Updated: Jun 5, 2022
For so long, pills and surgery have been thought about as mainstream medicine, and everything else has been alternative medicine. Meditation, yoga, nutrition, and so-called lifestyle choices have all been thought of as alternative medicine. Later, we as a society began to realize that these are not necessarily alternatives but important aspects of our daily lives. Alternative medicine then became complementary medicine. Finally, we realized that the word complimentary still doesn't quite capture what we need. These “lifestyle choices” are integral to our lives. So complementary medicine became integrative medicine.
But now it's time to see things more clearly.
Primary medicine is those aspects of our life that are vital to healing and keeping us healthy. It is those aspects of our life that keep the human system humming along, that keep the immune system vitalized, and that keep our mood, relationships, and experiences in balance. Primary medicine is the Four Engines of nutrition, movement, connection, and rest. These engines drive health and healing for everybody–and they don't force us into a physical-only model of the human being that restricts the power to heal.
If the Four Engines are primary medicine, what becomes of complementary medicine and integrative medicine? Well, pills and procedures–or pills and surgery–are the true complementary medicine, because they are secondary or tertiary to health and healing. Pills and surgery are not required for everyone, and as we have seen on our Healing Is Possible podcast, they may not be necessary even when they are prescribed. But we as a society have not been taught how to make these choices regarding pills and procedures responsibly. We have not been taught about the Four Engines, about health and healing, about what keeps us in balance, and about the true prognosis for many diseases. The educational system and healthcare system have failed us in this respect.
Let us take the new, better-informed view, which just so happens to affirm what wisdom traditions around the world have always said. Nutrition, movement, connection, and rest are primary. This is primary medicine–true medicine–true healing. Pills and procedures are complementary medicine. Therefore, when we talk about integrative medicine, we should really be talking about integrating primary medicine–which is the Four Engines–with pills, procedures, and everything else when needed. Integrative medicine cannot be about placing pills and procedures first, and then secondarily incorporating the most essential aspects of health–a view rooted in confusion.
Integrative medicine = Primary medicine (the Four Engines) + complementary medicine (everything else, when needed)