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Understanding Integrative Medicine and The Approach To Balancing Your Hormones. A simple blood test can change your life.

A sit-down interview with Dr. John Stracks Integrative Family Physician and Assistant Clinical Professor of Family Medicine at Northwestern University.

What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative Medicine involves taking care of the whole person which is the body, mind, spirit, and emotions. Conventional medicine tends to just focus on the physical, which is why so much medical care involves prescriptions.

What sets it apart from other practices?

An integrative provider will learn about the whole person and try to get at the root cause of that person’s symptoms. Everyone is unique, so every person needs a slightly different treatment plan.

What does Integrative Medicine incorporate?

Since it’s whole-person-focused, treatments aren’t just limited to medications. Commonly, Integrative providers will recommend changes in diet, the use of supplements, holistic therapies such as acupuncture or chiropractic treatments, stress-reduction activities, psychotherapy, more or different exercise, and a good understanding of the mind-body-spirit connection.

What are the most common issues that women face?

The majority of my patients seek help for problems with menopause, infertility, endometriosis, IBS, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and thyroid conditions. They respond very well to natural and integrative therapies.

Is Integrative Medicine becoming more popular?

The conventional medical system is becoming increasingly more focused on short visits and medication prescriptions. There’s a huge number of people for whom that doesn’t work well for their health conditions. A large percentage of them are seeking out Integrative Medicine practitioners for different, holistic, and effective options.

What is the single most important thing you teach patients about the benefits of Integrative Medicine?

Many health conditions that are impossible to treat with medication alone can actually be treated very effectively using integrative therapies.

What does an initial consult involve?

I typically spend an hour or more with patients for an initial consultation. I want to hear about the whole condition. What is the history of this condition? What are the current symptoms? What’s been tried so far? What has worked and what hasn’t? I also want to get to know the person who comes into the office. What do they like to do? What do they eat? How are their relationships with their significant others, their parents, their children? What kind of work do they do? What do they do for fun? How was their upbringing? Have they experienced trauma? What’s important to them from a health standpoint? Once all that information is gathered and a physical exam has taken place, then I create an initial plan including further testing, changes in diet, books to read, physical activity to do, and herbs, vitamins, and supplements to try. A follow-up appointment generally happens 2-4 weeks after the initial consultation.

Women who go through menopause see big changes due to their hormones. It’s often debilitating. How do you address this issue?

There can be a number of symptoms that go with menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, memory issues, mood issues, poor concentration, general achiness and fatigue. If women aren’t feeling well as they go through this change, blood testing can reveal a great deal in terms of where the hormone levels are. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can target specific treatments for people that can be quite effective.

What are typical treatment options and how successful are they?When the Women’s Health Study came out in 2003, it seemed at the time that hormones were dangerous for women to use so that they shouldn’t. 

In the intervening 15 years though, researchers have continued to analyze that data, and it now appears that for women who are just going through menopause, using hormones is not nearly as dangerous as initially thought. When used safely and in the correct amounts, hormone replacement therapy can effectively treat all the symptoms of menopause and have women feeling quite similar to how they felt before menopause.

For those women who don’t want to or can’t use hormone replacement, other treatments such as herbs, vitamins, supplements, and dietary changes can be quite effective as can alternative treatments such as acupuncture and energy medicine.For those who don’t get relief from those types of treatments, other medications such as antidepressant medication and some neurological medications can also be quite effective, especially for hot flashes and night sweats.

What’s your best advice for women battling their hormonal changes?

Don’t ever accept that the symptoms are just part of getting older. When used correctly, hormone replacement therapy can be extremely effective or even life changing. Even for those who can’t or prefer not to use hormones, a variety of more alternative treatments can make a huge difference. Don’t settle for feeling less than your best.

For more information go to: www.drstracks.com

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