Understanding Integrative Medicine
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Most dietitians accept and practice some form of functional and Integrative Medicine such as promoting pre- and probiotics for digestive health. They may also readily accept the use of complimentary treatments such as massage or relaxation techniques, however, a lack of knowledge about integrative nutrition practices and concern over the safety of dietary supplements can cause skepticism.
Integrative Medicine (IM) uses a combination of conventional medicine and alternative treatments to address all aspects of health and wellness with the whole person. The goal is to get to the core of an individual’s health issues and not just mask the symptoms. With research indicating there is a growing use of dietary supplements and IM practices in the U.S., the Accreditation Council of Education in Nutrition and Dietetics has included the need for IM skills in their recommendations for future education. A February 2016 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reviews this topic in depth and provides the rational for its inclusion.
With complimentary approaches to treatment being wanted and used by customers with various illnesses from cancer to digestive issues, it is important for retail dietitians to understand how they can appropriately assist shoppers with questions. Negative reactions by dietitians to IM may only encourage consumers to turn to unqualified practitioners.
Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, MD, Fellowship Director at The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine in Pecos New Mexico, states, “Patients, clients and consumers are looking for realistic solutions to improve their health, and they want their health care team to partner with them on that journey. This desire is one of the fundamental drivers of Integrative Medicine, an approach that focuses on the whole person and emphasizes the importance of lifestyle in maintaining and restoring health. With the steady and alarming rise in chronic disease, dietitians are well-positioned to take a prominent position on the integrative healthcare team by providing evidence-informed guidance for the sensible incorporation of nutrition and dietary supplements.”
To learn more about Integrative Medicine the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group (DIFM DPG) offers many educational programs. In addition, The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) provides evidence based research and education as the leading trade association for the dietary supplement and functional food industry. www.crnusa.org; @crn_supplements.