Comparing Allopathic and Holistic Medicine
In 2007, the National Health Interview Survey concluded that approximately 38 percent of adults used alternative, or holistic, healing practices. Among these are such popular choices as acupuncture, yoga and Tai chi. Treatment systems like chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy and spiritual devotions also fall under the umbrella of holistic medicine. Accordingly, holistic healthcare is not one distinct method of treatment, but rather an incorporation of several techniques that each work differently. For instance, acupuncture may be used to relieve pain, while yoga is used to reduce stress and promote mental calm. Holistic medicine employs a variety of treatment practices to heal the mind, body and spirit simultaneously.
Guiding Principles of Allopathic Medicine
Allopathic, or conventional medicine, defines health as the absence of disease. Thus, little emphasis is given to preventive treatment. Allopathic medicine also considers the main causes of illness to be pathogens, either bacteria or viruses, and biochemical imbalances. To remove or correct these problems, prescription drugs, radiation and surgery are often the recommended treatment. Health care professionals state that allopathic medicine is largely based upon the findings of Louis Pasteur (1822 1895). His research concluded that a single agent is responsible for causing a single type of disease, and a specific therapy can be used for treatment. According to doctors, this simple doctrine in conjunction with symptom-relieving drugs and surgeries has established allopathic medicine as a dominant force. Anna MacIntosh, PhD, ND, Dean of Research at National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, Oregon, suggests a tug-of-war often occurs in Western medicine, where illness and disease frequently return and conventional treatment only manages the symptoms. As such, patients often suffer from the same maladies and repeat the cycle of diagnosis and medication. Holistic medicine may be able to help stop this war and provide patients with improved overall health.
Allopathic versus Holistic Medicine
In sharp contrast to the theories of allopathic medicine, holistic healing focuses on preventing illness before it begins. The mental, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of a person are critical to the whole. As such, a persons individual components must be seen as interrelated, a principle that is called holism, meaning state of wholeness. Any disharmony that influences one part can lead to stress and illness throughout all parts. The foundation of holistic medicine is not pathogens and bacteria, but rather the ongoing balance between mind and body. A persons physical, emotional and mental states can be individually or collectively altered when imbalance occurs. While allopathic medicine recognizes that some physical symptoms have mental origins (emotional stress, for example, can lead to chronic headaches or stomach ulcers), the approach is to largely suppress symptoms. Whether physical or psychological, allopathic medicine ignores the why? of illness and instead focuses on the question of how can this be remedied? Holistic medicine uses combinational therapy to combat disease and bolster the bodys own defenses. This, in turn, restores balance to a person. In ancient Chinese medicine, doctors were paid only when patients were healthy, not during times of ailment. This is the opposite of Western medicine, where doctors are paid at the time of service for injury, disease and illness. Holistic medicine considers the human body to be the best form of resistance against and treatment for disease. When illness is present, holistic healing first acts to strengthen a persons natural resistance so he or she can face the disease with efficacy. Holistic medicine is considered a slow process in which results are experienced with time. This is because treatment of the entire person often requires lifestyle changes and deliberate therapies.