Integrative Medicine is an approach to integrated healthcare that focusses mainly on the patient and addresses a whole range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect the health of the person. This write-up by Prof. Abhimanyu Kumar will educate us on the basics of integrative medicine along with its application, advantages, how IT can be applied to integrative medicine and more.
Integrative Medicine is a personal strategy that adheres to the uniqueness of the person, their needs and their circumstances. It uses the most appropriate intervention from various available systems of healthcare to cure the disease and ensure optimum health to the sufferer. Today, we consider modern medicine, popularly known as Allopathy,for disease treatment along with a series of AYUSH systems of medicine. In India, Ayurveda and Yoga are two ancient sciences that are the strongest partners with conventional medicine (Allopathy) in the format of Integrative Medicine.
In this integrative treatment process, both the patient and physician have equal participation. During the process of treatment, all factors affecting health, welfare and disease are kept in mind; including body, mind, soul and community. Health providers use all healing systems to facilitate the spontaneous treatment of a patient. Integrative medicine is natural and less invasive but its intervention is effective. Integrative medicine follows the concept of treatment that promotes health and prevents illness. This perfectly fits with the objective of Ayurveda that considers prevention and promotion of health rather than treatment.
Integrative approach provides personalized care that addresses the individual’s unique conditions, needs and circumstances. Practitioners of integrative medicine exemplify its principles and commit themselves to self-exploration and self-development.
Personalised approach of treatment is the uniqueness of Ayurveda and this is well- established with the concept of Prakriti. According to Ayurveda, every person has a unique body & mind constitution (prakriti) and this is taken into consideration for good lifestyle planning and disease management.
Advantages of Integrative Medicine
Integrative treatment promotes health of the mind, body and spirit so as to regain the body’s natural equilibrium.Its most common advantages are:-
- It is healing oriented
The focus of integrated medicine with Ayurveda is about welfare, vitality and treatment rather than concentration on the disease. It starts with the assumption that there is a physical equilibrium that is obstructed which leads to the manifestations of disease. By achieving the natural state of balance, health is restored.
- It’s focus is more on the mind, body and spirit
Patients with different disease symptoms affecting different organs visit specialist doctors for their various problems and diseases. This is known to create confusion and havoc in the mind of patient resulting in inappropriate treatment. Also, this type of treatment proves to be very expensive too. Integrative medicine focuses on how the different symptoms are linked so as to treat these symptoms by exploring the root cause. Here, the focus is more on restoring the balance of the body, mind and spirit.
- Integrative medicine is a therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient
There is a new focus on the doctor-patient partnership that inspires doctors to treat patients by deciding on the best plan of action.In the management of chronic diseases, attention is given to the interaction with the patients so as to have a clear status of the disease and treatment. While addressing obstacles in lifestyle and treatment, there is a high probability of success with a recommended Ayurveda approach.
- Personalised treatment
In integrated treatment, recommendations vary according to the uniqueness of each person. In Ayurveda, uniqueness or prakriti of an individual is identified before starting any treatment process. To develop research based evidence for the safety and efficacy of the treatment methods from other systems of medicine, like Ayurveda, Yoga etc. the expert often checks the literature by using scientific method to evaluate treatment methods of these systems. Integrated clinical research evaluations are highly personalized. Patients are asked about everything from environmental exposure to personal relationships while determining the healthy or diseased status of a patient.
- Use of various compatible therapies:
Combining traditional and allopathic treatment options along with Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation; a treatment plan is developed that uses non-invasive and cost-effective treatment. Getting a sense of well-being is particularly important in cases where treatment is not always possible.Most of the integrated treatment experts determine the appropriate treatment after ascertaining its scientific validation. Most of the time taking allopathy medicines and adding some Ayurvedic therapies, especially Panchakarma; is a good combination that can potentiate the effects of Allopathic drugs. This will thus minimise the side effects of Allopathic drugs.
Best model of Integrative Medicine- fusion of Allopathy, Ayurveda and Yoga
Every system of medicine has its advantages as well as disadvantages. Human beings are the best example of nature’s creation which despite its complexity in structure and function, works smoothly. Every cell of the body is connected with each other and is well coordinated.Thus, the body and mind are well connected with each other and also with the soul. Every cell is known to have a physical body, mind and soul and this is the reason why it is known to be alive. Ayurveda considers the individual as a whole and this compliments the reductionist approach of Allopathy in which patient is treated for its symptoms. Therefore, all the best of Allopathy, Ayurveda and Yoga is considered together to serve the human being for maintaining health in its best form.
Disease conditions best treated with Integrative Medicine
Integrative medicine incorporating Ayurveda treatment has been found most effective in various chronic physical health problems along with various psychological and psychiatric disorders.
- Pain is the most common health issue that we all experience. Chronic pain, musculo-skeletal and joint pain,headaches are common types of pain that are effectively managed by Integrative approach of treatment. Ayurvedic panchakarma therapies provide great relief to chronic pain.
- Gastrointestinal conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), chronic constipation, hyperacidity etc. are problems that are best treated with conventional medicines.However, Ayurveda treatment protocols have been proved to be very effective for treating these conditions.
- Women’s health issues, like infertility, nausea and vomiting in pregnancy, and pre/ post-menopausal conditions are treated with hormonal therapy but some women avoid or discontinue it due to negative hormonal impacts. Certain Ayurveda procedures like Uttar-basti along with Ayurveda medicines and dietary considerations provide added advantage along with conventional treatment.
- Children suffering from conditions like, Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, ADHD, Autism need support from Ayurveda along with Allopathy for best results.
- Various behavioural disorders are best managed by Integrative approach of treatment. Good effect had been demonstrated in several studies that conditions like depression, anxiety, stress-related neurological problems, fatigue etc. are best treated with integrative treatment methods by adding Ayurveda treatment therapies and Yoga.
- Scientific studies support that the side effects of chemotherapy are minimised by the use of Ayurvedic drugs. Palliative cancer care can be done in a best manner by adding Ayurveda approach and meditation.
IT in Integrative Medicine makes it more user friendly
Information Technology (IT) has tremendous impact on integrated medicine. One of the important approaches of Integrative medicine is to make the patient aware about their health problems. Through internet one has easy and quick access to health related information. The biggest problem, however,is its credibility. False and confusing information can do more harm than good to the patients. Therefore, importance of online support groups, bulletin boards, chat rooms and other social networking sites well supported by the experts of Conventional and Ayurveda and similar other systems needs to be active and functional. E-mail communications may help to monitor patient responses and adverse events observed during the course of treatment, better patient compliance, and refine patient-centred outcome evaluation in clinical studies. The use of artificial intelligence has the potential to contribute to the whole system research of Ayurveda. Use of Information technology in research of Integrative medicine may provide many tools that have not been used adequately.
Prof Abhimanyu Kumar
Uttarakhand Ayurved University