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Are Holistic Doctors Really Doctors?

The term “holistic” means “dealing with the whole of something”. The term Holistic was introduced by South African Soldier Jan Christian Smuts as a philosophical term in the 1920s. In the account of its meaning, a holistic approach to medicine means to treat an individual not only physically, but emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well. (holistic doctor near me).

A holistic doctor is a physician that is focused on prevention at first and the treatment as secondary. A holistic medical practitioner considers a patient’s mind, body, and spirit to improve their health and wellness.

Who can practice holistic medicine?

Any doctor having a medical degree can practice holistic medicine, but not everyone practicing holistic medicine is a board-certified physician. Some holistic practitioners call themselves “Doctors” but they are not licensed to practice traditional medicine.

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Is Holistic medicine a replacement for traditional medicine?

There is a common misconception about practicing holistic medicine that it is a replacement for traditional medicine. This is not a fact. Holistic medicine should work with traditional research-backed treatment methods, and not against them or in place of them.

 

Principles of Holistic Medicine

The core values of holistic medicine are as follows:

  • A combination of physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and social wellbeing is considered good health.
  • All people have innate healing powers.
  • Prevention comes first, while treatment comes second.
  • The disease is caused by a problem within the whole body, rather than a particular body part.
  • The goal of treatment should be to fix the underlying cause of the disease, instead of improving the symptoms only.
  • A wide range of treatment options, including education, self-care, CAM, and traditional medicine.
  • The result of the treatment is determined by the relationship between a doctor and the person being treated.

Types of holistic doctors

Osteopath

An osteopath, or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO), is a licensed physician who treats health problems with manipulative osteopathic medicine. This form of medicine is treated by physically manipulating the musculoskeletal system.

The objective is that the musculoskeletal system, which includes your muscles, bones, and nerves, affects the entire body. An osteopath is a medical doctor who is licensed to practice medicine.

Both MDs and DOs attend medical school, and choose a specialty, and complete a residency. They appear in the same exam to become a licensed physician.

Integrative physician

Integrative physicians have an integrative approach to medicine and they are licensed, medical doctors. This includes combining conventional and CAM treatments. It is meant to be used in conjunction with traditional medical care and involves a wide range of therapies

There is no formal degree for becoming an integrative doctor. After attending medical school, a person becomes a licensed physician. Then he receives his training or hands-on in CAM and becomes board-certified in integrative medicine.

Ayurvedic Doctor

Ayurveda is also used to treat health conditions. It is an ancient system of Indian medicine. In Sanskrit, it means “knowledge of life.”

Practitioners believe health problems are caused by life energies or imbalanced doshas. Ayurveda targets these doshas through alternative treatments, such as lifestyle changes, diet, and herbal remedies.

Ayurvedic medicine is a primary system of healthcare in India. There are Ayurvedic schools where one completes professional, and standardized training to become an Ayurvedic doctor.

However, Ayurvedic doctors aren’t recognized as medical doctors in the US as there are no nationwide licenses or certifications in Ayurveda to be practiced.

Naturopathic Doctors

A doctor of naturopathic medicine (ND), or naturopathic doctor is trained in naturopathic medicine.

This system of medicine combines natural therapies, western science, and holistic approaches to treat health conditions. Natural therapies may also be used as both, primary and complementary treatments.

Naturopathic doctors are not recognized as medical doctors. However, they attend a naturopathic medical college, where they study the same course as traditional medical doctors. They also appear in the professional board exams to become licensed as traditional medical doctors.

Traditional Chinese Practitioners

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an age-old form of Chinese medicine. According to TCM, every individual has a life force or qi. Good health depends on a balanced or flowing life force.

But if this life force becomes imbalanced or blocked, the result is a disease. The goal of TCM is to balance the qi through lifestyle modifications, acupuncture, and herbal medicine.

TCM practitioners are people who practice Chinese herbal medicine or acupuncture in the United States.

The training includes 3 to 4 years of schooling and a certification exam. Some institutions may also offer degrees like the doctor of Oriental medicine. However, these degrees are not recognized as medical doctor degrees.

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Difference Between Traditional & Holistic Doctors

Generally, traditional doctors intend to treat symptoms. They provide medical solutions to alleviate a disease by prescribing medicines that reduce your symptoms of a disease.

