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Q&A: Finding an Integrative Medicine Doctor

Older woman talking to her doctor
May 11, 2018 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

I’ve been practicing integrative medicine for decades. It’s a dream job for me because I feel like I’m truly making a difference in my patients’ lives. But people who are new to integrative medicine often ask what integrative medicine is and how they can find a practitioner near them.

What is an Integrative Medicine Doctor (IMD)?

When I’m asked this question, I always point back to the term “integrate.” At its core, it means to unify. IMDs have knowledge of modern conventional medicine and alternative, complementary and natural medicines. IMDs have an in depth knowledge and access to a multitude of medical disciplines to treat not just an ailment, but the patient as a whole.

What does an integrative medicine doctor do that traditional PCPs don’t?

A ton! IMDs seek total body health. The best example of this is the personal health questionnaire you fill out in my office compared to a questionnaire at a traditional PCP. I remember a young woman coming to see me for a standard wellness check-up. I asked about her diet, sleep, mood, energy levels, and so on. At one point, she said to me, “I’ve never had a doctor ask me so many questions!” The best part is that I hadn’t even scratched the surface! To me, these questions are common sense. A doctor needs to know the whole patient, not just the symptoms they’re experiencing.

All parts and systems of your body are connected by a vast system of blood vessels, bones, muscles, tissues, and more. My approach to health reflects that. I even check the whites of a patient’s eyes, which are a simple and effective way to gauge the health of a patient. It’s so easy to do yet the majority of PCPs don’t to do it.

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How can I find an IMD near me? And how can I know he/she is good?

These websites are a great place to start: www.a4m.com, www.ifm.org, and www.acam.org. You can search by zip code or by specialty of the practitioner. From there, review their practice websites and call those offices to ask about their services.

A good IMD will want to know how your body works and collaborate with you on making it work better. More often than not, they will spend far more time with you than traditional PCPs. They offer dozens of tests to check everything from vitamin levels, CRP levels, hemoglobin, allergies, hearing, posture, body fat, cancer detection, and much more. And based on those test results, they can offer a variety of treatments, approaches and therapies that traditional PCPs don’t.

If traditional approaches to your health haven’t been as effective as you hoped, I recommend that you talk to an IMD to see if a more comprehensive approach works for you.

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