What Exactly Is Holistic Health?

When we hear about holistic health a lot of questions come to mind.  What is meant by holistic health? How does holistic health differ from the medicine we’ve become comfortable and familiar with? What does it entail, and will it work?

With holistic health, the whole person is taken into consideration. The physical body, the mind, the emotions, and the spirit are looked at as being pieces of the whole.  

Conventional, or traditional medicine, addresses each symptom separately. Digestive troubles will be treated with antacid medications. Body and joint pain will be treated with pain medication or muscle relaxers. Sleep medications will be prescribed for those with trouble sleeping. Sometimes these medications are necessary while the person is healing, but should not be the only avenue to regain health.  

Body aches and joint pain are common conditions in our society. The holistic practitioner may suggest yoga, tai chi, or other stretching exercises, along with some massage or bodywork. This stretching will relax the muscles and tissues, release the toxins that have been trapped in the tight tissues, and our aches and pains will ease. Along with the pain easing, range of motion can be restored.

It has been proven that both traditional medicine and holistic practices can compliment each other.  Using both together brings the knowledge of science and the empowerment of self-care to the individual.  More and more health care providers are acknowledging the value in integrative care and management.

Both conventional and holistic health practitioners know the value behind a good healthy diet, but holistic practitioners take it a step further and believe that it is the foundation of good health. The holistic practitioner will assess what you eat, what environment you are eating in, and how you view food.  For example, if someone is having heartburn and headaches, a holistic practitioner may suggest we keep a food journal.  Writing down what we eat, and how we feel afterward. Over time, it may become apparent that we are sensitive to a specific food. When we stop eating that specific food, the heartburn and headaches go away.  Holistic nutrition is an in-depth way of looking at the individual’s nutritional needs.

Our emotional and state of mind have much to do with our health as well. What we believe about ourselves, where we live, where we work, our personal relationships, and what we do for fun are all taken into consideration by the holistic practitioner when assessing our current state of health. People who are unhappy in their job, or home, often report having headaches, digestive troubles, trouble sleeping, backache, or joint pain. The stress of dealing with a situation that does not please us creates tension all through the body, and when we don’t feel right, our disposition often suffers as well. When we get a cold, don’t we just want to crawl into bed and be left alone? And if we get a headache, we may tend to snap at others. This physical discomfort affects our attitude, and that is what the holistic practitioner will consider when bringing balance to the mental and emotional state of a person. For instance, someone is having trouble going to sleep. The holistic practitioner may suggest meditation, guided imagery, or breathing exercises to induce relaxation of the mind and emotions. This relaxation will, over time, return the ability to fall asleep at night.

Holistic health will also consider lifestyle, environment, religious and cultural backgrounds when assessing health. Our childhood, school experiences, previous illnesses, injuries or surgeries also play a huge role in our lives and have an impact on our physical, mental and emotional health.

These are just a few examples of what you may be dealing with, and a few ways a holistic health practitioner can assist in resolving these issues. Each one of us is an individual, and what works for someone else may not work for you.  We are all as different from each other as our fingerprints. Holistic health realizes that, and addresses you individually and as a whole.

written by, Stephanie Fredricksen, LMT & Sharry Smith, LMT