Holistic has become a buzzword in many households, health food stores, supermarkets, gyms, yoga studios, spas, and healing centers. What does it mean to be holistic? Are you taking herbs instead of antibiotics? Are you keeping your diabetes under control with diet and exercise? Do you meditate daily and find inner peace? Holistic has become a word to refer to alternative healthcare and treatment. However, there is a big difference between holistic care and wholistic care.
Let us start by looking at the definition of health as defined by Steadman’s concise medical Dictionary, 4th edition: A state characterized by anatomical, physiological, and psychological integrity. The ability to perform personally valued family, work, and community roles; the ability to deal with physical, biological, psychological and social stress; a feeling of well-being; and freedom from the risk of disease and untimely death.
There it is in black and white, health from a wholistic perspective! It is a healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy spirit. Are you wholistic? Please take a second and stop and think about it. Are you and your healthcare provider addressing all aspects of what it means to be healthy? It is more then just numbers on a blood pressure cuff, or your cholesterol count, or your blood sugar. Of course these tests are important as they give you an indications about your internal physiology, but what caused them to go out of balance in the first place?
Lets take the example of high cholesterol. You eat healthy and exercise regularly but your cholesterol is over 200, lets say about 220. You talk with your doctor and become concerned with heart disease and dying of a heart attack. You want to treat it holistically without using medication, but you are already eating healthy and exercising, what more can you do? You decide that you will try using red rice yeast because you heard it helps lower cholesterol. It’s true, it does help, but did you know that red rice yeast is a natural form of statin drugs (that’s where they got them from) and has many of the same side effects as statin drugs. But at least its natural right? Remember poison ivy is natural too. What if after you take the red rice yeast your cholesterol does not change much? Well natural did not work, so you better use the medication now. Right? No, lets look at a few other things here.
Ever ask yourself why cholesterol would be high? Our body needs cholesterol, it is essential for many physiological functions, Its important for our neurological health, as well as hormonal health. Oh, we didn’t talk about your hormones yet did we? You have been under a lot of stress lately. You have been burning the candle at both ends, working late and the kids have you running to baseball and ballet, not to mention the leaky faucet that needs to be fixed, and the neighbors dog barking all night that keeps you awake when you finally get to bed. Sound familiar? This stress will elevate your cortisol levels! Cortisol is a hormone, and to make hormones your body needs cholesterol. So your elevated cholesterol is just responding to the increased stress. If you take a drug or a supplement to lower your cholesterol you can’t keep up with your hormone demands, your energy tanks out, your more lethargic and depressed, you develop pain in your body, you become more scared because you don’t know what’s wrong with you, and you turn to more drugs, herbs or supplements to try and get you through.
Welcome to America ladies and gentlemen, and the cycle goes around and around and around. Now lets paint a little brighter picture about true wholistic care. You see that your cholesterol is elevated and you go and talk to a wholistic doctor. During the history interview as you describe your ailments and lifestyle, that doctor asks you questions regarding your overall well being, how your physical body works, how your physiological body works (your digestive system, hormonal system, immune system etc.) and your overall mental state and well being (yeah… you have been under a lot of stress remember). The physical exam and blood work show that the body is in an inflammatory pattern and your adrenal glands are working overtime and unable to keep up. Treatment is implemented to reduce your physical stressors, your physiological stressors, and recommendations are made to work on your emotional stress levels. A complete wholistic approach! Combining treatment to your structure, your physiology, and your mental/emotional state.
This was just one example of the breakdown of physiology and examples of where the problem may be coming from. Everyone is different and needs to be treated accordingly, not put into a cookie cutter health care system that relies on magic bullets to treat problems in the body. This unfortunately is how many physicians are taught to treat their patients, giving them the one thing they are missing. The good news is more and more people and doctors are becoming aware of this vicious cycle. Holistic doctors are becoming more wholistic. By being aware of what it takes to be healthy it is easier to put together a health care team that can look at all the systems together and determine where the true breakdown is occurring in your health. I encourage you to look at the big picture, take time to evaluate your overall health, what crutches are you relying on to get through your day, and why do you have to use them. What parts of your whole life are you ignoring that truly need the attention to enable you to have optimal health? Remember health is a personal responsibility; doctors and health practitioners are here to provide you with guidance along your life journey. Optimal living takes work and dedication, it won’t be easy, but it will be rewarding, if you work on it now, the golden years will be truly golden.