The College Girl’s Guide To Integrative Medicine

Hey, girl. It’s the new year, you have realistic resolutions, and you’re feeling good. This is the year of YOU.

But let’s be real, sometimes life gets you down. You’re juggling school, work, and a social life, and it’s hard to feel 100% 365 days in a row. You’re tired, stressed out, and maybe you have a headache that won’t go away. It’s easy to pick up some Excedrin and go on with your day.

But a growing trend is to find more natural remedies to feel better. “New age medicine” is a term tossed around to describe a growing list of more holistic practices from acupuncture to hypnosis. But a more accurate term that health practitioners are using is integrative medicine.

First it’s important to clear up the difference between integrative medicine and new age medicine.

Basically integrative medicine is the combination of traditional medical care and more “holistic” practices. Integrative medicine is not unscientific  or substituting herbs for drugs. While conventional medicine (such as surgery, drugs etc.) treats a disease/ailment, integrative medicine is a way to heal the whole person.

The idea is that treatment fixes the cause of the condition, not just alleviating the symptoms. A doctor will look at all factors that could be causing an issue, such as eating and sleep habits, stress, and other health problems to find a solution. The basic principle is that health is more than the absence of illness and that prevention is key to a healthy lifestyle.

Given the broad terms, integrative medicine can mean many things.

Examples of integrative medicine practices include acupuncture, hypnosis, homeopathy, massage therapy, chiropractic care, Reiki, and anything else that treats the mind, body and spirit. To which you may be saying, “WTF, there’s no way any of that stuff works better than actual medicine.” Which goes back to the main idea that integrative medicine is not a replacement for conventional medicine, but works with it to achieve better health outcomes.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is a federal government agency dedicated to scientific research on integrative medicine. While their research on the effectiveness of each integrative practice varies, overall integrative medicine has become much more accepted in the scientific field in the past 20 years.

To help you on your path to wellness, we put together a list of 5 easy ways to incorporate integrative medicine practices into your routine. Have a happy and healthy 2016!

1. Breath Work

Hands down the best way to start and end your day: simple breathing exercises. Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine Medical Director Dr. Christopher Suhar recommends a simple 19-second routine: IN (4 seconds) HOLD (7 seconds) OUT (8 seconds). Taking some time to clear your head can help lower your heart rate, blood pressure while increasing endorphins and concentration.

2. Yoga

A lot of integrative medicine supporters recommend yoga because it combines physical exercise and breath work ( see #1). According to the NCCIH, more than 80 percent of yoga users reported reduced stress as a result of practicing yoga. The same survey conducted by the NCCIH also found that nearly two-thirds of yoga users reported that as a result of practicing yoga they were motivated to exercise more regularly, and 4 in 10 reported they were motivated to eat healthier. Don’t have the time/funds to sign up for a class? Check out Yoga With Adriene on YouTube for free yoga routines.

3. Aromatherapy

YESSS an excuse to buy more candles. But actually, surrounding yourself with the right scents can help improve your mood and well-being. Aromatherapy is using essential oils from plants to improve well-being. My mom used to always put some lavender oil on my pillow at night to help me sleep, and it’s something I still do now that I live on my own. Although studies have found mixed results, aromatherapy can (possibly) help reduce stress and anxiety. For me, it works, but for others, it might have no effect.

4. Herbs and dietary supplements

Hands down one of the most popular uses of integrative medicine. But before you rush out to Whole Foods to buy vitamins and probiotics, check out the NCCIH’s breakdown of common herbs to see their benefits and how they can interact with any other medications you’re taking (#staysafe). A couple of common ones that are generally safe for everyone: green tea (for mental alertness), peppermint oil (remedy for nausea, indigestion, cold symptoms, headaches, muscle and nerve pain, stomach problems), and tea tree oil (for acne).

5.  The healing power of writing

As any Lala writer will probably tell you, writing can be incredibly therapeutic. And studies back it up. Expressive writing has both short and long-term health benefits. Short-term, even simple acts like blogging and journaling can help decrease stress. Long-term, writing can help improve your mood, reduce blood pressure, improve lung, liver, and immune system functions and increase a feeling of greater psychological well-being. And those are just health outcomes. Writing has also been shown to improve your memory and GPA, so be sure to apply to The Lala as an editorial contributor (for your health, of course).

Image via Meredith Kress

Adriana Millar

Editorial Contributor, San Diego State University Major: Communications and International Studies Her heart belongs to: San Francisco, jasmine tea, fresh flowers, anything with stripes and my Colombian dog Gina Her guilty pleasures: Taco Tuesday, lazy mornings, Justin Bieber and boba drinks

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