What is Holistic Medicine? A Guide To Holistic Treatments & More
What is holistic medicine? Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The foundation of holistic medicine is a whole body approach — one that encompasses or integrates conventional and alternative therapies to prevent and treat disease, and promote a patient’s optimal health. This “whole body” approach includes a person’s mental and emotional health, their attitude, personality, spiritual beliefs or lack of belief, their nutritional habits, their work and home environment, and their lifestyle.
While traditional, conventional, allopathic, or western doctors often tell patients that holistic or alternative medicine is just so much “snake oil,” and that people turn to it because of “slick marketing,” and not because it works, millions of satisfied and healthy patients can’t be wrong. Yet the debate continues as patients focus on what works for them rather than “who is right or which is better.” One of the best emerging practices to come out of these debates is something called CAM, the use of both Complimentary and Alternative medicine. For instance, using ginger syrup (alternative medicine) to treat naseau during a chemotherapy treatment (conventional treatment).
What is integrative holistic medicine?
Integrative medicine is different from either holistic versus allopathic medicine in that it takes a “whatever works best to heal or help the patient” approach. The focus is on healing the patient, not on using one technique over another based on the practitioner’s background or belief.
Thus, integrative medicine is more healing-oriented rather than, “Which is the best?” approach. It combines the best of both holistic and conventional medicine. By emphasizing the therapeutic relationship between doctor and patient, and using both conventional and alternative treatments as needed, it combines the best of both medical worlds. Sometimes a holistic approach works, and sometimes an allopathic approach works, and sometimes a combination of both, CAM, or Complementary and Alternative Medicines, works best. Optimal health is much more than the absence of sickness, integrative practitioners say. “It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social aspects of the human experience.”
The basic principles of integrative medicine:
- Integrative medicine is a philosophy that neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically
- Uses natural, effective, less-invasive interventions whenever possible
- The healing process requires a partnership between patient and practitioner
- To facilitate the body’s innate healing response complementary and alternative medicines are used
- Use of the broader concepts of promotion of health and the prevention of illness as well as the treatment of disease
- Doctors and practitioners evaluate all factors that influence health, wellness, and disease, including mind, spirit, and community as well as body
- Recognition that good medicine should be based in good science, be inquiry driven, and be open to new paradigms
Is holistic medicine some sort of woo-woo practice or is it scientific?
By injecting isotopes with trackable markings, Holistic practitioners in Europe have already proven that the qi energy channels that the Asians have been using for over 2000 years do in fact exist. Not only that, they actually follow the same flow patterns that their acupuncture, and acupressure charts have been showing for years. This means there is a free flow of life force energy that does move through the body, mind, and spirit and that can impact a person’s health when impeded for some reason. 
Holistic physicians encourage patients to evoke the healing power of love, hope, humor, and enthusiasm. They also encourage patients to release the toxic consequences of hostility, shame, greed, depression, and prolonged fear, anger, and grief.
A Guide To Holistic Treatments and More
One of the best things allopathic medicine offers is a credentialing and monitoring system to ensure that medical doctors meet basic standards of knowledge and experience before they can practice medicine on patients. It doesn’t eliminate all the bad doctors, but it certainly ensures that there are standards and consequences for violating those standards. The same is not necessarily true with holistic practitioners. Just because someone claims to be a holistic practitioner, there is no guarantee they are trained or good. Don’t go to just anyone. Before choosing a holistic medicine doctor, get a recommendation from someone you trust, or contact a credible health organization and ask for a recommendation. Take time to investigate their training, experience, and their association with professional organizations and their hospital affiliations. Is he or she board certified in holistic medicine by a credible medical board? What is their treatment philosophy? Does it match your own? You and your practitioner will be partners in your treatment and it’s vital you feel safe, respected, and included in your treatment. Do you feel at ease with this person? If you don’t, listen to your intuition. It knows best. This is a person you’ll be investing your time, health, and money with, so choose wisely.
Choose a provider who will spend enough time with you so that he or she can gain a full understanding of your needs, that means asking the right questions. A good holistic practitioner should spend lots of time, often 1-2 hours versus 5-10 minutes that an allopathic doctor will. They will want to understand you as a whole person—what your diet is like, whether you exercise, when and how much and how you feel afterward. They’ll want to know about your sleep habits, religious beliefs, and practices, any spiritual beliefs you hold, about your close relationships, support network, and social interactions with others. They’ll want to know about your work, your family life, your childhood, any accidents, trauma, or issues going on in your life. They’ll want to examine all kinds of lifestyle, medical, dietary, emotional, and social factors that could be contributing to your illness. Ask if their treatment is limited to pills, or does their wellness plan for you include options in all parts of your life – including dietary, exercise, rest, and a work/life balance.
