Integrative Medicine Sees Uptick During Pandemic

Many are concerned about having a healthy lifestyle currently

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


Doctors practicing integrative and holistic health are seeing increased interest from new and returning patients because of the pandemic.

Physician Az Tahir, who practices holistic medicine in Rochester and Syracuse, said that his patient load has increased, even though he is seeing patients only via Zoom and Facetime.

“We’re very busy,” he said. “I think people are more concerned about their health than before Coronavirus. If they have any long-term health issues they’re neglecting, they are concerned about that. They want preventative care. There’s a lot of because of the media, interest in vitamin D and zinc. They’re getting more concerned about a healthy lifestyle.”

Although patients seek his care for other symptoms, he notes symptoms of anxiety and depression during visits as he discusses their health concerns. Tahir believes that the pandemic is causing those with history of anxiety and depression to experience these issues again.

“I’ve had an upsurge in new patient requests,” said physician Leila Kirdani, practicing family medicine at Quality of Life Medicine in Rochester. “I’m getting more requests from existing patients to see their family members. I feel pretty blessed that my practice has remained currently stable. Most my patients have been with me for a while.”

She added that many people who know about functional medicine are asking about supplements to improve their health. Patients can go to an integrative medicine clinic or consult Functional Medicine Associates for a functional medicine approach.

Leila Kirdani
Leila Kirdani

Although many people try to be stoic about stress, “it shows up on everybody’s lab” results, Kirdani said. “I’m addressing it with most of our patients. Stress definitely affects our immune system, which isn’t good. Stress can increase inflammation, heart disease and, obviously, people don’t sleep as well so they’re more fatigued. It perpetuates the cycle and leads to poor coping skills.”

For providers like physician Ted Barnett, founder of Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Institute and Rochester Lifestyle Medicine Group, the pandemic helped expand the organizations’ reach. The medical group offered telehealth from the start and is now back to offering in-person appointments.

“In doing so, the silver lining in the cloud has been that RLMI has been able to reach many more people than we did previously with in-office programs,” Barnett said.

One of his programs has been taken by people in more than 30 states and two foreign countries, he said.

“Participants still get the benefit of medical supervision, both by the presence of a medical provider at the Jumpstart Zoom meetings, and by before-and-after medical consults scheduled either with their primary care provider, or with one of our own RLM group providers if the participant lives in New York state or Michigan,” Barnett said.

Concerns about immune response have in part driven a 15% increase in patient load for Steven Sadlon, chiropractor and head of Chiropractic Health and Acupuncture in Penfield.

“People come in for a variety of reasons,” he said. “Some want an immune boost. Sometimes there’s only so much that traditional practices can do with the filter they work through.”

Some of his patients want to reduce inflammation in their bodies, as they believe it places them at a greater risk for becoming severely ill with COVID-19. Several of the diseases listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for increasing risk of COVID-19 complications have been correlated with inflammation. But, inflammation itself is not directly listed.

Sadlon makes recommendations based upon each person’s health and health history.


Physician Lesley James, family medicine specialist practicing integrative medicine in Pittsford, encourages patients concerned about COVID-19 to make health decisions based upon evidence-based practices.

“People who come to my practice are interested in prevention and optimal health,” James said. “I think more people are looking more at preventative health. There are some practitioners out there where people are going because they want to avoid vaccines and they’re looking for alternative treatments which I don’t think that’s good medicine.”

She thinks that maintaining sufficient vitamin D levels is important but advises against taking supplements that lack evidence for efficacy in reducing the virus load. For James, maintaining good health comes down to the basics.

“Get enough sleep,” she said. “Manage stress. Eat lots of vegetables. Make sure your vitamin D is sufficient. Exercise. Maintain a healthy weight.”