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Sharp Health News

Doctor takes holistic medicine to heart

May 16, 2017

Doctor takes holistic medicine to heart

Dr. Kathlyn Ignacio saw the benefits of integrative medicine after her son, Carson, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 6.

Dr. Kathlyn Ignacio, an internal medicine specialist with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, has a professional interest in integrative holistic medicine. Currently in her second year of a two-year integrative holistic fellowship, she uses what she has learned in the fellowship on a daily basis in her current practice.

However, Dr. Ignacio also has a distinctly personal interest in holistic medicine. She witnessed the benefits of integrative holistic practices after her son, Carson, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) at age 6.

ALL is a cancer that starts from the early version of white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the bone marrow, where new blood cells are made. "Acute" means that the disease can progress quickly and would likely be fatal within months if not appropriately treated.

Carson's case was further complicated by the fact that he also suffered a gastrointestinal mucormycosis infection, a fungal organism that is rare, but quite lethal. Dr. Ignacio and her son's care team decided to take an integrative holistic medicine approach in his treatment.

Integrative medicine combines allopathic medicine (also called Western medicine), functional medicine — a practice that addresses the underlying causes of disease using a systems-oriented approach — and alternative holistic care. It makes use of all therapeutic approaches, health care professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.

"Integrative medicine focuses on the whole person," Dr. Ignacio says. "It reaffirms the relationship between practitioner and patient, and is proactive with an emphasis on prevention. It offers more choice and empowers the patient to take part in improving their own health."

Dr. Ignacio
Dr. Ignacio, pictured here with her family, uses holistic medicine on a daily basis in her current practice.

Patients and their care team may choose from a variety of alternative or holistic treatments to complement allopathic medicine:

The treatment of disease by very small doses of natural substances that would produce symptoms of disease in a healthy person to stimulate a person's own healing power.

Manual medicine
Techniques and hands-on therapies — such as physical therapy, massage or chiropractic care — that aid in the diagnosis and treatment of illness and injury.

Energy healing
Therapeutic methods — including reiki and Healing Touch — that manipulate the flow of energy within and around our bodies to regain balance and facilitate our body's innate healing mechanisms.

A type of traditional Chinese medicine that stimulates specific points on the body by inserting very thin needles into the skin to improve the flow of energy.

Craniosacral healing
A gentle, hands-on healing treatment during which a practitioner makes light contact at selected points around the head, torso, knees and feet to improve central nervous system functioning.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT)
A treatment that enhances the body's natural healing process by inhalation of 100 percent oxygen in a total body chamber where atmospheric pressure is controlled.

A group of physical, mental and spiritual practices — breath control, simple meditation and specific body postures — practiced for health and relaxation.

A system of medicine based on the belief that the mind and the body are inextricably connected, offering a personalized approach to health with a focus on diet, exercise, supplements and all other aspects of a person's lifestyle.

Spiritual healing
Includes spiritual practices, such as prayer, to bring about improved health and wellness.

"Carson had the best of allopathic medicine with surgical intervention and antifungal medications," Dr. Ignacio says. "He also received spiritual healing through prayer, energy healing through both craniosacral therapy and Healing Touch, as well as hyperbaric oxygen treatments. Carson, now 17, is in excellent health and I believe that these integrative holistic healing modalities contributed significantly to his overall healing and survivorship."

Learn more about integrative and complementary medicine programs offered at Sharp hospitals, in conjunction with medical treatments, to treat body, mind and spirit.

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