Integrative Medicine is the combining of both Western conventional medicine and natural approaches to health, sometimes called alternative medicine or natural medicine. Western medicine is the medicine all of us are used to in the U.S. We have symptoms. We go to our doctor. They prescribe a drug or want to do a diagnostic procedure or perhaps think some kind of surgery is necessary. This approach is geared to “fix” something that is wrong with us. Natural medicine is based on the belief that the body is a self-healing mechanism. If it is ill, it is out of it’s own balance. This approach is focused on correcting that imbalance. There are different approaches to do this depending on the specialty. Some examples are : Chiropractic focuses on the structure of the body. Acupuncture focuses on the energy body, soft tissue, and fascia. Massage focuses on the muscles and soft tissue. Herbology, naturopathy, and functional medicine focus on nutritional imbalances. Integrative Medicine uses the best of both approaches plus the self-empowerment of the patient in participating in their own healing process through education and lifestyle change.
I wrote this book because I believe we need this combined approach to provide the best care to our patients. It doesn’t have to be having to choose between the two approaches. it doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both/and. Western medicine is very skillful in treating injuries, acute illnesses, and life-threatening conditions. We have wonderful medical technology that can improve and even save lives. Just about anyone who has had their mobility return after a hip or knee replacement or heart bypass or even cataract surgery will tell you they experienced a miracle. When it comes to chronic pain or illness, illness related to lifestyle, people who have not responded to Western medical treatments, or people who prefer not to take medications and wish to participate in their own healing process, natural medicine is an excellent approach. I wanted to educate patients about the choices they have. I would also like to see medicine based more on patients and less on profit.
3. What is integrative medicine and how do you respond to those who are critical of it and would like more traditional medicine?
Having grown up in a medical home ( doctor father and nurse mother ) and having practiced nursing myself for 20 years, I have no problem with someone who prefers Western medicine. I believe in taking antibiotics for problems that could endanger our bodies and possibly lives. Strep throat is an example. I believe in a knee replacement if someone is no longer able to engage in healthy exercise. I feel extremely grateful to the doctors and nurses who kept my sister alive while she lay in a coma for two months. If someone is happy with their medical care, then I am happy as well.
4. Can you provide any examples of how integrative medicine helped someone heal?
I see this just about every day in my acupuncture practice. We work as a team in my office. We have two chiropractors, two massage therapists, myself, and three receptionists who have all been trained to be healers themselves. So, we work in a very integrative way. We work together with our patients and help each other stay healthy. We also have an excellent referral network of physicians and other health practitioners. I love watching our patients get better.
Some examples I would like to give of how a hospital can practice integrative medicine would be the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, U.C.L.A. Medical Center, and the Mayo Clinic. China actually has been practicing their own form of Integrative Medicine in their big cities for years. These hospitals have two branches: one for Western medicine and one for traditional Chinese medicine. If someone needs surgery, a diagnostic procedure, or medications, they are sent to the Western wing. If they need preventive medicine or have a chronic condition, they are sent to the traditional Chinese medicine wing where they may receive acupuncture, massage, and herbs. Many families practice self care through tai chi and qi gong and paying attention to diet.
5. How can we age gracefully?
We live in a culture that worships youth and dreads old age. In order to age gracefully, we have to let go of our conditioning that says old age means that our best days are behind us. They are not. I’m not so sure that retirement is a good idea, unless someone really wants to and has something they would really like to do, such as travel or exercise more, or write a book. But losing a sense of purpose I think ages us. We do need to pay more attention to our health than we did in our younger years. That includes brain health. We have to pay more attention to the basics of health like diet and regular exercise. Sleep is important. A friend of mine who is 79 has taken good care of himself and continues to do so. He looks 20 years younger, has an amazing head of hair, and plays golf several times a week. The effort is worth it. As for books, I think we all should write one. Our ancestors had story tellers. It’s important that we all tell our story. Wayne Dyer said, “Don’t die with your song unsung.”
6. What advice would you have for someone who is anxious about aging and resistant to it?
All any of us have is the present. We can’t change the past. The future is unknown. Being my age of 75, I am aware that I have more years behind me than in front of me. The blessing is that I am able to live in the present for the first time in my life. Another blessing is that I accept myself as I am for the first time in my life. I also seem to have lost most of my filters. I tend to blurt out what I think, including compliments to both men and women. I have always cared about what others thought of me. I don’t anymore. There is a freedom in that.
7. Did you experience any serendipity in your work or book? If so, what?
I have to admit writing my book was not easy. It was a labor of love that took me 6 years to complete. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to research and explore. For example, I became really intrigued with the history of medicine and found myself doing a lot of unexpected research. I ended up traveling to see medical facilities and interview people. It took me on a trip down memory lane, and I developed a deeper appreciation of the experiences I had and the people who have touched my life. The book has opened up my world and brought some wonderful experiences and people into my life. For example, this past year I was awarded the Top Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture by an organization called IAOTP ( International Association of Top Professionals.) The people I met at the awards ceremony were sincere about their desire to do good in the world….lots of philanthropists and humanitarians!