What Does Holistic Health Really Mean?

Do you know what “holistic” means? I feel that the true meaning of the word has been lost. It is thrown around to encompass anything that is natural health oriented. However, this is just a tiny piece of what holistic actually means. Holistic is defined as “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.”

When it pertains to health, holistic isn’t merely using natural means to treat health issues. Holistic health is treating the entire person. When a patient comes in to see me, not only am I asking them about diet, physical ailments and health issues, but also about how they are sleeping, the environment in which they live, their social and family life, relationships, exercise routine, spiritual and religious practices, and much more. Think of every person as a puzzle. If one piece of missing or doesn’t fit, the picture isn’t complete and it can throw the whole thing off.

When it comes to the body, I am looking at the person’s ENTIRE body. If they have kidney issues, I’m not just looking at their kidneys. I’m looking at every single organ and body system to see where I find any weaknesses. It’s important to remember that everything is connected and that anything can cause anything. For example, if a patient comes in with hypothyroidism (because that’s what her labs indicate), I’m not just looking at her thyroid. Her thyroid numbers could be off the charts due to the dysfunction of an entirely different organ or gland, and thyroid weakness isn’t, in fact, the root of the problem. Her thyroid will never truly heal unless the weakness of that other body part is addressed. Sure, Synthroid could make her numbers “normal”, but the second she stops taking it, numbers are back up. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to depend on medications for the rest of my life. This goes with any condition.

And yes, natural means (such as diet) are typically used when you work with a holistic health practitioner. That is because the nutrients from food are exactly what the body needs so that it can function correctly and heal itself. Medications are typically just covering up symptoms, not working towards strengthening the body. The fact that medications aren’t “natural” is just a small part of the reason why they shouldn’t be the first thing we reach for when we get sick. There is a time and place for medicine, but usually natural means are more effective and better benefit our health in the long run.

In my practice, in addition to diet and lifestyle changes, I use whole food supplements (mostly from Standard Process) to help support the bodies of my patients. Ideally, diet changes would be enough, but due to current farming practices, the quality of the soil and the use of chemicals and antibiotics when growing food, the nutrient density and quality of our food is nowhere near where it needs to be. Whole food supplements are a great addition to a healthy diet because they are concentrated with the nutrients (in their natural form) your individual body needs in order to repair. When I say individual, I mean that no two people are treated the same (another indicator of a truly holistic practice!). Even if two people have the same exact symptoms or conditions, it is likely that the root cause of these symptoms, and therefore their supplement programs, are completely different.

I hope to see health care move towards being predominantly holistic. Not only is it effective in helping people truly resolve their health issues, it can help them prevent getting sick to begin with. In my opinion, nothing works better!