This is a question I get asked all the time.
First, most people don’t know what a naturopath is or does, and second holistic is an overused and often misused term. Let’s begin with naturopathy. A naturopath is a teacher or someone who promotes the natural sciences as a way to live a healthy lifestyle. These include diet, exercise, herbology, aromatherapy, chroma therapy, light therapy, sound therapy, and environmental surroundings. A naturopath teaches you how to use these natural tools to heal and support your health. Just like with any means of healing and care it is up to the individual to follow the path and apply the methods as set forth by the doctor, guide, teacher, or mentor.
The basic philosophy of a naturopath is that we should focus on prevention over cure. By being aware of the natural sciences and how we can use them to create healthy balanced energy we focus on improving and maintaining health before it becomes a cause for a cure. The focus is completely on establishing and maintaining health and vitality.
Unlike many therapeutic and medical treatments, naturopathy believes that we must balance the entire being in all three areas of our lives, body, mind, and soul if we are to achieve perfect health. We are a tri-part being, so to treat one part without a focus on the others will not bring about true balanced and holistic health. If you have a perfect balance of body, mind, and soul you have perfect health.
With naturopathy, being healthy is more than the absence of disease. For older people (and for everyone) the maintenance of functional ability is of the highest importance. Loss of functional ability significantly impacts the quality of life. Having a chronic disease like diabetes is manageable, but if a person cannot stand up, reach for an item, or pick something up everything in life changes.
Prevention over cure means applying natural healthy methods that promote good health such as diet, exercise, herbs, essential oils, color, light, and music as natural modalities that synergize with the healthy functioning of humans. It means focusing on preventing maladies and not waiting for them to occur. The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure”, is the motto of a naturopath.
Form over function
In our media-driven society, we often place a higher value on form over function especially when it comes to commercial and marketable images. What we need is to shift our focus from the chaotic struggle to “look good” and focus on our ability to “function well” and thereby improve our quality of life by focusing on prevention over cure.
What naturopaths promote is adaptability to our chaotic world. Adaptability to chaos has been the deciding factor allowing humans to evolve. Therefore, what we need is the clarity to shift our thinking (evolve) towards a healthier worldview that promotes function over form and prevention over cure. This leads to holistic health.
So, what is holistic health?
When we hear "holistic health," we often think of alternative medicine. Holistic health does incorporate many complementary therapies, such as naturopathy, nutrition, yoga, and meditation, and focuses on wellness and prevention, however, it is more than the integration of Eastern and Western medicine. It’s a comprehensive and personalized way of treating the whole person. The holistic approach like naturopathy is rooted in the understanding that we are body, mind, and soul, and being unwell in one area affects the others.
Stress is a great example. Stress is basically a psychological response to a perceived threat. The threat is first experienced mentally, but if left unchecked will manifest physically in the form of headaches, exhaustion, illness, trouble sleeping, weight gain, and malady. When you feel anxious and depressed soulfully you feel deflated.
So, holistic health incorporates both allopathic and alternative methods to treat the “whole” person. That’s why it’s called Holistic.
For example, if someone is suffering from chronic pain, they might see their primary physician. With the holistic approach even though surgery and pharmaceuticals may be needed, dietary changes, exercise programs, and psychological and soulful therapies would also be employed, such as massage, yoga therapy, nutritional therapy, acupuncture, and supportive care. A holistic provider will ask about diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors that allow the practitioner to create a holistic and comprehensive plan that works to bring about complete and holistic health in body, mind, and soul.
Rather than treating the pain a holistic practitioner treats the person and uses all the tools at their disposal to do it
Holistic practitioners empower you with the education and motivation to make better lifestyle choices. Rather than giving you a long list of lifestyle changes, they include you in the process and help you determine which changes would make the greatest impact on your health. They help you set wellness goals and then provide you with resources — whether that's a personalized plan or a referral to a specialist.
Holistic health care is about honoring the mind, body, and soul connection and then treating the whole person, using a variety of clinically proven therapies to both bring about balanced health and then to help you focus on prevention over cure.
