There are a lot of discussions these days about holistic approaches to health and wellness. What does this mean, exactly? Holistic medicine takes into account the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. It focuses on treating the underlying cause of illness rather than just the symptoms. This approach can be very beneficial for many people. We want to share some of the main benefits of holistic medicine.
One of the main benefits of holistic medicine is that it can help you achieve and maintain optimal health. But what does ‘optimal health’ really mean? Well, when you focus on your overall well being, rather than just treating specific symptoms, you are more likely to experience long-term wellness. Optimal health can look different for everyone, but generally, it includes feeling good mentally and emotionally, having vitality and energy, being able to do the things you enjoy, and being in balance physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Holistic medicine can also help you connect with your body and its natural healing abilities. This can lead to improved self-awareness and a greater understanding of what works best for you individually. When you take a holistic approach to health, you learn how to listen to your body’s signals and respond accordingly. This can help prevent or address health problems before they become too serious. An example of this would be someone that meditates daily may not experience stress the same way someone who doesn’t meditate experiences stress.
Our healthcare system tends to lean more towards a reactive approach. We treat people when there is a problem, not help prevent them. If more people took a holistic approach, some think we would have a lot fewer people in need of doctors.
We often think of our bodies and minds as separate entities, but they are actually intimately connected. When we experience stress or illness, it can have a negative impact on our mental health. Have you ever felt stressed and happened to get sick right after? When we are stressed, our immune system is compromised. Conversely, when our immune system is strong, it can help reduce stress levels. This is just one example of how the mind and body are interconnected. Holistic medicine takes all of this into account and seeks to create a balance between the mind and body. By doing so, it can help us achieve better overall health.
So what does a holistic approach look like in action?
Holistic tactics can include dietary changes, exercise, stress management techniques, such as meditation, supplements, and more. Oftentimes people may feel healthy or have a healthy lifestyle overall but know they could feel better. One place to start is by examining gut health. This is not something that many traditional doctors look at, but your gut regulates everything from your immune system to your mood. If there is an issue with gut health, it can cause a number of problems. A holistic doctor may recommend dietary changes, additions, or supplements to help improve gut health and overall health.
Another example would be if someone was struggling with anxiety or depression. In this case, a holistic doctor might suggest trying meditation or yoga as a way to reduce stress levels. According to Mayo Clinic, meditation has been known to help manage:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Tension headaches
Meditation also has positive emotional effects such as
- Gaining a new perspective on stressful situations
- Building skills to manage your stress
- Increasing self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Increasing imagination and creativity
- Increasing patience and tolerance
Holistic medicine can also be helpful for people who are struggling with chronic illnesses. If you have been dealing with a condition for a long time, traditional medicine may not have been able to help you get better. In this case, holistic approaches may be worth trying. There is evidence that some holistic therapies can be effective in managing chronic illnesses. For example, acupuncture may be helpful for people with chronic pain, and meditation may be beneficial for people with anxiety, depression, or ADHD/ADD.
Another great benefit of holistic medicine is that it is customizable. You can choose the therapies that work best for you and your individual needs. There are many different types of holistic therapies available, so you can find something that appeals to you. If you don’t like one type of therapy or tactic, there are plenty of others to try. This flexibility makes holistic medicine a great option for people who want to take an active role in their own health journey.
When most people think of holistic medicine, they think of alternative therapies like acupuncture or herbal remedies. While these are certainly a part of holistic medicine, the term encompasses much more than that. It takes into account all aspects of a person’s life when trying to promote healing. Some people hear the word holistic and immediately associate it with a negative connotation. The truth is you can make your holistic health approach to be whatever you want. If you want to improve your overall mental state, you can do that. If you want to focus on your physical health, you can do that too. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to holistic health. You can also have a holistic approach in conjunction with typical modern medicine.
Holistic approaches are often affordable and accessible. For example, there are thousands of introductory videos on meditation and guided meditations on YouTube. There are also tons of apps you can download directly on your phone for customized meditations based on what you are trying to work on. Many of the holistic approaches are low-cost or are even free. And since holistic medicine focuses on treating the whole person, it can be used to address a wide range of health problems.
At Operation Red Wings Foundation, we encourage Veterans to explore holistic means to address their health and wellness concerns. You can learn more about the tools we use here.