Integrative medicine is one of the most important ideas in wellness today. Imagine working with a doctor who is able to advise surgery, pharmaceutical treatment and other modern medical treatments – as most of our doctors currently do – as well as natural or alternative treatments and therapies. To us, that’s the ideal!

We hope to see integrative medicine become more and more mainstream; to do our part, we’re spotlighting top integrative medical doctors to bring more light to the topic. Below, Dr. Edison de Mello (MD, PhD) of L.A.’s Akasha Center For Integrative Medicine is talking to us about the basics of this dynamic approach to health care, and why it’s worth some consideration…

The Chalkboard Mag: How would you explain integrative medicine in just a few words?

Dr. Edison de Mello: Integrative medicine is guided by the integration of the science-based ancient approaches and wisdom of Eastern approaches to healing with the ever-growing technological advances of Western medicine.

TCM: Can you tell us a bit about integrative medicine for those who are new to the idea?

Dr: de Mello: Integrative medicine embodies the original, but often-forgotten, model of health and wellness: It focuses on a whole-person approach equally addressing the patient’s mind, body, community and spirit as the means to reach optimal health. Although conventional medicine is backed by valuable research and strong scientific evidence, it usually characterizes patients by their symptom or diagnosis rather than the person who happens to have the disease. The complexity of who they are, the uniqueness of their life and biology are, more often than not, sadly left out of their treatment plan. Integrative medicine addresses not only the many available modalities that can be used to treat the patient, but also who the patient is in relation to the dis-ease that they are presenting with.

Akasha’s approach to integrative medicine incorporates proven and effective treatments from many systems outside allopathic (traditional) medicine. These methods have sound scientific evidence and are safe, cost-effective, and long lasting. When Eastern modalities, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture, herbal medicine, and ayurveda are integrated with Western modalities, including allopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, massage, psychology, nutrition and exercise, they provide the patient with the best of two worlds: the ancient wisdom of the East with the technological advances of the West. Health is more than just the absence of disease; it is a personal journey, in which optimal well-being is the goal.

TCM: Integrative medicine seems so ideal, why isn’t it more common?

Dr. de Mello: I believe that it is because it’s difficult for people to wrap their heads around alternative medicine. People want a quick fix and fast remedies with immediate results. Integrative medicine requires a lot of time and effort from both the patient themselves as well as the practitioner. Integrative medicine incorporates a myriad of care, ranging from the addressing the immediacy of one’s symptoms, such as chest pain, to diet and lifestyle changes needed to address the root cause of their medical problem. The prevention of future occurrences is one of its goals. For example, in the case of chest pain, applying an integrative model, once the “crisis” has properly been managed using the lifesaving approaches of traditional medicine, the integrative doctor would then invite the patient to ponder upon the question why? Why did a system that is designed to operate optimally fail you? An integrative approach would incorporate acupuncture, stress-managing tools, psychotherapy, exercise and meditation, in addition to dietary and other lifestyle changes to help the patient return to an optimal function and, hopefully now, with more awareness. Although this sounds ideal, it requires a lot of time and effort from both the patient themselves as well as the practitioner. Persistence, commitment to change and awareness are the main keys in integrative medicine. In addition, with insurance companies not yet fully covering integrative care, cost becomes an issue for many people who may need to pay for their care out-of-pocket.

TCM: How can one find out if their doctor is open to integrative? What should they ask?

Dr. de Mello: Considering that integrative medicine has become increasingly popular, many doctors are now open to different approaches to health, wellness and prevention. If you are curious about whether or not your current primary care practitioner works in tandem with integrative practitioners, simply asking this simple question will give you the answer: Do you coordinate care with other providers/modalities? If the answer is no and you’re sure that the integrative approach is what you want for your healthcare, consider switching your care to a reputable integrative medicine practitioner. Given that insurance companies have been slow to cover integrative care, some of my patients have kept their insurance doctors as their “emergency doctors” and a center like ours as their preventative “health and wellness center”.

Integrative medicine addresses not only the many available modalities that can be used to treat the patient, but also who the patient is in relation to the dis-ease that they are presenting with.

TCM: What if one has a conventional doctor, but wants to supplement with holistic or Eastern Medicine – how do they do it?

Dr. de Mello: The first question I ask patients who ask that question is, “Why?” Why look elsewhere if you’re happy with your current treatment? If you’re unhappy, identify what is lacking in your care. Maybe looking for a whole-person approach is the key to helping you achieve your health and wellness goals. However, if you are satisfied with your current practitioner but curious about an integrative approach, find a consulting clinic like ours that will consult with your primary care and assist you in the areas you would like to have an integrative approach.

TCM: Can you recommend some resources for those who would like to learn more?

Dr. de Mello: Yes, of course! I recommend that a majority of my patients watch the documentary, Finding Joe. It’s about finding your story within the story. It shows how powerful your mind really is. As for reading material, start with the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – a branch of the Federally funded National Institute of Health. Yes, integrative medicine has come such a long way that we now have a branch of it at the Federal level.

Our clinic, the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica, California, which has also been in the forefront of science-based integrative care for the last 15 years, has a website designed to provide patients the most up-to-date information of how integrative medicine can help them optimize their health.

The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, to which I belong, also has a library of online information discussing the benefits of integrative care. And University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and Duke University, both nationally and internationally renowned medical centers, provide integrative care.

The Chalkboard Mag and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. 
All material on The Chalkboard Mag is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program.