not at all. Pharmaceuticals in general are the lease safe form of intervention, and contrary to what conventional doctors are taught, there are nearly always safer interventions that are as effective or more so. When medications (or surgery) are the best and safest treatments they would be prioritized. While conventional medicine endorses this principle in theory, in practice, harm is often done and treatments are often dangerous, painful, or even mortal.
The principle of holism. The mind, body and all of its individual parts are regarded together, and links between them are looked for, although not necessarily presumed to exist. Conventional medicine is specialized and fragmented. While primary care physicians are supposed to take the broad view, in practice they do not implement or even comprehend principles of holism but instead act as a conduit through which specialized non-holistic care can flourish. .
The principle of non-linearity: rather than looking for linear causation in illness, illness is viewed as a self-perpetuating, reciprocal system, where the chicken doesn’t necessarily precede the egg or vice versa. For example, while we tend to think that food allergy causes upset stomach, sometimes there can be a more complex relationship between food and health that results in allergy as a byproduct of this disturbed relationship.
The ecologic principle. An individual’s health is viewed within the context of his or her internal and external ecosystems. This leads to efforts to re-establish healthy relationships with one’s micro and macro environments. Conventional medicine tends to view the individual as a being where the health disturbance lies within the individual rather than in one’s relationship with the ecosystem, materially, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.
The cooperative principle. The mind-body system is engaged in such a way as to promote a self-healing process, rather than forcing changes upon it. We work with natural forces rather than trying to disrupt or oppose them. Conventional medicine uses “anti” drugs - antihypertensives, antidepressants, antibiotics, which interfere with physiology rather than corrects it.
The energy principle: We utilize energetic treatments, recognizing that the body is not simply an assembly of interacting chemicals, but a dynamic matter-energy system, where illness and healing needs to be understood in both dynamic and material ways. Conventional medicine often looks askance at these types of therapies, alleging (without evidence) that these treatments lack a basis in science. It is also a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, as conventional medicine regularly utilizes, heat, cold, lasers, sound waves, and other energetic treatments.
The principle of empiricism: we emphasize empirically verified treatments, and avoid treatments with only theoretical but little or inadequate empirical grounding. We emphasize treatments with good science and good clinical data to support them. Conventional medicine tends to emphasize the science and disregard the clinical data that doesn’t conform to the science. It also sometimes places unwarranted trust in studies that are done by industry or those with have a strong bias to show a certain result. Integrative Medicine recognizes the limitations of medical research and makes clinical efficacy the bottom line, as it ought to be. It also recognizes that heuristically proven treatments that lack a strong scientific foundation may in some cases be preferable.
The principle of healing: cure rather than palliative treatment is emphasized. Whereas conventional medicine largely emphasizes the disease management model, where symptoms are contained but the underlying causes are not removed, integrative medicine emphasizes resolution of health problems by addressing their underlying causes. Integrative Medicine acknowledges that complete resolution is not always a possibility but aims to improve health whenever possible, even when complete resolution of illness is not possible.
The principal of prevention: Integrative medicine attempts to prevent disease from occurring or relapsing by improving overall health. This might also be called the principal of health maximization. Conventional medicine emphasizes intervening after the horse is out of the barn — once illness has appeared. Integrative medicine keeps the horse in the barn and tries to make sure it can not get out.
The epigenetic principal: Integrative Medicine recognizes that the vast majority of illnesses reflect an interaction of genetics and the environment. Many illnesses regarded by I.M. as epigenetic are regarded as exclusively genetic by conventional medicine. Obviously, there is not a lot one can do to change something which is viewed as fixed and immutable. What is regarded as environmentally mediated can be improved by removing the environmental triggers to genetically based illnesses. Examples of diseases regarded as epigenetic by I.M. are migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroidism, and multiple sclerosis.
The principal of minimalism: Integrative Medicine emphasizes using as little treatment and the gentlest, least invasive treatments whenever possible. Conventional medicine uses powerful treatments such as chemotherapy for cancer, antibiotics for infections, sometimes multiple antibiotics, polypharmacy, and powerful sedatives. While these sometimes are "effective" in managing symptoms or even solving health care problems they sometimes create as many or more problems than they solve.
The principle of causation: Integrative Medicine always tries to treat underlying causes rather than symptoms. Conventional medicine often gets caught up treating symptoms without addressing underlying causes, which are presumed to be unknowable. This is not to say that conventional medicine never treats underlying causes. It simply believes more often than Integrative Medicine that these causes are unknowable, or their secrets locked within the individual’s DNA.