Holistic medicine has been gaining in popularity over the past few decades, as more and more people become dissatisfied with the often narrow focus of Western, or allopathic medicine. While many conditions have been alleviated because of it and of course, lives have been saved, it does come with its limitations.
Allopathic medicine is designed to look at the symptoms in isolation and treat them. It considers the biology and chemistry of the body, without acknowledging that there is more to the constituents of a healthy person than these alone.
Holistic medicine takes a different view. There are many different forms of holistic medicine, from massage and yoga to acupuncture, naturopathy, and homeopathy. It features many distinctions from conventional western medicine and offers you numerous benefits for your health and wellness.
25 Ways Holistic Medicine Serves Your Health
1| Treats whole person
The main difference between conventional and holistic medicine is that holistic medicine looks at the whole person and aims to bring balance to that person’s “system.” This system includes the person’s physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and energetic bodies. Thus, holistic medicine can be considered “systemic” as it extends beyond the person into their environment, their intimate relationships, and their wider community.
Holistic medicine understands that by positively impacting one aspect of the person’s health, let’s say emotional, that this will have a knock-on positive effect on the other elements of the system. In other words, all parts of a person’s being are inter-related and interdependent.
2| Aims to treat the root cause of the disease, not just the symptoms
Allopathic medicine is concerned with the presenting symptoms and aims to fix them. Holistic medicine sees the symptom as the manifestation of a deeper root cause. It aims to remove the cause of the disease and restore balance, thus bringing about overall health and healing.
For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, let’s say that you come in with asthma. Asthma is a symptom of the lungs, which belong to the element Metal. An acupuncturist might treat the so called “child” of Metal, the kidneys, which are associated with the element Water. When the “child” is well, the “parent” can relax and therefore you can get better.
The root cause of the disease has been treated and your asthma will go away. Compare this to conventional medicine, which gives you puffers with medicines to inhale daily to treat the symptoms of asthma. If you stop taking the medicines, your asthma will return. This approach does not treat the cause of the disease.
3| Considers the energy of the person
Acupuncture is a good example of how the energy system is considered valid in many holistic modalities. Acupuncture has been around for 5000 years and is noted for its efficacy in treating a wide variety of disorders.
Acupuncture is based on the idea that energy or “chi” flows though out the whole body along energy channels, or “meridians.” There are 12 main meridians and these are paired together and are associated with each of the body’s internal organs: Stomach and spleen, lungs and large intestine, kidneys and bladder, liver and gall bladder, heart and small intestines, and also heart protector or pericardium and triple heater meridians.
The theory is simple: When energy is flowing smoothly, there is good health; when the energy becomes blocked in one of the meridians, ill health ensues. The acupuncture needles are placed in “gateways” which encourage the free flowing of energy along the meridians.
4| By balancing your energy your health improves
When energy is balanced, you feel well. When energy becomes imbalanced, stagnant, blocked, deficient or on excess, disease can occur.
5| Considers all aspects of your lifestyle
Rather than using a microscopic perspective to zoom in on the problem and exclude all other factors, holistic medicine uses more of a panoramic lens to look at the wider picture and see how all the parts are inter-related. Holistic medicine recognizes that you do not exist in isolation; you are integrated with your environment, your family, friends and community network, as well as the broader social network, the world at large and even the entire cosmos.
6| It looks at the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the person
Holistic medicine is not just concerned with your physical symptoms. It looks at all of the different parts that make the whole you.
7| The physical
Holistic medicine wants to know about your physical symptoms, but it will treat them as part of a larger whole. To use the example of acupuncture again, let’s say you come in with constipation. This is clearly associated with the large intestine meridian and so the acupuncturist may encourage free flow along the large intestine meridian. There is a major large intestine point between your thumb and your index finger. This point could be used to treat constipation, even though it is on your hand and is nowhere near your bowel!
8| The mental
Science shows us that thoughts are powerful; they influence our emotional health and even our physical health. According to Harvard Health, anxiety has been shown to contribute to upset stomach and feelings of nausea, as well as being a contributing factor in heart disease.
Learning how to disrupt the anxious thoughts or deconstruct them and replace them with healthier alternatives are ways you can decrease your stress levels and experience more inner calm, and therefore better health.
Many holistic modalities serve to relax the body: acupuncture, shiatsu, reflexology, massage, yoga, just to name a few. When the body relaxes, the mind relaxes also. Relaxation is a powerful way to alleviate stress and bring about healing.
