The concept of integrative medicine is guided by the principle to use therapies that have some high-quality evidence to support them. This would be inclusive of combining conventional Western medicine with alternative or complementary treatments, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, yoga, and stress reduction techniques.
Advocates of integrative care say that it’s crucial to hold alternative therapies up to scientific scrutiny, rather than dismissing them outright, because doctors and patients alike need answers.
It is just as important to find out what doesn’t work as it does to find out what does. A great example is where the researchers affiliated with UCSF completed a study that showed that saw palmetto did not improve benign prostate hyperplasia, a noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland. The results were published in The New England Journal of Medicine. This was and is important as more than 2 million men in the U.S. take saw palmetto as an alternative to prescriptions.
Despite these findings many physicians in North America know very little about beta-sitosterol, a therapy that has shown benefit, and its use by physicians for over three decades throughout the rest of the world for the symptoms of benign prostate hyperplasia, or an enlarged prostate. A majority of physicians in North America rely almost exclusively on pharmacologic intervention as promoted by large pharmaceutical companies. It’s easy for practitioners of western medicine to completely dismiss alternatives due to the sheer fact that training in the use of natural products is virtually almost non-existent in their training. Afterall the big money and pressure is on from the giants in the pharmaceutical industry.
Even I have to admit when I first heard about beta-sitosterol I dismissed it. The primary reason was is that despite physicians receiving eight to ten medical journals per month delivered to their medical office or homes they rarely if ever read them cover to cover. What they do read is often the result of the pharmaceutical industry drawing their attention to the latest study on this or that new pharmaceutical drug. This can occur via peer to peer discusions again often influenced by pharmaceutical industry promotion.
As western medicine has progressed the time for treating individual patients has decreased. Physicians on average see twice as many patients due to managed care and benefit resource reimbursement management. This has decreased the time medical professionals have to actually learn about natural products that are published in the same medical journals that they are receiving. A good example as in the case of ” beta-sitosterol “ British Journal of Urology, Lancet, and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. In addition to data made available through the NIH.GOV web site.
The good news is that there are some organizations like the non-profit the International College of Integrative Medicine that actually exist and offer comprehensive education of physicians about the effectiveness of advanced medical care through advanced level trainings and conferences. The web site for this organization is http://www.icimed.com/. On this site you can search for a practitioner that is trained in integrative medicine.