What Does “Holistic Medicine” Even Mean?
The word “holistic” has become more popular over the years. The use of the term skyrocketed from the late 60s on. We associate it with concepts like “all natural”, “traditional” and maybe even “spiritual”. But what does this term actually mean? Why do naturopaths and other health care providers use the word?
Holistic medicine means you consider the whole person when treating a patient. But even that definition may sound a little vague. When I diagnose and treat I consider many factors that are important to health. I don’t just treat a symptom. Below, I’ll use an example to better explain what holistic means.
CASE: DIGESTIVE COMPLAINT
Say a patient comes to me complaining of a troublesome gut. Bloating, constipation, cramping – the whole package.
If I was only treating the symptoms and not being holistic I would give them a digestive aid and a laxative or stool softening remedy and call it a day.
But I don’t stop there. I treat holistically.
First, I would consider why the digestive system is out of whack in the first place. Is the gut bacteria off? Are certain digestive enzymes less than optimal? Is the peristalsis (the motion of the stomach, intestines etc.) dysfunctional?
I would analyze the diet. I’d look for any eating habits that could be interfering with digestive health. If the patient is not eating right, I figure out why. Is it because they don’t know how to? Do they need help figuring out how to eat right with limited time? Do they have cravings that lead them away from eating right?
I would also consider other health issues that could tie into the digestive issue. For example, the patient might have strong PMS symptoms and hormonal imbalances. These can worsen the digestive issue. Are their supplements contributing to the issue? Are their medications contributing?
Then I would dig into mental health. This has a huge impact on many conditions including digestive health. Are stress levels high? Is there some anxiety or depression? Is there emotional eating?
I even look into lifestyle factors that may seem unrelated to digestive issues. Optimizing factors like sleep quality, exercise level and hydration can improve many symptoms.
I gather all this information and use it to form a holistic treatment plan. The plan treats the whole person. It addresses so many factors in their life that are related to the symptom they need help with.
It rarely makes sense in healthcare to look at just a symptom, treat that symptom and ignore everything else that is going on in a person’s life. If the holistic approach sounds interesting to you, don’t hesitate to book an appointment or free 15-minute consult.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected].