Meditation has helped to normalize Barclay Hastings' blood pressure. The ancient practice is one of several treatments that make up a system of natural medicine called Ayurveda.
Integrative medicine is growing in popularity. About 38 percent of U.S. adults now use complementary and alternative medicine, according to research by the National Institutes of Health. So why are patients flocking to such practices as yoga, massage, meditation, acupuncture and chiropractic for medical treatment?
The Ohio State University Medical Center has some answers. Its Center for Integrative Medicine (CIM) provides an evidence-based, patient-centered approach to holistic health care, according to Laura Kunze, MBA, the Center's program director. It's one of the most active integrative medicine centers in the country, with a monthly average of 2,051 visits in 2010. Many patients who come to the CIM are undergoing traditional treatment for complex conditions, such as cancer. "They need someone who can bring together the best of both complementary and traditional care," says Kunze. "This creates a synergy that is more powerful than using these treatments independently."
Barclay Hastings is a testament to the power of this alternative approach. Five years ago, he was taking medication for high blood pressure. Despite the treatment, his blood pressure was not well controlled, so he visited Hari Sharma, MD, at the CIM.
Dr. Sharma uses Ayurveda, a comprehensive system of natural medicine that promotes wellness and prevents a wide range of illnesses. The method employs a variety of natural therapies, which complement conventional treatments. In Hastings' case, Ayurvedic therapies were added to his regimen of blood pressure medication.
An Ancient Science
"Ayurveda is a comprehensive program to restore wholeness," says Dr. Sharma. "Treatments are based on an individual's constitution [or physical and psychological characteristics] to address disorders present in the physiology." Dr. Sharma uses the following Ayurveda treatments:
- Dietary recommendations to enhance digestion and elimination
- Herbal products to balance physiology
- Meditation to create peace of mind and release stress
- Breathing exercises to balance the nervous system
- Self-massage for detoxification and relaxation
Hastings had discovered that his blood pressure went up each afternoon, even with blood pressure medication. "So I taught him meditation, breathing exercises and self-massage, and recommended herbal mixtures," says Dr. Sharma. "Now his blood pressure is normal."
Says Hastings, "Both my wife and I started meditation together, and we continue practicing it. That has helped tremendously. With minimal meds, my blood pressure has normalized, and I credit it to the CIM and their total protocol. Everything is managed quite beautifully."
Another sign the program is working is Hastings' overall sense of well-being. "I just turned 77 and I feel good!" Hastings exclaims. "My blood pressure has been fabulously under control. I've been able to keep it within a normal range—I don't have to worry about it now. And now I'm learning something new: how to program and develop websites. I credit this new endeavor to my strong physical and mental health."
Spotlight on Education
The Ohio State University Medical Center is about more than healing. We also offer education about staying well.
The OSU Center for Integrative Medicine offers weekly classes in subjects such as nutrition and meditation. John Grandominico, DC, DACRB, a chiropractor, teaches classes on postural stability and back pain, and chiropractic treatment for headaches.
"Sometimes people may have lower back pain and come to learn about the problem," he says. "They may find out there are certain things they can do on their own to correct it." First-time patients tend to stay patients, utilizing the Center as they need it. "They are given activities and ways to make lifestyle changes to help reduce the problems they have," Grandominico notes.
Ask Your Advocate
Q: What does "complementary medicine" mean?
A: Complementary medicine is a diverse group of medical and healthcare systems, practices and products, including natural products, mind-body medicine, and manipulative and body-based practices. Complementary medicine is informed by evidence but is not generally considered part of conventional medicine. It is used in conjunction with conventional therapies.
Visit the Center for Integrative Medicine.