Integrative Medicine for Mind, Body, Community, and Spirit
Many of us take over-the-counter cold remedies to quash our sniffles and cough so we can get on with our day. We try to hide the symptoms, survive the side effects, and hope for the best while cold germs linger in our bodies. Now imagine looking at illness from a different perspective. How do lifestyle patterns like sleep, stress, nutrition, and hygiene figure into one’s susceptibility to illness? What can be done to get to the origin of an illness, not just treat its symptoms? How can you integrate medical treatments with a more comprehensive approach to wellness? The field of integrative medicine is the melding of conventional Western medicine with complementary therapies and healing practices. It affords patients and health care providers a broad perspective on healing that emphasizes the health of the whole person: mind, body, community, and spirit.
Jennifer Norden, MD, has worked in integrative medicine in northeast Wisconsin since 1999 and recently joined ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah as an internal medicine provider. She is a graduate of the School of Medicine and Public Health at UW-Madison and fellowship trained at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.
“A primary care provider with the added perspective of integrative medicine can help patients identify the root cause behind their health problems. A lot of times that’s stress or lifestyle issues,” Dr. Norden said. “Our bodies have an innate healing response, and sometimes we lose touch with that when prescriptions or invasive procedures are the only solutions offered.”
Integrative medicine considers all factors that influence a person’s health, wellness, and disease and suggests ways to improve their health and outlook on life. “The key is to choose interventions that are natural and less invasive whenever possible and consider the risks and benefits of any therapy, conventional or alternative,” she said.
Dr. Norden works with many adults with chronic diseases like anxiety and depression, heart disease, diabetes, chronic pain, and irritable bowel syndrome. She usually begins with conventional medical diagnostic tests. “The integrated approach works really well for people who want to learn more about how their bodies work and respond. It is closely tailored to each person. Often it’s not a quick and easy fix, but an investment of time to find the right combination of therapies.”
Physical therapy, acupuncture, or massage, among other modalities, may be prescribed to help people reduce stress and facilitate healing. Dr. Norden also evaluates each person’s prescriptions to determine if they are still necessary, if the dosages are correct, or if more natural alternatives exist without the related side effects. She also learns about the state of a person’s sleep, relationships, nutrition and physical activity.
Dr. Norden’s blend of expertise is helpful to patients with acute or chronic conditions. She advises:
- See a medical doctor for any significant health concerns. Emergency situations may call for surgical or prescription interventions. If it’s not urgent, you will still benefit from a medical diagnosis and can work with your health care provider to optimize your body’s healing capacity, minimize unpleasant side effects, and help you cope with your injury or illness.
- Be open and honest with your health care provider. The goal is always safe and coordinated care. Share what kind of treatments you receive, what over-the-counter and prescription substances you take (including herbs and supplements), and what you generally eat and drink.
- Adopt a holistic perspective. In addition to helping deal with a specific health issue, holistic practices can help a person’s overall health and wellbeing. For instance, yoga can provide increased physical strength and flexibility and better sleep. It can also help develop a sense of mastery, inner peace, and a less reactive approach to life—all of which can lead to an improved level of mental and spiritual wellness.
Are you looking for a doctor who can help you rediscover your body’s innate healing response? Jennifer Norden, MD, practices internal medicine at ThedaCare Physicians-Neenah. Call her office directly at 920.725-2070 to schedule an appointment.