SEATTLE — As people are increasingly focused on their holistic health and wellness, Integrative Medicine is gaining popularity as it combines both Western Medicine and time tested natural therapies. Last year, Virginia Mason opened the Center for Integrative Medicine at their Bainbridge Island and Seattle locations to help meet requests from patients.
"Integrative medicine is basically a system of medicine which integrates two worlds," said Center for Integrative Medicine Doctor Astrid Pujari, "Natural or holistic medicine with Western medicine in one appointment."
Dr. Pujari acknowledges acceptance of integrative medicine varies, but the concept is gaining more acceptance, "In Western medicine, people are realizing there's a lot of side effects and long-term toxicity when it comes to medication, and integrative medicine can make a difference with that."
Dr. Pujari's patient, Rachel Jones Randall, was brought up with integrative medicine in her home country, Argentina. When Randall first came to the U.S. she had difficulty finding a doctor who practiced integrative medicine before she met Dr. Pujari. Dr. Pujari encouraged Randall to visit a Western doctor for yearly wellness checks, but she takes her results to Dr. Pujari once she gets them. "It's worked beautifully," Randall said.
After one of Randall's yearly checkups, Dr. Pujari noticed some troubling results from Randall's blood test and referred her to an endocrinologist. Randall's endocrinologist ended up diagnosing her with hyperparathyroidism. Since that time Randall has been working with both doctors to address her health problems, "I don't take prescription drugs. Thanks to Dr. Pujari I now do yoga, walk a lot, and the endocrinologist now communicates directly with Dr. Pujari."
Dr. Pujari believes integrative medicine is effective in addressing chronic or long term illnesses because long periods on prescription medication result in negative side effects that, "Can sometimes be worse than the problem itself."
Randall frequently encourages others to try integrative medicine but has experienced pushback because people prefer the more immediate results of Western medicine. However, she believes her long term health without the use of prescription medications will convince others to give more natural methods a try, "I didn't take a prescription drug when the endocrinologist saw the results, so Dr. Pujari gave me supplements, which I'm still taking, wonderful ones. And now the endocrinologist accepts them."
Dr. Pujari sees integrative medicine as an important option that doctors can offer their patients as an alternative to harsh prescription medications, "Sometimes patients just don't want to use prescription medication, or the side effects are too great, or they're prohibitive. And in that case, then you're stuck because the tool you have is not able to be used, so sometimes I think doctors are grateful to have another option."
Integrative medicine can include holistic diet changes, herbs, supplements, vitamins, acupuncture, massage, mind-body therapies, guided imagery, and other stress reduction therapies, and can also help children learn about nutrition, meditation, and other stress reduction tools that can benefit them throughout their lives.