Find out what integrative medicine is and how it can relieve pain, manage stress and treat heart disease for a better quality of life.
By Dr. Maureen Anderson and Gail Elliott Patricolo
So you hear the term integrative medicine and aren’t quite sure what that means. You are not alone. There are many individuals who shy away from consultations due to confusion or misunderstanding as to what a program might involve. We would like to share some information that might help you understand what integrative medicine is and how it supports a person’s well-being.
Integrative medicine (or integrative health) is the science of combining multiple therapies to enhance conventional care. These evidence-based approaches are patient-centered and focus on the whole person — mind and body — with the goal of improving quality of life. These therapies can help people cope by relieving pain, managing anxiety and stress and enhancing wellness.
What does that mean for an individual? We will use an example of assisting someone with chest pain or shortness of breath. The first step is to get thoroughly checked for heart disease or other conditions. At Beaumont Medical Center in West Bloomfield, the expert medical team of physicians in the Ministrelli Heart Center will examine the patient and identify any abnormalities through tests such as cardiac stress testing using exercise or a pharmacological agent to simulate exercise; cardiac ultrasound (echo); or holter monitoring. The doctors will discuss the results with each patient and, if treatment is needed, recommend options for care.
If a person has been diagnosed with heart disease, lifestyle changes might be recommended. That is where integrative medicine can help. Doctors and experts can develop a comprehensive, personalized treatment program to address diet, exercise and stress levels.
Integrative therapies for heart disease focus on four main areas: nutrition, sleep, relaxation and movement.
Nutrition: Proper nutrition is essential for optimal health. Nutrition affects cholesterol, blood pressure, heart rhythm and circulation. Dietary changes will be recommended at the initial provider visit. Patients needing extra support can meet with an integrative dietitian to develop a personalized plan, blending food and supplements. The patient’s eating habits and preferences will be taken into account when developing the plan.
Sleep: Sleeping is involved in the healing and repair of the mind and body. Two therapies that have been proven to support better sleep include guided imagery and acupuncture. Guided imagery is a form of meditation involving all senses. Acupuncture is the use of sterile thin needles to stimulate specific nerves and muscles resulting in better sleep.
Relaxation: The act of becoming relaxed can help to lower blood pressure and to strengthen the immune system. Therapies promoting relaxation include guided imagery, clinical massage, Reiki and craniosacral therapy. Again, guided imagery elicits the relaxation response through imagination. A clinical massage can improve the healing process, metabolism and circulation through manipulation of soft tissue in the body. Reiki therapy is a gentle, energy balancing technique thath helps to decrease pain and anxiety. Craniosacral therapy is a gentle, noninvasive form of body work involving the head, spinal column and sacrum.
Movement: Yoga therapy looks at how a person thinks, moves and breathes. The therapist will develop a personalized home program for a patient, taking abilities and limitations into consideration.
These complementary services are not meant to replace traditional medicine and the recommendations of the patient’s cardiologist. They are to be integrated into the patient’s lifestyle. It’s a whole body approach that treats the person as a whole. Everything in our bodies is interconnected, so an issue in one organ system is connected with all the others.
For integrative medicine to be successful, highly skilled and specially trained practitioners know the unique needs of each patient must be addressed. All practitioners have the highest level of training in their field and are overseen by a physician.
We hope this information can help you determine whether an integrative approach to wellness is right for you. Find out more at beaumont.org/services/integrative-medicine or visit us at the Beaumont Medical Center/Ministrelli Heart Center at 6900 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield. Call 248-855-7432.
Dr. Maureen Anderson specializes in integrative medicine and is board certified in emergency medicine. Dr. Anderson earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School and has been in practice for more than 33 years.
Gail Elliott Patricolo is the director of Integrative Medicine. She has a graduate degree in complementary medicine and wellness and for the last 14 years has developed one of the most comprehensive integrative medicine programs in the country for Beaumont Health.