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Integrative Medicine: Part Two

Integrative Medicine: part 2 of 2

WebMD Feature

This is the second in a two-part series on integrative medicine, the combination of conventional and alternative therapies.

Mysterious diseases that neither seem to have a single cause nor a single cure are the most compelling forces behind the rise of integrative medicine. The diseases, called "complex chronic illnesses," have confounded doctors, who attempt to treat patients suffering from the conditions for which one form of medicine doesn't seem to be enough.

Complex chronic illnesses affect more than one system in the body. Because of this, patients recover most successfully with the use of an amalgam of therapies that involve both conventional and alternative approaches.

Prime Examples

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia are leading examples of complex chronic illnesses. Both conditions involve the immune, circulatory, digestive and nervous systems, which interact with each other in bewildering ways.

The immune systems of persons afflicted with CFS churn out abnormally high levels of the hormones normally responsible for stimulating immune cells into action. But high levels of these hormones can also create a deep sense of fatigue. Individuals with CFS can also have serious problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog"), sleep, pain and digestion.

Widespread bodily pain is the most characteristic symptom of fibromyalgia. While sufferers of the condition perceive the pain they experience as coming from their muscles, the muscles don't show any signs of disease. The pain occurs when the brain encounters disturbance while processing normal nerve impulses. Fibromyalgia sufferers can also experience CFS-like symptoms.