Now there’s a buzz word if ever I saw one! With all sorts of holistic medicine practices popping up, it is not very exciting to say that Naturopathic medicine is holistic anymore. Yet, there is a difference in what we mean when we say that we are holistic, compared to what most mainstream thinkers mean when they say it.
To most mainstream healthcare providers, ‘holistic’ means they have assembled a multidisciplinary team to give your case a broad perspective and to provide you a one-stop-shop for all the specialties that you could need. In essence, what they are really providing is fortified healthcare. You might recognize ‘fortified’ from food labels at the grocery. When food is processed, a lot of important nutrients are removed from it. Manufacturers started getting pressure to put them back afterward because of the potential health problems that could (and in some cases did/do) happen. Basically, they took it out realized you need it so then they put in a supplemental dose to try and make up the difference.
In medicine a similar thing is happening, western medical science has dissected the human experience and the human body down to the smallest levels we are able in an effort to understand how we work and how to fix us when we don’t work right (an exercise that I find tremendous value in doing); creating specialties and subspecialties (and their existence has saved countless lives). When they realized that humans need to be treated as the whole being that they are, they began moving all the specialists for each little part under one roof and call it a holistic practice. It takes about 15 specialists to make a holistic practice in this model and if you don’t make an appointment with all of them, some aspect of you will be left out of the picture.
Interestingly, mainstream medicine has a ‘specialty’ in holistic medicine but most of the schools have either discontinued their programs or severely cut them back because students are rarely attracted to it anymore. It is called family practice. Naturopathic medicine is built on a family practice model. We are not specialists in any one part of a person’s experience; we are specialists in the big picture. Jacks/Jills-of-all-trades, masters of the combination.
Many of the alternative medical practices for our culture are mainstream practices in other cultures and have maintained the importance of the generalist role so we call them holistic. Chinese medicine, Yogic medicine and Ayurvedic medicine are examples.
For western medicine, Naturopathy continues that holistic, generalist tradition. We look at your entire picture and help you to notice which pieces are pulling you away from your health goals as well as which ones are working well. We look not only at the disease processes going on, but also at your experience of them and how that is further impacting your health. We look at the totality of the effects of your treatment plan and how they are impacting your health as well, whether those effects are the intended ones or the ones ‘on the side’. No part is left out and when a specific area needs additional help, we make the appropriate referral to those amazing specialists out there.