Healing is Believing
WHAT IS INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE?According to Nicole Shorrock, M.D., at Marshall Whole Child Health in El Dorado Hills, “Integrative medicine combines traditional/conventional medicine with alternative medical approaches...alternative being a catch-all term for hundreds of old and new therapies involving nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy and more.” The umbrella term, “integrative” covers a wide range of medical practices, from osteopathic and nurse practitioners to chiropractors and naturopathic doctors; all of whom fuse traditional Western medical science with herbs, nutrients and lifestyle modifications.
Naturopathic DoctorsNaturopathic doctors, while not medical doctors, attend post-graduate institutes where they study basic science like a medical doctor, but then also learn herbal medicine, pharmacology, drug and herb interactions and often osteopathic or chiropractic therapies. Who should see a naturopath? “Absolutely everyone can benefit from it,” says Jamie Brinkley, ND, at Revolutions Naturopathic in Folsom. Some of the most popular complaints from patients include with digestive problems, hormonal issues, menopausal side effects, eczema, infertility issues and supportive care during pregnancy and postpartum. At Revolutions, different doctors specialize in other areas too, including pain management and oncology support.
Osteopathic MedicineAround since the 1800s, osteopathic medicine champions treating the entire body rather than a specific organ system. “Osteopathic structure focuses on the functional relationship with bones and ligaments and nerves that affect every system in the body,” says Randall West, DO, at Creekside Osteopathic Family Practice in Folsom. West says that osteopathics are often family medicine-oriented and treat everything from “womb to tomb.” The same as an MD, a DO can perform surgeries and prescribe medications; however, a DO takes extra classes in the musculoskeletal system. Many physicians are in fact DOs, but don’t advertise or work as such so you may not be aware they’re in your family practice, sports medical office or fertility clinic. “We are treating the individual as an individual, rather than using a cookbook approach,” Dr. West says.
ROOT OF THE PROBLEMSome traditional medical centers are also recognizing the benefits of this integrative approach, including Marshall Whole Child Health, where doctors focus on finding the cause of the illness. Dr. Shorrock uses a holistic approach to the body and mind—searching for toxins, infections, nutritional deficiencies and metabolic derangement as causes—while simultaneously incorporating a child’s emotional, psychological and environmental stressors. She heavily relies on nutritional approaches with the belief that “food is medicine.” Common problems she treats include recurrent abdominal pain, headaches, chronic constipation, eczema, depression, ADD/ADHD and anxiety.
“Conventional medicine uses synthetic medications and surgical approaches, with a focus on treating the ‘symptoms’ of the illness,” says Dr. Shorrock. “This works well with an acute illness or trauma, but I found this approach frustrating with chronic illness, as suppressing the symptoms was only temporary and not healing the patient.” She cites eczema, which is often treated with topical steroids, as an example. The rash repeatedly returns since the inflammation is caused by inflammation of the intestines, so unless the cause of eczema—the bacterial floral imbalance, infection or food sensitivity—is addressed, the patient cannot be healed.
Dr. Brinkley enjoys her work because she can spend time learning the underlying cause of a person’s medical problem. “It really does look at the whole person,” she says. “...I have the freedom to speak with someone for up to an hour. Plus, [naturopathic] approaches are often more gentle, non-invasive and have fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.”