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By: Madison Boissiere, Undergraduate Student in Food Science and Human Nutrition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

In America, healthcare is primarily conventionally based, meaning surgical procedures and pharmacology are used to treat symptoms of diseases. However, these practices are not adequate for the many Americans facing chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and many more.

As we learn more about these diseases, one thing is certain: chronic illness can be preventable and lifestyle-driven. Luckily, the focus is starting to shift from conventional medicine to alternative styles of medicine. Lifestyle and integrative medicine are among various practices that focus on treating the root cause of a disease, rather than just its symptoms. As alternative medicine is becoming more common than ever before, it is important to become familiar with each type. First, let’s discuss lifestyle medicine.

What is Lifestyle Medicine?

“Lifestyle Medicine is the use of a whole food, plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connection as a primary therapeutic modality for treatment and reversal of chronic disease,” says the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

The use of lifestyle medicine is essential in treating chronic diseases that so many Americans are facing. While conventional medicine focuses on diagnosing and treating symptoms of a disease, lifestyle medicine focuses on the underlying lifestyle causes of disease and looks to natural, science-based treatments and prevention rather than solely medication. 

Lifestyle medicine is very patient-centered and allows patients to control their own health by implementing fundamental practices in their life, such as nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and healthy relationships. These core principles make way for an improved quality of life while limiting the risk of chronic disease and the cost of healthcare and medications. 

What is Integrative Medicine?

Integrative medicine takes on a very similar outlook as lifestyle medicine, but with a few key differences. It looks at the mind, body, and soul of a patient to promote overall health and well-being and combine modern healthcare and holistic medicine to diagnose and treat patients. A treatment in integrative medicine can include practices such as yoga, acupuncture, massages, and aromatherapy, but also looks to conventional medicine when necessary. 

Although Integrative medicine has many unique practices, it is important to understand that some treatments are not substitutes for conventional medicine. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is a useful resource for researching a therapy you’re considering. 


There are many ways to take care of your health, and it is reassuring to see the rise of practices that stray away from conventional medicine. Taking care of your health should leave you feeling confident and empowered in your lifestyle choices. So whether you choose to practice lifestyle medicine, integrative medicine, or a combination of other legitimate therapies, make sure it leaves you feeling at your best and in control of your health! 


  1. “JAMA Physician Competencies for Prescribing Lifestyle Medicine.” American College of Lifestyle Medicine, 2020,
  2. Live Well 365. “What’s the Difference: Lifestyle vs. Functional Medicine?” Live Well 365, Live Well 365, 11 Mar. 2019,
  3. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Integrative Medicine.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 June 2020,
  4. Mroszczyk-McDonald, Alex. “Lifestyle Medicine Is My Prescription for Better Health.” AAFP Home, American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), 14 Oct. 2019,
  5. Patronus. “The Difference Between Functional Medicine and Integrative Medicine.” Patronus,

Lifestyle Medicine photo by Unsplash