How do you know when healing is needed?
Aside from the obvious, when you have pain or have been diagnosed, something intuitively lets you know your energy is amiss. Focus is difficult because there is either pain, emotional upheaval, or a disconnection from yourself and your world. We sometimes refer to it as feeling a little off, burnt-out, or not our energetic selves. If left unchecked it can lead to something more serious. The problem is that often times we reach for a quick fix such as prescription drugs, emotional eating, or numbing things like drugs, alcohol, shopping, or mindlessly searching the internet. We look for anything that will help us quickly escape our physical, mental, and soulful pain.
According to the WHO one of the top challenges to our health is the overuse of antibiotics. As a society, we have become so over-prescribed antibiotics that antibiotic resistance, as well as, other health-related issues such as immune response and digestion issues are becoming big problems.
“When infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines must be used. A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases health care costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies. Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk. Organ transplantations, chemotherapy and surgeries such as cesarean sections become much more dangerous without effective antibiotics for the prevention and treatment of infections.” - WHO
Other challenges facing society are obesity, immune functioning, mental health, and aging. All of these maladies at their most basic level can be treated using holistic methods beginning with a healthy diet and exercise. There is no drug that supports the health and welfare of the body. Only good nutrition provides the fuel to support the healthy functioning of the body. That is also true of the mind. Our moods and mental outlook are also affected by the foods we either eat or don’t eat. For example, B-12 has been shown to relieve mild symptoms of depression.
Health, medicine, and society have long focused on the quick and easy fix to problems and this has led to prescription drug abuse, obesity issues, and an aging population that is losing its independence and quality of life.
To heal the body requires a focus on the three pillars of health; diet, exercise, and sleep. Drugs may arrest a problem such as cancer, but drugs will not rebuild the health of the body. It requires natural holistic methods to restore perfectly balanced health. Our environment, the color, and light we surround ourselves with, the scents we breathe and the foods we eat all have a profound impact on our vitality.
What about mental health?
The mind also needs all of the above, as well as talk therapy, coaching, guidance, and a good teacher. In yoga therapy mind is seen as not being connected to the senses, however, it is drawn to things through the senses. It’s the disturbance of the mind by these distractions that causes to mind to become ill. Your entire world is based upon your thoughts and mental attitude. How you envision the world is a projection from your mind. So, to heal the mind a practitioner will teach you to; change the way you look at things and the way you look at things will change.
The soul gets constant bumps and bruises from the constant barge of negative mind stuff and physical abuse we do to our bodies. When we look in the mirror, we often tell ourselves, I’m getting old, I’m terribly ugly, I am fat, I am unhappy, or I am terribly this or that. The truth is this is not you. These are constantly changing images. The soul is ethereal and constant. With awareness of this you begin to let go and this, in turn, heals the soul.
Naturopathic holistic health means treating the whole person's body, mind, and soul. You cannot treat one without treating the others if holistic health is the goal. A Naturopathic holistic teacher will do an assessment to help you determine the healing that is needed in all three areas of your life. The goal is to give you the tools to live a healthy productive radiant and vital life. Without health and vitality, everything else is meaningless and useless. When you lose your health you lose your ability to reason, create and experience the quality of life. Your health is your wealth and truly the most important thing in your life. Support it naturally and holistically; body, mind, and soul.
About The Author
Dr. Lynn Anderson is a naturopath, yoga nutritional therapist, fitness professional, karma master, published author, international speaker, and video producer with over 30 years of experience in the field of natural health and fitness. She has been featured in Redbook, Reader’s Digest, Huffington Post, Shape, SELF, and various other national publications, TV networks, and Podcasts. She is the author and producer of the Soul Walking series; Karma, Prosperity, Vitality and The Naturopathic Wellness Series; The Yoga of Nutrition and Recipes for Health, Sex, Happiness and Love; and Doctor Lynn’s Proactive-Aging Workouts; DVDs and TV with international distribution; CEC author, Burnout – it happens to all of us.
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