April 1, 2023

We all harbor secrets. Some are big and bad; some are small and trivial. Researchers have parsed which truths to tell and which not to.
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Posted February 21, 2022 | Reviewed by Hara Estroff Marano
We are all accustomed to traditional health care practices, the allopathic medical approach. A person waits until they have a persistent symptom; they go to the doctor, who listens to the symptoms, runs a test, and then provides a solution.
That solution may be in the form of a pill, a procedure, or a surgical intervention. Sometimes the answer provided can be helpful, and sometimes it can be harmful. Such solutions are within the scope, education, and understanding of the allopathically trained provider, trained to diagnose and manage disease. Disease management is what we are all accustomed to in our health care system.
Holistic healthcare practice takes a very different approach. For one, the provider does not see the person as broken needing to be fixed. They also know the person as a whole person to include all parts of their body, including their mind and spirit. Genuine holistic providers even go an extra step by looking at the ancestral implications (patterns passed down through families), relationships, and even the role of family systems theory. They look at everything as a potential root cause of an issue. Stress is often a driver for many conditions, and how a person manages stress can make a difference between a healthy and unhealthy individual.
The two different medical philosophies fit together quite nicely. The allopath acts as the night watchman, ensuring no diseases are lurking about, while the holistic provider works with the patient on personal accountability and responsibility for one’s health. The holistic provider supports the patient, encourages them, and helps them prevent diseases. If a person has a life-threatening illness or even an injury, their allopathic provider is there to assist.
Preventative diagnostics and preventative care: Annual checkups with a primary care doctor follow guidelines for preventive diagnostics such as colonoscopies, mammograms, and the like. Such procedures ensure that there are no growths, masses, or tumors within the body. In addition, the holistic provider works with the patient all year, assisting them with nutrient, stress management, and detoxification strategies.
Routine bloodwork and day-to-day nutrition: In the same annual visit, the primary care provider will often run laboratory tests to assess lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and high cholesterol, indicating the health of the person and specifically the diet’s health. The holistic provider works all along with a person on their diet and the emotional and mental implications of their food.
The limbic system, the set of structures in the brain that deals with emotions and memory is made up of the thalamus, hypothalamus, and basal ganglia. The hypothalamus is responsible for the production of hormones and regulation of thirst, hunger, and mood, while the basal ganglia are responsible for reward processing, habit formation, and learning.
It is understood that the first component of digestion begins with the release of hormones that trigger hunger; which is also closely tied to mood, emotions, and reward sensations. (2019) Often, eating food is not just about what a person is eating but also how they think and feel about their food. The holistic provider looks at how the mind, emotions, and actions around food help the person resolve where they are stuck.
Chronic disease management and emotional support: When a person has a chronic disease, they are emotionally heavy. Emotions such as grief, anger, and frustration can plague them daily, especially when they are not feeling well. Any treatment takes time, regardless of the source of medicine. Allopathic doctors measure and account for the spread of chronic disease and maintain the stability of chronic disease. At the same time, a holistic provider works to support the person through all aspects of the chronic illness, such as the spiritual implications around the disease, the lessons to be learned, the mindset required to get well, and even assisting in processing through the grief surrounding the disease process.
Nutrient interactions and medication interactions: Allopathic providers treat through disease management. Allopathy in Latin means heroic measure. Their role is to save the person at all costs. Sometimes such pursuit can miss important details, such as nutrient and medication interactions.
Many people do not realize that medications block or inhibit biochemical processes. Take statins, a common class of cholesterol medication. A statin can block co-enzyme Q10, a network antioxidant needed by the heart to reduce inflammation. A person at risk for a heart attack may need CoQ10 to maintain the health of the heart.
Holistic providers are trained in the nutrient depletions often caused by medication and therefore can advise the patient. They can also indicate which foods a person would do well to avoid: For example, many psychotropic medications— antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication, othersinteract with grapefruit, a food to be avoided by people on such medications.
Food as medicine: Allopathic doctors may not have training in nutrition—what to eat, how to eat— so they refer patients to a dietitian. Holistic providers can advise the patient as to which foods the person should eat for their specific condition and teach the person the necessary skills for healthy eating. Understanding what and how to eat is critical, as most diseases are strongly influenced by nutrient depletion.
Allopathic medicine serves its role in healthcare, particularly in disease management as well as in acute and reactive care. Allopathy can offer some support in lifestyle medicine and prevention; training is limited. Holistic healthcare practices offer much-needed guidance for patients seeking not only to prevent and address healthcare concerns but to integrate into it the connection between the mind, the body, and the spirit.
Holistic healthcare practices often go deeper by providing practical tools necessary for patients to take full responsibility for their health. If the two healthcare providers can find common ground and work for the greater good of the patient, then the patient can truly benefit from both philosophical perspectives.
As with any healthcare provider or practice it is key to find the right fit and one that has adequate training as well as experience. Collaborative care is necessary to be fully supportive of patients concerns, as well as to be considerate of each others approaches. In the modern healthcare system, it is less about who is right or wrong or whose approach is better or worse than how two approaches can work together for patient well being, which must be the central focus of all healthcare.
The limbic system. Queensland Brain Institute. (2019, January 24). Retrieved January 13, 2022, from https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/limbic-system
Erica Steele, DNM, ND, a naturopathic doctor in family practice, is trained in holistic medicine, functional medicine, integrative medicine, and homeopathy, and helps people heal all over the world.
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We all harbor secrets. Some are big and bad; some are small and trivial. Researchers have parsed which truths to tell and which not to.


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