Approximately 40 years have passed since artificial reproductive technology (ART) was applied clinically. Meanwhile, novel technologies have been developed, allowing patients who were unable to conceive by traditional methods pregnant. However, we commonly encounter patients who repeat ART because of unsolved problems in reproductive medicine.
What are these unsolved problems? From the time of beginning of ART, we have focused on the cellular and organ levels such as oocytes or spermatozoa. This approach helped to develop this field, but on the other hand, disturbed to look patients themselves in a wide view.
Holistic medicine is defined as an approach to aim health on the base of harmony of mind, body and circumstances by Japan Holistic Medical Society. It is is also known as complementary, alternative, integrated, unorthodox, and new-aged medicine1. It has been criticized or ignored because it was not established by the same methods as biomedicine. Biomedicine refers to the conventional medical approach and follows the rules of modern science. In this paradigm, every clinical treatment will require evidence established by clinical research, reproductive biology, physiology, molecular biology, and other natural sciences. In our intolerant medical field, holistic medicine has been stipulated as a pseudomedicine, antiscientific or occasionally as fraudulent. However, every physicians and medical staff members may experience the healing of suffering patients whose distress is not solved by conventional biomedicine.
It is an issue to be considered why holistic medicine cannot be discussed simultaneously with biomedicine, which we believe is an orthodox principle. I believe holistic medicine is originally heterogenous. It does not make sense to attempt to discuss both completely different paradigms using the different volume of available information. The data volume that is relevant to the holistic medicine is huge. It is extremely difficult to conduct prospective study, because patients commonly undergo several therapies at the same time. The fact results to sacrifice the purity of science that is defined in the field of biomedicine. Thus, it can be concluded that it is difficult to produce satisficed research by people who believe evidence-supremacy. Each therapy in holistic medicine influences every control system in the human body, such as endocrine, immunologic, and nervous systems and all 60 trillion cells in the body. To search for sufficient evidence in the field of holistic medicine, it is necessary to analyze a huge amount of data using supercomputer or artificial intelligence.
In the field of cancer therapy, holistic medicine has long been criticized. Oncologists insist that holistic medicine delays patients from undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy and is often criticized as being dangerous and unethical. However, if patients suspend conventional cancer treatment while undergoing alternative therapies, it cannot be called holistic medicine. As synonyms of holistic medicine, I prefer the word “Integrated Medicine” rather than “Alternative Medicine,” because the word indicates not to exclude conventional treatments, but means a fusion of both categorized medicine. That is, “Integrated Medicine” implicates the fusion of both sides of medicine.
We have continued efforts to practice integrated medicine in the field of reproductive medicine for 30 years. In 2012, we established the Department of Integrated Medicine in our center, consisting of a physician, coordinator, genetic counselor, psychologist, dietician, and high-quality therapists. All staff members are experts in their own field as well as in reproductive medicine.
The coordinator is a nurse with expertise and draws up a sophisticated plan for each patient. The coordinator designs therapies for patients at the beginning of treatments by the direction sheets of physicians, considering patient backgrounds. One frequently asked question by patients is what food they should take. Food intake is a fundamental activity for humans and is influential for conception; however, in modern reproductive medicine, diet has been made light of in daily practice and we cannot provide sufficient answers to patients. Dieticians take a 4-day dietary survey from the patients and measure oxidative stress (reactive oxygen metabolites–derived compounds)2 and antioxidant power (biological antioxidant potential)3. For the patients who indicate high oxidative stress or low antioxidant potential, we provide recipes, containing foods that function as scavengers of free radicals. At our center, many programs for integrated medicine are available, such as acupuncture, Taiwanese foot massage, aromatherapy, some physical exercises (those are named “Fertile stretch,” “Mitocon Walking,” and “Fertile Yoga”).
Recently, we have started to study the influence of advance glycation end products4,5 and gut flora on infertility, which have recently been noticed as relevant to several metabolic diseases and aging.
In our center, the staff of the Department of Integrated Medicine attend scientific laboratory meeting every week and report the data of the kind, frequency and duration of therapy that patients underwent. Therefore, both sides of medical field can share the information from each side and consider the next strategy of treatment.
ART have made it possible to help many patients; however, it remains patient group who repeat trials because of oocyte quality impairment. To address this issue, we have noted the role of mitochondria and have conducted an autologous mitochondrial transfer to patients who produced only extremely poor-quality embryos and have experienced repeated failures with ART. This state-of-the-art-technology has been effective for the limited patients who encountered cleavage arrest or produced fragmented embryos. We have started to apply integrated medicine for the patients with other problems such as maturation or fertilization failures.
Thus, the application of integrated medicine in reproductive medicine would open the window for new era and solve issues that cannot be treated via conventional western technologies.
Source of funding
This study was conducted without any financial support or sponsorship.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare that they have no financial conflict of interest with regard to the content of this report.
The authors appreciate Mr Hiroshi Matsumoto for collection of data and Dr Takuji Nishihara, Ms Mami Morita for collection of referred papers.
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