HOLISTIC vs. ALLOPATHIC
Because of the unique challenges of living in this era of history, there has probably never been a time when it is more important for people to become educated, proactive managers of their own health. The good news is there has never been the opportunity to do so much for your health. Yet, one of the unfortunate trends in this country is that people often don't think much about their health until there is a problem, and when there is a problem they are limited to the options they are aware of.
Today there are countless methods and opinions available for people to choose from when it comes to their health. Yet, broadly speaking, all of these opinions and options fall into two basic approaches to health. We call these categories, "allopathic" and "natural." The first approach focuses on using man-made devices (drugs and surgery) to attack (or slow down) sickness, while the other focuses on identifying underlying causes and empowering the body to address problems itself...naturally. Sometimes these methods compliment each other and other times these methods tend to fight each other. Both options have their merits, and thus entire industries have arisen around each way of thinking about health.
Defining "Conventional" or "Allopathic"
The first, and for now the more common approach is known, in this country at least, as "conventional" medicine, or the "Allopathic" (literally "other suffering") approach to health. As mentioned above, this approach uses drugs and surgery as the standard of care. What is important to note, and what is rarely explained to medical patients, is that fundamentally both of these tools actually work against the natural systems of the body. The approach of drugs and surgery is that by altering a specific physiological function a return to symptom-free living may be possible. These are the methods accepted today (and sanctioned by the FDA) as forms of cure, treatment, prevention and so on. This is not what we do.
The second approach (often referred to by those in "conventional" medicine as "alternative" or "unconventional") can be broadly described as a "natural" approach to health. Whereas allopathic methods operate with the general belief that the body ought to have its battles fought for it (with drugs and surgeries), natural methods generally view the idea of fighting against sickness, while also fighting against the body, as relatively counterproductive. They often see this method as reactive rather than proactive, and an underestimation of the body's ability to heal itself. While natural health and wellness professionals know allopathic methods can be valuable, at the same time they believe that allopathic methods, especially as an exclusive treatment, introduce more health risks the individual must then deal with.
|In contrast, natural approaches focus on many different disciplines (e.g. nutrition, personal training, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, homeopathy, cleansing etc.) designed to be non-toxic, less invasive methods for improving overall well-being and thus empowering the body's innate mechanisms of defense and repair. While these methods are generally not designed to address specific symptoms (or diseases), they are designed to remove obstacles that keep the body from being able to heal. In short, natural health and wellness professionals tend to view drugs and surgery as a last resort, or short-term solution at best, whereas "conventional" medicine often sees drugs as the first/best option and a necessary, often permanent solution. Often there is some middle ground here, but if any tension arises between proponents of allopathic vs. natural approaches it is typically created when one approach refuses to acknowledge their own limitation(s) and/or validity of the other. This is a trap we do our best to avoid.|
To be fair, both systems have their strengths. Which approach is best for you, depends on what type of challenge you are wrestling with. In moments of crisis, and traumatic injury, we would suggest you find an allopathic doctor...quickly. Through the use of targeted drugs and life-saving surgeries, allopathic doctors work miracles in our modern emergency rooms everyday. Countless lives have been saved by this approach. Yet, if you are trying to prevent illness or are wrestling with a chronic condition, an exclusively allopathic approach (especially over the long term) usually creates more problems than it solves.
The reason the allopathic method usually creates more problems than it solves is this: Conventional medicine is a reductionist discipline. In other words, it tends to ignore or overlook the most critical component of health...synergy. As medical practice fragmented into various "specialties" (which have produced some wonderful advances), at the same time, having a different doctor (and/or and a different drug) for virtually every body part, more often than not leads to an overly narrow focus that can neglect the bigger picture of someone's health. The natural approach recognizes that the body is more than a collection of its parts and that all parts are interdependent on each other. While medical science would readily admit this point, the synergy of health measures is often lost when it comes to medicine because it is a discipline looking for minute variables it can alter, not foundational lifestyle changes that must be addressed.
|A simple example of conventional medicine ignoring synergy, or at least downplaying it, is its reliance on the double-blind placebo "controlled" (DBPC) method of testing as the gold-standard for determining the value of a treatment. In short, while this method has its merits, we tend to see it as fundamentally flawed. Here is why: DBPC studies recognize that when people participating in a new drug trial are given reason to hope (i.e. this new drug we've developed may help you) many people will report that they have made health gains even though they are in the group of people who got a sugar pill instead of the actual drug being tested. This reported healing from a substance believed to have no effect is called a "placebo effect" and it meant to imply any improvement is all in the patient's head. What this method of testing fails to account for is that the people who actually got the drug and people who got the sugar pill had one powerful thing in common - hope. Since it has been thoroughly proven through objective testing that the mind really does change a person's ability to heal, it could be said that anyone who reported health gains while taking the|
|new drug being studied, got well despite the fact they were being given a small amount of poison. Each group has hope, hope produces synergy, and synergy changes your life. That factor cannot be "controlled." What western medicine has taught us in reality is how powerful the mind is at affecting our ability to heal...even when we tinker with our biochemistry. (For more on what we see as the flaw with this method of testing see our education session that deals with the mind).|
Thus, what it means to say that "Conventional medicine is a reductionist discipline" is to say that it operates with the belief that if it can find and change one tiny detail of human physiology (alter one enzymatic reaction, block or accelerate a specific biological function, etc. etc.), it can then affect the whole person and health will return.
The problem many people see with this approach is that rarely, if ever, does poor health arise because of one of the billions of enzymatic reactions in your body was simply in need of being altered by a foreign, toxic substance. Furthermore, your body's physiological functions are interrelated with each other, not isolated from each other. In other words, altering one physiological function sets off a chain reaction whereby the body's ability to perform other related functions is also altered. In the world of drugs this is known as "side-effects" or, "other problems we're creating that we hope are not as bad as your original complaint." Natural health proponents would argue that if vibrant health was just one enzymatic reaction away from returning, then pharmaceutical drugs might be a logical answer, but they believe health is not built that way. They argue that health is built from the synergy of a myriad of different factors (specific exercises, targeted nutrition, stress management, sleep, mental attitude, understanding your genes, etc.). At best, drugs can make underlying problems less noticeable, but because every drug is a small amount of sophisticated poison designed to manipulate your body's chemistry, drugs introduce other problems and further complicate the matter of regaining health. We all know this, but think about it for a second. If you take an aspirin your headache may go away. If you take a whole bottle of aspirin at once, your body is overwhelmed with poison and you'll probably die! Simply put, drugs introduce the body to more stress.
Drugs "work" not by correcting any problems, but by spray painting over them. Natural health proponents argue that it is only by addressing the cause of various health issues that true and lasting health can return. While allopathic practitioners would agree with this they would also argue that identifying real (exact) causes is exceedingly difficult and that dealing with symptoms is often the best option. Both sides have a legitimate argument that begins to spill over into two other important arenas, economics, and the need to talk about lifestyle modification. On the one hand, most health problems come from poor lifestyle choices. On the other hand it's hard for doctors to make a living by spending their time harping on people to make lifestyle changes when a simple prescription may mask the reason the person visited the doctor in the first place.
In short, medicine focuses on what it knows best, symptom treatment. Health and wellness professionals with a more natural focus seek to do everything possible to empower the body to heal itself, but we know we are not treating any specific disease. One other important point and one of our core convictions at Health and Wholeness is that "no one person or institution has cornered the truth about health." Said differently - no one knows everything, and no one can teach you something they have never learned. Often people are told something is not possible because the person they are asking is only working with the knowledge they have. One thing we have learned by amazing example is not to underestimate what the human body can do when it has the right scenario.
|Whatever mindset you bring to health, and whichever route you choose to go to manage your own health, know that there are many options available to you. We cannot treat any disease condition; it is not in our scope of practice. Our goal is to do our best to help you create a scenario that is more likely to help you prevent illness, effectively manage your weight, and if necessary, heal. In case you have not been told, if you choose not to go the route of lifestyle changes and "conventional" medicine is your only approach to health recovery, then sadly, you can expect your story to go something like this: Once the effectiveness of a drug's ability to "manage" your symptoms runs out (because the underlying cause of the problem was not addressed), you can continue to add more drugs (and side effects) to the equation, but once drugs no longer "help," your only other allopathic options are internal nuclear war (radiation) or to be cut on (surgery). The latter often involves removing whatever part of your body is not functioning properly. If you allow medical science to continue to tinker with your body, they will gladly accept you as a human guinea pig to see what the latest drug/procedure they have created will do to you. Have you ever seen this magazine?
Basically, what you are reading is that the natural option will probably take more work on your part. Can making the adjustment to a healthy lifestyle require some hard work, personal reflection, and likely even some temporary sacrifice? Of course. But is the new lifestyle of vitality worth it? Absolutely! In general, a healthy lifestyle is not hard. What can be difficult is switching from unhealthy to healthy - learning and implementing the necessary changes. On the other hand, if you understand the multiple factors that detract from health, as well as the many factors that build health, you will be well equipped to navigate your way around most of the illness and disease that is rampant today. On the contrary, if you do not take the time to learn about these factors, the statistics bear out that illness will find you. When it does, will you know what it takes to regain and maintain vibrant health?