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IM: Integrative Medicine & Cystic Fibrosis

“The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore, the physician must start from nature, with an open mind.”


These are the words of the German alchemist, Paracelsus. He believed that healing should come from natural resources from mother earth and that we as people should look at them with an open mind on the possibilities of how they can heal us. I believe this to be true as well, because everyone knows that we evolved from nature, therefore it’s medicinal remedies to help heal us should be there as well.

To have the knowledge of Western physicians and research medicine in our lives today is one amazing advancement in civilization, but this study is constantly being battled upon and forever changing. What scientific developments we know work now, may change or not work in the future. Modern Western medicine will always be evolving and progressing which brings up lots of conflicts on how the overall Western healthcare system is working to ensure that Americans are receiving the best overall care they can get.

Are we getting the best care for us long term?

image of the double helix design of DNA

Western Medicine Today

According to Dr. Ka-Kit Hui, MD and founder and director of UCLA center for East-West Medicine, “Modern Western medicine today is emphasized on a reductionist approach that focuses on the elements of a what we could call a ‘sick health care system’ meaning that it only works on the basis of a single element of either physical or objective disease. It is thought to be only successful in treating one side of the overall health spectrum; with ground breaking medical research and advanced surgical procedures, it thrives in only treating the serious and sporadic conditions which in times of need are very important to have.” (Wang 2011)

On the other hand, the other side of the spectrum is being seriously neglected. Life-saving medicine and procedures are needed in this current time in civilization and have made for many advances in medicine and research for many different diseases, but for it to be our only focus doesn’t make sense. Not every person that goes to the doctor is in a life-threatening or urgent care need. “According to the Center for Disease (CDC), 70% of all deaths are due to chronic disease” that usually develops due to underlying issues within various parts of the entire body, such as Diabetes, Heart Disease, Stroke, Cancer, etc. “This is where Western medicine’s inadequacy lies. Specifically, in how it tends to the maintenance of health and promotion of overall wellness.” (Wang 2011)

‘This has not only been seen in the rise of almost 40% of patients just in the US finding alternative methods of self care according to the NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s nationwide survey (2008).’ This is due to the people’s current dissatisfaction of Western medicine methods and it is still growing more popular today. It has also started to be acknowledged by the healthcare leaders and politicians that this is the major flaw of the western health system. So, what’s the next thing to do?

display of herbal teas, herbs in a tea cup, spoons, and strainer on a table

Incorporate Integrative Medicine

We need to bring in the other side of the spectrum, incorporating alternative methods, such as integrative medicine (Naturopathic) or CAM (complementary and alternative medicine). According to the Consortium of Academic Health centers, “Integrative medicine is a practice of medicine that reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by western medical diagnostic evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches to achieve optimal health and healing” for the entire body, mind, and spirit. On the contrary, CAM refers to the use of other non-conventional methods and therapies such as acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine along with modern Western medicine, the complementary method, or in place of Western medicine known as alternative medicine.

Integrative Medicine emphasizes care using the best options from both complementary medicine and alternative methods. It combines the two types and picks the best scientifically supported therapies of both options creating the overall well-being of the patient’s health through safe, effective, and less-invasive possibilities. The practitioners of Integrative Medicine are either licensed MD’s (doctorate of medicine), DO’s (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine), or ND’s (Naturopathic Medicine doctor). These degrees share similar similarities, but some have training in additional areas, such as botanicals (herbs), Eastern therapies, nutrition, and osteopathic manipulative medicine along with the standard western medicine training.

The holistic approaches or alternative side of the integrative medicine approach incorporates the holistic methods, such as acupuncture, nutrition, botanical's or herbal medicine, but also looks at lifestyle intervention. Most of these approaches have been working for thousands of years by Egyptians, Native Americans, Chinese, and Indigenous tribes all over the world and our still used today. They have been using herbal plant medicines and teas from mother earth, along with diet, and exercise to heal the entire body. They focus on healing the whole being including their body, mind, and spirit and not just one quick fix for a specific problem.

