Holistic healthcare sounds great, but what is it?

According to the medical section of TheFreeDictionary.com, holistic health care is a “system of comprehensive or total patient care that considers the physical, emotional, social, economic, and spiritual needs of the person; his or her response to illness; and the effect of the illness on the ability to meet self-care needs.”

By this definition, holistic healthcare is more than just making sure all bodily systems are tended to. Yes, doctors in the West do compartmentalize bodily systems like the endocrine system and the lymphatic system, and treatment requires looking at all systems. However, in doing so, that’s only part of what makes healthcare holistic.

Holistic healthcare takes the mind, body, and spirit into account, and works to integrate wellness into all facets of a person’s life.

Holistic healthcare extends beyond hospital doors

By the definition above, holistic healthcare ensures that a patient can cope when they go home. For example, after a major surgery, a person might have difficulty at home due to restricted mobility. They may not be able to climb into bed, reach into cupboards, or stand at the sink to do dishes. They might need someone to rearrange their home, or order special equipment from a medical supply store.

In a holistic system, healthcare workers will recognize these needs and assist the patient in obtaining whatever they need.

When a patient goes home, they might need a mobility aid like a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair. Or, they may need someone to come to their home to provide physical therapy. Physical therapy can eliminate pain, improve mobility, and help the body heal to the point where surgery can be avoided.

Holistic healthcare also includes making sure patients are taken care of psychologically during treatment, and when they go home. Some patients may not need counseling, but many do. Holistic care recognizes this fact and will offer therapy options to patients in case they need it.

Holistic healthcare isn’t just for alternative therapies

You might think holistic healthcare is limited to alternative wellness centers, but that’s not so. Traditional healthcare centers are starting to adopt a holistic approach, and many include alternative therapies as well.

For instance, the system created by Rush is a great example of holistic healthcare in action at a well-known Chicago medical center. Rush isn’t just a hospital or a university – they’re an academic health system that integrates patient care, education, research, and community partnerships.

Rush specialists use a holistic treatment approach with patients, which includes integrative medicine. The complementary therapies offered at Rush include acupuncture, massage, yoga, and most importantly, nutritional counseling.

Nutritional counseling is probably the most important aspect of holistic healthcare, since the body can’t function without the proper fuel. Unfortunately, too many patients continue to practice unhealthy habits out of convenience, without even realizing they’re putting their recovery at risk.

The food you eat affects our bodily systems, so it makes sense that what you eat has the ability to slow – or speed – your healing.

Even the smallest wound alters the way your body metabolizes nutrients. Healing is accompanied by the production of stress hormones that divert nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids to be turned into new tissue.

This process, referred to as the catabolic phase of healing, speeds up your metabolism. However, if the phase goes on too long, wound healing actually slows down. Then, even more amino acids are diverted to heal the wound, which deprives your body of being able to build proteins.

To heal properly from a wound, your body needs sufficient nutritional intake, including amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Holistic healthcare providers will educate patients on these nutritional facts to help them heal faster.

Holistic healthcare creates a better template for recovery

Holistic healthcare recognizes that exercise,
nutrition, and environment play a major role in healing. It’s more about
awareness than it is about the actual method or modality used. It’s about
paying attention to a patient’s needs and making sure they have an optimal
physical and psychological environment for recovery every step of the way.