Integrative Medicine: Uses, Benefits and Risks - Step To Health

Integrative Medicine: Uses, Benefits and Risks

Integrative medicine continues to attract the attention of those struggling with chronic diseases. What does it consist of? We´ll tell you about its benefits.
Integrative Medicine: Uses, Benefits and Risks

Last update: 14 January, 2022

Nowadays, integrative medicine is in great demand due to its many benefits. In particular, it brings together the treatments of conventional medicine with those offered by natural medicine, in order to provide a more complete approach to chronic diseases. It’s even recognized for its role in increasing quality of life and favorable prognoses.

In other words, it’s a therapeutic modality that doesn’t ignore the beneficial effects of many natural treatments, without neglecting the relevant role played by Western medicine. In other words, both complement each other and this favors the success of the applied treatments. Would you like to find out more about it?

Uses and benefits of integrative medicine

Integrative medicine is considered an approach to wellness due to its effectiveness. It encompasses many different factors that affect patient health, such as their physiological, psychological, nutritional, and even social condition.

What it tries to do is implement natural and minimally invasive options, such as spiritual, emotional, environmental, and nutritional therapies, but without detracting from the importance of medical treatment. Let’s have a detailed look at its main uses and benefits.

Chronic diseases

Undoubtedly, the people who benefit most from integrative medicine practices are those suffering from chronic diseases. As stated in a publication in Frontiers of Medicine, it’s an appropriate application for human health, as it considers the body as a holistic entity.

It involves a global analysis of the causes of diseases, which allows the choice of more effective therapies. That said, it can be applied in the following conditions.

Likewise, it’s used in mental disorders, such as the following:

Natural remedies.
The therapies included in integrative medicine come from ancestral knowledge and practices that are prolonged by tradition in different communities.

Quality of life

Of course, one of the main purposes of integrative medicine is to promote patients’ quality of life, independently of any improvements at a physical level. In this regard, a study reported in Cancer Management and Research concluded that this modality of medicine can improve health-related quality of life in cancer patients.

This is largely explained by its fundamental basis:

  • Treating the patient as a whole being
  • Focusing on addressing the root causes, beyond the symptoms
  • Not neglecting the psychological and nutritional aspects
  • Adopting a personalized approach
  • Strengthening the doctor-patient relationship
  • Considering the environment in which the patient lives

Prevention of diseases and complications

Apart from being used in diagnosed diseases, integrative medicine has gained importance as an ally for prevention. Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine highlights the potential of integrative care to increase the likelihood of success in the stages prior to pathology.

According to the publication, at a primary prevention level, this modality contributes to health promotion through dietary counseling, lifestyle changes, stress reduction techniques, and the use of natural products.

As for secondary prevention, approaches such as stress management and lifestyle changes are relevant. Finally, as regards tertiary prevention, the simultaneous use of complementary and conventional therapies prevents complications, while having a positive impact on the management of symptoms.

Types of therapies in integrative medicine

When we speak of integrative medicine, it’s necessary to start with a consultation with a physician or specialist. The professional will be, in the first instance, responsible for determining the best approach for the disease, based on conventional options.

Once this is done, they can evaluate complementary therapies that are suitable to mitigate symptoms and reduce complications or side effects. Some of the more prominent ones are as follows:

  • Dietary or nutritional therapy
  • Herbal supplements
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Meditation
  • Reiki (energy healing)
  • Yoga and tai chi
  • Acupuncture
  • Therapeutic massages
  • Aromatherapy
  • Animal-assisted therapy
  • Reflexology
It’s always advisable that alternative therapies are prescribed by professionals and performed by specialists.

Possible risks

In the first instance, it’s essential to be clear that the therapies proposed with integrative medicine don’t replace medical treatments. Rather, they’re complementary. However, even though they’re usually of natural origin, they aren’t always the most recommended.

So, before choosing one option or another, you need to enquire about their contraindications or possible side effects. Some practices aren’t suitable for certain diseases, as they increase the risk of complications or interactions with medications.

To clarify any doubts, it’s a good idea to consult the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. It’s also a good idea to tell your doctor about your intention to use complementary methods. It’s advisable to have supervision, not only for safety, but also to ensure success.

Integrative medicine: A summary

It’s no coincidence that the methods proposed by integrative medicine are a success. There’s growing evidence of the benefits of integrative therapies in addressing different chronic conditions. However, this doesn’t take away the need to maintain conventional treatment.

In the first place, you should seek medical advice, especially in the case of serious diseases with a tendency to become more chronic over time. Once the approach has been defined, other options can be considered to complement it.

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  • Gannotta R, Malik S, Chan AY, Urgun K, Hsu F, Vadera S. Integrative Medicine as a Vital Component of Patient Care. Cureus. 2018;10(8):e3098. Published 2018 Aug 4. doi:10.7759/cureus.3098
  • Fan D. Holistic integrative medicine: toward a new era of medical advancement. Front Med. 2017;11(1):152-159. doi:10.1007/s11684-017-0499-6
  • Institute of Medicine (US). Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public: A Summary of the February 2009 Summit. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2009. Summary. Available from:
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