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Complementary vs. Integrative Medicine

Naturna will soon launch a mini-video series on the topic of Integrative Medicine. This blog is written to give clarity to the subject before launching into further discussion. Particular focus is on the differences between and benefits of Complementary and Integrative Medicine.

The basic definitions are as follows:

  • Complementary Medicine refers to a variety of modalities, including but not limited to, acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy.
  • Integrative Medicine is the combination of one or more fields of Complementary Medicine with modern Conventional or Western/Allopathic Medical approaches.

Complementary Medicine is often referred to as alternative medicine. Although both definitions make sense, both are defining these various fields of medicine in relation to their “western” counterpart. The question is “complementary” or “alternative” to WHAT? Western/conventional medicine of course. This makes the assumption that everyone is putting Western Medicine first. While I understand and support the importance of conventional medical practice, my approach is to focus on using complementary methods first, followed by western/allopathic in more serious cases.

Please don’t get the impression that I’m opposed to western/allopathic medicine. On the contrary, I’m a huge fan. The advances in modern medicine are nothing short of INCREDIBLE. My personal health philosophy involves management of one’s lifestyle and nutrition in a way that safeguards your health rather than turning to medications and surgery to avoid “dealing with it.” It’s about taking responsibility in every way you can.

Complementary medical approaches such as Chinese Medicine teaches you how to care for yourself in order to avoid advanced intervention. I don’t believe any of us want to be dependent on medications and/or surgeries.

Integrative Medicine is the optimum model in that it incorporates both western and eastern/natural approaches. I often refer my patients to other doctors for further diagnosis and treatment. The benefit is that the care will be:

  1. Comprehensive
  2. Effective.

Western diagnostics are particularly important in figuring out the severity of an issue. It’s very beneficial to have this as an option in order to make informed decisions on whether to incorporate more advanced measures.  

Examples are:

  1. Referring people out for scans to determine whether their pain is being caused by something structural/organic.
  2. Referring out for hormone tests and ultrasounds/scans of the reproductive system in cases of fertility challenges.

Western and Eastern complement each other and can in many cases improve and quicken results. Equally important is that it improves the patient’s experience and outcome. Integrative and complementary care are growing in popularity and reshaping the future of medicine.

Stay tuned for clips from our video series on Integrative Medicine. Some outstanding doctors will be featured, sharing their perspectives on various approaches and how this may shape the future of healthcare.

Yours Truly,

Dr. Christina Burns

Founder, Naturna Institute