The concepts of holistic health go back thousands of years to ancient healing traditions like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. But recently, they have been regaining in popularity.1
Holistic health and holistic medicine offer a whole-person approach to health care, helping you to treat illnesses, boost your well-being, and set yourself up for a lifetime of health and vitality.
Read on to discover what it means to take a holistic approach to health, what the benefits are, and how to take advantage of this comprehensive way of caring for your mind, body, and soul.
What is a holistic approach to health?
In general, a holistic approach means thinking about the entire picture—not just a singular piece. When it comes to medicine and health, this means not just focusing on an illness or one certain part of the body, but on the whole person and their environment. In holistic health, there is an emphasis on the connection between mind, body, and spirit. Additionally, holistic practitioners believe in the interconnectedness between the various body systems; if one specific area or system is out of balance, it will impact all the other parts.1 2 3 4 5
A holistic doctor or practitioner may use a variety of different approaches to healthcare, including conventional medications, modifications to lifestyle, complementary therapies like acupuncture or massage therapy, herbal remedies, relaxation training, and more.
Holistic medicine doesn’t just focus on getting rid of disease and eliminating symptoms, but on optimizing well-being continually throughout the lifetime.1 2 3
8 benefits of a holistic approach
The benefits of this comprehensive approach to health and healing include:
1. Increase vitality and well-being
One of the main goals of holistic health is to boost your vitality and enhance your well-being. It’s not just about treating conditions and getting rid of symptoms. It’s also about optimizing how you feel and how you are able to move through your daily life. Even when no illness or symptoms are present, that doesn’t mean we are feeling our best. When looking at health holistically, we can see that there is always room for improvement.1
With this approach to health, you can start to increase energy and vitality, and feel better able to take on life’s challenges, follow your passions, and live a life you love.
2. Improve chronic conditions
Holistic medicine offers tremendous benefit to people managing chronic diseases and conditions. There is extensive research supporting the use of integrative approaches (like nutrition education, yoga, exercise, relaxation techniques, stress management, and more) in several conditions.
Some examples of conditions that can benefit from a holistic approach to health include metabolic syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, and depression (among many others).6 7 8
One of the key goals of holistic health is to get to the root cause of the illness. Rather than just covering up symptoms or providing relief, holistic practitioners look at all factors coming into play for you and help you to uncover the imbalances that might actually be at the root of your condition.1 10
In addition to helping you improve many health conditions, holistic care can help you better cope with the symptoms of difficult illnesses—even if there is no cure or fix.3 11
3. Reduce pain
Many of the therapies used within holistic healthcare are great at relieving pain—especially chronic pain. Things like acupuncture, hypnosis, massage, mindfulness, and yoga are very effective at managing conditions that cause pain in the body.12
Your holistic practitioner is also trained to help you find the root cause of your symptoms, so they may be able to not just relieve your pain but also discover and treat whatever might be causing it in the first place to prevent it from coming back.1 10
Wondering how ZYTO technology supports a holistic approach to health? Find out here.
4. Limit medication use
Whereas conventional physicians may see medications as a first-line treatment for many medical conditions and symptoms, a holistic physician sees medications as only one part of the puzzle when it comes to treatment.
Medications may be used when necessary, but they certainly are not the sole focus or only option with a holistic approach. Instead of using medications to mask your symptoms, a holistic doctor will look at all the possible factors and try to uncover root causes—minimizing your reliance on medication.10
This may allow you to see the results you want without the unpleasant side effects and risks that you don’t want. Plus, you won’t necessarily be bound to medications for the rest of your life to manage your condition, and you will instead be empowered with other strategies to improve your health and well-being.
5. Get better sleep
If you have a hard time falling asleep or wake up throughout the night, you aren’t alone. Trouble sleeping is a common problem. While it may be tempting to turn to sleep medications for help drifting off, a more effective way to manage insomnia and other sleep issues is to look at the problem holistically.
With sleep issues, it is important to look at all aspects of your health and your life.13 Your sleeping problem could be coming from a variety of sources, whether that be emotional stress, dietary factors, lack of exercise, your environment, nutrient imbalances, and more.
People who participate in holistic, integrative wellness programs tend to sleep better.14 Holistic therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress management, yoga, and tai chi are all effective at helping people to get a better night’s rest.13
6. Improve mood and reduce stress
Holistic, integrative health and wellness programs can help to boost overall mood and relieve stress.14 Approaches included in holistic health like relaxation training and mindfulness-based stress reduction are known to be very effective in reducing stress and anxiety.15
Remember, the holistic approach doesn’t just look at your physical concerns, but it looks at your mind, body, and spirit all at once. Your practitioner will help to address any emotional or mental concerns you may be experiencing, and they will support you in finding approaches that help you to feel your best.
7. Prevent future health concerns
One of the biggest benefits of a holistic approach is that it helps you lay the foundations of health and well-being for the rest of your life.10 This approach doesn’t just focus on the now, getting rid of your symptoms or treating an illness and then sending you back to your normal life. Instead, it focuses on sustainable, positive changes you can make to your life to promote vitality for the long run.
With a holistic approach, you learn the skills, habits, and techniques that will keep you healthy, prevent future health problems, and help you feel your best throughout your lifetime.
8. Increase self-awareness and empower yourself
Holistic health centers around you, the patient. This uniquely individualized approach is designed to empower you to take charge of your health and take responsibility for your choices.1
Along the way, you’ll find that your holistic practitioners will support you in building your self-confidence and self-awareness, so that you can take the lead and improve your own health and well-being.2 14
For example, you may learn to become more aware of your own food choices, or the way certain types of movement make your body feel. You’ll learn how to pay attention to how your mind, body, and spirit interrelate and how to adapt when things start to get out of balance.
Types of holistic practitioners
Many physicians are specially trained in integrative, holistic approaches to medicine. It is best to find a primary care physician that practices a holistic approach who can coordinate your care and be your go-to resource.
Your holistic, integrative doctor may manage many aspects of their health themselves, and they may also refer you to other holistic practitioners as well. These may include:
- Massage therapists
- Physical therapists
- Mindful-based stress reduction teachers
- Personal trainers
- Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners
- Homeopathic practitioners
- Ayurvedic doctors
- Biofeedback specialists
- Yoga instructors16
You can search a directory of holistic practitioners, and find additional help on choosing a holistic practitioner to learn more.
When choosing a practitioner, be sure to always fully vet them and look into their education, training, and certifications.
What to expect during a holistic medicine visit
A visit to a holistic practitioner may not look quite like your usual doctor’s visit.
Be prepared for your appointment to be longer than normal. The holistic approach requires additional time to assess all the various factors involved. You’ll likely be asked many more questions (and more varied questions) than you are used to. For example, you may be asked about your daily habits, diet, sleep, exercise routine, emotions and feelings, relationships, environment, stressors, digestion, and more.
Your practitioner may also use a variety of different therapies and techniques with you, depending on their training and specialties. For example, you may receive massage therapy or be taught relaxation techniques during a visit.
To get the most out of your experience with holistic medicine, you need to be an active participant. There’s no playing a passive role here – this approach centers around you and requires your full willingness to reach your goals.
About Chelsea Clark
Chelsea Clark is a writer and certified health and wellness coach who is passionate about supporting others along their own health journeys. She enjoys helping people make positive, lasting changes so that they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
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