Holistic medicine is changing the way that doctors interact with patients for the better. What is holistic medicine, and why is it so important?
The word “holistic” means “dealing with the whole of something”. So, to take a holistic approach to medicine means to treat the whole person not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.
For example, if a patient comes in with a stomach ache, a holistic treatment plan would not only include relief from the pain, but also seek to address any underlying causes. What’s the patient’s diet like? Could stress be a factor? In this way, holistic medicine is focused on both treatment and prevention.
In part one of Florida Medical Clinic’s series on holistic medicine, Dr. Lakshmi Menezes explains what holistic medicine is, addresses common misconceptions, and explains how holistic and traditional medicine can work together to improve patient outcomes.
What is a holistic medicine doctor?
A holistic medicine doctor is a physician who considers a patient’s mind, body, and spirit to improve their health and wellness. They are focused on prevention first, and treatment second.
Any doctor with a medical degree can practice holistic medicine, but not everyone who practices holistic medicine is a board-certified physician. Some holistic practitioners may call themselves “Doctor” but are not actually licensed to practice traditional medicine.
Dr. Lakshmi Menezes is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine—she’s also a holistic practitioner. By integrating conventional medical training with holistic treatments, she’s able to provide care that is truly comprehensive for her patients.
The MindBody Connection: Treating the Whole You
At the heart of holistic medicine is the idea of the mind-body connection. Essentially, it means that thoughts and feelings can positively or negatively affect our physical health.
Most of the medical advice we receive is focused on the body—eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. But even if you do all of these things right, stress, anxiety, and depression can still have negative effects on your health. It also works the other way around—a poor physical state can have negative effects on your mental health, too.
A holistic doctor takes this complex relationship between mind and body into account to provide a comprehensive treatment plan for their patients.
Benefits of a Holistic Approach to Patient Care
When physicians apply a holistic approach to their daily practice, there are a number of benefits for both patients and doctors alike.
- Personalized Care. Holistic medicine considers all of the elements of a patient’s health, not just their physical symptoms. This helps doctors to make more personalized recommendations.
- A Relationship Based on Trust. Holistic doctors take an empathetic approach to care and treat patients as individuals, not just a list of symptoms on a clipboard. This philosophy helps to create a patient-doctor relationship based on trust.
- Patient Empowerment. The holistic approach to care empowers patients to take control of their own health and wellness. Everyone knows that they should eat healthier and exercise more, but actually committing to a wellness plan is difficult. Holistic doctors understand this. Instead of listing off recommendations, they include the patient in the conversation to find out what lifestyle changes work best for them.
“Holistic” does not mean “anti-science”.
The most common misconception about holistic medicine is that it’s a replacement for traditional medicine. This could not be further from the truth, says Dr. Menezes, who uses both traditional and holistic treatments at her internal medical practices in Lutz and Wesley Chapel, FL.
Holistic medicine should work with traditional research-backed treatment methods, not against them or in place of them.
Types of Holistic Treatments
Holistic care is a philosophy that encompasses a variety of treatment techniques. In addition to modern pharmaceutical treatments, a holistic doctor may recommend alternative treatments depending on the individual patient’s needs, such as:
- Massage therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Nutrition counseling
- Western herbal medicine
Is holistic medicine safe?
Yes, holistic medicine is safe under the care and supervision of a board-certified medical doctor. In fact, holistic care focused on prevention and wellness has been shown to help patients manage their own health more effectively.
Many types of holistic medicine techniques are unlikely to cause harm—however, delaying treatment in an attempt to self medicate with these methods alone can be dangerous.
If you have concerns about your health, it is always best to seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
The Holistic Approach to Disease Prevention
Holistic medicine is a practice that takes disease prevention very seriously. Preventative care can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life by reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
To help their patients maintain a healthy lifestyle, a holistic doctor may recommend regular health screenings, nutritional counseling, and stress-reducing treatments such as meditation or massage therapy.
Improving your health holistically is a gradual process, not an overnight change. Meeting with a holistic doctor once a year can help you stay on track and continue to make better choices for your well-being.
Learn More About Holistic Medicine
So, what is holistic medicine? It’s a way of treating you and your health as a whole to help you lead a happier, healthier life.
Now that you have an understanding of what holistic medicine is and how it’s being used to improve modern healthcare, there is plenty more to learn about this fascinating topic.
Look out for the next blog in our holistic medicine series, where we’ll be taking a deep dive into the mind-body connection, the science behind it, and why it’s so important.
Are you interested in the benefits of holistic medicine? Contact Dr. Lakshmi Menezes, a board-certified internal medicine doctor in Lutz and Wesley Chapel, FL, to learn more and schedule an appointment.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to substitute professional medical advice. Always talk with your doctor before starting or stopping medications or therapies.
More from Florida Medical Clinic’s Holistic Health Series
Part 2: What is the Mind-Body Connection?