I’ve been publishing integrative health information since 1992. Over the past 24 years, I’ve witnessed a remarkable transformation in this field that I am passionate about. I’ve also been fortunate to interview some of the leading thought leaders of our time.
A career highlight was the interview I did with Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling, PhD, just one year before his death. Early in my career, I was able to travel to Italy to interview Lucio Rovati, the Italian researcher who discovered glucosamine sulfate. I had conversations with orthomolecular pioneer Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD, before his passing. And more recently, I’ve explored interesting topics with people I truly respect, including mindfulness researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, epigenetics expert Randy Jirtle, PhD, and my own personal integrative medicine hero Rachel Naomi-Remen, MD.
Here is a look back, as well as a look forward through the eyes of an integrative health publisher.
When I began my career in integrative medicine 24 years ago, botanical phytosomes1 were becoming popular. Everyone was talking about standardized extracts versus crude extracts. And many of us were concerned about the issue of borrowed science: when a manufacturer promotes a product based on a specific study even though their product is not standardized the same as the material used in the study. It was very frustrating in the publishing world because we knew that even if the healthcare practitioner could figure this out, the patient was unlikely to be so savvy. This meant that the patient may not get the results they were hoping for. It’s interesting that even today we still encounter this same issue with some manufacturers.
In 1994 after a hard-fought grassroots battle, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). This meant that dietary supplements would not be treated as drugs but would have their own separate category of regulation.2 This was a huge advancement for the industry.
At that time, I wrote about new natural substances like enteric-coated peppermint oil, deglycyrrhizinated licorice, and glucosamine sulfate. The nomenclature revolved around words like “alternative” and “complementary.” Legitimate naturopathic medical doctors were considered “fringe” and competed with individuals who received their “doctorate” from bogus online degrees, which have fortunately become fewer in number and power. In those days, integrative medicine research was limited and mostly European.
Within the past decade, we’ve all witnessed advances that mark the beginning of a new era in integrative medicine. We’ve started to set aside terms like “complementary” and “alternative” and have been more comfortable with descriptors like integrative or integrated. The focus is on patient-centered care and evidenced-based research. In fact, in 2015 Natural Medicine Journal published a series of podcasts showcasing interviews with some of the leading researchers in the field.3
The study of epigenetics is another advancement. This science has confirmed what integrative practitioners have been saying for a long time: We are more than our genes and we can influence how our genes behave with diet, lifestyle, and targeted dietary supplements.
Knowledge about the human microbiome is another fascinating scientific development. It is changing the way we view health and the way practitioners deliver care. Integrative practitioners are soaking up this science to interject their medicine to make a difference in the lives of their patients.
The field of naturopathic medicine has grown significantly. Naturopathic doctors can now become licensed in 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. There are also sub-specialty naturopathic medical groups in oncology, pediatrics, and endocrinology.
It has always been my hope that “complementary/alternative/integrative” medicine would simply become “good” medicine. Someday labels will not be needed and it will all be just medicine—intermingled, intertwined, and interwoven into the fabric of our healthcare system. Too bold? I don't think so. The mail order doctorates have dwindled, the research has become more robust, and the movement has too much momentum.
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Integrative Therapeutics believes in the people and institutions leading the movement forward, breaking down the barriers between integrative care and everyone who needs it. Integrative Therapeutics is committed to supporting these initiatives because we believe everyone deserves options to choose their ideal path to health and happiness. To read more from individuals moving the integrative movement forward, visit our blog. All opinions expressed are those of the subjects.
- Kareparamban J, Nikam PH, Jadhav AP, Kadam VJ. Phytosome: a novel revolution in herbal drugs. IJRPC. 2012;2(2).
- US Food and Drug Administration. Dietary Supplements. Accessed online March 30, 2016. http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/
- Natural Medicine Journal. Integrative Medicine Research Series. Accessed online March 30, 2016. http://www.naturalmedicinejournal.com/sections/expert-interviews