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Healthy Living

Health Care for the Whole Person

Written by Nicole Alexander, MD

State of mind and state of being are two aspects of health care that have not always connected. However, it is becoming more widely understood that mental health and physical health are best treated together.

The mind/body approach is very important—that’s what integrative medicine is all about. If someone is not in a good space, if they are depressed, if they are not in healthy relationships or taking care of their body—all of that matters.

Integrative medicine is helpful for people of any age, but there are different needs at different stages of life. Holistic treatment takes into account age, illness, ability and personal preference. It’s not a replacement for clinical treatment but enhances clinical treatment by reducing stress, supporting sleep and good eating habits and encouraging healthy relationships with friends, family and self.

Integrative medicine is good for things not visible. I support integrative medicine as a long as it’s with primary care as a complementary medicine to traditional medicine.

Diet is one of the most important components of integrative medicine. I recommend eating an anti-inflammatory diet similar to the Mediterranean diet and emphasize the importance of adequate sleep and consistent exercise as part of the daily routine.

Other elements of integrative medicine include meditation, yoga, mindfulness practice, acupuncture and aromatherapy. Massage, physical therapy and weight loss can also be part of a holistic health plan.

In many cases, Western medicine can be improved by integrative modalities in the treatment of chronic pain. Based on an individual’s needs and interest, yoga and mindfulness can be helpful for pain caused by ongoing conditions. Stretching relieves the body, and paying attention to the present moment decreases focus on and fears about pain.

For stress, I suggest yoga and aromatherapy to relax the body through movement and scent. For difficulty sleeping, herbal remedies such as melatonin or valerian and meditation can help the soothe the mind and support calmness.

While not every patient is interested in a holistic approach, many are open to it and are comfortable with the idea that lifestyle has a huge effect on health. It’s about being self-aware. That’s one reason many people are not open to integrative medicine, but if they are, they can seek me out.

I make sure my patients are sleeping, moving, eating well and are in healthy relationships and living a life of purpose. Without that, people are going to be unhappy. I can’t make decisions for anyone, but I can assure you certain things in your life are affecting your health.

It’s easy to adopt a mind/body approach to health. Torrance Memorial offers yoga classes through its HealthLinks program and sells aromatherapy products in the HealthLinks gift shop. And there is no shortage of meditation apps and videos, massage therapy providers, yoga studios and books on mindfulness (many are available in the HealthLinks gift shop).

Your state of mind really affects your health, and if your body is not healthy, that can affect your mind. Depending on what you are struggling with, you have to be aware of yourself and then you can meet with an integrative practitioner and match that with treatment.

Torrance Memorial's HealthLinks resource center offers the following:

  • Yoga
  • Guided imagery classes
  • Massage
  • Support groups
  • Health-related lectures
  • Books
  • Physical therapy tools
  • Senior health
  • Aromatherapy
  • Items for sleep and relaxation

HealthLinks is located in the Torrance Memorial West Tower, 1st Floor, 3325 Medical Center Drive. Call 310-517-7089 or visit HealthLinks@tmmc.com for more information.

The 5-7-8 Breath

Those with an interest in meditating, stretching or any other integrative medicine practice can try a few minutes a day and work up to longer duration. Dr. Alexander often starts patients with an easy 5-7-8 relaxation breath.

  • Inhale – count of 5
  • Hold – count of 7
  • Exhale – count of 8

Nicole Alexander, MD, is a primary care physician with the Torrance Memorial Physician Network. She practices at 3333 Skypark Drive, Ste. 100 in Torrance. She can be reached at 310-784-6300.