Holistic Medicine is a system of health care which fosters a cooperative relationship among those involved, leading towards the optimal attainment of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.
Our healthcare system is itself in crisis. The costs are spiraling. We seem to be losing our battles against many diseases. In fact, modern medicine has contributed in a big way to our understanding of our health and bodies. A key essence of the natural healing arts is that there are no side effects.
It emphasizes the need to look at the whole person, including analysis of physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spiritual and lifestyle values. It encompasses all stated modalities of diagnosis and treatment including drugs and surgery, if no safe alternative exists. Holistic Medicine focuses on education and responsibility for personal efforts to achieve balance and well-being.
- definition by the Canadian Holistic Medical Association
We are tired of being sick. While modern medicine has wiped away smallpox and cut down polio, typhoid as well as many other infectious diseases, we now are being confronted with the proliferation of cancer, cardiovascular disease, AIDS, arthritis and an ever growing number of degenerative diseases. Today, there is an endemic incidence of hypoglycemia, ulcers, migraine, diabetes, asthma, nervous and emotional disorders, just to name a few. This whole new syndrome of 'gray illnesses' though not necessarily fatal, will condemn the sufferer to below par state of health and unnecessary side effects.
Our Healthcare Crisis
Studies show that 1 out of every 4 people is emotionally tense and bothered by insomnia, fatigue, too much or too little appetite and an inability to cope with modern life. At least 10% of the population suffers from some form of mental illness and about a seventh of them seek psychiatric help. Meanwhile the figures for longevity are the highest and that for infant mortality the lowest in our history. We seem to be 'doing better but feeling worse'.
Our healthcare system is itself in crisis. The costs are spiraling. We seem to be losing our battles against many diseases. Disease causing bacteria are increasingly showing resistance to our newest antibiotics. Viruses are causing more diseases of increasing severity.
The drug industry is finding it more difficult to come out with solutions to our problems. Newer drugs are becoming more costly even if they offer only marginal benefit. Side effects of drugs still bog us. Cancer patients, for example, fear the treatment more than the disease! The use of animals in drug research is angering animal right activists. Our healthcare system itself needs healing!
Just as the limitations of drug-based biomedicine (referred to as allopathic medicine) are becoming woefully apparent, an impressive array of alternative health practices is emerging. Some are ancient, such as herbology, acupuncture and naturopathy. Some still puzzle us with their effectiveness like homeopathy and aromatherapy. Some are quite innovative and technological breakthroughs like biofeedback and electromagnetic therapy. All work by naturally enhancing the body's own healing capabilities.
A Holistic Solution
Today many of these healing practices once considered the province of the freaky groups are rapidly gaining mainstream credibility, simply because they work. The ground breaking work of Dr. Dean Ornish, director of Preventive Medicine Research Center and his team, in Sausalito, California, have demonstrated that a vegetable/fruit rich (low cholesterol) diet, yoga and meditation can reverse coronary heart disease - long accepted as irreversible!
Large corporations are introducing relaxation and meditation courses to reduce employee absenteeism and medical costs. Insurance companies are offering financial incentives to non-smokers and aerobic dancers.
It is becoming increasingly clear, both to the medical establishment and the general public, that alternative forms of medicine can make a positive contribution to many health problems of today. It is obvious that no one system has a complete answer to all the problems posed.
Generally known as 'Holistic Medicine', this system includes lifestyle management, organic diet and supplementation, exercise and relaxation, acupuncture, therapeutic fasting, meditation, massage, emotional counseling, and body-mind medicine.
A New Paradigm
I am not for one moment running down modern medicine which is my basic training and grounding. In fact, it would be unfair for us to blame the current health crisis on conventional medicine itself as we have largely created the problem through our lifestyles.
In fact, modern medicine has contributed in a big way to our understanding of our health and bodies. It will continue to do so. The major advances in surgery have helped us dramatically undo birth defects or reattach back to working order, a severed penis. Drugs that suppress transplant rejections save countless lives. The advances made in physics and chemistry have taken our diagnostic capabilities to spectacular heights that sometimes boggle the mind.
No attempt is made to ignore or exclude modern medicine in the Holistic approach. Clearly mainstream allopathic medicine is best in the world of crisis care. If you have end stage cancer or a heart attack, then the allopathic approach is best. But the real goal is to avoid a crisis in the first place. Here modern medicine has few answers.
The Holistic Approach
In this aspect, natural healing arts practitioners, drawing upon new and time honored practices of nutrition, body work and emotional healing, have a great deal to offer. They teach us to avoid disease, empower us to care for ourselves.
In the process, we will become more in tune with the workings of our bodies and thus less dependent on outside assistance. We are thought to respect the innate intelligence inherent in all of us and the healing capacity within.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the natural healing arts that we now group together under the umbrella of "Holistic Medicine", is that they insist that we look beyond the presenting symptoms. We look at the patient as whole, not as a host of symptoms that need to be suppressed in search of the cure. We seek the cause. We treat the cause. We are guided by symptoms. The cause is eliminated and the cure is long lasting, possibly permanent.
We are thought to seek to perceive the life force within, no matter how sick or out of balance we are at the surface. In a way, the natural healing arts, be they hands on, nutritional, emotional or of life style manipulation, frequently result in the improvement of symptoms that the patient was not even seeking to treat. The object of treatment is the restoration of total health - our natural state.
A key essence of the natural healing arts is that there are no side effects. These therapies work in accordance with natural principles and in harmony with the patient's body systems. Thus, these therapies provide benefits at little or no side effect risk to the patient.
AMERICAN HOLISTIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION - Principles Of Practice
1.Holistic physicians embrace a variety of safe effective options in diagnosis and treatment, including:
a) education for lifestyle changes and self-care
b) complementary approaches
c) conventional drugs and surgery
2.Searching for underlying cause of diseases preferable to treating symptoms alone.
3.Holistic physicians expend as much effort in establishing what kind of patient has a disease as they do what kind of disease a patient has.
4.It is preferable to diagnose and treat patient as unique individuals rather than as members of a disease category.
5.When possible, lifestyle modification is preferable to drugs and surgery as initial therapeutic options.
6.Prevention is preferable to treatment and usually more cost-effective. The most cost-effective approach evokes the patient's own innate healing capabilities.
7.Illness is viewed as a manifestation of a dysfunction of the whole person, not an isolated event.
8.In most situations, encouragement of patient autonomy is preferable to decisions imposed by the physicians.
9.The ideal physician-patient relationship considers the needs, desires and awareness and insight of the patient, as well as those of the physician.
10.The quality of the relationship established between the physician and the patient is a major determinant of healing outcomes.
11.Physicians significantly influence patients by their example.
12.Illness, pain, and the dying process can be learning opportunities for the patients and physicians.
13.Holistic physicians encourage patients to evoke the healing power of love, hope, humor and enthusiasm and the release of the toxic consequences of hostility, shame, greed, depression and prolonged fear, anger and grief.
14.Unconditional love is life's most powerful medicine. Physicians strive to adopt an attitude of unconditional love for patients, themselves, and other practitioners.
15.Optimal health is more than the absence of sickness. It is the conscious pursuit of the highest qualities of spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, environmental and social aspects of the human experience.