The Tao of Integrative Medicine

September 8, 2019 Joe Brady

There is an old Chinese saying “There are a thousand way’s to the top of mount Tai”. Just as there are a thousand way’s to a healthy lifestyle. Human beings are each as different as their fingerprints and what constitutes a healthy lifestyle is likely to be just as varied. This creates real problems for the scientific research into the effectiveness of these approaches. There are just too many variables. A person who takes up yoga does not just do yoga. They start eating better, maybe even become a vegetarian. A tai chi practitioner will start walking more as their balance improves. One private company, A Place for Mom, analyzed 100 interviews with people who lived until at least 100 years old. They found that what the centenarians attributed their longevity to was highly variable. Only 25 percent followed traditional health advice, such as eating a healthy diet, 29 percent didn’t. Some centenarians swear that whiskey (for medicinal purposes only of course) was the secret and many others never drank.

Here is the top ten list according to the study:

Ignore traditional dietary advice 29%

Eat a healthy diet 25%

Stay active 22%

Keep a positive attitude 18%

Drink alcohol regularly 16%

Abstain from alcohol/smoking 12%

Maintain meaningful relationships 10%

Get a good night’s sleep 9%

Be nice to others 9%

Have faith 9%

For a complete list see the original article @

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts

There is a need to study healthy lifestyles as a whole. Most studies have focused upon studying one therapy at a time where healthy lifestyles are a combination of many factors taken into a whole way of life. 

Nurturing life practices from traditional medicine form a useful framework

Borrowing a framework from the “Yang Shen” or “nurturing life” practices which date back in traditional Chinese medicine to at least 147 B.C. These principles were designed to strengthen the body, promote health and cultivate the spirit. They also form a framework that can be used in modern times to encompass all the various types of evidence-based approaches in integrative medicine.

Integrative Medicine Therapies Included in the 2007 NHIS CAM Survey


Here is an example of the variety of alternatives  for healthy living available in the community


Various forms of Mindful Meditation Including

  • Art
  • Music
  • Literature
  • Poetry
  • Prayer

Deep breathing exercises

Guided imagery

Progressive relaxation


Exercise is Medicine

Formal Exercise programs of many kinds

Tai chi


Qi gong


Trager psychophysical integration

Practitioner Based Traditional Therapies




Chelation therapy*

Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation*


Traditional healers*

  • Curandero
  • Espiritista
  • Hierbero or Yerbera
  • Native American healer/Medicine man
  • Shaman


Energy healing therapy/Reiki*

Movement therapies

Alexander technique



Diet-based therapies

Vegetarian diet

Atkins diet

Macrobiotic diet

Ornish diet

Pritikin diet

South Beach diet

Zone diet

Herbal Medicine

Homeopathic treatment

Natural products (nonvitamin and nonmineral, such as herbs and other products from plants, enzymes, etc.)


Social connections and Intimacy

  • Intimate relationships
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Pets

Natures therapy

  • Gardening
  • Hiking
  • Skiing

This is not an exhaustive list as there are many variations on each type of therapy. An asterisk (*) indicates a practitioner-based therapy. For definitions of any of these therapies, see the full report (PDF) or contact the NCCIH Clearinghouse.

Studies needed in Community Medicine in “situ”

“If we want more evidence- based practice, we need more practice-based evidence.”Green LW. Am J Pub Health 2006 

Modern information technology make it possible to study complex systems like human behaviorin way’s that were not possible even just a few years ago. We can now study complex interactions between multiple variables using artificial intelligence s to suss out the relationships.

Traditional random controlled trials, study treatments in carefully selected populations under ideal conditions. This makes it difficult to translate results to the real world., Advances in information technology make time series analysis an increasingly useful method for studying human behavior in the real world. This type of longitudinal study can provide an understanding of the patterns of change over time in the natural processes of lifelong learning and integrative medicine in the community. Stay tuned we are working on designing a quasi-experimental time-series study designed to evaluate the public health impact of integrative medicine approaches in lifelong learning programs through the University of Denver’s Osher Lifelong learning Institute.

“The Elixir of One Hundred Ingredients”

“The Elixir of One Hundred Ingredients Harmoniously Compounded” is the Chinese name for a healthy lifestyle. Take a yoga class, try Tai chi in fact try a hundred different combinations of healthy activities until you find a variety of diet, exercise and other healthy lifestyle ingredients that you find enjoyable. Follow your heart and find your own path to a healthy longevity. If the ingredients are your own, and you enjoy these healthy activities you are likely to continue doing them long enough to get the benefits.