As defined by the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association :

The term Integrative Medicine (IM) refers to the blending of conventional and natural/complementary medicines and/or therapies along with lifestyle interventions and a holistic approach – taking into account the physical, psychological, social and spiritual wellbeing of the person – with the aim of using the most appropriate, safe and evidence-based modality(ies) available.
(AIMA joint working party/RACGP : ‘Best Practice’ document)
Integrative Medicine is the practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, health care professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.
Developed and Adopted by The Consortium, May 2004 Edited May 2009 and November 2009

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As mentioned in my post THE RISE AND FALL, over the last six years since my diagnosis I have done a huge amount of research on my illness, not only on Bipolar itself, but on various different treatment methods and medications. More so since my hospitalisation last year from Lithium toxicity which resulted in some temporary neurological damage. This also affected my kidneys and thyroid. As a result I am now psychotropic medication free and without realising it took an Integrative Medicinal approach to managing my illness.

During the six years prior to this, the various doctors and specialists I had been seeing had never discussed alternative options with me as to my treatment. Obviously I was told that for my general wellbeing I needed to eat well and exercise (as we all do) but I wasn’t told that for someone with a mental illness, this is absolutely crucial and can have a MASSIVE impact on my moods and quality of life, or could potentially have me off medication if I went down that path. As far as I knew I was going to be on meds for the rest of my life. And what a miserable thought that was.

I had always been creative and had found joy and relaxation in writing and in my fashion styling (when I could). What I didn’t know is that creative therapy (art, pet therapy, horticulture, drama, dance, music, writing, painting etc…) is an excellent and legitimate method to treat patients with mental health issues as it allows patients to express themselves creatively rather than through talk therapy  (this is an unbelievable way to self explore). So this is something that I have made an integral part of my day to day life and it’s made a huge difference to my mental health and wellbeing.

I had also heard about the benefits of Yoga and meditation, but when I was medicated I found it difficult to find the motivation to exercise (I also lost my creativity as I felt numb a great deal of the time) and couldn’t quiet the chatter in my head long enough to meditate. I still have a love hate relationship with exercise and am learning to get the motivation to exercise in some way regularly but old habits die hard, as they say, and it takes a lot of motivation for me to get to the gym or even just go for a walk. But the intention is there and when I do, it makes such a difference to the way I feel. I think I need to focus on making it a “prescription” or an “appointment” like I used to have with my psychologist or psychiatrist – as I never missed those. But I don’t stress too much about this as I don’t put pressure on myself about this stuff anymore.

Words illustration of woman doing yoga over white background

Nutrition was something else that I had never really focused on. I was lazy with food and admittedly had an addiction to coca cola, which thankfully I’ve now kicked. In my post Super Foods = Super Worth It I talk about the benefits of adding supplements to my diet which has made a world of difference, and this is all part of Integrative Medicine, something that the specialists never talked to me about. I was just pumped full of pharmaceutical drugs, which of course seems to be the norm when diagnosed with a mental illness.

This type of treatment may not work as well as it has for me for everyone, but taking a holistic approach to align the mind, body and spirit in conjunction with medication (if that’s the case) can’t be bad – that’s all I’m saying. Allowing patients to improve their overall health and wellbeing with these methods should be something that treating physicians make available to them in conjunction with their current treatment as options

There is research that Integrative Medicine is having fantastic results and I believe this is the way of the future. We all want to live a healthier life and if that means there is an opportunity for patients with mental illness having the chance to reduce or even stop taking pharmaceutical medication (if medically advised) then that’s fantastic.

Links

Integrative Treatment of Bipolar Disorder – Psychiatric Times

Holistic Treatment for Bipolar Disorder – Alternative To Meds Center 

Bipolar Disorder and Complentary Medicine – US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health

Biochemical Individuality and Nutrition – Bio Balance

Yoga for Bipolar Disorder – Livestrong.com