Thursday, December 3, 2015

Defining Holistic Care

I would like to present some considerations for your review when thinking about how to approach your own health care and that of those you love.

To begin, what are the basic differences between the meaning of natural or holistic health care? 

First, let’s look at “natural”:
~ To me, ‘natural’ means not synthetic or artificial or ‘against nature’. 
~ The Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary says that the word “natural” comes from the Latin naturalis which means ‘of nature’ and the second definition is: “being in accordance with or determined by nature” and “having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature”. 

Next, what is “holistic”?

~ To me, ‘holistic’ can mean a modality that in and of itself considers all aspects of an individual (mind/body/spirit), and/or it can also mean an approach of integrated modalities that together support the entire individual in all aspects.
~ The Merriam-Webster On-Line Dictionary says that the word “holistic” means: “1 : of or relating to holism; 2 : relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts <holistic medicine attempts to treat both the mind and the body>”.
~ Holism is: "... a belief system based on the doctrine that the individual (or situation) must be studied or viewed as a whole (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually)." Yasgur's Homeopathic Dictionary and Holistic Health Reference

Flower Essences are holistic as they work on all levels. Homeopathic remedies can be holistic depending upon how they are used. Cell Salts are not considered holistic, per se, although by bringing homeostasis to the cells, the healing then ‘spreads’ to improve health on other levels. However, notice that something holistic does not necessarily mean that it is 'homeopathic' – the terms are not mutually interchangeable (marketing and media have a tendency to confuse these terms and thus complicate the issues). A similar thing happens with natural and holistic, i.e., most if not all holistic modalities are natural in their derivation, but a natural substance might or might not be holistic – it depends upon whether the natural substance is innately holistic or is used in a holistic manner by considering mind, body and spirit, etc. For example, while herbs are natural they are not holistic as they work primarily on the physical body, however, if they are used along with (complementary to) a natural support that provides support to the mind and spirit as well, then together the approach is a holistic one. Does that make sense? 

Of course, if we truly believe that our entire system (body, mind, spirit) is interconnected, then does that not mean that anything we do will ultimately affect everything else? Yes, but is our healing intention holistic with the co-intention to do no harm?

Conventional medicine often refers to natural and holistic measures as “complementary” or even “alternative.” This is a matter of perspective and how each of us chooses to approach health care. For instance, I may view the veterinarian’s services as complementary to the holistic primary care I provide. To clarify, let’s define these terms:

       Conventional – According to M-W, “according with, sanctioned by, or based on convention” and “convention” is: “an established technique, practice, or device”. So, our society views the services most of our veterinarians provide as the conventional health care, i.e., it is the established method accepted or sanctioned by the majority of people.

       Complementary – I like the definition of “mutually supplying each other's lack” given by M-W because this fits well within the concept of how I view the many health care options available to our animals. This doesn’t mean that all methods have to be used together at the same time but rather allows one to create a unique support system of options to be used based upon each individual’s specific needs.

       Alternative – One of the definitions – “offering or expressing a choice” – provides an enlightened view of this term, and works very well within my own views of balance and the idea of not forcing choices upon people. When viewing health care holistically, what may work well for one individual may not for another. I would see alternative equate with option so that within all the complementary choices we have available, we can select the alternate approach that most suits each individual depending upon their unique situation. In the case of a broken leg, that alternate would be having the leg x-rayed and set by a veterinarian; in the case of a laceration, that alternate might be a Homeopathic remedy; in the case of severe trauma with fear, that alternative might be a Flower Essence or Homeopathic remedy…or if all the preceding occurred in the same incident, then all those alternate choices might be used for the overall benefit of the patient, in which case they are all complementary. The other definition of “alternative” that is often used in a more derogatory manner is far less pleasing: “different from the usual or conventional: as a : existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system”. This second definition seems to imply that if one chooses this health care method, then it is ‘outside’ what is acceptable. My hope is that this definition is rapidly changing.

So, if we acknowledge the definition of holistic as one we wish to follow in the health care for ourselves and our loved ones, how do we do it? What are the aspects of a holistic approach and how do we integrate conventional medicine so that we and our family receive the complementary benefits of both when needed, yet minimize or remove the risks of unnecessary suppression, toxicity and invasive procedures? 

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