What is Integrated Medicine?

Integrated Medicine is a new way of understanding health and sickness. It embraces the best of conventional and alternative therapies, but is more than just a mixture of therapeutic techniques. To integrate is to make whole, and the distinctive feature of Integrated Medicine is its application of science to prevent or treat disease by healing the person who is sick, rather than just treating the disease. A person has social relationships, beliefs and feelings, memories and expectations, a sense of identity, a daily pattern of eating and drinking, of rest and exercise (the ancient Greeks called this diaita–the precursor to our word “diet”), personal habits, an occupation, an environment, and innate systems for detoxification and repair. It is these aspects of the person that Integrated Medicine attempts to support, applying strategies that are scientifically validated.

This column will be devoted to information that enables you to
learn how to heal yourself, preventing or reversing chronic illness
with the techniques of Integrated Medicine. Some of the information
will be adapted from my new book, THE FOUR PILLARS OF HEALING,
published by Random House in June, 1997. Some of the information will
come from an analysis of recent developments in medical research. And
some of it will come as a response to your questions.

Conventional Medicine

Conventional Western medicine is organized around the Theory of
Diseases, which believes that a person becomes sick because he or she
contracts a disease. In this model, each disease is seen as an
independent entity which can be fully understood without regard to the
person it afflicts or the environment in which it occurs. Conventional
treatments are treatments of diseases, not of people. Most of the
drugs employed in conventional medicine are designed to act as
chemical strait jackets, preventing the cells of the body from
performing some function that has become hyperactive. The side effects
of these drugs are a direct extension of their actions and may be
fatal. A Harvard research team concluded that 180,000 Americans are
killed in hospitals by their doctors every year. Most of these deaths
occur because doctors prescribe drugs without paying attention to the
special characteristics of the person for whom the drugs are

Alternative Medical Systems, Ancient and Modern

Alternative systems of healing supply a perspective that can help to
reverse the “one size fits all” philosophy of conventional medical
practice. All alternative systems of healing, ancient or modern, share
one common characteristic which separates them from conventional
Western medicine. They all approach sickness as a dynamic event in the
life of an individual, a problem of balance and relationship, the
result of disharmony between the sick person and his or her
environment. This approach to understanding illness is called
biographical. In the biographical concept of illness, the “disease”
itself has no independent reality. The healer’s job is not to identify
and treat the disease entity, but to characterize the disharmony of
each particular case, so that they can be corrected. These
disharmonies are described differently in different cultures. The
language which describes them may be magical or naturalistic, but the
diagnostic and therapeutic focus is always on the person who is ill
and the context in which the illness occurs, rather than on the
disease itself.

Integrated Medicine perceives illness biographically and at the same
time uses the powerful database of modern biological and behavioral
science to help describe the varied disharmonies which undermine the
health of each individual. These disturbances originate, almost
entirely, with dietary, environmental or social conditions. Although
the media are full of stories about “cancer genes”, for example, the
scientific evidence is that greater than 90% of cancers are
environmentally induced. When identical twins are reared in separate
environments, the rate at which each twin develops cancer is
comparable to the cancer rate in the adoptive family, not the
biological family. The publicity accorded to “cancer genes” serves to
cripple individual initiatives at cancer prevention and to displace
scrutiny from cancer’s environmental and dietary triggers. Integrated
Medicine exists to empower you to improve your health by improving
your four pillars of healing: interpersonal relationships, diaita,
environment, and your innate system of detoxification and repair.

1. Leape LL. Error in medicine. Journal of the American medical Association. 1994; vol 272: pp 1851-1857.

Dr. Galland is the author of Power Healing: How The New Integrated Medicine Can Cure You (Random House, 1997).

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Written by Leo Galland MD FACN

Explore Wellness in 2021