A holistic doctor treats the body as a whole. They aim to find the causative factor behind the disease, instead of just resolving the symptoms. This could also require multiple therapies discussed below.

Types of holistic treatments

Holistic care is an ideology that comprises a variety of treatment techniques. In addition to modern pharmaceutical treatment, a holistic medicine doctor may suggest alternative treatment depending on the individual patient’s needs, such as:

Education

Education teaches you how to make lifestyle changes. This includes habits and self-care techniques that help benefit your condition.

Treatments may involve:

  • Nutrition counselling
  • Exercise
  • Dietary supplements
  • Stretching
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga (This helps with the mind & body connection creating calmness in the spirit)
  • Self-massage
  • Meditation
  • Support groups

Alternative Therapies

Your holistic medical practitioner might also perform or prescribe certain therapies. Examples include:

  • Acupuncture (use of needles to stimulate the areas of the body to release energy or activate the nervous system to ease chronic conditions).
  • Music therapy
  • Reiki
  • Massage (Loosening the tight muscles and tissues with the help of massage therapy)
  • Herbal remedies
  • Aromatherapy (the use of the sense of smell to help calm the body and soothe some ailments)
  • Hypnosis

Treatment of the West

Many holistic doctors combine conventional Western medicine with the therapies discussed above. They might also recommend traditional options like:

  • Prescription medicine
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Benefits of the holistic approach to the patient

When a holistic approach is applied to the daily practice by physicians, there are several benefits for both patients and doctors.

Personalized Care

Holistic medicine considers all of the elements of a patient’s health, and not only their physical symptoms. This helps doctors to make more personalized recommendations in the patient’s interest.

 

A Relationship Based on Trust

An empathetic approach to care and treating patients as individuals, not just a list of symptoms on a chart helps create a patient-doctor relationship based on trust. The level of trust helps do wonders in the holistic approach.

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Patient Empowerment 

The holistic approach to care allows patients to take control of their health and wellness. Everyone knows that healthy eating and exercise help maintain a healthy lifestyle, but committing to a wellness plan is difficult. 

Holistic doctors have recognized this. Instead of listing recommendations, they include the patient in the conversation to find out what lifestyle changes may work best for them.

 

Disadvantages of Holistic Medicine

Like all treatment methods, holistic care also has a few drawbacks:

 

Lack of insurance coverage

Holistic medicine is not usually covered by the insurance companies and the patients have to bear the costs of care out of their pockets.

 

Requires involved patients

Holistic medicine is teamwork between the patient and the doctor. If the patient is non-cooperative towards the treatment and not willing to adapt modifications, the treatment won’t work.

 

Is practicing holistic medicine safe?

Yes, holistic medicine is safe if it is practiced by or under the care and supervision of a board-certified medical doctor. Holistic care focused on prevention and wellness has been shown to help patients manage their health more effectively. 

Many types of holistic medicine techniques are unlikely to cause any harm. However, delaying treatment to self-medicate with these methods alone can be dangerous.

 

What to look for in a qualified holistic doctor?

When choosing a holistic doctor, look at the holistic practitioner’s qualifications. Check their:

  • Education
  • Licenses
  • Experience
  • Certifications
  • Associated organizations

 

Pursue Career in Holistic Medicine

Holistic medicine is growing exponentially as an alternative to traditional medicine. Integrative medicine is now becoming more acceptable in healthcare.

To start with a career in holistic medicine, look for the right school first, as not all medical schools offer training in holistic treatment. The ones offering certifications and degrees in a variety of holistic and alternative therapies are better to opt for.

Decide with your field of interest in alternative therapy, get a certification in those therapies along with a degree. Get your practicing license and begin your practice.

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Take-Home Points

Practicing holistic medicine is not a replacement for traditional medical care. Always consult a traditional medical doctor before trying any holistic treatment. Holistic doctors can also be doctors with degrees and practice traditional medicine in conjunction with alternative treatment options.

Look out for their experience, expertise, knowledge, education, and specialty, as practicing holistic medicine is always safe if it is done by a licensed doctor knowing the body systems. Always cross-check them with their degrees before giving them a visit to avoid any mishaps.

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