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Modern Medicine’s Identity Crisis

Modern Medicine’s Identity Crisis

A recent marketing blog article discussed how holistic medicine has evolved over time into many different subsets of medicine-- all of which focus on treating the whole person.

According to the article over the last few years the holistic medical practices have been classified as first as ‘alternative medicine’ and then morphed into ‘complementary alternative medicine’ or ‘integrative medicine’ and as if that wasn’t confusing enough recently more terms have been coined to try to distinguish the whole person approach further.


Based on reports from Google, when people search the internet for a type of medicine that treats the whole person, they will search under terms such as Alternative, Integrative, Functional, Holistic, Complementary and the most recent Restorative, and Lifestyle medicine.

We hope to clear up some of the confusion by providing some common definitions of these terms.

Alternative Medicine is when “a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it's considered alternative.” According to the National Institute of Complementary & Alternative Therapies, pure alternative medicine is rare since most people who use non-mainstream approaches will use them along with traditional medicine.

Complementary Medicine is when a “non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered complementary.”

Allopathic Medicine refers to "the broad category of medical practice that is sometimes called Western medicine, biomedicine, evidence-based medicine, or modern medicine”

Lifestyle Medicine “is the use of lifestyle interventions in the treatment and management of a disease. Such interventions include Diet (nutrition), Exercise, Stress Management, Smoking Cessation and a variety of other non-drug modalities.”

Restorative Medicine “focuses on the importance of a balanced endocrine system through recognizing how the different chemical messengers influence each other. Stabilizing the endocrine system as a whole, rather than treating a single, individual hormone, helps to optimize health and promote longevity. The ultimate goal of Restorative Medicine is to eliminate the need for ongoing medical treatment by truly restoring health at its core.”

Integrative Medicine is “a healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.”

Holistic Medicine is “a form of healing that considers the whole person -- body, mind, spirit, and emotions -- in the quest for optimal health and wellness. According to the holistic medicine philosophy, one can achieve optimal health -- the primary goal of holistic medicine practice -- by gaining proper balance in life.”

Functional Medicine is a “system or model used to organize a practitioners findings. It’s a kind of flexible and adaptive information-gathering-and-sorting architecture.” Since Functional Medicine is more of a system it can be used by any whole person medical practitioners. Functional Medicine attempts to discover “why” a person as an illness by analyzing “antecedents, triggers, and mediators that underlie symptoms, signs, illness behaviors, and demonstrable pathology”.

Personalized Medicine is “the tailoring of medical treatment to the individual characteristics of each patient. It is a multi-faceted approach to patient care that not only improves our ability to diagnose and treat disease but offers the potential to detect disease at an earlier stage, when it is easier to treat effectively. The full implementation of personalized medicine encompasses: Risk Assessment, Prevention, Detection, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Management.

Human Ecology or Ecological Medicine is Dr. Parker’s approach to medicine which is an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments to provide a personalized treatment plan.

It is our opinion is that the terms “integrative”, “complementary”, “alternative”, “lifestyle” and “restorative” refer to the treatment options used in a practice whereas the terms “Holistic”, “Functional”, “Personalized” and “Ecological” refer to the approach towards determining which treatment to use with a patient.

The bottom line is that at ILIV, we provide personalized, integrative medicine base on the concept of Human Ecology.