What is Integrative Medicine?
by Amy Lazzarini, MD
“Integrative medicine reaffirms the importance of the relationship between the practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, health care professionals, and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.”*
As long as I can remember, I have had a holistic approach to health care within a conventional medical model, and a strong belief that there’s more to healing than what I had learned about in my conventional allopathic medical training. Over the years I noticed that although some patients would feel better with treatments specific to their diagnosis — usually in the form of a pharmaceutical agent — many times multiple other issues would pop up over time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not “anti-conventional medicine,” I simply felt we were missing a big piece of the puzzle, especially when it came to addressing chronic “disease.” This was the initial impetus for me to start an ongoing journey exploring what other aspects of health care I might have missed, and to learn more about other aspects of healing in order to incorporate this into my practice of medicine for the benefit of patients.
In my practice of gastroenterology, among other things, I found diet and nutrition, supplements, herbs, stress management, quality of sleep, as well as acknowledging the psycho-social-spiritual values of patients played a large role in their healing process. Through my Integrative Medicine Fellowship and practice of integrative medicine at the Virginia Center for Health and Wellness, I became more aware that looking for and addressing the root cause of chronic inflammation — gastrointestinal and otherwise — was another important factor that contributed to the most optimal outcomes. I now realize that multiple environmentally acquired illnesses — including but not limited to chronic infection from Lyme/co-infections & Epstein-Barr virus, mold related illness, and even heavy metal exposure can result in chronic, sometimes hard to diagnose health issues.
While practicing integrative medicine in Virginia, I saw how chronic untreated Lyme Disease, or even exposure to mold in a subset of individuals, could cause devastating effects on multiple bodily systems, and result in a substantially diminished quality of life in those who were affected. Common complaints such as unremitting fatigue, insomnia, cognitive & neurological issues, headaches, arthritis, and even gastrointestinal issues (and more) were commonly reported by these patients. Alongside these experiences in Virginia, the illness of a close family member of mine, which was ultimately found to be related to chronic Lyme Disease affecting his central nervous system, propelled me to delve even further into the study of how individuals faced with Lyme Disease and/or other tick-borne illnesses could be assisted when the conventional medical model wasn’t working for them.
Aside from my interest in bringing a comprehensive holistic relationship-based model of care to the community using integrative wellness and prevention approaches, my goal is to facilitate hope and healing in those with chronic symptoms caused by various gastrointestinal disorders, Lyme disease and other tick-borne coinfections, CIRS (chronic inflammatory response syndrome due to biotoxin/mold exposure), and hormonal imbalances.
*Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health. Definition of Integrative Medicine and Health. https://imconsortium.org/about/introduction/. Accessed February 3, 2019.
For more information on my background and training, please see my biography on the Integrative Medicine of Central New York, PC website at https://www.imofcny.com/integrative-medicine-of-cny-about