As discussed in my first post, integrative medicine is a whole-person approach to medical care. It is evidenced-based medicine utilizing non-invasive treatments while recognizing the importance of medications in the appropriate situation. The objective is not treating symptoms, but rather digging deeper and addressing the source of those symptoms. There are five major categories when considering one’s overall health through an integrative medicine approach: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, stress and mental health.

Nutrition is paramount to one’s health. The old adage of “You are what you eat” is proving to be even more true as research now supports the idea that your gut health plays a role in your overall wellness. Some foods are considered inflammatory and can put one at risk for developing chronic diseases like high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Spruce MD provides patients with specific, personal dietary guidelines based on health history and lab tests.

Stress is yet another contributor to one’s overall health. Integrative medicine addresses stress caused by work, family, relationships, school, etc. implementing tools to cope with daily stressors. Often, problems in one area of health may contribute to other problems as well. For example, stress from long work days can lead to insomnia causing increased hunger and poor food choices. This exhaustion makes physical activity difficult. Due to this domino effect, weight increases and inflammation rises increasing the risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure. Spruce MD providers address individual stressors and introduce coping mechanisms to prevent or reverse chronic disease.

Physical activity is also taken into account during integrative assessments. Muscle, bone and joint health is dependent upon how much a person moves and what types of exercises are performed. Additionally, just as your leg and arm muscles need exercise, so does your heart  (it is the most important muscle in your body!). The heart should be kept strong through regular exercise and periodic elevated heart rate to prevent developing heart failure. Patients at Spruce MD receive individualized fitness prescriptions tailored to their baseline fitness level. They are formulated to meet specific goals including weight loss, building muscle mass, or increasing athletic performance in a specific sport.

Just as important as the duration and frequency of movement is the amount of rest one gets. This comes in the form of high quality, consistent nighttime sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation contributes to the development of chronic disease. You’ve probably heard the saying “I’ll sleep when I die” a time or two. I once used to prescribe to this belief myself. However, without consistent deep sleep we underperform, slow our metabolism, and increase inflammation, putting ourselves at risk for medical complications down the road. Personalized sleep hygiene prescriptions are given for each Spruce MD patient to optimize one’s sleep habits.

Integrative medicine is sometimes referred to as mind-body medicine because one’s mental health is imperative for overall wellness. Emotional, mental, social, spiritual, experiential, and behavioral factors all directly affect one’s health. In Spruce MD health assessments, each of these areas is examined to determine if there is a contributor to one’s disease state or presenting symptoms.

When taking all of these factors into consideration, integrative medicine becomes a very personalized and complete approach to medical care. No one person’s health plan is the same. In addition, advanced lab testing including microbiome, hormone, allergy, genetic and advanced lipid labs are used on an individual basis to help guide a patient’s specific health plan.

Providers are fulfilled because the work is rewarding. Patients are satisfied because they feel better, look better and personally know their physician. It is truly a win-win situation for all.

Spruce MD welcomes adult patients with all types of medical histories – ranging from the patient on ten different prescription medications to the super fit athlete who wants to optimize health and athletic performance. Many patients are often told that they will be taking certain medications for chronic disease for life. That is not always true and we work towards reversing those diseases and getting patients safely off medications. Supplements are used when appropriate. Some of the diseases we treat include diabetes, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure, gut issues, thyroid disorders, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, insomnia, allergies and hormone imbalances. Our registered dietician and health coach, also dives into patients’ nutrition, creating a specific meal plan for one’s personal health history and lab results.

Integrative medicine essentially takes the best of both the conventional and alternative medical worlds to provide patients with optimal health care. Prescription medications (when necessary), vaccinations, highly advanced lab testing and health screening tools are used in combination with complementary modalities such as vitamin and herbal supplements, lifestyle changes and collaborations with other providers like acupuncturists, behavioral health specialists and chiropractors. Providers are fulfilled because the work is rewarding. Patients are satisfied because they feel better, look better and personally know their physician. It is truly a win-win situation for all.

Mary Brittain Blankenship, MD is the founder and physician at Spruce MD Integrative Medicine located in Greenville, SC.