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Exploring The Benefits Of Holistic Healing – Treating The Mind, Body, And Spirit

Written by: Mary Solis, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor Mary Solis

We have come a long way in modern medicine and our understanding of the human body, yet statistics have shown that illness and disease continue to rise despite improved access to care. Is there something missing in our conventional healthcare model? Medical treatments have lengthened the average human life, but a longer life doesn't necessarily mean optimal health. We human beings are complex organisms with mind, body, and spiritual aspects that influence each other in varying degrees based on genetics, personalities, and environment. With conventional medicine primarily focusing on alleviating symptoms, it isn’t enough to determine if someone is truly healthy with just these interventions alone.


Woman in white long sleeve shirt with blue towel on head

Holistic medicine aims to complement the areas that conventional medicine often ignores. While conventional medicine primarily focuses on treating specific symptoms or diseases, it often falls short in considering the complex interconnectedness of the whole person and how it affects health and healing. By addressing the root cause of health issues, holistic therapies aim to provide long-term health and promote overall well-being by restoring balance within the body and self. Holistic medicine broadly includes diverse practices, all with a common belief that true healing involves the mind, body, and spirit in harmony and balance with the self.


The benefits of holistic healing have spawned an increase in public interest over the years, with progressive medical professionals integrating holistic modalities into their medical practice.


Some holistic healing modalities such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and mind-body medicine, are starting to get more recognition from the scientific and medical community despite past challenges with testing, funding, and support. Although holistic medicine still has some ways to go until it can be fully accepted by mainstream medicine, its positive impact among individuals who have undergone treatment cannot be overlooked.


The benefits of holistic healing (and how it differs from conventional medicine)


Holistic healing has distinctive benefits that are profoundly different from the conventional medical approach. The most crucial distinction between the two is the focus on prevention and wellness. Holistic healing acknowledges that various aspects of self and imbalances in mind, body, and spirit can influence overall well-being, ultimately affecting the occurrence and progression of disease. Conversely, conventional medicine focuses more on disease states and symptom relief; therefore, it's best suited for acute, aggressive, and emergency medical situations rather than promoting long-term health benefits. Aside from taking a more comprehensive approach to health, other holistic healing benefits include more personalized care and active patient participation.


Whole person perspective is the core of holistic healing


A whole person perspective is a comprehensive approach to health and wellness that allows for a deeper understanding of a person's unique needs, focusing on achieving physical, mental, and spiritual harmony. It looks at a person's unique life experiences and habits while considering genetic predispositions and environmental triggers to understand and address the root cause of illness. By taking a comprehensive approach, providers can more effectively get to the root causes of medical issues rather than simply treating symptoms at face value. For example, psychosocial assessment techniques combined with physiological tests can help identify underlying psychological conditions that may otherwise remain undiagnosed.


By considering both lifestyle and biological factors, the holistic healing process encourages self-awareness, leading to increased empowerment in self-care practices like exercise or healthy eating. While conventional medicine treats disease complications, holistic healing takes it further by helping people achieve lasting health and well-being.


Holistic healing is prevention-focused


Holistic healing emphasizes prevention, while conventional medicine focuses on treatment proactive vs. reactive. Holistic medicine encourages individuals to take the first initiative in maintaining their overall health before symptoms manifest. In contrast, conventional medicine comes to the rescue when more urgent complications arise. While conventional medicine also has protocols for prevention, it's usually utilized only after a medical event and typically involves taking medications that not only have side effects but come with risks or complications over time. For example, taking preventative aspirin after a heart attack or stroke puts you at higher risk for bleeding or gastrointestinal ulcers. While it's evident that prevention is important, adopting healthy habits is not easy for most people. In this case, it's best to find a holistic health practitioner who can approach symptoms from a root cause perspective and guide you to make the necessary changes, not only to prevent a more severe health condition, but also to help restore the balance that resulted in symptoms in the first place.


Integration of natural healing methods


Holistic healing embraces alternative medicine practices alongside conventional treatments when necessary. It acknowledges the potential benefits of natural healing methods such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, meditation, and yoga. By integrating these complementary therapies with conventional medicine, individuals can experience a more balanced and personalized approach to their treatment while minimizing unwanted side effects that usually come with medications.


Although conventional medicine is equipped to handle serious medical complications, treatment is typically more aggressive and invasive, without the option of opting for more natural therapies primarily due to a lack of acceptance or understanding from conventionally trained medical doctors.


Holistic healing aims to first utilize the least invasive methods before turning to more aggressive interventions like pharmaceuticals or surgery because it believes in the body's natural healing processes and therapies to support it. Typically, medication is used as a last resort, often in conjunction with more natural healing methods.


Empowerment through active participation


One significant advantage of a holistic approach is that it empowers individuals to actively participate in their own healing process. Rather than relying solely on medical professionals for guidance and treatment decisions, holistic wellness encourages individuals to become active participants in managing their health. This involvement fosters a sense of empowerment and ownership over one's well-being. In contrast, conventional medicine often relies more on the expertise of healthcare professionals, with less involvement from the patient.


At its core, holistic wellness emphasizes the importance of self-care practices. It encourages individuals to actively participate in their healing journey by adopting healthy lifestyle changes. Working with a holistic health practitioner allows individuals to learn more about themselves, and understand how their unique whole-person compilation mind, body, spirit, medical history and culture can lead them to develop lifestyle choices that meet their needs. By working with a holistic health practitioner, individuals can create a more personalized treatment approach that considers all aspects of self.


Creating a personalized approach to health


Personalization is another advantage of holistic healing. Treatment plans are tailored to individual needs and goals, not just alleviating physical symptoms or treating a condition; therefore, holistic treatment plans can vary from person to person despite treating the same condition because they are more specific to an individual's biological, psychological, and spiritual makeup. Additionally, incorporating cultural elements into tailored care plans helps ensure continuity between tradition-based beliefs and provider-recommended treatments – bridging the gap between various paradigms and promoting positive outcomes on all levels for each person. Conversely, conventional medicine often follows standardized treatment protocols and assesses risk vs benefit from population-based clinical trial studies, without further considering individual differences.


Stigma and misconceptions around holistic medicine: Q&A with a skeptic


Despite holistic medicine's growing popularity, it still faces a significant amount of stigma and misconceptions, especially with the need for more scientific evidence to support effectiveness. Conventional doctors, researchers, and scientists who adhere firmly to the scientific method understandably only recommend evidence-based medicine; however, the growing number of client testimonials in cases where conventional medicine has proved ineffective or even harmful cannot be overlooked. Ultimately, it comes down to an individual's belief, accessibility, and personal experiences when concluding if holistic modalities are effective or simply a placebo effect.


Common questions raised by skeptics of holistic medicine include:


Q: Is there scientific evidence that shows holistic therapies work?


A: While it's true that some holistic practices, specifically complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), may have yet to undergo extensive scientific research, some methods have been studied and shown promising results. For example, acupuncture has been proven effective in treating specific conditions, and meditation for stress and anxiety relief.


There are limited scientific studies that support holistic healing because they are often difficult to test and not fully supported or funded. Due to the philosophy and comprehensive approach of holistic modalities, most therapies fail to fit scientific research protocol, which typically utilizes randomized control, double-blind trials with a placebo and control (treatment) group. Holistic therapies are not a set of techniques, but rather involve a combination of different treatment practices that are highly individualized to each person. Therefore, it's often difficult to assign and compare a treatment group with another person despite the same diagnosis. In contrast, conventional medicine adheres to evidence-based medicine based on population-based studies that study a large cohort of people with similar conditions to test a treatment in a well-controlled environment. Outcomes can be easily replicated, concluding that treatment has a predictable effect on most people. If we can create a new framework and methodology of study that can accommodate and account for individualized treatment combined with various approaches, then it would be easier to create quality, well-controlled, and replicated studies for holistic medicine. Until then, we can expect a majority of holistic therapies to have limited evidence based on modern scientific backing.


Q: If there is limited scientific evidence to support holistic healing, doesn’t that mean it’s ineffective?


A: It's difficult to conclude that holistic modalities are ineffective based on lack of evidence because most have not been put under rigorous quality studies to disprove them. It'd be best to describe holistic modalities as "unproven" instead of ineffective at this point. Therefore, it's essential to note that holistic therapy may not suit everyone. Some individuals prefer a solely evidence-based approach to health and wellness. While holistic therapies often incorporate complementary practices alongside conventional medicine, those who strictly prioritize scientific methods might feel uncomfortable with this integrative approach.


Q: If holistic medicine only uses natural remedies, then it’s only beneficial for less severe conditions right?


A: With the varying practices of holistic medicine, it would be difficult to classify holistic medicine as better suited for one case versus another. However, many support the use of holistic medicine when managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity due to the ability to identify and address root causes, consider the interconnected effects of these multifactorial diseases, and the critical involvement of the client in making lasting lifestyle changes. Conversely, conventional medicine is best used in acute and immediate situations, such as a complication due to an unmanaged chronic condition.


Q: Natural therapies mean no side effects right?


A: Although natural remedies are, for the most part, less aggressive and invasive than pharmaceuticals, it doesn't mean they don't come with side effects. This is especially true considering that most natural remedies and supplements have fewer regulations and less monitoring from governing bodies in the United States and other countries. This means that supplements may be inconsistent and impure, leading to unexpected side effects or no effect at all. Also, natural products like herbs are well known to have side effects and drug interactions that can potentially be harmful. Therefore, it's always best to consult a holistic health practitioner who best understands these natural products before taking them.


Q: Are holistic doctors real doctors?