9| The emotional
Traditional Chinese Medicine posits that an imbalance in emotion can bring about ill health. Think about grief and the physical and mental symptoms that often accompany it: fatigue, insomnia, restlessness, depression, disrupted eating patterns, lethargy, and so on.
Chinese Medicine says, “Worry knots the Chi.” In other words, worry can make you sick by causing an imbalance in the flow of energy through the meridians. Have you ever been so worried that you couldn’t eat? Or sleep? Or have you heard the expression, “Sick with worry”?
These are examples of how your emotions affect your physical health. In Chinese Five Element theory (also used by naturopaths), the emotion of grief or sorrow is related to the lung and large intestine, so that point between the thumb and index finger could be used again for this different ailment.
10| The spiritual
Our spiritual lives are not, in today’s society, considered important in terms of our health, but holistic medicine thinks otherwise. Having a belief in a higher power, something greater than ourselves that is outside of ourselves, can give us faith and trust in something we can rely on.
This in turn allows us to feel less anxious and more relaxed. When we can trust in our higher power to guide us we can let go and feel more at peace. Peacefulness is one sign of good health. Having a spiritual belief or practice can also lead to feelings of fulfilment and satisfaction with our lives, which in turn bring about feelings of contentment and well-being.
11| Holistic medicine encourages lifestyle changes
One of the important factors in the healing process is that you feel engaged and involved in the process of your own healing. Your holistic practitioner will likely make lifestyle change suggestions to you, but it is ultimately up to you whether or not you implement them. Holistic medicine will look at the following points as part of your self-care plan, in order to assess where some healthy changes could be made.
12| It helps you consider your diet
A nutritious diet is fundamental to overall good health. You need the right balance of nutrients for your body, mind, emotions, and even your spirit to function optimally. Your naturopath will be the expert in this area and will be able to advise you. Some common stressors a naturopath will likely tell you to avoid are stimulants such as caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.
13| It considers your environment
Holistic medicine considers your environment when looking at factors, which affect your health. For example, living in an environment where the air is heavily polluted, like Beijing or Shanghai in China, could be very hazardous to your health and could be considered carcinogenic.
In this case, you might want to consider relocating for health reasons. Similarly, damp or otherwise substandard housing could be detrimental to your health and a move might be the only way to resolve an issue completely.
You could have dust mites or a pet causing you to suffer allergies. You might live in a cold and drafty house, which contributes, to your back pain. Conventional doctors would be unlikely to consider any of these factors but a holistic practitioner will take these things seriously. Everything is connected.
14| It looks at your sleep quality
Holistic practitioners will also look at your sleep quality and make recommendations for improving it, as they will understand how it can impact the other areas of your life and your health. Lack of proper sleep can contribute to all manner of ailments from fatigue and sluggishness to stress, anxiety, and irritability.
15| It considers your stress levels
Your stress levels have a major impact on your overall health and well-being. Science believes that up to 90% of disease can be stress-related! This is why it is so important that your holistic practitioner look at all aspects of your lifestyle so you can make the necessary changes to bring about improved health.
Stress is a big factor in disease but it is one area where you have a lot of control over reducing it. Meditation, mindfulness, yoga, exercise, diet, and relaxation are all areas, which can help to alleviate stress symptoms.
16| It considers how much exercise you do
Holistic medicine understands how important physical exercise is to your health. Exercise can keep you in shape, help you lose weight, increase lean muscle mass and trim away excess fat, burn up calories, and make you feel happier. It can also burn away stress and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
17| It considers how well you relax
Holistic medicine knows that relaxing is a key component in good health. When you relax, you turn off the stress response that when allowed to go unchecked, is constantly unleashing overloads of cortisol and adrenaline into your system, causing your anxiety to go through the roof.
Turn the stress switch off and the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and takes over. The parasympathetic nervous system is what allows your bodily functions to perform normally. Functions like breathing, digestion, assimilation, and elimination of wastes all go back to their regular behaviors when the body becomes calm and relaxed. When stress becomes chronic, these functions cannot do their due diligence and illness results.
18| It can look at limiting beliefs
At some time in early childhood, you, like every other human being on the planet, picked up some limiting beliefs. A universal belief is a feeling of unworthiness. This or other core beliefs can wreak havoc with your potential and can hold you back in many areas of your life.
