Medicine continues to evolve. Yet, anything new to holistic medicine shows just how far off-track medicine went with the advent of science and technology. The trend back to a holistic approach to medicine reflects an understanding that science and technology are excellent tools for the understanding and treatment of disease, but do not encompass all the essential elements of health.
What is Holistic Medicine?
Holistic medicine treats the whole person. It recognizes the interconnectedness of body, mind and spirit, of how emotion, outlook and environment contribute to health. It applies both science and the artistry of the medical practitioner to treat patients. Traditions like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine have recognized this for thousands of years. And practiced a holistic medicine for equally as long.
Medical professionals who practice holistic medicine seek to support the body’s innate healing and prevent illness. This means treating the whole person. It also means the use of safe, but effective medicines to promote wellness and restore the body.
How this is done differs as the ancient systems of Ayurveda and TCM to modern medicine have slightly different philosophies. Yet, despite these differences, there are four consistent elements to each system.
Find the cause of disease
It isn’t enough to treat symptoms. The cause of the illness or disease must be addressed. It’s like discovering water pooled in the cabinet under your sink. If you pull all the stuff out and dry it up, you’ve addressed the symptom. The reason why the water is there (probably a leaky pipe) remains. Holistic medicine looks at the symptoms and seeks to determine its cause.
Recognize the inter-relatedness of the entire system
A change in one facet of the body affects every other aspect. For example, dietary changes do more than alter the nutrients available to the body. They may alter digestive health and even mental health. Or, an injury to the ankle can impact the knee, hips, lower back, neck and shoulders as a result of a change in how the individual moves.
An individual’s outlook also contributes to their physical health. Perhaps a patient struggles with deep spiritual questions; these can manifest in both mood and physical health. Holistic medicine understands many aspects of health cannot be measured by tools and diagnostic devices, but rather must be understood through the experience of one human being (the doctor) listening and relating to another (the patient).
Use medicines that support overall health
Drugs and medicines should address symptoms and disease, not create more. Science and technology have enabled medicine to understand how individual systems in the body work, but the body is not a machine. Medicines used by holistic practitioners seek to provide healing benefits without side effects.
Ultimately, holistic medicine seeks to prevent disease and illness. While the occasional colds and winter flus may be unavoidable, the goal of holistic medicine is to provide the patient with the knowledge and education to make healthy choices. As every person is unique and has unique needs, this often means a personalized approach developed with the help of a healthcare practitioner.
Benefits of a strong patient doctor relationship
Holistic medicine works best when patient and doctor work together. This requires a strong and trusting relationship between both parties. It also demands open and honest communication that promotes an awareness of the needs and wants of the patient.
When all of these come together, medicine addresses the health of the whole person, just as it has in many traditions for more than 2,000 years.