A holistic view in healthcare?
A holistic view in healthcare is a popular buzzword today. Women like it in particular because it resonates with femininity.
I can see that many conventional medicine suppliers want to jump on the bandwagon and everything is called holistic even when it is not. For example, you can hear things like: “holistic management of urinary tract infections”, even when there is nothing actually holistic about the approach.
I think it starts with the fact that the term holistic is often misunderstood and we are not quite sure what it is supposed to mean. I want to shed some light on what holistic is and isn’t, so that we can have better, more informed, and qualitatively valuable discussions.
Current medical advances are based on minute details, the quantitative research methodology represented by the “randomized controlled trial”. It’s called evidence-based research. It tends to compare two or three things with one another and it is short term – an immediate observation. It is a good research methodology provided it is used in context with other research methodologies.
We need to add other methodologies too because what this research methodology is not good at is: long-term effects, drug interactions, complex herbal formulations, differences between people, lifestyle and diet, the effects of an external environment, and catering for the needs of other modalities of medicine which cannot be double-blinded (this means: researcher and patient don’t know whether they are placebo or not). So in summary, at present, there is a big gap in healthcare research.
But when can we use the term “holistic”? Does a lack of a better word qualify for the usage of the term “holistic”? Complementary medicines are other types of medicine studies which are often termed holistic. They very purposely look at the bigger picture; they cite case studies and hundreds of years of cultural practices. One of these “complementary medicines” is Ayurveda, which is a traditional medicine system which can stand on its own four feet: dietary guidelines, lifestyle recommendations, physical treatments, and herbal medication.
This type of medicine contains complex herbal formulations which have been tried and tested for thousands of years. These complex formulations are one aspect of the reduced side effects of these medications. But any natural approach falls short of its peak effectiveness when the environment gets toxic and this is a problem today! So a holistic approach would always have to be a sustainable solution for the environment too. It can’t aim to reduce suffering in the form of disease in one person and create a bigger problem somewhere else. So animal trials are not desirable when it comes to holistic medicine either.
This type of healthcare includes dietary guidelines and they are not the kind which refer to minute nutrients, as we know it from our scientific nutritionists. What is good for you is classified differently. The food is looked at in terms of what type of overall body it creates. Whether it increases heat or cools you down, whether it increases moisture and dampness or whether it will dry you out. This is because the body-environment will have an impact on how everything inside the body can function. Ayurveda can classify foods that either help or hinder you in the healing process. Sometimes changing the body-environment is all you need to feel well again!
So it doesn’t exclusively look at the minute detail of whether a chemical is good for your brain; it looks at whether your entire diet benefits the nervous system or not and will also take into account your lifestyle habits.
The reason for this is that lifestyle can also have an effect on your body-environment. Obviously, a sedentary lifestyle is advertised as bad, and that is generally true, but did you know that one specific body type could benefit from a calmer and more relaxing lifestyle whilst another should definitely push the boat out with lots of exercise?
This is part of personalised medicine, which takes the body type into account. Ayurveda not only treats illnesses but also the little niggles und un-wellness with an understanding of various different body types. These body types can have seasons where they flourish and other seasons where they are not doing so well.
Take the autumn season for example, a lot of people suffer from SAD, seasonal affective disorders, whilst others don’t suffer at all. Or menopause, some women sail through the menopause whilst others have a horrible time. Some people have problems with insomnia whilst others sleep like a baby. The reason for this is their inherit body type, which is more susceptible to various conditions.
I have developed a programme “7 steps to better sleep”, which is teaching holistic lifestyle requirements to those with sleep disorders so they can balance their body environment. It is a necessity to create the body bio-energy requirement to manage the disturbance of this natural process better.
This programme makes people aware of their own body bio-energy, advises on lifestyle requirements, food guidelines, herbal support, the effect of seasonal changes, helpful daily habits, and the most important role of their digestive system for managing natural processes.
In an ideal world, any type of treatment and healthcare approach should also include the sustainable, holistic approach, which includes diet and lifestyle over a prolonged period of time. Just because modern medicine is not designed to produce a holistic approach to making people feel better, it doesn’t mean people have to go without.