A: It depends. Some holistic health practitioners have the "doctor" title but are not classified as a medical doctor, at least not in the United States. Holistic doctors who have gone through extensive training equivalent to a conventional medical doctor (MD) include doctors of osteopathic medicine (DO) and naturopathic doctors (ND). Most conventional doctors now opt for additional training in holistic approaches to complement their medical practice. These include Integrative and Functional medicine physicians. Still, other practitioners have the doctor title, but are not recognized as medical doctors due to the significant differences in training and lack of nationwide license or certification. These include Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners. This does not mean these practitioners lack knowledge, training, or expertise in the field, just that the specialization is not nationally recognized or classified as equivalent to an allopathic medical doctor (MD). However, with the growing interest in CAM, this can all change soon.


Q: Why do I need to work with a holistic health practitioner? Can’t I incorporate healthy eating, exercise, and supplements on my own?


A: You can definitely adopt new healthy habits and start taking supplements on your own, but with all the health and wellness misinformation out there, lack of regulation, and risks associated with new therapies and health trends, it's difficult to understand what's safe and effective for you and your health goals. The right holistic health practitioner can provide professional guidance and support to help you achieve your goals faster, easier, and with less financial burden than going at it solo through trial and error.


Q: How can I afford holistic therapy if my insurance won’t cover it?


A: While most holistic therapies are not directly covered by major medical insurances, there are still ways to get financial assistance. Depending on the treatment, some insurance will cover it if you have a referral by your regular doctor, and treatment is administered by a licensed practitioner. Acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy, for example, have been covered by some health plans. Some holistic practitioners don't accept insurance; however, you can still get reimbursed for out-of-pocket costs if your insurance plan includes coverage for out-of-network providers. Additionally, you can use a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) to cover some expenses. If these options are unavailable, you can always talk to your holistic practitioner to see if you can arrange a payment plan, or look for a platform like Nexia Wellness that offers payment options.


Is Holistic Therapy Right for You? Benefits, Considerations, and Choosing the right approach


Holistic healing is suitable for anyone seeking a comprehensive approach to health and wellness. Whether dealing with specific symptoms, a chronic disease, or simply looking to improve your overall health, a holistic approach may just be what you need to get you over that hump and to

success and wellbeing.


If you're considering holistic therapy, here are some essential questions to ask yourself:


  1. Are you looking for something extra or “out-of-the-box” that will get you the health results you’re looking for?

  2. Are you looking for something more comprehensive than a typical appointment with your doctor?

  3. Do you suspect more is going on with your health than what your current health practitioner is telling you?

  4. Do you want relief and results that are long-term, not a quick fix?

  5. With the guidance of a qualified practitioner, are you willing to try a different approach or solution?

  6. Do you need longer appointment times and personalized treatment plans?

  7. Are you ready to get more involved with your treatment?

  8. Are you willing to explore different financial options to cover therapy costs?


If you answered yes to all the questions above, then holistic therapy may be the right solution for you. However, because holistic healing can involve various approaches, understanding the different types of holistic health modalities is crucial in determining which approach is right for you. Do some research and interview potential practitioners.


Suggestion: Download our Free eGuide: Conventional vs. Holistic Medicine


This guide breaks down the main differences between Conventional and Holistic Medicine, provides an overview of different holistic approaches, and gives tips on what to look for in a qualified holistic health practitioner.


Conclusion


Holistic healing is a comprehensive, whole-person approach that considers more than the physical aspect of health and prioritizes prevention and natural remedies over aggressive pharmaceuticals, but often involves utilizing both conventional and alternative treatments. This allows practitioners to dive into the root cause of health issues and fosters personalization and more client involvement with treatment. Although more people recognize the benefits of a holistic approach, there are still misconceptions and skepticism regarding effectiveness due to limited scientific studies to validate the growing client testimonials. Different types of holistic practices share the same philosophy, but may have completely different approaches which is why it's important to understand each modality, talk to a practitioner, and understand how to finance treatment since services may not be covered by insurance. Despite our advancements in medicine, the rising number of chronic diseases and health issues indicate that something is missing from the current conventional medical model. Perhaps the growing awareness and client testimonials for holistic healing is a sign that a much needed paradigm shift in health and wellness is coming.


Key takeaways

  • Holistic healing considers the whole person - mind, body, and spirit. It focuses on addressing the root cause of health issues rather than just treating symptoms.

  • Holistic therapies emphasize preventive care and prioritizes natural healing over medications and surgery.

  • Holistic therapies involve more active individual participation, allowing more personalized treatment plans than conventional medical approaches.

  • Many conventional medical doctors are integrating holistic health modalities in their healthcare practices.

  • There are limited scientific studies that support holistic healing because they are often difficult to test and lack full support and funding.

  • Those who prioritize scientific methods and value evidence-based treatments may feel uncomfortable with holistic approaches.



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Mary Solis Brainz Magazine
 

Mary Solis, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Mary Solis is a registered pharmacist, certified health coach, and founder of Nexia Wellness. She received her Pharmacy Doctorate from the University of Washington in Seattle. She considers herself a holistic health advocate, with the belief that you can only achieve optimal well-being with a synergistic approach of both conventional medicine and holistic practices. This belief led to the development of Nexia Wellness, a platform that connects people with professionals who utilize whole-person healing through mind, body, and spirit. Mary has special interests in functional medicine, self-development, and spirituality.

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