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The Natural Approach: Getting Acquainted With Holistic Medicine

As I have aged (and hopefully gotten wiser) I have been gravitating towards a more holistic approach toward living. I try to use moreholistic medicine natural remedies to deal with my ailments as they arise. I must say, however, that by eating a healthier diet I do notice that these ailments occur less frequently than they used to in the past. I have found that in the face of continued increases in the cost of conventional medicine self care coupled with a holistic approach are becoming more popular and more accepted every day. In this essay I would like to describe  holistic medicine as it most definitely fits into a more natural lifestyle and the The Simple Life Health paradigm.

Holistic medicine in various forms has been the ancestral approach to health care for millennia with its roots mainly found in the great ancient medical traditions of China and India.  Unfortunately for us in North America, we have ventured away from the holistic healing approach, as science and technology have become the

dominant factors in western medicine during the 20th century.  Our reliance on the belief that “science can fix anything” has resulted in the great majority of us today completely relying on modern medicine to fix what ails us.  Most of us now believe we can indulge in any vice and wantonly consume anything we want because a magic pill will fix the nasty repercussions of our detrimental choices.  It appears we are coming full circle now as holistic health and medicine are becoming increasingly popular today, especially as our healthcare costs drastically rise with the tidal wave of chronic diseases caused mainly by our poor diet. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that nearly 75% of our state of wellness is a direct result of our environmental conditions and lifestyle choices.

Unfortunately, many of our modern medical antidotes for illness can be worse than the actual diseases they are meant to treat.  In greater numbers we are finally becoming resentful and suspicious of the “I can no longer feel the pain in my knee because you hit me in the head with a hammer” approach that seems to typify so many of modern medical practices today.

The good news is that more than a quarter of the hospitals surveyed by Health Forum, a subsidiary of the American Hospital Association (AHA), offer complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) programs to the patients they serve, a number which represents significant growth.  The top inpatient modalities were massage (37%); music therapy (27%); Therapeutic Touch (25%); guided imagery (22%); relaxation techniques (20%); and acupuncture (12%). The top outpatient modalities were massage (71%); tai chi/yoga/qi gong (47%); relaxation techniques (43%), acupuncture (39%), guided imagery (32%); and Therapeutic Touch (30%).  In a report compiled by Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey of Hospitals, published by Health Forum on July 18, 2006,  patient demand arose as the primary reason for offering (CAM) services. But the hospitals also cited clinical effectiveness and the hospital’s desire to treat “the whole person—body, mind and spirit” as other compelling reasons.

Holistic health takes a different approach from modern medicine in that you are always working towards better health.  You do not abandon your improvement just because you are feeling well; you continue to pursue superior overall wellness.  The underlying theme underscores the fact that the higher level of wellness you obtain, the less likely you are to suffer from future illness or disease. Superior well-being makes you happier, more productive, and more fulfilled in all aspects of your life.

Doesn’t this sound great?  So what exactly is holistic medicine?  Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing the whole person in mind, body, and spirit, thus viewing the patient as a unique individual.  Simply said, instead of focusing on the separate symptoms of disease, holistic medicine focuses on the totality of the disease’s causes as they pertain to a specific individual.  As I have learned, just because I have a headache doesn’t necessarily mean something in my head is amiss. My headache could be the result of something I ate, or perhaps a narrowed nerve pathway in my spine, or another source that remains to be discovered.

Today holistic medicine is inclusive and comprehensive using modalities from both conventional medicine and therapies we know as alternative or complementary medicine.  In the practice of holistic medicine disease is recognized as resulting from an imbalance of physical, social, environmental, cultural, and emotional factors.  A holistic approach to creating wellness includes taking charge of your own health by exploring a variety of life enhancing activities until you discover which ones work best for you.

The most obvious choices people make each day is what they take in both physically and mentally. The cells in your body are in a state of constant repair and replacement, which is directly influenced by the food you consume. Similarly, on the non-physical level, a person’s mental and emotional attitudes are built from what they see and hear.

In order for healing to take place in a natural way the above aspects of life must be brought into proper balance. The role of the holistic practitioner is as guide, mentor and role model; the patient must do the work by changing lifestyle, beliefs and old habits in order to bring about healing.

Other terms often associated with holistic medicine are:

Alternative Medicine is often used to refer to medical practices, which are not known or accepted by the majority of conventional or Western medical practitioners. Some of these better known practices are: Medical Herbalism, Acupunture, Homeopathy, Reiki, and many others.

Complementary Medicine are the use of non-invasive or non-pharmaceutical techniques by conventional medical doctors to complement medical treatments they perform or prescribe.

Natural Healing usually refers to the use of non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical techniques to help heal the patient. When most people use the term Natural Healing, they are usually referring to physical healing techniques only.

The American Holistic Medical Association indicates the primary goals of holistic medicine to be the following:

Optimal Health is the primary goal of holistic medical practice. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest level of functioning and balance of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of human experience, resulting in a dynamic state of being fully alive. This creates a condition of wellbeing regardless of the presence or absence of disease.

The Healing Power of Love. Holistic health care practitioners strive to meet the patient with grace, kindness, acceptance, and spirit without condition, as love is life’s most powerful healer.

Whole Person. Holistic health care practitioners view people as the unity of body, mind, spirit and the systems in which they live.

Prevention and Treatment. Holistic health care practitioners promote health, prevent illness and help raise awareness of disease in our lives rather than merely managing symptoms. A holistic approach relieves symptoms, modifies contributing factors, and enhances the patient’s life system to optimize future well-being.

Innate Healing Power. All people have innate powers of healing in their bodies, minds and spirits. Holistic health care practitioners evoke and help patients utilize these powers to affect the healing process.

Integration of Healing Systems. Holistic health care practitioners embrace a lifetime of learning about all safe and effective options in diagnosis and treatment. These options come from a variety of traditions, and are selected in order to best meet the unique needs of the patient. The realm of choices may include lifestyle modification and complementary approaches as well as conventional drugs and surgery.

Relationship-centered Care. The ideal practitioner-patient relationship is a partnership, which encourages patient autonomy, and values the needs and insights of both parties. The quality of this relationship is an essential contributor to the healing process.

Individuality. Holistic health care practitioners focus patient care on the unique needs and nature of the person who has an illness rather than the illness that has the person.

Teaching by Example. Holistic health care practitioners continually work toward the personal incorporation of the principles of holistic health, which then profoundly influence the quality of the healing relationship.

Learning Opportunities. All life experiences including birth, joy, suffering, and the dying process are profound learning opportunities for both patients and health care practitioners.

As you can see, holistic medicine does not just focus primarily on a natural approach to healing and health.  It integrates the strides we have made in modern medicine with alternative practices.  I think most people usually think you either believe in modern medicine or holistic medicine, and there is no middle ground.  I have learned over the years when I take a holistic approach to a health problem I get the best results, because I’m incorporating a more well-rounded approach.  When it comes to our health there is not just one answer or cure, and everyone reacts to certain treatments differently. It is to our benefit to explore with open minds the many options available to us.

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