Posted: 8:00 a.m. Thursday, July 4, 2013

Integrative medicine can help with daily stress and chronic conditions

    By Sian Cotton, Ph.D.

    We’ve all said it, sometimes more frequently than we should: I’m stressed.

    A little bit of time-limited stress is all right, but research has shown that chronic stress can take a toll on your health, meaning exhaustion and a weaker immune system.

    It is not so much the stress in our lives that causes the problem, but our reaction to that stress which can cause a person to cope in unhealthy ways, like smoking, developing unhealthy eating patterns or drinking too much alcohol. Stress can raise blood pressure or other functions in the body that send your immune system into “fight” mode.

    Research points to evidence that integrative medicine practices—like acupuncture, massage, yoga and Pilates, Tai Chi and mindful breathing exercises—can help with daily stress as well as help people cope with chronic conditions.

    Specifically, studies have shown how integrative medicine techniques and spirituality can help people living with asthma and chronic pain conditions and improve their overall health outcomes.

    Other studies have shown how these same techniques can improve stress levels and overall well-being for generally healthy people, leading to an overall happier, healthier life.

    With this growing evidence base of research in integrative medicine, UC Health has decided to take these proven techniques and couple them with traditional therapies as part of UC Health’s Integrative Medicine services, housed at the UC Health Women’s Center in West Chester.

    Guided by Dr. Stefanie Stevenson, the clinical director for these services, both men and women can be seen at the West Chester location for physician consultations (covered by most insurance), acupuncture, massage, mindfulness groups, health/wellness coaching, reflexology, therapeutic yoga and Pilates, Tai Chi and Medical QiGong.

    Quiet meditation or prayer, deep breathing, yoga or another form of mind-body or relaxation strategy that you enjoy, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, can help keep your stress levels at a lower level. However, if a stressful problem becomes chronic or overwhelming, see your primary care, mental health or integrative medicine specialist.

    Studies consistently show a link between a healthy mind, body and spirit. We are very excited to offer these new services under the UC Health umbrella to improve the quality of life for the patients and families we serve.

    Sian Cotton, PhD, is an associate professor in the UC Department of Family and Community Medicine and director of integrative medicine at UC Health. The UC Health Integrative Medicine services are located in the Women’s Health Center (UC Health Physicians Office South), 7675 Wellness Way, Suite 400, West Chester Twp.

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