Integrative Medicine

Things look a little brighter when you take a more holistic approach to health, wellness and life. Just ask Sarjita Shukla, MD, medical director of the Integrative Medicine program at Phoenix Children’s. She enjoys telling others about all the good things she hears from patients and families who give it a try.

What is Integrative Medicine? Dr. Shukla describes it as part of a larger, highly personalized approach to care. “Through Integrative Medicine, we focus not only on the diagnosed condition, but all factors that influence health,” she explained.

These approaches optimize the full spectrum of health, personalizing care that promotes prevention, healing and overall wellness. For example, lifestyle choices ranging from eating and sleeping well to exercise and mental health can help patients with a wide array of conditions and challenges. These can range from chronic allergies and headaches to complex diseases such as fibromyalgia, juvenile arthritis or lupus.  

“Integrative Medicine means looking at the whole patient,” said Dr. Shukla. “When you take a holistic approach, you look at all the lifestyle factors that affect your health. That includes diet, sleep, exercise, stress, home and school environments, and more.”

Whole health, tailored to unique needs

Dr. Shukla adds that Integrative Medicine sometimes involves looking at other options outside prescription medication, in consultation with other providers. Dr. Shukla and her team use evidence-based approaches that complement more conventional medicine. They explore and prioritize all available treatment options – from nutrition and supplements to sleep and lifestyle habits.

“We look for things that have evidence to support their use for kids with that condition,” Dr. Shukla explained. “Then we can tailor the approach to each family and child, depending on their needs.” 

Holistic health begins with taking time to really listen

Most patients meet with the Integrative Medicine team after a referral from their primary care provider or other doctors and specialists. The team prefers to have their first meeting in Phoenix Children’s Integrative Medicine clinic. They get to know the patient and their health and lifestyle habits, as well as any current concerns. However, they remain flexible to accommodate patients’ and their families’ schedules and needs. Many patients see multiple specialists for complex care, and some live far away. Families can choose to use Telehealth remote visits for early or follow-up appointments.

That first visit begins with a conversation that is never rushed. Dr. Shukla and her team’s nutritionist meet with new patients and their families. They take extra time to get to know their needs and what they hope to achieve. They listen closely, ask a lot of questions and address any concerns.

“We spend a lot of time educating patients and families,” said Dr. Shukla. “During initial and follow-up visits, we tailor plans that suit personal lifestyles, motivations and goals.  

“We talk through it with them and ask questions like, ‘What are your obstacles?’ and ‘How do we get around this?’ to determine what is actually feasible,” said Dr. Shukla. “For example, if a patient really wants to be a gymnast, but their back hurts, we say, ‘OK, let’s start with the first step. How do we make this doable?’ We find and set achievable goals.”

Seeing results

“We see many interested and open-minded patients who readily adopt recommended changes,” said Dr. Shukla. “Oftentimes, it’s mom and dad who are motivated. Some patients really buy in and want to do it, but feel like it's hard, so we work with them. Finding achievable goals can be challenging, but the payoff is worth it. It’s exciting for all of us when patients begin to understand why healthy choices matter.

“On a follow-up visit, one of our teenaged patients said, ‘If I eat out versus if I eat healthy, I can feel the difference. So now, I don't want to eat out as much!’”

Dr. Shukla notes that when the whole family participates in healthy lifestyle changes, everyone benefits.

“It’s good for the whole family’s health and wellness,” she said. “Everyone feels better and enjoys improved health and a better quality of life.”

Teamwork among kids, families and specialists

During initial or follow-up consults, Dr. Shukla educates, guides and inspires families. The Integrative Medicine team has helped kids of all ages – from toddlers to teens – with a variety of conditions, including related health complications, treatment side effects and lifestyle challenges. These can range from sleepless nights to chronic pain.

The Integrative Medicine program helps with many conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Allergies
  • Chronic pain
  • Constipation
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Obesity and metabolic syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Inflammatory conditions and systemic inflammation

Other services and resources

Dr. Shukla often works with many programs and services at Phoenix Children’s. She may recommend or refer patients to another program or provider.

“For most of our patients, we’re able to give them recommendations and guidelines. We help kids identify things that they’re interested in and that they’re motivated to do. We may help with stress management, meal planning, healthy routines, weight loss, exercise and more.”

“Occasionally, we have patients who need additional support and have very specific needs,” said Dr. Shukla. “Sometimes we uncover other conditions or challenges. We will refer them to another program or provider for medical evaluation and consultation or other treatments if they need that.”

Care plans may include supportive or complementary therapies such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Pain management
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Anxiety and stress management
  • Acupuncture or other alternative therapies
  • Mindfulness, meditation and resilience training
  • Nutrition and supplement guidance from a registered dietician

A bright future for comprehensive care

Under Dr. Shukla’s leadership, the Integrative Medicine team plans to continue finding exciting, innovative paths to better health. Young adult patients get special guidance as they make the change from pediatric care to seeing adult care providers. Dr. Shukla helps them find practitioners with Integrative Medicine expertise and a holistic approach, so patients can continue to build on their success. Those successes motivate Dr. Shukla to stay on the leading edge of care as they grow and enhance their program, services and team.


To learn more about our Integrative Medicine program, click here.