Holistic medicine is a treatment philosophy that promotes a co-operative relationship amongst all those involved in health care, with the goal of achieving optimal physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health.
It strives to help the individual to achieve the highest level of functioning and a sense of well-being regardless of the presence or absence of illness or disease, resulting in a more balanced and harmonious life that is lived as fully and completely as possible
Often the terms “alternative medicine”, “complimentary medicine”, “natural medicine” or “preventative medicine” are synonymous with holistic medicine, as each of these treatment philosophies centers on treating you as a whole person, rather than addressing an isolated condition or body part.
Holistic medicine encompasses a wide range of treatment options, which include pharmaceutical drugs and surgical procedures, but only after other options have been exhausted. The emphasis is on making changes in lifestyle that promote health, empowering you through education and by encouraging you to assume responsibility for your health.
The patient and the practitioner will work together as a team to create the most effective treatment plan. This partnership between the patient and practitioner is the cornerstone of holistic medicine.
Because this field is growing in popularity, the emergence of holistic health degrees are beginning to find their way to a variety of educational institutions and can be an exciting career choice for many.
How can holistic medicine help me?
Increasingly, patients are becoming frustrated with the restricted approach of traditional medicine. If you live with chronic illness or pain, you may feel that the medical team who is supposed to be supporting you has run out of answers. For some, the route of surgery and pharmaceuticals is simply not an option. For others, they've already tried the traditional route without any relief or may have even developed a worsening of conditions. Choosing a holistic treatment option takes the power out of the hands of your doctor and pharmaceutical companies and offers you a wider range of treatment options.
By choosing holistic medicine, you will be encouraged to take an active role in your treatment and you will be invited to work with a health care practitioner to make informed decisions about managing your condition. Even if you do not currently suffer from a medical complaint, holistic medicine offers you the opportunity to take control of your health care path.
What treatments does holistic medicine offer?
One of the greatest advantages of holistic medicine is the range of treatments that you can utilize to attain and maintain a higher quality of emotional, spiritual and physical health. Holistic doctors recognizes the value of more traditional medical approaches, but also offers you the chance to combine these with treatment options such as acupressure or acupuncture, homeopathy, nutritional counseling and supplementation, chiropractic adjustments, dietary changes, herbal remedies, aromatherapy, colon cleansing, oxygen therapies, yoga and massage to name a few.
Each of these treatment modalities will have their own distinct program and unique benefits, but they all have the goal of attempting to bring harmony and balance to the body, mind and spirit.
Traditional treatment focuses on alleviating symptoms, while holistic medicine focuses on addressing the underlying cause. It encourages you to become informed and make your own choices.
Holistic treatments are designed to address the unique emotional, biochemical and spiritual needs of each patient. Not everyone with the same illness or condition has to follow the same protocol. It will vary from person to person depending on many different factors. Not everyone responds to the same treatment in the same manner. What is successful or beneficial for one may not hold true for another.
Holistic treatments fall into one of five major categories;
- Alternative medical systems
Alternative medical systems draw their influence from Eastern medicine, including Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine and may include procedures such as acupuncture and acupressure.
- Mind-body interventions
Mind-body therapies use techniques such as meditation, hypnotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy to enhance the mind’s capacity to affect bodily function.
- Biologically-based therapies
Biological therapies invoke the use of substances found in nature, such as herbs and vitamins to restore health and balance.
- Manipulative and body based therapies
Manipulative therapies, such as osteopathy and chiropractics also form the basis of some holistic medicine treatments.
- Energy therapies
Finally, energy therapies such as Reiki, Yoga or Tai Chi can be used to redirect your “chi” or life force and restore bodily balance.
Choosing Holistic Medicine
If you plan to continue traditional treatment of any kind, it's extremely important to make your holistic medical provider aware of this and to inform your current medical provider that you are exploring holistic alternatives. Each health care provider needs to be in the loop on any and all treatment approaches you may engage in to provide you with the best care possible and protect your health. In some cases, such as with the prescription of herbal supplements, your traditional treatment may be importantly affected by your holistic medicine and vice versa. Interactions between drugs and herbs or overmedication can occur in some instances if not monitored correctly.
Ultimately, the best choice, if possible, for those interested in holistic medicine is to find a medical provider who can address all your medical needs. Someone like a holistic medical doctor who practices alternative medicine or a clinic that has many different treatment modalities in one place. However, this is not always possible, so be sure to keep the lines of communication open at all times with your providers and encourage your individual providers to interact and communicate with each other as well.