What is Holistic Medicine?
If you’re at all familiar with the conventional healthcare system, you know that there’s a lot of emphasis put on doctors and specialists. You might even have experience with being referred to a specialist by your primary care physician for anything from digestive issues to abnormal acne breakouts. Before you know it, you could be scheduling appointments with a variety of specialists, all who will look at your health in separate sections that pertain to their area of study. In reality, your body doesn’t work this way. When you aren’t feeling well, it’s unlikely that this feeling is located in just one “section” of your body, instead you’re probably feeling those symptoms all over.
This is why holistic medicine is different from conventional medicine. Holistic medicine is the understanding that your body works as a whole and the notion that you have the ability to prevent future illnesses without relying on perscriptions or surgery to quiet your symptoms. Holistic medicine places the emphasis on you, the patient, rather than on the doctor and their specific area of study. By getting to know you and your history, your lifestyle, and all of your symptoms, your holistic doctor can take a step back and look at the bigger picture when it comes to your health. Let’s say there’s something going on in your life that’s adding an unusual amount of stress, an upcoming deadline for work or relationship difficulties, this stress could lead to a variety of imbalances inside your body. The increase in cortisol that your body produces in response to stressful situations could lead to sleep difficulties or it could cause a disturbance in your digestive system. Instead of giving you a prescription for sleeping pills or laxatives, a holistic doctor will take the time to understand what could be causing this stress and find what you can do to address the cause of your symptoms.
The Bigger Picture
The term “holistic” is defined as: “relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts.” The approach in conventional medicine is often one of categorizing your symptoms and splitting up your health concerns. In holistic medicine your doctor is there to look at the bigger picture and ask why something isn’t functioning properly and why you aren’t feeling well.
Your body is a complex and integrated machine that communicates with itself constantly. So it makes sense that when you’re feeling your best physically there’s a good chance you’re also feeling your best mentally. But, if something is going on inside your body it could lead to difficulty with sleeping or concentrating and could even affect your mood, causing you to feel more irritable and even anxious. If you were to see a holistic doctor and tell them about your symptoms, difficulty sleeping, concentrating, feeling irritable and anxious, rather than just prescribing something to help you sleep, they would ask the question, why?
One Part Doctor, One Part Detective
When your holistic doctor hears your symptoms their first thought is "Why?" Of course, they want to help you reach a point where you no longer feel these symptoms, but to do this they must first figure out why you’re feeling them and what could be causing them. Your holistic doctor acts as a detective at first, asking in-depth questions about your health, your family history, your lifestyle, and taking the time to really get to know you. All of these parts of your life can provide clues to what’s going on inside your body. These clues tell your holistic doctor what to look for and what to test for. By using comprehensive testing, your holistic doctor will look at more than your standard vitamin levels to get a better understanding of your health. Here at Carolina Holistic Health, we have comprehensive testing for digestive symptom issues, food allergy tests, various toxin exposures, hormone levels including cortisol levels, sleep tests, and a variety of blood tests that look at a wide range of vitamin levels.
Dr. Stefanacci has seen hundreds of patients who find themselves frustrated at their experiences with conventional medicine. One individual had been dealing with digestive pain and diarrhea for months and seen several specialists and conventional doctors. They had an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, and various tests performed to test for E. coli and other infections, and yet nothing was found in any of these tests. After 4 months of specialists and invasive testing, nothing had improved and the patient's symptoms kept showing up, so they came to see Dr. Stefanacci. After sitting down with the patient and talking about what was going on, Dr. Stefanacci noticed a few clues that could explain why the patient was feeling this way. “The next thing we did was a comprehensive stool test,” says Dr. Stefanacci, “to look for any stealthy gut infections and to make sure their digestive system was functioning properly.” These comprehensive stool tests found that the patient’s gallbladder, pancreas, and immune system weren’t functioning properly, and these imbalances were effecting the patient’s digestive system and causing these symptoms. Dr. Stefanacci also found that these systems weren't functioning properly in part because of the patient's diet and lack of stress management. Through dietary changes, a temporary supplement regimen, and effective stress management, the patient was able to get back to how they were feeling before these symptoms started.
Figuring out what was going on with this specific patient required a holistic approach to their health, understanding their lifestyle and their mental wellbeing as well as analyzing their digestive system through comprehensive testing. Getting them back on track to their optimal wellness also required a holistic approach, an understanding that dietary changes and stress management were needed to help them sustain their wellness into the future.
You Always Come First
When it comes down to it, holistic medicine is all about you. Your health and your wellness always come first and your doctor should always listen to you when you tell them that you aren’t feeling well. Too often, patients have felt invalidated by doctors and told that they are ‘fine’ when they don’t feel fine at all. When you go see a holistic doctor they will listen to you, take the time to get to know you, and, with the help of advanced testing, figure out what’s really going on inside of your body and keeping you from feeling your best.
You deserve to feel like your best self, your best whole self. If you’re tired of feeling like just another statistic to your doctor, tired of running around and seeing separate specialists, or tired of being prescribed pharmaceuticals to fix an issue without knowing the full scope of the issue, you might be ready to give holistic medicine a try.