The evolution of medicine continues to produce miraculous results; we’re able to treat problems today we didn’t even know existed one hundred years ago. The prevalence of medical intervention for health issues big and small has generated a lot of interest, and some confusion, about holistic medicine and holistic health. What exactly does “holistic” mean? The Cambridge Dictionary defines holistic as “dealing with or treating the whole of something or someone and not just a part”. Holistic health then, is health which deals with the whole of someone, instead of just treating the symptoms of a disease; a common adage among holistic practitioners is that our patients are people, not illnesses. Let’s explore some of the implications of holistic health.

Western medicine in the 20th century received a great boon from advances in physics, biology and chemistry; we could now identify the source of disease, and find medicines which killed the culprits that caused the symptoms. Unfortunately, our narrow focus on disease prevention and elimination had some unintended side effects. By focusing on the physical causes of illness, we neglected to keep the patient’s emotional and spiritual wellbeing in mind. The consequence of this was medications that sometimes made our patients feel worse than the disease the medicines were treating. The focus on medication and surgical intervention also created a myopic view where lifestyle changes and preventive strategies could be neglected.

Holistic health seeks to change this paradigm. When a patient feels emotionally depleted, or spiritually drained, their physical health will suffer. This happens because stress has adverse physical effects on our bodies, and emotional and spiritual burden makes it hard for us to follow through on the routines that might improve our health. A holistic approach keeps these factors in mind, and might recommend changes to diet, sleeping patterns, exercise, and other changes. Holistic practitioners will also keep your spirituality in mind, and incorporate your religious practices in your health plan.

This isn’t to say holistic health abstains from traditional Western medicine; far from it! A holistic approach will recommend anything and everything that’s beneficial for you. When a prescription has few side effects and many positive results, it will be recommended; the same is true for natural remedies, meditation, or a wide variety of other tools. Essentially, if it helps treat the whole, leaving you satisfied, grounded and healthy, then holistic health will incorporate it.

There’s no reason to delay your visit to a knowledgeable holistic health centre; medical problems big and small can be addressed, and your mental, physical and emotional health are all considered. Consulting holistic specialists is helpful when you’re feeling sick, but can be even more helpful before extreme symptoms occur; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it’s important to begin a holistic approach to health as soon as possible, to keep you at your best throughout your whole life.