What Is Holistic Health?

This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.

I get asked this question frequently, so I thought I’d share my five defining principles, in case you were wondering too.

1. A holistic approach to health looks at the whole person. Not just your diagnosis, symptoms, age, or gender. I consider all of that, together with your lifestyle, nutrition, blood work, personal and family history, eating and sleep patterns, sources and level of stress, digestion, activity level, relationships, and more. Any of that can be invaluable to my understanding of how you arrived at your current health status, and how you can return to optimal health.

2. A holistic approach looks for fundamental underlying issues, rather than only addressing symptoms. I want to identify and address what caused your symptoms in the first place, so you don’t need symptomatic relief long term. Symptomatic relief can be important, of course, but I want to provide it in a way that supports your overall health, rather than suppressing symptoms so you only feel better temporarily.

3. A holistic approach looks at each individual as unique. I talk and write a lot about what is “individually healthy” vs “theoretically healthy”. Holistic health is about customizing an approach for each person, rather than assuming all people with X symptoms or Y diagnosis need exactly the same thing.

4. A holistic approach takes a dynamic, rather than a mechanistic, view of the body. For instance, a mechanistic view says that if you have osteoporosis, and are low in calcium, take calcium. From my perspective, if you have osteoporosis, there is probably an issue with your ability to absorb, assimilate and utilize calcium. If you can’t do those things, it doesn’t matter how much you take, and adding pills won’t help. If you can, you can probably get enough from your food, assuming you are eating a healthy diet. Absorption is fundamentally (see #2) a gut health issue. Improving the ability of the gut to absorb nutrients is the first step. Do that, and you can absorb, assimilate, and utilize minerals from any source, including food.

5. A holistic approach teaches people to utilize nutrition and lifestyle to optimize long term health. My approach is not simply to substitute a “natural” pill for a pharmaceutical one. The right supplements can be a wonderful bridge between what the body can do optimally, and what it can do now. They also can be dramatically therapeutic in addressing particular problems. But my overall goal is to teach people how to keep themselves healthy, for the rest of their life, using nutrition and lifestyle.

After all, the best medicine of all is to teach people how not to need it.

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