There’s an upside and a downside to everything, including holistic health. I’m an advocate for integrative health, which pairs the best holistic practices and treatment methods with the best tools and techniques from modern medicine.
I emphasize holistic approaches and holistic thinking in my work because that’s what I’d like to see more of in healthcare and in the world. The holistic way of thinking focuses on the big picture of health and human systems as a whole instead of just body parts. I’ve worked in a variety of health-care settings, and I’ve seen first-hand what happens when holistic considerations are not made: The needs of the individual go unmet.
A Balanced Perspective
Although I’m a raving fan of holism, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t balance my opinions and enthusiasm by acknowledging its disadvantages.
Informed consent for any treatment requires fully disclosing the treatment’s strengths, weaknesses, pros, cons, advantages, and disadvantages. Before you explore any holistic treatment to see if it’s right for you, you need to know what you’re getting into.
This post identifies some of the advantages and disadvantages of holistic health. It’s not a comprehensive list, but I believe it’s important to keep these things in mind if you’re going to be a savvy consumer and make the health decisions that are right for you. While treatment methods like yoga, massage therapy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and more, are beneficial and popular, they may not be right for every individual, in all situations, all the time.
The good news is, you get to decide what’s right for you. The treatments that are right for you are the ones that serve your best health interests. Helping you identify and choose those treatments is part of what my work in the world is all about. No matter what treatment options you choose, whether they are holistic and integrative, or not, I hope you’ll remember one thing: You’re in charge of your health. You always have a choice about what treatment methods you choose.
Advantages of Holistic Health
On the up-side, holistic treatments:
- Address the needs of the whole person. Instead of relieving an individual symptom, treating a single disease, or fixing an injured body part, holistic treatments address the comprehensive needs of your body, mind, and spirit.
- Emphasize prevention and optimal health. Conventional medicine excels at intervening when you’re already sick or injured, while holistic approaches help you achieve systemic balance. Maintaining this state of balance, or optimal health, can help you prevent injuries or illness, shorten the course of treatment, and reduce recovery time.
- Allow for increased personal attention from providers. If you’re like most people, you prefer to be treated as an individual instead of like a number. Holistic health treatment methods require that providers spend more time with you because so much more than just your body is assessed and addressed.
- Offer options. It’s a well-known fact that many chronic conditions don’t respond well to conventional medical treatments, and some treatments do more harm than good. If you’re in the advanced stages of illness, with “no options left,” holistic treatments can offer the comfort and solace that little else can. If you simply want more choices, holistic options are definitely worth exploring.
- Require active participation. Many holistic treatments are non-invasive and non-pharmacological. And most are active forms of treatment and not passive, like swallowing a pill. To benefit from a holistic treatment or plan of care, you may need to do things like prepare food from scratch, maintain an exercise regimen, or sustain a meditation practice. In other words, active and ongoing participation in your health is required in holistic care.
Disadvantages of Holistic Health
On the down-side, holistic treatments are:
- Likely to have limited scientific evidence. Most of today’s biomedical scientific research is funded by the pharmaceutical industry, which tends to support studies on … you guessed it… more pharmaceuticals. Fortunately, there is an increasing demand for studies to be conducted on holistic treatments. The scientific evidence supporting holistic treatments is growing.
- Not always the best choice. Some holistic approaches may not be appropriate for certain people. For example, if you’ve had certain types of surgery, yoga may not be the best thing for you, at least not right away. And some herbal supplements may be contraindicated (read: downright dangerous) when used in combination with prescription medications you may be taking. Drug interactions are always important to consider.
- Subject to marketing hype. Like it or not, holistic health is part of an alternative healthcare industry. Marketing and sales keep any businesses thriving. Unscrupulous manufacturers, unethical distributors, and sometimes even enthusiastic and well-meaning fans of certain products may make claims that are misleading or untrue. Consumers of holistic health treatments and products must be aware of this. Asking the right questions, being aware of your own needs, and information t its source will help you steer clear of scams and products that aren’t right for you.
- Slow to work or have varying results. Because holistic treatments are focused on addressing the root causes of illness and bringing an individual’s body, mind, and spirit back into balance, they don’t work the same way for everyone all the time. It may take time—sometimes 3 months or more—for the effects of holistic treatment to become noticeable. This may cause some people to conclude that the treatments are not working at all.
- Not fully covered by health insurance. Some holistic treatment methods may be covered by insurance, but many are not. A commitment to health that integrates holistic treatments often requires out-of-pocket investments.
Holistic Health is Part of Integrative Health
I emphasized the “holistic” aspect of integrative health in this post because modern medicine tends to ignore it. The good news about holistic and integrative health is this: Unless there’s a compelling reason for you to avoid a particular holistic treatment option, most of the healthcare choices you make need not be exclusively conventional or holistic. In other words, you can usually choose to have the best of both worlds. Many people benefit greatly from using holistic therapies right alongside conventional medicine. The choice is yours.
Make a commitment to your best health.I embrace the holistic way of thinking-- which incorporates a big-picture, systems approach to health that I believe is needed. ~Lane Therrell FNP-BC Click To Tweet
While it’s true that holistic approaches may not offer the instant results most of us have come to expect from modern medicine’s pharmaceutical-driven approach, positive results can be achieved by integrating holistic health treatment methods into whatever you’re already doing for your health.
Now that you know some of the advantages and disadvantages of holistic health, you can make savvier choices. With persistence and consistent action, you’ll enjoy positive health outcomes. And if you’d like a health coach to guide you on your journey to better health, I’m happy to help.
What holistic health treatment methods have you tried? Please leave your comments below.
Last Updated: 6-28-2020