I am the first to admit that to try to encompass a working knowledge of all complementary and orthodox therapies would be beyond all but the most sophisticated computer, but to be aware of the existence and the possibilities that each therapy can offer is both feasible and enjoyable. I have, over the years, come into contact with therapists in most fields of medicine and through discussion and reading about the speciality have learned enough to know when to recommend treatment and which are the appropriate therapies to recommend.
The clinics in which I work have experts in the various fields that I believe have credibility. Such truly holistic practices offer patients a complete understanding of their health and the availability of any treatment necessary to restore their well-being. It must be used as a guide to the appropriate courses of treatment. However, it may help not only the reader but also the physician or practitioner whose care the patient is under. Do not assume your practitioner knows all the possible treatment routes. All practitioners are constantly learning and should be happy to discuss other therapies apart from their own.
WHAT IS HOLISTIC MEDICINE?
Before the advent of ‘modern science’ in the West about 150 years ago, medicine and healthcare were based predominantly on trial, error and observation.
Physicians had no more real knowledge than an experienced grandmother. A lack of knowledge concerning viruses and bacteria meant that hygiene was little understood and therefore health was poor and life expectancy was short. As science took hold, the ‘art’ of medicine became less studied and the birth of modern medicine took us away from some of the gentler skills and techniques that had accrued over centuries.
Thousands of years of traditional knowledge from the Tibetans, Chinese, Ayurvedic (Indian) and other long-established cultures were put aside as the Western world developed. The necessary balance between the modern scientist and the traditional healer was lost and the pendulum swung more towards manufactured drugs and high-technology methods.
Now, however, the pendulum is swinging back and hopefully will settle midway, allowing a balanced attitude towards healing to come to the fore. There is a place for the surgeon’s knife and antibiotics alongside the hands of the faith-healer and the brews of the herbalist.
The names ‘alternative’ and ‘fringe’ medicine have largely been replaced by ‘complementary’ medicine. This was an attempt by the practitioners in non-scientific medical art to try to persuade the mighty physician that they were suitable assistants to orthodox medicine. There is no doubt that this attitude was required to create the necessary change, but as we see more and more failures within the modern medical system, the complementary medical practitioner has now suggested a new term – integrated medicine – to try to achieve a level of equal importance with orthodox medicine. It is, in my opinion, as erroneous of an acupuncturist to suggest that he has a higher level of knowledge as it is for a Professor of Surgery to assume an air of superiority.
The term ‘holistic’ (derived from the Greek hobs, meaning ‘whole’) is the closest to the direction in which I believe medicine and healing must go. Unfortunately the term has been associated with quackery and mysticism and thus is not one that an orthodox physician would willingly be labelled.
We all have to learn that there can no longer be any differentiation. The art of healing must draw from all philosophies and all schools of teaching to create a single healthcare system. Divisions will be required because no one individual can retain and use all the available treatment options, but there has to come a time when doctors have as broad a knowledge of the availability of treatments as possible so that they can recommend the most effective and fast-acting repair process to their patients. A GP today should be aware of treatment options such as acupuncture or osteopathy, and a homeopath should be knowledgeable about the potential use of, say, antibiotics. We have, at present, a divisive system that has to change. HEALTH AND HEALING TODAY
The doctors of today, let alone the untrained population, appear to know only a smattering of the simple, non-drug treatments that have much value in treating our common ailments.
In no way do I wish to belittle the work of us Western-trained doctors. More and more patients are, however, becoming disenchanted and alarmed at the advice they receive from their Gps and hospital specialists when seeking advice for general health and non-life-threatening conditions.
Mrs J B, age 62 years and an active grandmother and homemaker, suffered a stroke three years prior to coming to see me. The stroke had severely affected her speech and the left side of her body had retained less than 10 per cent of its function. Over the three-year period she had regained most of her speech through invaluable speech therapy but, despite physiotherapy, had only managed to regain about 30 per cent of the movement and strength in her left arm. Mrs J B had high blood pressure (until the stroke, when it ‘miraculously’ reverted to normal) and she had been given, theoretically, adequate blood-pressure control medicine for several years.
After I had examined her I suggested that she try Chinese herbal medicine in conjunction with some osteopathy and acupuncture. Within two months Mrs J B was able to walk more than 200 yards as opposed to the 20 yards that had xviii exhausted her before. Her mood had elevated beyond recognition and she was able to play with and enjoy her grandchildren far more.
When she returned to the GP who had been sympathetic over the previous years, his attitude was not one of surprise and interest: in fact, quite the opposite. He warned Mrs J B about the dangers of herbal medicine and told her that acupuncture was unproved and osteopathy was dangerous.