What kind of holistic treatments are there?
There are as many holistic treatments as there are practitioners. Some of the top treatments include:
Acupuncture is a holistic health technique that stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine. Trained practitioners stimulate specific points on the body by inserting thin needles into the skin—something that sounds painful, but is not, due to the thinness of the needles.
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services states that,
“… promising results have emerged showing the efficacy of acupuncture in adult postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting, and in postoperative dental pain. There are other situations such as addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteoarthritis, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and asthma, in which acupuncture may be useful as an adjunct treatment.” 
Other conditions that acupuncture has been shown to help or eliminate are:
- muscle spasms and pain
- chronic back problems and pain
- headaches, including reducing the frequency and intensity of migraines
- neck pain
- knee pain
- digestive problems
- mood, depression
Craniosacral therapy (CST) involves a practitioner lightly holding a patient’s skull and sacrum and working with “subtle” energies and the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid — the fluid which surrounds and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It sounds dangerous, but it’s not, as the motions of the practitioner on the skull involve very little pressure and feel much like the skull simply being cradled in the practitioner’s hands. Founded and developed by John Upledger, an osteopath, Dr. Upledger says that CST “works with natural and unique rhythms of our different body systems to pinpoint and correct source problems.” Many doctors say it doesn’t work, but insurance companies feel differently—authorizing treatments because they’ve discovered patients require fewer treatments of craniosacral therapy than traditional therapy. The treatment works on the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels. 
There is no shortage of information on the tremendous impact of our food on our health.
Over the last decade, researchers have determined that our body’s gut is the primary determinant of what is going on in our brains. Experts from Johns Hopkins and other major research centers now know that what’s going on in your gut could be affecting your brain, leading to depression, or relief from depression. 
Diets high in carbohydrates and sugar have been linked to cancer, inflammation, depression, and obesity. Add stress to the dietary mix and it’s easy to see how powerful healing can be when our diets are right. Fasting, long a practice of many ancient religions, has been proven to be a modern day cure for everything from diabetes to Huntington’s disease and cancer. 
Sustained exercise, particularly running and fast walking helps release the hormones that make us feel happy, like serotonin and dopamine. Exercise also lower cortisol levels which are elevated when we’re stressed. And exercise raises the body temperature which tends to lift your mood, ease muscle tension, improve your sleep, and get rid of depression. You don’t have to walk or run for hours to feel good. A simple 20-min run can release enough endorphins to give you a high. Chronic stress has been found to cause significant brain disturbances that can lead to anxiety- or aggression-driven depressive behavior, another thing exercise reduces. Now called “the third brain,” the human digestive tract is now considered an organ, and a major component of the human immune system. 
Fasting and calorie restriction have been proven to slow and even stop cancer progression, tumor growth, and metastases. Both methods can kill cancer cells in their own right and significantly improve chemo and radiotherapy uptake and effectiveness. Fasting has also been shown to boost the immune system, de-fat the liver and pancreas and significantly reduce chemotherapy side-effects. In many patients, regular rounds of fasting—2-5 days a month for six months, have even been shown to reverse type two diabetes in many patients. 
Healing Touch is an energy therapy in which practitioners consciously use their hands in a heart-centered and intentional way to support and facilitate physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. The human body is electrical. In fact, everything we do is controlled and enabled by electrical signals running through our bodies. If you took physics in school you learned that everything is made up of atoms. Atoms are made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons have a positive charge. Neutrons have a neutral charge. And, electrons have a negative charge. When any of these charges are out of balance, an atom becomes either positively or negatively charged. The switch between one type of charge and the other allows electrons to flow from one atom to another. This flow of electrons, or a negative charge, is what we call electricity. Since our bodies are huge masses of atoms, we can generate electricity.
Healing Touch is a therapy that takes an energy-based approach to health and healing based on this basic science. By influencing the human energy system, specifically the energy field that surrounds the body, and the energy centers that control the flow from the energy field to the physical body, healing touch practitioners can use non-invasive techniques (the hands) to clear, energize, and balance the human and environmental energy fields. It’s this clearing that affects a person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The goal of Healing Touch is to restore balance and harmonies in the energy system, placing the client in a position to heal themselves.
Massage does more than just make you feel good all over. Massage also increases and improves blood circulation as well as lymph gland circulation. Massage also boosts patients’ white blood cell count (which plays a large role in defending the body from disease) and improves immune function for individuals with HIV. Lymphatic massage or manual lymph drainage is a type of massage developed in Germany for the treatment of lymphedema. Lymphedema is the accumulation of fluid that can occur after lymph nodes are removed during surgery, most often a mastectomy for breast cancer. 
Massage has been proven to be an effective treatment for:
- Digestive disorders
- Insomnia related to stress
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain