What they are
These MDs or DOs have gone through the same training and certification as conventional pediatricians, but they also incorporate a range of alter- native therapies like acupuncture, homeopathy, and yoga. While they tend to favor taking a holistic approach first, they’ll also employ conventional treatments, like vaccines or antibiotics, when it seems appropriate. “We’ll incorporate any and every [treat- ment] that will work, particularly things that are supported by scientific literature,” says Sunjya Schweig, M.D., an integrative family practitioner at Hill Park Medical Center in Petaluma, California.
Integrative pediatricians also seek to forge deep relationships with their patients in an effort to help them thrive both physically and mentally, as well as pinpoint underlying reasons for the illnesses (like eliminating a certain food to stop chronic rashes). “It’s about looking at lifestyle aspects, stress reduction, and helping kids balance their lives,” Schweig says. By doing so, integrative doctors can work to treat the root causes of problems, and fix problems before they become unmanageable.
What to expect
When you visit an integrative pediatrician, she’ll make an effort to learn about your child’s lifestyle—what he eats, how well he sleeps, and what his behavior is like—in an attempt to uncover hidden causes of any potential or chronic health concerns. Asthma, which plagues nearly 10 percent of U.S. kids, is a prime example. Depend- ing on the case, rather than rely solely on an inhaler, an integrative doc might also try unearthing your child’s asthma triggers and attempt to lower your child’s inflamma- tion levels through diet, supplements (like anti-inflammatory herbs), and even stress reduction. “Over time, we could work to decrease the inflammation and get things back under control, to a point where prescriptions might not be needed,” Schweig says. If that doesn’t help control the asthma, then you’d start talking about an inhaler.
What to look for
An integrative pediatrician should be a licensed, board-certified MD or DO. While there aren’t specific guidelines on what makes a pediatrician truly “integrative,” yours should be supportive of minimally invasive, natural therapies, be knowledgeable about toxic chemicals (like BPA or pesticides used on conventional produce), and support your relationship with other alternative health practitioners, like acupuncturists or chiropractors.
Are they covered by insurance?
Since integrative doctors are MDs or DOs, pediatric visits are required to be covered by insurance just like for conventional doctors. But specific natural therapies, like acupuncture, won’t always be covered.