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Integrative Medicine

What is Integrative Medicine?

You might be wondering, as I was just a few years back, what exactly is integrative medicine? The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health states that integrative medicine, “combines mainstream medical therapies and complementary and alternative medicine therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness”.

Andrew Weil, the medical doctor who founded the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in 1994, has called it whole person medicine, the basic tenants of which are the capacity of the human organism for self healing, and that lifestyle (diet, exercise, etc) plays an important role in an individuals’ health. 

In 2007, The Bravewell Clinical Network produced a Best Practices in Integrative Medicine Report and stated pediatric integrative medicine has a “focus on healing the whole child, makes use of all appropriate evidence based therapeutic approaches, including global medical modalities, to achieve optimal health and healing. [It] supports the individualization of care [and] neither rejects conventional medicine nor embraces alternative/complementary therapies uncritically.” 

As a practicing pediatrician, what pediatric integrative medicine has come to mean for me can be described as a comprehensive way of approaching my patients. When I am evaluating a patient suffering from a chronic condition, by utilizing integrative principles, I am able to get to know a patient more holistically, and learn what factors might be playing a role in this person’s ongoing problems. I typically find myself investigating imbalances of health by discovering what sorts of things s/he might be having an excess of, or might be lacking.

My treatment plan revolves around correcting these imbalances. The factors contributing to imbalance that I’ve learned to address are diet, gastrointestinal health, underlying infection, toxins, stress, level of physical activity, and genetics. I draw upon both mainstream and complementary and alternative medical treatments in order to create a plan best suited to target each individual person’s needs.


Why do we need integrative medicine?

While there is no doubt about the impressive advancements in many fields of conventional medicine including trauma injury, laparoscopic or minimally invasive surgery, and treatment of acute stroke or heart attack, the field of chronic medicine has unfortunately not had the same level of advancement.

It has been estimated from a study published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011 that 32 million U.S. children, 43% of the pediatric population in the U.S., have at least 1 of the following 20 chronic health conditions:



  • Anxiety

  • Asthma

  • Autism/Asperger’s/ASD/PDD

  • Behavioral or conduct problems

  • Bone, joint or muscle problems

  • Chronic concussion symptoms or other brain injury

  • Chronic ear infections, 3 or more within one year

  • Depression

  • Developmental delay

  • Diabetes

  • Environmental allergies including hay fever, respiratory or skin allergies 

  • Epilepsy/seizure disorder

  • Food or digestive allergies 

  • Hearing problem

  • Learning disabilities

  • Migraine headaches

  • Stuttering or other speech problems

  • Tourette Syndrome

  • Vision problems not corrected by glasses

This percentage increases to 54.1% when overweight/obesity or being at risk for developmental delays is added. 

Take a look at more of these sobering statistics:

A study in Reuters from 2010 finds the rate of U.S. children taking prescription medications is on the rise. In 2009, 25% of children took prescription medication for chronic conditions. 

Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows 11% of the U.S. pediatric population was diagnosed with ADHD in 2013. This represents a 16% increase from 2007 and a 41% increase from 2003. 

CDC data finds Autism on the rise with 1 in 68 U.S. children diagnosed in 2014, including 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 175 girls. This is compared to 1 in 91 children diagnosed in 2009 and 1 in 175 children in 2003.

Asthma prevalence has increased in U.S. children from 3.6% in 1980 to 9.3% in 2008 per CDC data.

From 1997 to 2011, food allergies in U.S. children have increased from 3.4% to 5.1% per CDC.


My Personal Experience as a Pediatrician

From 2005 until 2013, I was the medical director of a pediatric urgent care clinic. I witnessed firsthand the increasing number of patients seeking care for acute exacerbations of chronic medical conditions. I saw that the medications I prescribed and referrals I made to specialists often worked to get the patient out of their acute crisis but these patients continued to struggle with their underlying problem.

My subsequent studies in integrative medicine have allowed me to expand my toolbox of safe and evidence based diagnostic tools and treatments. This has allowed me to better address the root causes of these chronic diseases in order to contribute to the reduction of these staggering statistics.

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