Holistic medicine is based on several core values:
- good health is a combination of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social wellness
- prevention first, treatment second
- disease is caused by a problem with the whole body, rather than a single event or body part
- the goal of treatment is to fix the underlying cause of disease, instead of just improving the symptoms
- treatment involves a wide range of options, including education, self-care, CAM, and traditional medicine
- a person is not defined by their condition
- the relationship between a doctor and the person being treated determines the treatment outcome
Generally, traditional doctors treat symptoms. They provide medical solutions to alleviate a disease.
A holistic doctor treats the body as one. They aim to find the cause behind the disease, instead of just fixing the symptoms. This could require multiple therapies.
For example, if you have eczema, a medical doctor may give you a prescription cream. But a holistic doctor may suggest dietary and lifestyle changes. The holistic doctor might also recommend using the cream, plus natural home remedies like oatmeal baths.
So, now we know!
This could, of course, be just laughable if it were not perpetuating such common misconceptions. And as this sort of BS is so common, I feel obliged to carry on exposing it. Let me, therefore, correct the main errors in the short paragraph:
- ‘Traditional doctors’ are just doctors, proper doctors; holistic healers often give themselves the title ‘doctor’ but, unless they have been to medical school, they are not doctors.
- ‘Doctors treat symptoms’; yes, they do. But whenever possible, they treat the cause too. Therefore they do what is possible to identify the cause. And during the last 150 years or so, they have become reasonably good at this task.
- ‘A holistic doctor treats the body as one.’ That’s what they claim. But in reality, they are often not trained to do so. The body is mighty complex, and many holistic practitioners are simply not trained for coping with this complexity.
- ‘They aim to find the cause behind the disease’. They might well aim at that, but if they are not fully trained doctors, this is an impossible aim, and they merely end up finding what they have been taught about the cause of disease. An imbalance of Yin and Yang is the imagined cause of disease in TCM, and for many chiropractors, a subluxation is the cause of disease. But such assumptions are not facts; it is merely wishful thinking which get in the way of finding true causes of disease.
- Eczema happens to be a superb example (thank you ‘helpline’). The oatmeal bath of the holistic practitioner is at best a symptomatic treatment. This is why a proper doctor aims to find the cause of eczema which could be an allergy, for instance. Having identified it, the doctor would then advise how to avoid the allergen. If that is possible, further treatment might not be even necessary.
When practitioners are elaborating on their concept of holism, one often only needs to read on to find that those who pride themselves on holism are, in fact, the victims of multiple errors (or perhaps they use the holism gimmick only as a sales strategy, because consumers fall easily for this ‘bait and switch’). And those doctors who are accused of lacking holism are, in fact, more likely to be holistic than the so-called holists.