Integrative [IN-ti-grey-tiv] medicine is an approach that combines modern medicine with other kinds of care. The idea is to treat all the different sides of your child. Your child’s physical health, mental health, social life, home life, and other things are considered as part of the treatment. The root cause of your child’s illness is the focus.
Integrative medicine makes use of both conventional and alternative therapies for your child. The integrative approach is guided by a doctor. It’s best to find a medical doctor who specializes in integrative medicine. This specialist will work closely with you to consider what care your child needs and help you find safe treatments that are known to work. They will also work with your child’s other care providers. Natural healing or less invasive actions will be used when possible. The goal is to heal your whole child long-term, not just treat one problem.
Integrative medicine can be used to treat simple conditions as well as complex diseases. Your child might be treated using:
- Herbal medicine for acne
- Natural products like melatonin and probiotics
- Relaxation techniques to help manage stress or pain
On top of treating your child’s illness, this approach can help with side effects of other treatments. Your doctor might suggest:
- Therapy to teach better eating habits
- Hypnosis to calm them before surgery
- Massage to ease pain
- Acupuncture to help manage the side effects of cancer treatment
The main benefits of using integrative medicine include:
- A holistic approach, treating all parts of your child and their life
- A focus on safe, natural healing whenever possible
- Avoiding invasive procedures whenever possible
- Treating the root cause of a problem
To prepare, be sure you have the correct diagnosis for your child’s condition. Then, you can look for an integrative medicine specialist. This doctor will partner with you to treat your child in the safest way. They should:
- Have the right education, training, and licensing
- Be experienced in working with kids
- Coordinate with your child’s other doctors
Your child’s other doctors might be able to refer you to a specialist. Before you meet with them:
- Write down your questions
- Write down what you expect
- Keep a diary of your child’s symptoms
To prepare for specific treatments, ask your child’s care team for more information.
Integrative medicine treats the whole child: mind, body, and more. The basis of this approach is finding and treating the root cause of your child’s illness.
It uses both conventional medicine and other alternative treatments. A specialist in this kind of medicine will know what treatments are:
- Backed by science
- Safe or low risk
- Known to work
For many treatments, you can tell quickly if they are working. Sometimes it’s less clear.
For example, if your child is given a natural product to treat acne, it may take weeks for their skin to clear. With long-term results, you can usually see improvement over time. Talk to your child’s doctor about how long you might wait before you see results.
Follow-up care can vary. Because there are many options with integrative medicine, your child may need few or a lot of follow-up visits. It depends on the treatment plan you and the doctor have made for your child. You will want to make at least one visit to review the plan and how it worked.
National Center for Integrative and Complimentary Healthcare:
National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam
Primary Children’s Hospital Integrative Medicine: https://intermountainhealthcare.org/locations/primary-childrens-hospital/medical-services/integrative-medicine/
The safety of integrative medicine has not been as well studied as conventional medicine methods. Some complementary methods have not been tested at all in children to find out how safe they are. Your child’s size and developing body put them at more risk of reacting badly to integrative methods.
Integrative medicine needs to be based on you working with your child’s care team. Going outside the advice of your doctor can be risky. Not all treatment options are science-based, and many can be dangerous.
Some of the best studied methods that have shown to be low-risk include:
- Guided imagery
Other integrative approaches, such as taking a vitamin, massage, and aromatherapy, have few side effects.
Chiropractic care is one of the most used complementary practices in kids. Spinal manipulation in children can have grave risks. Though it is rare, it can cause paralysis.
By working with your child’s care team, you can help avoid alternative medicine practices that can hurt your child or upset their treatment. For example, some natural products are toxic. Some supplements are contaminated with metals or chemicals. Some natural remedies can make medicine that your child needs not work.