What’s the secret to health and happiness? A holistic new health movement called Integrative Medicine is part of the answer

Tired of your doctor prescribing you a pill for every ill? Sick of the side effects from your pills and potions? A revolution is happening in health care that will reduce prescriptions and the side effects we suffer. Called Integrative Medicine (IM) the philosophy is a holistic approach to health. IM “makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing”, according to the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association Inc.’s (AIMA’s) website.

President of the AIMA, Professor Kerryn Phelps, is an advocate of IM. She recently reported on this emerging health movement in November 2010’s issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine.

We must have a holistic approach to health care
Drugs alone are the wrong answer
Benefits of a holistic approach to health care
Integrative Medicine (IM) – an emerging trend

We must have a holistic approach to health care

What’s the secret to growing healthy plants? One expert might say “good soil”; another “a good fertilizer”; the next “enough sunlight”. Of course, in reality plants need all of these things and more to be healthy. There is no one magic bullet.

Like plants, no one thing enables pets to thrive. Many things are essential. To be healthy and happy, pets need love, care, a healthy diet, exercise, enough sleep… Neglect anything essential and a pet’s health and happiness will fade.

If we took a fat and sick pet dog to the vet, then the vet is likely to ask us some questions: “What’s wrong with him?” “What do you feed him?” “How often do you exercise him?” We would probably leave with a list of instructions for what to do to boost our pet’s health. “Take him for more walks. Stop feeding him junk food. Feed him better quality food…”

We are complex like plants and pets. We need more than one thing for health and happiness, yet people ask questions like, “What’s the secret to happiness?” or “What’s the secret to good health?” as if there’s just one simple answer.

The vets I’ve taken my pets to have asked me more questions about my animals’ lifestyle habits than any of my GPs have asked me about my lifestyle. This raises questions about the quality of our health care, because lifestyle habits have a huge impact on health.

Drugs alone are the wrong answer

I believe that a holistic approach is essential for being happy and healthy — having good sleeping, eating, thinking, exercise…habits. Sadly, many people have a holistic approach to their gardens and pets, but not for their own health and happiness.

Too few general practitioners ask questions about their patients’ lifestyles. The idea of asking patients about their lifestyle habits — like eating, sleeping and exercise — seems too much to do in the short time that GPs can afford to spend with their patients.

Adverts on TV tell us to pop pills if we have a headache, flu or fever… There’s no hint of finding the root cause of any health problems. It’s just a quick fix approach to manage the symptoms.

Our fast-paced, time-poor lifestyles push the idea that faster is better. Our internet, cars and computers… get faster and faster. A faster working pill is presumed to be a better working pill.

But when it comes to health, faster doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Most of us know that pills aren’t a cure all. There’s a lot we can do for ourselves to be happier and healthier — far more than just taking pills. We can observe our lifestyle habits, and boost those that need improving.

I created Extra Happiness to empower, inspire and enable people to take a holistic approach to their health and happiness. We can each enhance our health, happiness and well-being.

Taking medication can do little for our quality of life if we have bad lifestyle habits. Using medicine to stop symptoms is like using wallpaper to try to fix rising damp in a house.

Benefits of a holistic approach to health care

People can take the easier road — take medication and ignore bad lifestyle habits — or take the holistic approach that often takes longer for the effects to show. Ultimately we’ll find that the extra time and energy needed for the holistic path is worthwhile.

Here are some of the many benefits from a holistic attitude to health and happiness:

  • We treat the root causes of health problems instead of temporarily stopping symptoms
  • We need less medication, so we save money and reduce suffering from side effects
  • We are more likely to have a healthy body weight, sleep better, feel more energetic…
  • We feel happier and healthier

Integrative Medicine (IM) – an emerging trend

I read an article by Professor Kerryn Phelps about Integrative Medicine (IM) in the November 2010 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine. I am thrilled with this article, and I am passionate about this approach to health care. Here are excerpts from pages 193 to 194 of the article.

“You see your GP and are diagnosed with depression. Yet, instead of walking out with a prescription for antidepressants and a referral to a psychiatrist with a six-month waiting list, you have a long conversation about elements of your life and lifestyle which are contributing to how you are feeling.

You are advised on a daily exercise program, getting enough sunshine, correcting nutritional deficiencies and learning to meditate. You are offered a referral to a psychologist for cognitive behaviour or other specific therapy. There may be a recommendation for you to take the herb St John’s wort and a fish oil supplement.

… This medical movement, known as “integrative medicine”, is the way of the future and has the potential to transform your experience of individualised healthcare. Integrative medicine is not “alternative medicine” or “complementary medicine”.

… In the past 10 years, we have seen a massive amount of change and progress in medicine, as we try to find better and safer solutions to health problems. Paradoxically, integrative medicine forms part of both our past and our ongoing modern medical evolution.

… Now, 91 per cent of medical schools in the US offer a required course in integrative medicine. And it is clear that medical training in Australia will undergo a transformation, to make sure the doctors of today and the future have the information they need to advise patients on what is safe and effective – and what is not. For instance, the Royal Australasian College of General Practitioners will soon introduce postgraduate courses in integrative medicine and, hopefully, other colleges will soon follow.

… The role of the integrative medicine GP is not necessarily to provide all treatments themselves, but to network, harmonise and co-ordinate appropriate professionals, from the specialist physicians and surgeons to the naturopath, exercise therapist, dietitian, psychologist and so on.

Integrative medicine holds great promise for the future of healthcare and will increasingly be seen as the emerging mainstream.”

For more information about IM, visit the AIMA’s website.

written by Nyomi Graef

Phelps, K, Nov 2010, Why GPs are using alternative therapies, The Australian Women’s Weekly, 193-194

What is Integrative Medicine, n.d., Australasian Integrative Medicine Association Inc.,

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One Response to “What’s the secret to health and happiness? A holistic new health movement called Integrative Medicine is part of the answer”

  1. bill says:

    excellent info, keep it coming…

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