'These holistic methods can be dated to be used as far back as 400BCE and 260CE in the Chinese Huangdi Neijing, which is the oldest written Chinese text that discusses theoretical ideologies and practical methods of Chinese medicine and describes the ideals of what we would call the holistic approach today. These holistic approaches include the ideas of forces such as the 5 elements (water, earth, metal, fire, and wood), yin & yang, along with personal diet, and lifestyle.' The balance of these forces suggests that the person is to be at a healthy balance of body, mind, and spirit. Any disturbances of these forces in any one element causes unbalance and sickness in the body, mind, and spirit or Qi (the essence of the body in traditional Chinese medicine). (Reid 2014)

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture follow these ‘ideas that everything in the universe is dependent on the interconnectedness and balance of each other.’ These Eastern methods of medicine differ from today’s western science theories ‘by anatomical and physiological locations and theories.’ ‘Eastern methodologies state that the body has meridians that transfer Qi up and down the body between paired viscera organs and bowel organs. It treats the whole body, as a whole organ instead of dividing it into different parts and treating those parts individually like Western methods. Western methods also go off the standard anatomical structure of the body based on the connections that are visible and can be studied under a microscope or in various scans.’ (Reid 2014) Although there is proof to support the existence of these meridians, they are forces and do not show up on an x-ray where they can be physically seen. There has been controversy between scientists on the belief of these meridians in the past, but the rise in acupuncture methods, sound therapy, and biofeedback has been the driving source of proof that these meridians do exist and work in amazing ways. Therefore, “acupuncture has become the first recognized and accepted method as a national standard of Chinese medicine used for holistic healing in the US.” (Reid 2014)

Even though not all Eastern or alternative medicine has been recognized by the Western medical society these holistic approaches are growing in popularity by the overall population as more individuals begin to use alternative methods. The herbal/botanical side of Chinese medicine is growing and more scientific research is being conducted on different medicinal herbs, but a lot are not available for study as there are still several language barriers to overcome in translating the old text of these apothecary documents. Even though there are still obstacles to overcome with alternative medicines becoming recognized by Western medical societies, they are still being used worldwide.

Person holding a grapefruit in one hand and the other is holding prescription pills.

Integration for Cystic Fibrosis

I believe it is the integration of both sides of the health spectrum, East and West that will help Cystic Fibrosis patients. We as CF individuals have many different underlying conditions in all our organs and each organ’s functioning capabilities affects all the others. I have used and believe that some of these holistic methods along with a naturopathic doctor’s guidance can help with the everyday challenges and symptoms that us as CF individuals deal with daily; such as coughing, inflammation, congestion, and sore muscles. The following holistic methods I have tried and find them very useful in my CF daily care, such as: acupuncture, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, herbal remedies/teas, essential oils, soud healing, biofeedback therapy, and massage. They assist in so many ways anatomically, emotionally, and mentally to bring balance to the mind and relieve the body of physical stress which we as CF people endure on a constant basis or anyone with chronic diseases does.

So, I ask you to join me in supporting this integration of eastern and western medicines into our daily CF care. To help promote this idea to CF companies, caretakers, and doctors to spread the word that we should be integrating these methods into our CF care as physical therapies and nutritional guidance. It is my goal to be able to have these holistic methods and integrative doctors become a part of the CF community to help in continuing to heal the entire body of CF individuals nationwide.

Leave us a comment and let us know what alternative therapies you have tried for your chronic illness or for Cystic Fibrosis therapies. Aloha and Mahalo until next time. 😊

Upcoming: My next blog will incorporate the holistic methods I have tried and believe are a fantastic addition to our CF daily care.


  1. Wang, Elizabeth A. “East Meets West: How Integrative Medicine is Changing Health Care” Total Wellness Magazine. Published on Jan 16, 2011. Issue 2, Volume 11. Produced by UCLA's Student Wellness Commission.

  2. Reid, Rushell A., "Looking to The East: Benefits of Combining Chinese and Western Medicines" (2014). Senior Projects Spring 2014. 17.

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