I have great reverence for the scientific method and one of its beneficiaries, conventional Western medicine. (Immunotherapy played a role in my cancer journey.) Yet conventional medicine sometimes fails to address the whole person—body, mind, and spirit—through its reductionist lens. For that piece of the healing puzzle, many turn to practitioners of holistic medicine, such as naturopathy and Chinese medicine.
A core principle of holistic medicine is to address the root cause or causes of a patient’s illness. The fact that there can be more than one cause is key. A comprehensive evaluation with case history often reveals a number of lifestyle and environmental imbalances that coalesce into a serious chronic condition. Let me provide a brief example.
The diagnosis of obesity doesn’t offer much insight into the myriad factors that led up to the moment when a patient stands dismayed on the scale at the doctor’s office. Aside from the general recommendation of calorie restriction and increased exercise, a conventional medical doctor will likely test for a metabolic imbalance such as hypothyroidism or diabetes.
This is the point when a mind trained in holistic medicine kicks into high gear. A practitioner of holistic medicine may wish to spend the better part of an hour (or longer) looking into all the lifestyle factors that are sabotaging a successful weight loss effort.
Maybe the patient is experiencing chronic inflammation from undetected mold exposure? Perhaps the problem started after a prolonged course of antibiotics, and the health of the gut microbiome needs to be assessed? What if the patient is struggling with a severe and prolonged period of depression following a trauma, and a food addiction developed as a means to self-medicate the emotional pain? What if all three (or more) factors are active within the same patient?
Thus it is of paramount importance not only to derive the correct diagnosis but the correct diagnoses. When I consult with a patient that has failed to respond to treatment from a number of different medical interventions, I immediately wonder if everyone has been looking in the wrong place. The wise practitioner of holistic medicine will inwardly consider an algorithm of root causes, reflecting a deep recognition of the patient’s history and all the physical, mental, and emotional contributions that have manifested as the whole but fragmented patient.