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What is the Definition of Holistic Care?

A definition of holistic care can mean different things to different people. As a fairly new concept in health care, it is not fully understood by many. So let’s discuss this in more depth by answering the following question I received from a site visitor.

Hi I’m studying nursing and I’m very interested in the holistic side to giving care. However could you please help get a full understanding of the term holistic care. I currently think it to be to think of the “whole picture” for the patient. For instance if someone is suffering from stress, look at there any money issues, diet, sleep issues etc. Thank you, Zac.

Hi Zac,

Yes, you are on the right track. Looking at the whole picture is the basic underlying tenet in holistic health care. However, it’s a little more comprehensive than that.

The definition of holistic can mean different things to different people, so to some degree it depends on the interpretation of the individual you are talking to on which definition you will get. Here is my take on it.

Holistic care address the body, mind and self. (some would say spirit instead of self) For example, if someone has a health condition we look at how it impacts them emotionally and spiritually and vice versa. If someone has a spiritual or emotional crises like grieving the death of a loved one, then we look at how it impacts them physically.

In order to achieve optimal functioning, all three aspects of the physical, emotional and spiritual must be addressed because they are interconnected.

Additionally, we must look at personality, behavior, socialization and conditioning. For example, when we help someone design a healthy diet plan we don’t just give them a list of foods to avoid, we must also give them tips and support for adhering to their restrictions and help them let go of socialization and conditioning.

The healing path or health care plan in a holistic approach will be different for each individual even if they share the same diagnoses with others. Dosages, diets, methods of treatment etc. will vary for each person depending on other health conditions they may face, the overall level of health, their unique biochemistry, sensitivities and needs on all levels.

Each person and situation is unique, even those with the same health condition do not have the same experience. Each person may be impacted differently and not everyone responds to one treatment the same. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

For example, one person with migraines may need to avoid one list of foods while another person needs to avoid a different list of foods. One individual with arthritis may need a particular vitamin or mineral and another person with the same condition needs other vitamins and minerals.

A primary factor that differentiates the definition of holistic care from traditional care is that it focuses heavily on self-care. The patient or client is heavily involved in the whole process of the health care plan from diagnoses to treatment. They are encouraged to be an active participant in research, education, treatment options and on-going care.

Holistic health care practitioners believe that the most powerful tool each of us has for healing is knowledge. The more knowledge you have about your own condition and body the better it is all around on all levels. It helps the client feel empowered and less dependent on the system.

In mainstream medicine the practitioner knows best, but in holistic care the body of the individual is the one with the most knowledge. The patient is encouraged to learn how to be in tune with and listen to their body. The body has all the answers.

In holistic health we recognize that is rare that an individual presents with one issue. For example, someone who presents with chronic fatigue may have too much stress, their not getting enough rest, not drinking enough water, have nutritional deficiencies, are eating a poor diet, have Candida overgrowth, adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalances. All these avenues must be explored and ruled in or out.

We don’t treat health conditions independently because we understand that all systems are interconnected and impact one another. For example, if you are treating someone with food sensitivities, you are aware that the gastrointestinal tract, the central nervous system, immune system, and cardiovascular system may be involved.

Additionally, we acknowledge that it is rare that one condition occurs by itself. It is usually accompanied by other conditions that must be addressed as well. For example, someone with depression usually has adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, hormonal imbalances, hypoglycemia, Candida overgrowth and neurotransmitter imbalances.

Another important component in the definition of holistic care is the inclusion of environmental health. We are aware that environmental toxins from common everyday chemicals almost always play a role in all health conditions. Whether we are talking about mental health issues like anxiety and depression, or physical conditions like heart disease, arthritis, obesity, insomnia, headaches, hyperactivity and so on and so on, toxins in the environment are always an important variable that must be addressed. There cannot be optimal health when one is surrounded by or ingesting environmental toxins.

Holistic health care usually does not include the use of synthetic prescription drugs unless absolutely necessary to save one’s life and if all other avenues have been exhausted. Most of us believe that synthetic medication does not heal or address the roots of any health problems, they only work as temporary band-aids that ultimately cause more deterioration in health or new and more complicated health issues in the long run.

We look for the underlying causes of a condition instead of treating the symptoms. For example, when someone has arthritis or anxiety, instead of treating with drugs, we look for what causes the arthritis pain or the anxiety. Arthritis pain and anxiety are both frequently caused by unidentified food sensitivities or allergies, the consumption of sugar and Candida overgrowth. When those issues are addressed then the arthritis or anxiety disappear.

You can find a couple other of my discussions on the definition of holistic health on the following pages:

Holistic Health Definition

Holistic Health Counseling

So that should give you a good general overview.

Best Regards,

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Angle December 12, 2011, 1:26 am

    Fantastic..Thanks for providing such a great information.

  • Andreea June 24, 2015, 10:09 am

    Great article

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