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An integrative approach to health care

Published:Monday | October 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

THE GOAL of health care is to provide care which either prevents illness or, where illness exists, cure or manage so that we can continue to enjoy this life that is ours. Most of us would have experienced illness in some form or the other, some to a greater extent than others. Many are often in a quandary as to how to treat some types of conditions, as there are many options now available in health care.

On one hand, some feel cautious about the use of pharmaceutical drugs and feel sure that all such administrations are 'Babylon', pointing to the possible side effects of the medications being prescribed.

On the other end of the spectrum, some are firmly of the belief there is always a bush that will cure EVERYTHING or, conversely, that you are sure to get liver disease from the consumption of herbs.

I propose that there is a middle ground.

Yes, there are side effects to many pharmaceutical drugs.

No, all herbs cannot be taken by everyone.

Yes, some herbs and treatments are contraindicated for some people and specific dosage guidelines need to be adhered to.

No, you cannot take every herb you hear about, especially if you are taking other medications.

But yes, you can take both herbal and pharmaceutical formulations.

So how does one navigate? How does one decide what to do and when? Thankfully, there are many treatment options available.




These include cost, time, 'stick-to-it-tiveness' and lifestyle. Particularly when dealing with chronic conditions which will require ongoing care, one has to consider the overall cost, what one can stick to and what part you have to play in making adjustments that will improve your condition, as consistency is essential.




To apply an integrative approach is to engage more than one modality in order to achieve optimal comfort, health and well-being.

Consider a person with arthritis, which is a chronic condition. They are on painkillers, which offer some pain relief though movement is still limited. With the inclusion of weekly or twice-monthly acupuncture sessions, they find their mobility is improved and they can manage with using less painkillers, thus reducing the possible long-term side effects of their medication. They are now able to do moderate exercise three to four times a week, which further helps in the management of the condition.

In this and many other types of conditions, a person can employ more than one modality in order to draw the maximum benefits of each while minimising its adverse effects, if there are any.




Start by being open to different options and educate yourself on what those might be. It's your body, so be mindful of what affects it and how.

Tell all health-care providers about all medications, supplements and herbs being taken.

Give whatever you are doing a chance to work, you cannot do it once and necessarily expect a miracle.

Discuss with your health-care providers ways of striking the best balance that is manageable.




There are so many areas of care available with far-reaching benefits: conventional medicine and its specialities, traditional Chinese medicine, massage therapy, chiropractic medicine, physiotherapy, speech therapy, reflexology, to name just a few.

Take the time to investigate the world of health care available to you and what it can offer.

• Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner, herbalist and doctor of acupuncture. Email: