What is Integrative Medicine?


When I left family practice and joined Philadelphia Integrative Medicine last year, well-meaning family and friends expressed confusion and some concern. I was constantly asked, what is integrative medicine? Answering this question frequently, I came up with my “elevator response” or quick and simple answer. I would describe integrative medicine as a patient centered approach that combines the best of conventional medicine with evidence based complementary therapies. While this is certainly part of the answer, it is not the whole picture.

So what is Integrative Health and Medicine?

The official definition from Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, who is broadly described as the "guru" for holistic health and integrative medicine, is :

Integrative Medicine is a healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (mind, body and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence and makes use of all appropriate therapies. 

This description eloquently emphasizes that integrative medicine is focused on promoting our body’s natural ability to heal. Many people have a disconnect with their body and health, viewing them as broken and expecting our healthcare providers or a pill to “fix” the issue. As integrative medicine providers, we help our patients focus on lifestyle interventions that activate the body’s natural healing mechanisms to restore wellness.

Here is what our Health Physician Dr Tetlow has to say about it.


What is the difference between Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary/Holistic Medicine?

There is some confusion as to what the difference is between integrative, alternative and complementary/holistic medicine. Alternative medicine is typically defined as a non-mainstream practice used in place of conventional medicine. Holistic and complementary medicine means a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine. Integrative medicine incorporates complementary approaches into mainstream health care.


What is Integrative Medicine used for? What can it cure/heal or make better

As integrative medicine providers, we help our patients focus on lifestyle interventions that activate the body’s natural healing mechanisms to restore wellness. We see a variety of different patients at our integrative medicine clinic. Integrative medicine offers a unique and very effective approach to chronic disease because it focuses on finding the root cause and helping the body to heal. The most commonly treated conditions we see are:

  1. Autoimmune,
  2. Digestive complaints,
  3. Osteoporosis,
  4. Hormonal imbalance,
  5. Cancer recovery and prevention,
  6. Hypertension,
  7. High cholesterol,
  8. Chronic pain,
  9. Fibromyalgia and
  10. Thyroid imbalances.

While some of our patients come to us for a current medical condition, we have many patients who are well and are interested in optimizing their health and preventing future disease.


Integrative Medicine Treatments and Methods: What to expect during an integrative medicine appointment?

This is common question we hear in our practice for good reason, how is it different than seeing my primary? As integrative medicine providers, we take the time to really get to know you. We ask about not only your past medical and family history but your diet, sleep patterns, emotional health, mind body practices and spiritual life. Most importantly, we want to know what your health goals are and focus our assessment and treatment recommendations on helping you achieve them. As holistic providers, we utilize nutrition, exercise, mind body practices, supplements and sometimes conventional prescription medications to help achieve these health goals.

In addition, Philadelphia Integrative Medicine incorporates cutting edge functional medicine and specialty lab testing to help determine root causes of illness. This is a unique approach and often very different from the “band aid treatments” conventional providers are trained to provide. This also allows for personalized medicine and a treatment plan that is truly individualized.


About Philadelphia Integrative Medicine

We provide leading edge clinical expertise using a combination of conventional and evidence-based alternative and holistic medicine, to recommend the lifestyle changes, cutting edge diagnostic testing, mind-body practices, supplements and medicines to meet your personal health goals. Our approach helps you achieve better health, including the physical, emotional, psychological and social dimensions.

At PIM we also utilizes Functional Medicine which looks beyond diagnoses to each person’s unique biochemistry. Individualized recommendations are based on the latest in testing and laboratory technology.

Philadelphia Integrative medicine offers a variety of different ways to become involved.


I hope this helps to clarify what is the field of integrative medicine. We always encourage patients to call for a free consult to learn more about our clinic. I feel truly blessed to be part of a community of providers whose focus in on wellness, prevention and optimal health.