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How to Find An Integrative Medicine Doctor—and What to Expect

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How to Find an IM Doctor—and What to Expect

Your best bet is to find a physician with an M.D. and alternative-medicine training. The Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona has a national provider locator, as does the Institute for Functional Medicine, and many IM services and procedures are covered by insurance.

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During an IM physical, you'll still have to hop on the scale and get a blood test. But your initial visit will run way longer than your typical drive-through doctor's checkup. Expect to be there for up to 80 minutes, and don't be surprised if the doc gets personal. You may have to bring in a 24-hour food journal, for instance, or discuss your relationship status and your greatest sources of stress and joy. By covering all bases, an IM doctor can develop a multifaceted health plan, says Shelley Wroth, M.D.

An integrative physical might involve testing to measure how your body reacts to certain substances in the air and foods that you eat, says Richard Ash, M.D., founder of The Ash Center for Comprehensive Medicine in New York City. Here are some common tests you might get:

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Gastric Analysis

If you have heartburn, bloating, diarrhea, yeast infections, or digestion difficulties, your stomach's acid levels might be inadequate. To check, an IM doctor will put a sensor belt around your belly and ask you to swallow a capsule that transmits harmless radio waves determining the pH of your stomach. (Yep, the capsule will later come out the other end.)

Saliva Stress Test

Cortisol, your body's main stress hormone, should be highest in the a.m. and lowest before you nod off at the end of the day. The doctor will ask you to collect four saliva samples throughout the day, which he'll use to accurately measure your stress levels.

Allergy Blood Test

Whereas most M.D.s test you for allergies only if you're having an extreme reaction (hives!), some IM physicians may run various environmental, food, and chemical sensitivity tests.

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