Imagine that you’re sitting on the exam table at a new doctor’s office. You’re already feeling vulnerable and anxious. You wonder what the doctor will be like, and if they’ll take your concerns seriously. Now imagine how you’d feel knowing that your doctor spent the same time worrying about their interaction with you. That’s what holistic medicine is all about. Holistic health refers to the health of the whole person, including the body, mind, and even spirit. Holistic doctors care about every aspect of wellness. They seek to treat each patient as a complete person with a complex context worthy of exploration.
Holistic and naturopathic health are very similar, with a few minor philosophical differences. In this guide, we’ll discuss the differences between naturopathy and holistic healing. We’ll help you discover which approach to healing is right for your unique lifestyle.
Continue reading to explore the world of whole-person health.
What Is Holistic Health?
Holistic philosophers believe that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Likewise, holistic doctors believe you must know and understand the “whole” patient to address a complaint.
The same is not always true in traditional medical settings. When you arrive at the doctor’s office, you often describe a complaint and receive treatment for that symptom.
While this is effective in some cases, it can sometimes cause problems. What happens if the way you feel isn’t so cut and dry? Holistic practitioners believe that your lifestyle, including mental health, plays an equal role in your physical health.
Most holistic doctors blend traditional medicine with other treatment modalities. You may receive prescriptions for medication and advice about acupuncture at the same appointment. Some holistic doctors are also naturopaths and might prescribe natural remedies, such as herbal medicines.
Your holistic doctor might ask you questions that a traditional doctor wouldn’t. For example, they might ask about your diet, social life, anxiety level, or job satisfaction.
In most cases, holistic or integrative medicine is a medical specialty. Most holistic practitioners have traditional medical degrees. They chose to pursue further training to expand their scope of practice.
What Is Naturopathic Health?
The difference between holistic practice and naturopathic medicine can be difficult to parse. This is because naturopathy is also a holistic form of medicine. It has more of an emphasis on the role of nature in healing, including the use of natural remedies and non-pharmaceutical interventions.
These practitioners believe that the body has many self-healing processes. Their goal is to encourage prevention by triggering these processes. The most common approach is through the use of natural remedies for better health.
Unlike holistic doctors, naturopaths must attend at least four years of medical school but do not need to be licensed to practice medicine. They do need to pass a special naturopathy licensing exam, however.
Their approach is evidence-based. A naturopathic doctor aims to provide effective treatment while remaining as natural and chemical-free as possible.
Examples of Holistic and Naturopathic Treatment
Most practitioners aim to prescribe the most effective and least invasive treatment for any malady. In some cases, this may mean antibiotics and surgery. In other cases, your doctor might prescribe daily yoga or dietary supplements.
Some naturopathic doctors are more strict about recommendations than others. Many practitioners will only prescribe traditional pharmaceuticals as a last-ditch approach. Others may decline to prescribe traditional drugs at all.
Practitioners typically identify eight “domains” of treatment. They are:
- Natural Light
- Quality rest
You do not necessarily need to belong to an organized religion to utilize holistic or naturopathic doctors. Most patients do believe in some form of higher power or engage in personal spiritual practice, however.
Your practitioner may encourage you to try the following types of treatments:
- Spiritual counseling
- Elimination diets
- Chiropractic treatment
- Daily mindfulness
Be aware that your provider may not offer these treatments in-office. You may need to go to other practitioners to receive services. You may also be able to engage in some holistic practices at home.
When to Avoid Naturopathic Treatment
There are a few reasons why naturopathic or holistic medicine might not be suitable for you.
Foremost, holistic treatments may be effective, but they are not always efficient. In fact, many treatments involve a complete lifestyle change. If your doctor asks you to eliminate caffeine from your diet, you might even feel worse before you feel better.
Furthermore, a lifestyle overhaul can be expensive and time-consuming. Your doctor may advise you to make significant dietary changes, for example. This will require a commitment to shopping, food preparation, and dietary education.
In general, naturopathic medicine is not an ideal emergency treatment modality. If you have an infection, for example, you don’t have the time to spend on a complete health overhaul. Instead, see a traditional or holistic doctor who can prescribe antibiotics or perform surgery.
Finally, not all natural remedies will work alongside traditional pharmaceuticals. For example, activated charcoal is a popular supplement, but it will clear all medication from your system. This can be dangerous if you are on birth control, for example.
Always speak to a traditional doctor before trying a natural treatment if you take any medications.
Understanding Naturopathic and Holistic Health
Health should be about the whole person. Why shouldn’t your needs and desires be part of your treatment or wellness plan? When you pursue naturopathic or holistic health, you’ll work with a team who respects your desires and preferences. You can also practice holistic health at home. When was the last time you made a positive lifestyle change? Browse the rest of the blog for more tips on improving your lifestyle in small but significant ways.