Many individuals try to maintain their health by relying solely on conventional medicine, but often report that they do not feel like their bodies are functioning at their best. They still have issues with weight, energy, sleep, fuzzy thinking, and weak immune response, among other health concerns. Many even take multiple daily medications to treat ADD, anxiety, cholesterol, depression, and side effects of other medications.
The overarching problem is that conventional medicine often focuses on treating lists of symptoms rather than underlying causes. Holistic living approaches go deeper, considering patients as whole people with mind, body, and spirit factors that work together to create balanced health.
The following guide explains how holistic living works and simple things you can be doing to incorporate it into your own lifestyle.
The Conventional Medicine Approach
Think of conventional medicine as a loop: A patient enters a medical office, fills out paperwork that includes lists of prior conditions and her family medical history, sees medical assistants to have her vitals recorded, and then spends a few minutes with her physician to discuss what brought her in.
That practitioner sees a staggering number of patients each day. He or she will likely hear the patient’s concerns, take a look at the paperwork, and then make an informed decision about what the symptoms mean. The patient leaves with a diagnosis and possibly a prescription, and the practitioner follows up weeks later to be sure the issue is resolved.
Sometimes that’s all it takes, but often the issue the prescription treated still exists. It could be a hormonal imbalance that was brought on by a poor diet. It might be anxiety caused by a recent move to a new city, or a cold that won’t go away without steroids because of some issue that’s stopping the immune system from responding properly.
Those conditions could reactivate given enough time or exposure to the irritating element that caused them in the first place. This is where a holistic living approach makes a huge difference.
The Holistic Medicine Approach
The premise of holistic medicine is that bodies can heal themselves if any obstacles to healing are removed. Its practitioners help identify and remove such barriers through:
- Naturopathic medical assessments
- Detoxification processes
- Nutritional supplements and herbal remedies
- Acupuncture, physical therapy, massage therapy, and acupressure
- Nutritional counseling
- Assessments of physical activity and environmental conditions
- And other modalities and practices
The idea is to understand where the problem lies, what might be contributing to it on a physical, mental, or emotional level, then removing those barriers and instead feeding the body the physical, mental, and emotional elements that will promote healing.
How to Start Adopting a Holistic Approach
A holistic living approach to wellness should be guided by a qualified medical professional, but there are many things you can incorporate into your life right now that will contribute to your general health and wellness. Here are some of the basics.
Many people forget the impact that eating habits have on the body. The first step to changing bad patterns is remembering that food should be fuel, and that anything you put into your body should give it energy, help its systems grow stronger, or help it recover. That includes consuming a healthy balance of:
- Organic produce
- Healthy proteins
- Whole grains
- Fresh fruit
- Fresh vegetables
- Minimal sugar and processed components
A good rule of thumb is to eat “whole” foods and products that arrive naturally on your table. Think organic fruits and vegetables for smoothies and salads, organic meats from cage-free and humanely raised sources, wild-caught fish, and cutting out sodas, processed sugar, and processed foods like chips or cheeses.
Hydration is key to health and wellness. Drinking half your bodyweight in ounces of pure water each day helps filter out toxins, improve digestion, decrease cravings, lower inflammation, and improve energy levels. If you’re going to be outside in the heat or doing a long workout (like marathon training or a few hours of hiking), consider a water with electrolytes to help replenish lost nutrients. Otherwise, stick with pure water for your hydration and health needs.
If you are used to relying on conventional medicine to treat your ailments, the idea of turning to herbs for the same relief might not seem like a great idea. What you probably don’t know is that herbal medicine is the traditional medicine! Cultures worldwide have relied on such remedies as cures for thousands of years, and conventional medicine actually synthesizes the healing properties in herbs to create medicines in labs. Consult with a holistic or naturopathic physician on how to use herbs as natural remedies.
The human body was not meant to sit idle for days at a time, but our modern culture often requires working eight or more hours while stationary at a desk. Worse yet, those eight-plus hours are often filled with stress and anxiety, which wreaks havoc on your hormones and thus your internal body systems.
Exercise is a stress and sedentary lifestyle combatant. Here’s a brief overview of how:
- Cardiovascular-focused movements like running, walking, hiking, and swimming increase blood flow, improve blood oxygen levels, help your body remove toxins, improve digestion, and elevate positive hormones like dopamine and serotonin.
- Weight lifting and bodyweight exercises help build healthy muscles, which keeps your body strong and helps prevent injuries.
- Gentle movements like yoga and tai chi help relieve stress, wring out stagnation or buildups of toxins, and elongate your muscles to keep them flexible.
A balance of these types of movements performed regularly each week will help keep your body in top physical condition.
Holistic living approaches also require focusing on the mental aspects of health, and self-care is key to keeping your mind relaxed and ready for each day. This includes making time for things that might seem simple, but have large impacts on your well-being like:
- Setting aside 15 minutes each day to read a good book
- Drinking tea every afternoon
- Turning your phone to silent mode at a set time each night
- Taking up meditation or yoga
- Starting a soothing hobby, like painting or gardening
- Spending more time in nature
- Playing games with friends, children, or pets
- Taking a bath with calming music
The key is to take time to release daily stresses and give your mind, body, and spirit time to recharge.
Making the Most of Holistic Living
Taking a mind-body-spirit approach to health requires one simple thing: a decision to think of yourself as a whole patient, rather than a disease or a symptom. Setting your body up to be able to heal itself gives it the best chance to combat any condition, and working with a holistic medical partner to make necessary lifestyle changes will only ease that process.
Dr. Karen Threlkel has been helping patients in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. get the most from their health goals for years. She’s an expert in naturopathic medicine, genetic nutritional counseling, and women’s health, among other elements of naturopathic medicine, and she can’t wait to help you further your wellness journey with a holistic approach. Contact her office to set up an appointment today.