Health Care for the Whole Person
Integrative medicine treats the mind, body and spirit.
Written by Nicole Alexander, MD
State of mind and state of being are two aspects of health care that have
not always connected. However, it is becoming more widely understood that
mental health and physical health are best treated together.
The mind/body approach is very important—that’s what integrative
medicine is all about. If someone is not in a good space, if they are
depressed, if they are not in healthy relationships or taking care of
their body—all of that matters.
Integrative medicine is helpful for people of any age, but there are different
needs at different stages of life. Holistic treatment takes into account
age, illness, ability and personal preference. It’s not a replacement
for clinical treatment but enhances clinical treatment by reducing stress,
supporting sleep and good eating habits and encouraging healthy relationships
with friends, family and self.
Integrative medicine is good for things not visible. I support integrative
medicine as a long as it’s with primary care as a complementary
medicine to traditional medicine.
Diet is one of the most important components of integrative medicine. I
recommend eating an anti-inflammatory diet similar to the Mediterranean
diet and emphasize the importance of adequate sleep and consistent exercise
as part of the daily routine.
Other elements of integrative medicine include meditation, yoga, mindfulness
practice, acupuncture and aromatherapy. Massage, physical therapy and
weight loss can also be part of a holistic health plan.
In many cases, Western medicine can be improved by integrative modalities
in the treatment of chronic pain. Based on an individual’s needs
and interest, yoga and mindfulness can be helpful for pain caused by ongoing
conditions. Stretching relieves the body, and paying attention to the
present moment decreases focus on and fears about pain.
For stress, I suggest yoga and aromatherapy to relax the body through movement
and scent. For difficulty sleeping, herbal remedies such as melatonin
or valerian and meditation can help the soothe the mind and support calmness.
While not every patient is interested in a holistic approach, many are
open to it and are comfortable with the idea that lifestyle has a huge
effect on health. It’s about being self-aware. That’s one
reason many people are not open to integrative medicine, but if they are,
they can seek me out.
I make sure my patients are sleeping, moving, eating well and are in healthy
relationships and living a life of purpose. Without that, people are going
to be unhappy. I can’t make decisions for anyone, but I can assure
you certain things in your life are affecting your health.
It’s easy to adopt a mind/body approach to health. Torrance Memorial
offers yoga classes through its HealthLinks program and sells aromatherapy
products in the HealthLinks gift shop. And there is no shortage of meditation
apps and videos, massage therapy providers, yoga studios and books on
mindfulness (many are available in the HealthLinks gift shop).
Your state of mind really affects your health, and if your body is not
healthy, that can affect your mind. Depending on what you are struggling
with, you have to be aware of yourself and then you can meet with an integrative
practitioner and match that with treatment.
Torrance Memorial's HealthLinks resource center offers the following:
- Guided imagery classes
- Support groups
- Health-related lectures
- Physical therapy tools
- Senior health
- Items for sleep and relaxation
HealthLinks is located in the Torrance Memorial West Tower, 1st Floor,
3325 Medical Center Drive. Call 310-517-7089 or visit HealthLinks@tmmc.com
for more information.
The 5-7-8 Breath
Those with an interest in meditating, stretching or any other integrative
medicine practice can try a few minutes a day and work up to longer duration.
Dr. Alexander often starts patients with an easy 5-7-8 relaxation breath.
- Inhale – count of 5
- Hold – count of 7
- Exhale – count of 8
Nicole Alexander, MD, is a primary care physician with the Torrance Memorial
Physician Network. She practices at 3333 Skypark Drive, Ste. 100 in Torrance.
She can be reached at 310-784-6300.