Apart from the fact that all these statements are untrue, as these therapies had been given by correctly qualified people, the GP managed to frighten Mrs J B and create a negative reaction towards treatments that in two months had done more to help her than three years of the orthodox approach. were told’. If the doctors had read the facts or even questioned the safety tests, a major disaster might have been averted. This scenario is being repeated constantly. At the time of writing, in the last year alone seven types of contraceptive pill have been shown to be hazardous. In the summer of 1996 a common cardiac drug was scrutinized for safety and failed. In 1995 the efficacy of AZT in the treatment of AIDS was disproved and the year before that, two of the three available measles vaccines were withdrawn. The third vaccine is currently under scrutiny. The list goes on and on.
Of course, the consideration of using any treatment outside the parameters of ‘scientifically’ proven, and therefore ‘safe’ (whether or not it has been used for thousands of years), is actively discouraged.
Good health has been defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), and I paraphrase,
This, I think, is typical of the state of healthcare or healing available in the West at the moment. Scientifically trained doctors who have had no teachers to advise them to stay in touch with their instincts, and who have been taught to accept nothing if it does not have a scientific explanation, are losing touch with the principles of healing. This case history is typical of the Western doctor’s approach to health and healthcare.
Doctors are trained to memorize facts and stay within specific boundaries or protocols until time and studies prove new techniques and treatments to be safe and effective or until they are shown to be dangerous. This often allows today’s orthodox doctor to be completely without responsibility, leaving much to the pharmaceutical industry who are not professional carers (in fact, one might say that they do not care at all) but are money-makers.
The most notorious example of this is the drug thalidomide. Doctors were told that prescribing thalidomide throughout pregnancy was safe, but this proved not to be true. After the damage was done, all the prescribers held up their hands and said ‘Do not blame us, not our fault, we did as we
The Three Levels of Health mind body
The well-being of an individual depends not only on the health of the mind and body, but also of the spirit, here represented by an aura around the head. xix ‘as a level of health that is not only free from illness but also includes the well-being of an individual in physical, emotional and spiritual terms’. In principle, the WHO is stating that good health requires a level of contentment on the following planes:
The physical/physiological/biochemical level
The psychological/conscious level
The spiritual/subconscious level
For thousands of years physicians, practitioners and healers in many disciplines have worked on the principle that health must be considered at all three levels. We are reaching a time when there is too much knowledge for any one physician to retain. Specialization is a necessity but not only with respect to the physical plane. We need advice on all three levels. We have reached a point where the life-saving doctors must work in tandem with the health-saving practitioners.
Holistic medicine is about understanding how to deal with all three levels and doing so in simple and effective ways. We all need to have an understanding of the simple processes of health maintenance and repair, with a knowledge of how to use the many disciplines, both orthodox and alternative, that are available.
This body, mind and soul ‘stuff’ is not some ethereal mumbo-jumbo either. Doctors today are not told about much of the evidence of a strong scientific nature that supports mind/body concepts. The most striking example is that of the psychiatric patient with multiple personalities reported by Drs Braun and Goldman. This patient, not unusual in having multiple personalities, was found to exhibit different diseases depending on who she was at any one time. One personality had diabetes and when this character was in control the patient’s sugar levels were very high. As soon as the personality changed, away went the diabetes. Another character developed hives in reaction to certain substances, and these also came and went with this persona.
The hypothesis that living cells contain a vital force is one that is present in many medical philosophies throughout the world. The West has lost sight of this because of an overdependence on science. This is even more strange because the foundations upon which this science is based are very flimsy. Chemistry is founded on physics. Physics has worked itself down to fundamental particles, atoms, electrons, quanta, quarks and so forth, but ask a physicist ‘How did it begin?’ or ‘What is the force holding electrons together or the force that we call gravity?’ and there is no definitive answer. We can measure the effects, but the vital force is unknown. If a rock falls to the ground, the vital force is gravity and this is accepted, yet if a tumour disappears by the influence of the vital force of a healer, it is unacceptable.
It is much easier to keep someone healthy than to get them better. The best way to avoid this is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and the following tips may give some guidance on how to do so.
The 24 hours in a day should be divided into the following:
Enjoyable, productive work 8hrs
Basic hygiene 0.5-lhr
Preparing and eating food 1 ½ -2hrs
Having fun The rest of the time
Of course, all these time suggestions are variable: 10 minutes of exercise is better than none, and the same could be said for meditation.
Sleep should not be cut out for the benefit of any of the other time allocations because sleep is essential for repair and well-being.
Wherever possible, work should be enjoyable and serious consideration given to changing employment that is not so.
Basic hygiene is very often overlooked in the West but is integrated into the social and religious philosophies of Eastern and Middle Eastern cultures. A Hindu, for example, would not consider eating before ablutions. All parts of the body should be considered, starting with a cleansing of the skin and hair, emptying of bowel and bladder and the cleaning of our VIPs (very important places!), which include the oral cavity, genitals, ears, nostrils and anus. Special attention should be paid to the feet, which are often neglected until a problem sets in.
I suggest that each day individuals give themselves marks out of five for each of these subjects, aiming to score over 40 points and ensuring at least 3 points in each category.
If sex is not available, score another five points with some other enjoyable activity!
Doing something creative
Prayer or meditation