Holistic health

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Editor-in-Chief: Robert G. Schwartz, M.D. [1], Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, P.A.;

Holistic health refers to a philosophy of medical care that views physical and mental aspects of life as closely interconnected and equally important approaches to treatment. While frequently associated with alternative medicine, it is also increasingly used in mainstream medical practice as part of a broad view of patient care. Many primary care providers and integrative medicine specialists today utilize a holistic approach to patient care.


Holism as a health concept has existed for ages outside of academic circles, but only relatively recently has the modern medical establishment begun to integrate it into the mainstream health care system. In the United States, the first National Conference on Holistic Health was conducted by the Health Optimizing Institute with the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine in June 1975.


Holism refers to the idea that an entity is greater than the sum of its parts. In the case of health, the entity in question is the human body. Holistic concepts of health and fitness view achieving and maintaining good health as involving more than just taking care of all the various components that make up the physical body—attention must be paid to aspects such as emotional and spiritual well-being as well. The goal is a wellness that encompasses the entire person, rather than just the lack of physical pain or disease. Some practices refer to this as "reducing total load", the total number of things that do not allow you to get well.

Holistic health is not itself a method of treatment, but instead an approach to how treatment should be applied. Traditional medical philosophy treats physical symptoms, using standardized methods such as the prescription of drugs or the undertaking of surgery, while the patient is only passively involved. Practices emphasizing holistic health, on the other hand believe that they are treating the whole person. Practitioners of holistic medicine believe that attitudes affect the present condition, and the patient may play an active role in the healing process.

Some medical practices have embraced a Holistic Model [2] but have not always referred to it as such. For example Sherry Rogers,MD popularized a concept of Reducing Total Load, the total number of things that interfere with someone getting well. While reducing total load is a holistic concept since it is based inside of a medical model it is not as frequently associated with holism. .


Some holistic health advocates subscribe to alternative medical practices which conventional medicine does not support. Some common practices such as acupuncture and chiropractic have not received total acceptance by supporters of evidence-based medicine, who require rigorous scientific testing before incorporating them in to a course of treatment. While health care is in evolution, as some of these alternative treatments lack experimental, double blinded evidence, they have not received widespread acceptance in the physician community.

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