What Is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine (IM) is defined as “healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies” (Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine).

As integrative medicine physicians, we specialize in holistic, personalized medical care. We recognize that each patient is totally unique, with unique health challenges based on factors such as genetics, nutritional deficiencies, environmental toxins, hormonal profile and more.

Historically, conventional “mainstream” medicine has focused on treating the symptoms that a patient presents, rather than treating the unique individual, as a whole person.

While this is sometimes a successful mode of treatment, for example in acute care, it is often more of a “band-aid” solution that doesn’t get to the root of the actual problem.

The reason for this is because our body is a complex, interwoven structure of different systems that work symbiotically. Integrative medicine focuses on the various factors affecting how these systems work together in each person, taking an individualized approach to their treatment plan.

It recognizes that what is right for one patient with a certain health history (and set of lifestyle factors) may not be right for another.

To be sure, the success of integrative medicine is dependent on an open relationship between patients and their healthcare practitioners.

Because in order to treat a patient to the best of their ability, a healthcare professional must know everything they can about the patient’s health history – not just their current symptoms, but also their past history, lifestyle and stress levels, and one of the most important factors, diet. 


Yet time and time again, we hear from patients that they’ve been to a wide variety of doctors (and even specialists), trying to find the answer to why that can’t heal from their chronic illness. 

The current standard of care also tends to diagnose based on symptoms – which is so problematic as many conditions have similar symptoms… meaning that you’ll be playing a guessing game, which is frustrating for the patient and the doctor.

To be fair, specialized knowledge about specific areas in the body is very useful, especially in acute/emergency care. 

However, understanding how to treat the whole body (holistically) is crucial when dealing with the multifaceted factors at play in chronic disease. Instead of seeing symptoms as leading to one simple diagnosis, integrative doctors understand that they are a sign of larger systemic issues. These issues and imbalances can only be properly treated with a combination of therapies that we build into a personalized protocol for you.

For example, we oftentimes see patients that share the same symptoms like gassiness, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. While the symptoms are the same, they usually are suffering from different issues such as gut imbalances (leaky gut, IBS, SIBO, SIFO) or an autoimmune disorder (such as Crohn’s, colitis, IBD) – all of which need to be treated differently.

That’s why our practice is so successful at treating chronic illness, because our integrative medicine approach focusing on the root cause or causes of what is ailing you.

Another reason integrative medicine is so different from conventional care is that more time and care is taken on patient cases – because of the complexity of treatment. 

Blended Integrative Medicine Approach

What both integrative medicine and functional and integrative medicine have in common is that they treat the whole person, not just the symptoms of disease.

Neither approach rejects conventional treatment approaches, but instead seeks to balance your body using nutrition, supplements and the most natural approaches in order to avoid medications that oftentimes have dangerous side-effects and don’t address the root of chronic illness. With this approach, we allow natural healing to take place and health to be restored.

Integrative and functional and integrative medicine have been especially useful with chronic diseases where you don’t have a clear diagnosis – because they both address the lifestyle factors as well as the biological factors that caused the illness in the first place.

Ultimately, we believe that the type of doctor you choose has to suit your philosophy, health goals and lifestyle. For us, having an open mind and being willing to consider all available treatment modalities is paramount to restore full function as quickly as possible.

What Can I Expect From An Integrative Medicine Doctor?

During the intake consultation at Sarah Yoakam, MD, we typically spend 60-90 minutes discussing your medical history, diet, and what medications and supplements you’re currently taking and have taken in the past. Our goal is to be as thorough as possible, so we can understand all the possible factors at play in your chronic disorder… it’s akin to being a medical detective! We know from experience that lifestyle plays a huge factor in health. Therefore, we take a deep-dive on lifestyle-related questions, such as eating and sleep habits, what toxins may be present in your environment, as well as how connected you are to family, friends, and your community – because this information will help us understand your situation more holistically. Once we make our assessment – supported by advanced lab testing on an as needed basis, we can create a custom-tailored lifestyle-based healing protocol informed by current nutritional science to give you the best plan for healing. If you’re curious whether partnering with our team at Sarah Yoakam, MD is the next best step, simply apply for a free discovery consultation!

Take The First Step On Your

Journey With Me

Perhaps you have questions you’d like to ask before you make a decision to become a patient. Set up a free 15 minute Discovery Call with Sarah Yoakam, MD to learn if we’re the right fit.