The case for relying entirely on conventional medicine is closed. While conventional approaches to health care are valuable in the right circumstances, it can over-rely on pharmaceuticals and invasive treatments, and tends to focus on addressing symptoms instead of the underlying causes of disease. This makes conventional medicine unsuitable for optimizing long-term health on its own. Alternative approaches to care can be an effective complement to conventional care with guidance from the right type of health care provider.
Searching for the right form of health care that fits your lifestyle and personal needs can feel daunting. Not only are there several different types of alternative care (naturopathy, holistic medicine, lifestyle medicine, etc.), many of these approaches can feel vague and unregulated — populated by providers who have unclear training. Deciphering which forms of medicine are right for you requires a better understanding of their differences, as well as the credentials that make each provider qualified to treat medical conditions and practice through an evidence-based body of knowledge.
Forms of care
Alternative forms of health care are plentiful. Many of them signify an emphasis on treating the whole person through natural approaches, eliminating any artificial or potentially harmful treatments often prescribed through conventional medicine. While this can seem appealing, it is smart to be cautious of any approaches that define themselves with only that.
A better strategy is to look for approaches to health care that offer more specific, accredited alternatives to conventional medicine. These include the following:
- Functional Medicine: Much like conventional medicine, this approach is based on a scientific understanding of the body that relies on diagnostics and lab work. However, it also utilizes a variety of other factors, such as environment, lifestyle, genetics, and more, to help identify and eliminate the root cause of disease.
- Integrative Medicine: This approach seeks to address an even broader combination of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual needs in order to understand how all of these factors impact health. It also emphasizes an equal partnership between the patient and the provider.
- Precision Medicine: A subset of functional medicine, this approach customizes treatment based on a genetic or molecular profile of a subgroup of patients. Instead of a “one-size-fits-all” approach to care, it tailors disease prevention and treatment to a patient’s genes and environment.
Each of these approaches has distinct benefits, especially when used alongside conventional medicine. What distinguishes these types of care from other alternative forms, and perhaps the most important aspect to look for when making a health care decision, is the education and training a provider accrues before opening their practice.
The Importance of Provider Credentials
When choosing a conventional medical provider, you would expect them to have a doctorate in medicine, perhaps with fellowship training. The same should be said for alternative health care providers. They should have gone through similar, rigorous training, and have collected board-certified credentialing on top of their conventional medical qualifications.
What kind of credentials should you be looking for in an alternative care provider? Look for providers who have received certifications through respected institutions such as the Institute for Functional Medicine, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, and the American Board of Integrative Medicine. To receive any of these certifications, a provider must already have graduated from an allopathic (MD) or osteopathic (DO) college of medicine, and have the ability to demonstrate a mastery in their field through either written and/or oral examinations, residencies, or a combination.
In addition to these certifications, seek providers with credentials from a variety of other institutes, such as the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), the Fellowship in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine (FAARM), the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), and American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM).
Why do these credentials matter? The human body is more complex than we science can fully understand. What’s more, the way the body interacts with the environment, which is affected by lifestyle, exposure to toxins, response to stress, and other variables that impact health, brings additional complexities when approaching care. The goal of Precision Health Care, which combines conventional, functional and integrative medicine, is to uncover root-cause and lead an individual to optimal health, ultimately without reliance on medication that often just masks symptoms. These extra credentials matter when taking this approach to care in a safe and effective manner. Therefore, a provider with well-rounded training in conventional medicine, as well as the highest levels of functional and integrative medicine, will be the most prepared to partner with you on your journey to optimal health.
At Essential Health, we require the highest degree of training in our providers from both the conventional and alternative industries. Learn more about our providers and see for yourself how their expertise and experience translate into better care by scheduling a meet and greet with us today.