They may even contribute to feelings of ill health. A holistic practitioner may look at your limiting beliefs and help you change them so that you can become the best you that you can be. Negative beliefs may cause feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety and even physical ailments can result from believing in negative thoughts.
19| It considers your purpose
If you are stuck in a dead-end job with no hope of promotion, doing something boring and under stimulating, day after day, you are not likely to wake up feeling inspired and uplifted in the morning.
In fact, this kind of dissatisfying job will definitely contribute to your health, or your lack of it. Finding your purpose is very important to living a vibrant, satisfying, and fulfilling life and your holistic medicine practitioner will be taking this into consideration. Purpose gives your life a sense of meaning and can make the difference between a life, which feels worth living, and one, which you want to escape from.
20| It considers the quality of your relationships
Relationships and health are more important than you might realize. If you are in a loving, supportive, encouraging relationship, then you are lucky. Studies have shown that these kinds of partnerships promote longer lifespans. However, if you are in a toxic, hateful, angry, and uncaring kind of relationship, you are likely to suffer from all sorts of stress related issues, which can adversely affect your health.
Your relationships are a big factor in the quality of your health. One relationship that is most important to consider is the one you have with yourself. Very often, as children, we internalize the negative messages we receive from those around us and we can spend years being subconsciously our own worst enemy. Building a strong relationship with yourself is foundational in the holistic health model.
21| It aims to rebalance your entire system
Holistic medicine sees health as balance on all levels: mental, spiritual, physical, emotional, environmental, career, relationship and even financial. One system affects another. When one comes into balance, another will inevitably improve. Ideally, you will feel in harmony on all levels.
22| Holistic medicine empowers you on your journey towards health and healing
One of the great things about holistic medicine is that you are the expert in your own life and you get to make your choices about your health.
You are not at the mercy of a prescription, which could lead to untold side effects and possible complications. You yourself can make the lifestyle changes that you need to create a more wholesome environment, both internally and externally, for yourself. In fact, when you see a holistic medical doctor or Integrative medicine specialist, you are actually partners in healing, not like the typically traditional doctor patient relationships that exist in conventional medicine.
23| The power of unconditional love
It has been said, “Love heals.” (Mantak Chia, Taoist Master). According to Dr. Cynthia of the Holistic Healing Arts Center, science shows that this is true. Holistic medicine concurs with this principle. Love releases oxytocin, the “love hormone,” and this helps lower your stress levels. Not only will your practitioner express positive loving regard to you, but he or she will teach you to love yourself. And that is healing.
24| You heal yourself
The holistic medicine practitioner is merely the vehicle for healing, but it is your own self and your own body that ultimately has the capacity to heal itself. You have innate healing powers within your own body.
Think of when you cut yourself. Your body knew how to heal itself and it did so, all by itself. Isn’t that miraculous? Your body really can know how to heal itself. Holistic psychiatrist David Hawkins believed that we are only subject to “that which we hold in mind.” When you can rid yourself of certain limiting beliefs, you allow the healing power of love, the ultimate healer, to do its work and you can heal your life.
25| You are a person, not a disease
Your holistic medicine practitioner will treat you with respect as a human being. They will not be merely viewing you as a problem to be solved. Their compassion and positive regard for you will in and of itself encourage the healing process to begin.
Holistic medicine is a powerful from of healing which allows you to make the lifestyle changes you need to bring about optimum well-being and healing. It looks at all aspects of your personal being and all aspects of your life. It aims to balance the energy of your body. When the energy of the body is flowing freely, there is health.
When the energy is stagnant or stuck, there is disease. Holistic medicine is based on the premise that “Love heals.” You can make changes in diet, exercise, your spiritual life, your relationships, your environment, your sleep quality, your stress levels or your work, or your life purpose, in order to bring about balance so that you can experience better health.
You may decide to learn how to relax more or how to meditate. You may embark upon a spiritual path. Ultimately, you are responsible for your health and healing. Your body knows how to bring about healing when the conditions are right.
Holistic medicine understands that if you treat one of the bodily systems, whether that is the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, the other systems will also be simultaneously positively affected.
Everything is connected as a whole. Holistic medicine aims to treat the root cause of disease, not just the symptoms.
This means that the symptoms will not reoccur when treatment is complete, because the cause has been removed. Conventional medicine often only masks the symptoms by offering medications. When these are stopped, the symptoms often return.