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    What Is Integrative Medicine?

    Integrative medicine pairs Western, or conventional, medicine with other treatments to care for your mind, body, and spirit.  For example, your doctor may suggest chemotherapy to fight cancer -- along with acupuncture to help manage its side effects.

    It isn’t just medicine. Your care team may also design a plan to help you build healthy behaviors and skills -- like smart eating habits and stress-busting activities. These things can keep you healthy for the long term.

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    Integrative medicine should be backed by good science. Always tell your doctor before you try a nontraditional treatment. That way, you’ll know if it’s safe and likely to work.

    Integrative vs. Other Types of Medicine

    There are a lot of new terms to learn when you go outside regular medical care:

    Conventional medicine. This is what you get from medical doctors, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, and similar health care professionals. You might hear it called:

    • Standard medical care
    • Biomedicine
    • Allopathic medicine
    • Western medicine
    • Mainstream medicine
    • Traditional medicine 

    Alternative medicine. True to its definition, this type of care is used instead of (an alternative to) standard medical care. For example, you might go on a special diet that claims to cure hypertension or diabetes instead of taking drugs your doctor prescribes. This isn’t common, but it does happen. Talk to your doctor before you decide to skip traditional treatment.

    Complementary medicine. It’s often used along with traditional medicine. It can help you manage the side effects of cancer treatment.

    Integrative medicine. This approach takes the most effective treatments from different disciplines, including standard medicine and complementary approaches. The result is a personalized health plan for your unique physical and emotional needs.

    Key Principles of Integrative Medicine

    It’s a medical specialty. That means you can find a doctor who is board-certified in integrative medicine and trust that your treatments will be safe and proven to work. What you can expect from this kind of medical care?

    • A close partnership with your doctor
    • A focus on noninvasive treatments when possible
    • Commitment to treatments based on evidence that they work
    • Consideration of everything that influences your health, including your home environment
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