East meets West: What you need to know about integrative medicine

November 8, 2016
Helpful Advice

This is part 2 of our series on integrative medicine, featuring Dr. Tad. If you missed the first part click here to get caught up!  

Do you know what integrative medicine is?

If not, don't worry -- you're not alone. Many Americans are woefully unaware of  one of the most effective forms of medicine. To help you get in the know on this ancient secret, I've summarized the definition, history, and practices of integrative medicine. 

The information collected here is from one of America's foremost experts: Dr. Tad Sztykowski (who has treated more than 46,000 patients and has over 30 years of experience). 

The definition of integrative medicine

Traditionally, integrative medicine is form of healthcare that relies first on Chinese techniques (e.g. acupuncture, massage, and lifestyle changes) before resorting to the Western techniques (e.g. surgeries and medications). 

Integrative medicine focuses on preventing more serious ailments with less invasive and drastic treatments. Practicing yoga, meditation, qi gong, tai chi, and using Chinese herbs are all ways to bring integrative therapy into your life. 

How it all began

"The Chinese were the ones that first came up with integrative medicine and that was back in the 1950s. So we are talking 60+ years right now and it was basically a necessity," begins Dr. Tad. After World War 2, communist China was extremely poor -- they could not afford the expensive Western medicine.  Mao also disliked the older chinese medicine, often called Emperor's Medicine, because the communists did not support emperors. Still, Mao needed to provide healthcare to the 5 or 6 million people at the time.  As a result, they took aspects of both Western and the Emperor's medicine to create integrative medicine. 

Mao Zedong, one of the fathers of integrative medicine
‍Mao Zedong, one of the fathers of integrative medicineIntegrative medicine today

Integrative medicine has it's roots in history, but that doesn't mean it's old fashioned.  In fact, China has been reported to be a healthier nation than the United States, while spending far less money on their health care system (about 25x less). 

In America, the first person to really start talking about integrative medicine was Dr. Weil. He started training post-graduate medical doctors to add more natural approaches to medical care. This included training on acupuncture, Chinese herbs, dietary changes, etc. 

Even though it's been about 23 years, America still hasn't realized the full extent of benefits from integrative medicine. "We are still not utilizing this medicine in the proper manner," laments Dr. Tad. "We still have a lot to catch up [on] and a lot to change." 

Integrative medicine vs. Western medicine

To simplify, Dr. Tad broke down the differences into three major categories. First, the primary goal of integrative medicine is to find the root cause of the ailment. Second, integrative medicine treats the root cause of the ailment, rather than the symptoms. The third point of difference is to use the least "harmful treatment options" before something harsher, like medications and surgery. 

Check back next week for the next post in the series. We will be covering how integrative medicine helps cancer patients, as well as people who may not currently have any health problems. 

Want to connect with skilled integrative medicine experts like CIMH in your area?                                                

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