Holistic therapies tend to emphasize proper nutrition and avoidance of substances such as chemicals that pollute the body
Holistic medicine is a term used to describe therapies that attempt to treat the patient as a whole person. That is, instead of treating an illness, as in orthodox allopathy, holistic medicine looks at an individual’s overall physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being before recommending treatment. A practitioner with a holistic approach treats the symptoms of illness as well as looking for the underlying cause of the illness. Holistic medicine also attempts to prevent illness by placing a greater emphasis on optimizing health. The body’s systems are seen as interdependent parts of the person’s whole being. Its natural state is one of health, and an illness or disease is an imbalance in the body’s systems.
Holistic therapies tend to emphasize proper nutrition and avoidance of substances such as chemicals that pollute the body. Their techniques are non-invasive. Some of the world’s health systems that are holistic in nature include naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine. Many alternative or natural therapies have a holistic approach, although that is not always the case. The term complementary medicine is used to refer to the use of both allopathic and holistic treatments. It is more often used in Great Britain, but is gaining acceptance in the United States.
There are no limits to the range of diseases and disorders that can be treated in a holistic way, as the principle of holistic healing is to balance the body, mind, spirit, and emotions so that the person’s whole being functions smoothly. When an individual seeks holistic treatment for a particular illness or condition, other health problems improve without direct treatment, due to improvement in the performance of the immune system, which is one of the goals of holistic medicine.
The concept of holistic medicine is not new. In the 4th century B.C., Socrates warned that treating one part of the body only would not have good results. Hippocrates considered that many factors contribute to the health or otherwise of a human being, weather, nutrition, emotional factors, and in our time, a host of different sources of pollution can interfere with health. And of course, holistic medicine existed even before ancient Greece in some ancient healing traditions, such as those from India and China, which date back over 5,000 years. However, the term “holistic” only became part of everyday language in the 1970s, when Westerners began seeking an alternative to allopathic medicine.
Interestingly, it was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that the principles of holistic medicine fell out of favor in Western societies, with the advent of major advances in what we now call allopathic medicine. Paradoxically, many discoveries of the twentieth century have only served to confirm many natural medicine theories. In many cases, researchers have set out to debunk holistic medicine, only to find that their research confirms it, as has been the case, for example, with many herbal remedies.
Many people are now turning to holistic medicine, often when suffering from chronic ailments that have not been successfully treated by allopathic means. Although many wonderful advances and discoveries have been made in modern medicine, surgery and drugs alone have a very poor record for producing optimal health because they are designed to attack illness. Holistic medicine is particularly helpful in treating chronic illnesses and maintaining health through proper nutrition and stress management.
There are a number of therapies that come under the umbrella of “holistic medicine.” They all use basically the same principles, promoting not only physical health, but also mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Most emphasize quality nutrition. Refined foods typically eaten in modern day societies contain chemical additives and preservatives, are high in fat, cholesterol, and sugars, and promote disease. Alternative nutritionists counter that by recommending whole foods whenever possible and minimizing the amount of meat—especially red meat—that is consumed. Many alternative therapies promote vegetarianism as a method of detoxification. The aim of holistic medicine is to bring all areas of an individual’s life, and most particularly the energy flowing through the body, back into harmony. Ultimately, of course, only the patient can be responsible for this, for no practitioner can make the necessary adjustments to diet and lifestyle to achieve health. The practice of holistic medicine does not rule out the practice of allopathic medicine; the two can complement each other.
A properly balanced holistic health regimen, which takes into consideration all aspects of human health and includes noninvasive and non pharmaceutical healing methods, can often completely eradicate even acute health conditions safely. If a patient is being treated with allopathic medicine, holistic therapies may at least support the body during treatment, and alleviate the symptoms that often come with drug treatments and surgery. In addition, holistic therapies aim at the underlying source of the illness, to prevent recurrence. Here are some of the major holistic therapies:
Because holistic medicine aims to treat the whole person, holistic practitioners sometimes may advise treatment from more than one type of practitioner. This is to ensure that all aspects of health are addressed. Some practitioners also specialize in more than one therapy, and so may be able to offer more comprehensive assistance.
Many people who try holistic therapies focus on one area of their health only, often detoxification and nutrition.
However, practitioner’s stress that it is only when all areas of a person’s potential well being are tackled that total health and happiness can be achieved. They stress that the spiritual and emotional health contribute just as much as physical and mental health to a person’s overall state of well-being.
When seeking treatment from a holistic practitioner, it is important to ensure that they are properly qualified. Credentials and reputation should always be checked. In addition, it is important that allopathic physicians and alternative physicians communicate about a patient’s care.
One of the main advantages of holistic therapies is that they have few side effects when used correctly. If a reputable practitioner is chosen, and guidelines are adhered to, the worst that typically happens is that when lifestyle is changed, and fresh nutrients are provided, the body begins to eliminate toxins that may have accumulated in the cells over a lifetime. Often this results in what is known in alternative medicine circles as a “healing crisis.” This comes about when the cells eliminate poisons into the blood stream all at the same time, throwing the system into a state of toxic overload until it can clear the “backlog.” Symptoms such as nausea, headaches, or sensitivities to noise and other stimulations may be experienced. The answer to most otherwise healthy patients is often just to lie quietly in a darkened room and take herbal teas. However, in the case of someone who has a serious illness, such as arthritis, colitis, diabetes, or cancer, (the list is much longer than this), it is strongly advised that they seek the help of a qualified practitioner.
Therapists can help patients achieve detoxification in a way that causes the least stress to their bodies. Traditionally, holistic medicine, in all its different forms, has been regarded with mistrust and skepticism on the part of the allopathic medical profession. This situation is gradually changing. In addition, many allopathic physicians, recognizing the role alternative medicine can play in overall health and well being, are actually referring patients to reputable practitioners, particularly chiropractic and relaxation therapists, for help with a varied range of complaints.
Holistic or alternative medicine practitioners are usually affiliated with an organization in their field. Training varies tremendously with the category, and ranges from no qualifications at all—experience only— to holding a Ph.D. from an accredited university. Again, credentials and memberships should be checked by prospective patients.