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In Medicine, What Is a Holistic Approach?

Massage therapy is an example of a holistic approach.
Yoga is often part of a holistic approach to illness.
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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2014
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A holistic approach to medicine refers to the belief that the whole person must be healed because the mind, spirit, and body are interconnected. Practitioners in the field encourage patients to actively participate in their own care by engaging in practices that heal the spirit, body, and mind. These can include yoga, massage therapy, meditation, chiropractic care, acupuncture, and homeopathy. There are holistic remedies and approaches to healing for almost any ailment or condition.

One of the basic principles of a holistic approach to healing is that the mind and body are entertained. When one becomes off balance or ill, it is likely that the other will follow suit. For this reason, many holistic practices encourage patients to heal not only the physical symptoms of an illness or condition, but also the emotional or spiritual ones. Strategies like combining herbal medicine with yoga or meditation provide the body with the physical remedies it needs and the mind with the relaxation it needs.

Although the validity of a holistic approach has been called into question,n there are some studies which suggest that the mind does play a major role in healing the physical ailments of the body. Patients who maintain a positive attitude and an optimistic outlook during treatment tend to fare much better when recovering from an illness or procedure. The opposite appears to be true for those with a pessimistic outlook.

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The holistic approach also focuses on maintaining wellness through good nutrition and relaxation. By fueling the body with what it needs to function normally, it is more likely to fight off illnesses and infections. Good nutrition has long been known to help prevent illness, although many holistic practitioners provide stricter guidelines for what is and isn’t healthy. For example, many holistic nutritionists recommend only organically grown foods, while mainstream nutrition experts do not usually put an emphasis eating organically.

Many practitioners who believe in the holistic approach to wellness and healing also practice alternative forms of healing such as acupuncture. While many argue that the effectiveness of such treatments are purely the placebo effect, many patients and experts swear by the results. In any event, trying such remedies are generally not harmful and help many patients keep a positive outlook by having more control over their own treatment.

One of the main benefits of using a holistic approach is that patients are able to actively participate in choosing healing methods for their own bodies. Although practitioners are trained professionals who offer guidance and advice, patients often have the ultimate decision regarding which procedures will be performed.

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