What Is Holistic Medicine?
Holistic medicine is a whole-body approach to healthcare. It aims to improve health and wellness through the body, mind, and soul. Typically, holistic medicine integrates conventional medicine and complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Your exact treatment plan will depend on the type of holistic specialty.
There are several kinds of holistic practitioners. Some are physicians with a medical degree. They might base their treatments on holistic principles, which makes them a holistic doctor. Other holistic practitioners are not "real" medical doctors. They might be called "doctor" in their field, but they aren't licensed to practice medicine.
In general, holistic medicine isn't meant to be used in place of traditional healthcare. It's typically recommended as a complement to regular treatments.
Principles of Holistic Medicine
Holistic medicine is based on multiple core values:
- good health is a blend of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social wellness
- prevention first, treatment second
- disease is caused by a problem with the entire body, rather than a single event or body part
- the objective of treatment is to fix the underlying source of illness, instead of just improving the symptoms
- treatment involves a wide range of options, including education, self-care, CAM, and conventional medicine
- a person is not defined by their condition
- the relationship between a medical professional and also the individual being treated determines the treatment result
What is a Holistic Doctor?
A holistic doctor is a health professional who practices holistic medicine. Common types of holistic doctors include:
An osteopath, or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), is a licensed doctor that treats health problems with osteopathic manipulative medicine. This type of medicine involves physically manipulating the musculoskeletal system.
The idea is that the musculoskeletal system, which includes your muscles, bones, and nerves, affects the entire body.
Like a doctor of medicine (MD), an osteopath is a medical doctor. They are licensed to practice medicine.
Both MDs and DOs attend medical school, choose a specialty, and complete a residency. They take the same exam to become a licensed physician.
When treating a condition, MDs and DOs use traditional treatments. However some DOs might include musculoskeletal manipulation, unlike traditional MDs.
Integrative physicians are licensed medical doctors that have an integrative approach to healthcare. This involves combining conventional treatments with CAM.
Integrative medicine is meant to be used with traditional medical care. It can also involve a variety of therapies.
There isn't a formal degree for becoming an integrative physician. Rather, a person goes to medical school, becomes a licensed doctor, then receives training or experience in CAM. They can also become board certified in integrative medicine.
An Ayurvedic doctor utilizes Ayurveda to treat health conditions. Ayurveda is an ancient system of Indian medicine. In Sanskrit, Ayurveda means "knowledge of life."
Practitioners believe health problems are due to imbalanced doshas, or life energies. Ayurveda aims to balance these doshas with alternative therapies, diet, herbal remedies, as well as lifestyle changes.
In India, Ayurvedic medicine is a primary system of healthcare. Practitioners complete professional, standardized training at an Ayurvedic school to become Ayurvedic doctors.
However, in the United States, there isn't a nationwide license or certification for Ayurvedic practitioners. Ayurvedic doctors aren't recognized as medical doctors.
A naturopathic doctor, or doctor of naturopathic medicine (ND), is trained in naturopathic medicine.
This system of medicine combines Western science, natural treatments, and holistic approaches to treat medical conditions. Natural therapies can be used as both primary and complementary therapies.
Naturopathic physicians go to a naturopathic medical college, where they study the same coursework as conventional medical doctors. They also take a professional board exam to become licensed, yet they aren't recognized as medical doctors.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient kind of Chinese medicine.
According to TCM, each person has a life force, or qi. Good health depends on a balanced or flowing qi. However if the qi becomes imbalanced or blocked, the result is disease. The goal of TCM is to balance qi through acupuncture, herbal medicine, and lifestyle treatments.
In the U.S., TCM practitioners are individuals who practice acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine.
Training includes 3 to 4 years of education and a certification exam. Some institutions offer degrees like doctor of Oriental medicine. However, these degrees aren't recognized as medical doctor degrees.
What does a Holistic doctor do that a conventional doctor doesn't?
Typically, conventional physicians treat symptoms. They offer medical solutions to alleviate an illness.
A holistic doctor treats the body as one. They aim to identify the source behind the disease, as opposed to just relieving the symptoms. This might involve several treatments.
Kinds of Holistic Medicine Treatments
There are many kinds of holistic therapies. Depending on your practitioner's specialty, your treatment plan may involve:
Educational treatment teaches you how to make lifestyle changes. This involves habits and self-care techniques that can benefit your condition.
Treatments may involve:
- nutrition counseling
- dietary supplements
- tai chi
- support groups
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Your holistic doctor might also perform or recommend particular therapies. Examples include:
- herbal remedies
- music therapy
Several holistic practitioners combine conventional Western medicine with the treatments above. They may recommend traditional options like:
- prescription medication
- radiation therapy