Holistic healthcare, or wholistic healthcare... people spell it differently, but the message is inherent in the name: that a natural system (the human body, for example) is more than just the sum of its parts. It is a fine-tuned machine that depends on the dynamic interplay of so many different parts.
Part of being happy and healthy is maintaining balance. You cannot survive on just the health of your body, nor could you survive on just the health of your mind. There must be a symbiosis, a homeostatic relationship between the two. That, in itself, is the main goal of holistic healthcare practitioners: that wellness is spread out evenly amongst the cells, organs, limbs, thoughts and spirit.
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This is not to say that doctors and specialists have become obsolete; you wouldn’t treat a bacterial infection by doing yoga. As a responsible adult, oftentimes you have to take action after the fact — for example, although you were wearing your seatbelt, the head-on collision broke your collarbone and you had to go to the hospital to have a plate put in. That is an example of reactive healthcare.
Holistic healthcare combines the best of traditional medicine and alternative therapies to give patients optimal healthcare, which is oftentimes preventative in nature. Holistic practitioners promote an overall wellbeing that is built on a fundamental lifestyle of eating whole foods, exercising regularly and reducing stress. Food is fuel for your body; make the right choices and you could be supplementing your body with tons of vitamins and minerals!
By engaging in a lifestyle that your body can sustain, you’ll reduce risks that cause disease. If you avoid behaviors that debase the body and mind, you will have “unlimited and unimpeded free flow of life force energy through body, mind, and spirit,” according to the American Holistic Health Association. Practitioners focus as much on what kinds of behaviors lead to disease as they do treating the diseases that patients have. The Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine states that prevention is more cost-effective than treatment.
Engaging in this type of medicine allows for the patient to tap into his/her own innate healing abilities. And too often, those healing abilities are directly correlated with how that person lives their life. Dr. David Katz tried to define holistic medical practices in an article for the Huffington Post, and wrote that "a complex array of medical, emotional and social problems really can resemble a cascade in which each malady worsens another, and the net effect is a downward spiral into despondent disability." Practitioners of holistic medicine can often advise the smallest changes (getting two more hours of sleep per night) that could lead to large improvements down the road (increased energy and more community involvement). This requires that people are in tune with their bodies and approach their health in a variety of ways: acupuncture, meditation, aromatherapy, yoga, tai chi, or even nutritional counseling. (via American Holistic Nurses Association)
Many societies throughout history have based medical practices on holistic fundamentals. The Center for Health and Healing states that "specific practices varied among tribes, but all native medicine is based on the understanding that man is part of nature and health is a matter of balance. The natural world thrives when its complex web of interrelationships is honored, nurtured and kept in harmony."
Health is so much more than the absence of sickness. Conventional drugs and surgeries are never off the table, but holistic medicine honors the fact that a vitality for life stems from within, and facilitates a patient experience that is founded on education and participation in the healing process.