Exactly What To Expect From Integrative Pediatrics + How To Know If It's Right For Your Family
When parents interview me before joining our integrative pediatric practice, their first question is often, "So, what exactly is an 'integrative pediatrician?'" Whether you go to an integrative doctor yourself, or you're just beginning to explore this area of medicine—the concept of an integrative pediatrician may raise some questions.
As a board-certified pediatrician who specializes in integrative medicine, let me give you a better sense of what to expect from this type of care, how to know if it's right for you, and the best ways to find a top-notch doctor.
What is an integrative pediatrician?
When you hear the word "integrative," does it make you think of "woo-woo" pseudoscience? I'm here to tell you the reality is far from that. Integrative care simply means blending the best of modern, Western medicine with ancient and holistic practices—and I, like many experts, believe it's truly the future of health care.
It is a common misconception that integrative doctors don't believe in or follow science. I was trained in pediatrics at one of the top-rated Western pediatric residencies in America, and my partner trained in an Ivy League pediatric program. Science always guides our decisions.
Modern medicine is amazing and wonderful. We have cures for diseases that caused major suffering just a few years ago. If your child gets pneumonia, we have antibiotics that can heal them within days. If your child gets injured, there is technology like X-rays and MRIs that can show us exactly what is going on. This is nothing short of magic.
But unfortunately, in today's medical system, we focus our attention far more on treatment than on prevention or the root cause of disease. In many scenarios, we don't need to use a medication, but Western medicine is often quick to jump to a pill. That's because today's doctors (myself included) were taught all about pharmaceutical medicine, and it's often the only solution we know.
Integrative medicine doesn't reject pharmaceutical interventions but rather expands a practitioner's options to support the body. An integrative pediatrician may use supplements, tinctures, or ancient healing practices in place or alongside medications. The trick is in balancing those two worlds and recognizing when it would be unsafe to use a natural option in place of a medication.
Integrative pediatricians come in all shapes and sizes. Some are generalists who perform all regular pediatric functions with a natural spin. Others are more specialized and focus on specific conditions like autism, ADHD, cancer, behavior issues, Lyme disease, PANDAS/PANS, autoimmune conditions, gut health issues, and others.
What should you expect from an integrative pediatric visit?
Visits at an integrative pediatrician can vary greatly since each doctor has their own unique style and interests. Integrative visits tend to be longer than traditional office visits as integrative doctors tend to ask more questions and spend more time with the patients. They are likely to do all of the regular routine checks you're used to: height and weight, a physical exam, and chatting about development.
They will likely spend more time talking about disease prevention and important foundational factors I like to call the SEEDS of health (Stress, Environment and toxins, Exercise, Diet, and Sleep).
Is an integrative pediatrician right for your family?
Families who seek out my practice are often holistic-minded. They may go to a holistic doctor themselves, enjoy a natural outlook on life, or have been through a health crisis that was resolved through integrative medicine.
An integrative pediatrician may be right for your family if:
- You are looking for a natural approach to health care.
- You believe in blending modern medicine with a holistic approach.
- You want to focus your office visits on prevention and not treatment (as appropriate).
- You want to get to the root cause of a medical concern.
- Your child has a chronic condition that has not improved through traditional medical care.
Are there additional costs?
Some practitioners take your regular health insurance, and others do not. There are often fees associated with integrative practices, as many of the providers offer care that is outside of the standard insurance model. Some practices have large fees, while others are very minimal. It is best to check with the office staff about any additional costs outside of your standard insurance.
How can I find a good integrative pediatrician?
There are a few ways to find an integrative pediatrician. The most obvious would be to type that term into a search engine and see if anyone pops up in your area. If not, asking friends or family who are naturally minded in your area may elucidate some options.
Finally, there are many holistic and natural Facebook groups. Many of the larger groups have families from all over, and someone can usually point you to a doctor they love.
Ultimately, only you know if an integrative pediatrician is a good fit, but hopefully, this overview helps offer some guidance on finding the best choice for you.
Joel “Gator” Warsh is a board-certified Pediatrician in Los Angeles, California who specializes in Integrative Medicine. He grew up in Toronto, Canada and completed a Master’s Degree in Epidemiology and Community Health before earning his medical degree from Thomas Jefferson Medical College. He completed his Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) and has worked in private practice in Beverly Hills before founding his current practice, Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine, in 2018.
Dr. Gator has published research in peer-reviewed journals on topics including childhood injuries, obesity and physical activity.
He has been featured in numerous documentaries, films, podcasts and articles including Broken Brain, Dr. Nandi Show, CBS, LA Parent, Adulting like a Motherfather, Feel Good Podcast and many others.
He is also the owner of IntegrativePediatrics.com and the host of the Integrative Pediatrics Summit which featured many top pediatric experts and celebrities.
He is a consultant for high-profile brands in the health and wellness space including HUM, Little Spoon, Beekeeper Naturals, Happy Little Camper and Sprouted.