What is holistic health and is it for me?

Holistic health may sound attractive if you aren’t the kind of person who likes to hand your health over to your doctor and not think about it again.

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As the Institute for Holistic Health Studies explains, in holistic health, “The individual is an active participant in their health decisions and healing processes, including wellness-oriented lifestyle choices.”

Holistic health is “an approach to life that considers multidimensional aspects of wellness. It encourages individuals to recognize the whole person: physical, mental, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual”, explains the Institute, which is part of Western Connecticut State University.

A medically-reviewed article in WebMD explains that “A holistic doctor may use all forms of health care, from conventional medication to alternative therapies, to treat a patient.” Depending on their training, these therapies may include:

  • “Patient education on lifestyle changes and self-care to promote wellness. This may include diet, exercise, psychotherapy, relationship, and spiritual counseling, and more”
  • “Western medications and surgical procedures”
  • “Complementary and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, massage therapy, naturopathy, and others”

    We know that some holistic health emphasis on lifestyle changes for disease prevention can be helpful. “Several studies have shown that positive lifestyle choices and behaviors are the foundation of good health”, says a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

What the science says

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health review states:
  • “Studies have shown that a higher sense of purpose in life is associated with low over-all and cause-specific mortality including cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.
  • Recently, it has also been noted that there is growing evidence that quality and quantity of sleep are associated with NCDs [noncommunicable diseases] such as cardiovascular diseases.
  • In addition, studies have shown that health-related lifestyle interventions are effective in reducing the incidence of many diseases, including NCDs such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke.”

“A more realistic approach to healing”

“Holistic treatments are more about identifying the root of an ailment instead of just addressing symptoms. Holistic treatment focuses on wellness and prevention rather than just treating disease”, adds Rohini Radhakrishnan, ENT, Head and Neck Surgeon, in MedicineNet.

“Nutrition, exercise, homeopathy, acupuncture, and meditation are a few treatments that may be used together with conventional medicine as part of the holistic approach. The goal of holistic healing is to improve the body's natural healing abilities along with empowering the patient to take charge of their health.”

Where to start?

Radhakrishnan explains that “A holistic doctor generally has a medical background but are focused on prevention first and treatment second”.

So, who should you consult if you like the idea of being involved in your health to prevent illness? WebMD advises:

  • Don’t go to just anyone: “Get a recommendation from someone you trust or contact a credible health organization”.
  • Do your homework. Find out as much as possible about the person’s training, experience, specialty, and association with professional organizations and hospital affiliations. Are they board certified in holistic medicine by a credible medical board?”
  • Do you feel comfortable during the visit? “Remember, holistic medicine takes a team approach, involving you and the provider, so make sure you feel comfortable and respected”.
  • Are you happy to provide a lot of information? Including “questions about your diet, exercise, sleep habits, how you feel emotionally, your religious beliefs and practices, close relationships, and more”?
  • Does the treatment plan take into account any medical considerations, as well as all lifestyle factors that may play a role in your health?

    However, it’s always advisable to consult your doctor before making any lifestyle modifications or new approaches to your health regimen.