Integrative Medicines

The Peterson Group has been researching and reviewing facts and information regarding the effectiveness of alternative medicines which led us to acquaintance with integrative medicine. We have gathered the following facts so far:

Evolution of Integrative Medicine

To fully appreciate integrative medicine, Registered Dieticians or RDs need to understand two terms: conventional medicine, and CAM. CAM is methods of medicine which never underwent scientific method to prove their effectives. On the other hand, conventional medicine usually is what patients encounter when they visit a hospital, physician’s office, or clinic. It encompasses high-tech procedures, surgery, and pharmaceuticals to treat health conditions and diseases.

Somewhere between alternative medicine and conventional medicine lies integrative medicine. As defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), integrative medicine “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.” Like many physicians who practice integrative medicine, Andrew Weil, MD, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, takes the philosophy one step further by saying on his website, “Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.”

Integrative Components

Any RD counseling a patient today typically covers the fundamentals of nutrition: macronutrients, micronutrients, energy expenditure, and food labels. The idea of integrative or holistic nutrition, however, goes deeper and explores the idea that the proper food and diet can help heal the body physically and emotionally. Some components include the following:

  • Food-mood connection: Many studies have examined how specific foods, whole-food supplements, or both can affect depression, irritability, emotional eating, and behavior.2 - 5 other studies have shown that a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and healthful fats can alleviate depression and decrease irritability among the elderly and adolescents compared with a diet high in processed foods and sugar.
  • Food cravings and addictions: Identifying food cravings and teaching clients how to respond to them is a significant component of treating the whole person philosophy. RDs help deconstruct the cravings by evaluating the type of food, the timing of the craving, what’s going on in the brain during the craving, the events surrounding the craving, the client’s emotional status, and the release of specific chemicals related to cravings and addictions. In fact, food addictions have become a research focus. Current science shows that a food addiction presents itself in the brain similarly to drug addiction, and that we’re “hard wired” to keep reaching for specific foods.
  • Diet trends: These can include all the different fad diets that flood the marketplace each year, such as the Paleo and raw food diets. To counsel clients successfully, RDs must learn about these trends, understand and explain why they may or may not work, and know how to effectively relay this information to clients.
  • Antioxidants and phytonutrients: While antioxidants play a role in integrative or holistic nutrition, dietitians need to dig deeper to understand the whole-body philosophy. They must understand antioxidants and phytonutrients at the cellular level and how they relate to gene expression. For example, which antioxidants turn genes on or turn them off and what effect does this have on the body. Exploring the synergistic effect of multiple food nutrients also fits into this equation.

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