Okay, full disclaimer. I'm not a medical professional and everything I write here is based on my own opinions and experiences. Seriously, take everything anyone says about this stuff with a huge, whopping grain of salt—including me. I'm relatively new to the whole holistic thing, so I really have no idea what I'm talking about, realistically. Point being, you shouldn't sue me.
On the whole, I've relied mostly on conventional medicines to treat illnesses, both acute and chronic. Except for deep breathing techniques and yoga (both widely accepted and backed by mounting positive evidence) I've doggedly stuck with scientifically-backed treatments and brushed off anything that came with a "holistic" stamp. It was capital-S Science or nothing.
Then, my world shifted a little bit and my rules started getting looser. I got bold and opened my horizons to acupressure, Epsom salts and guided meditation and visualizations. I even started looking into the healing properties of crystals, herbs and essential oils. Now, I'm considering various massage therapies (some of which are decidedly not conventional) and even the dreaded practice of acupuncture.
Why the change in heart? Many chronic conditions are poorly understood and obviously do not have cures. The inability of conventional medicines to fully treat its patients leads to a little desperation. We tend to focus on individual conditions instead of our whole body, which has always frustrated me. Our body's systems are extremely interconnected, so the exclusive zooming-in of issues never made sense to me. It can leave the rest of our bodies vulnerable to the damaging domino-effect done by a defect in an individual system because we see it as being separate. I still very much rely on and have faith in western medicine. I mean, come on. Science! But there is, undoubtedly, a lot that we still don't understand and there are millions of people waking up every day in pain. We don't always have the time or patience that science demands for us to wait for experimental, trial or research results. When western medicine alone can't give you relief, you can start to feel a little crazy. And, hey, if you're already feeling crazy, why not try "crazy" things?
Holistic medicine is a topic that can get people very excited and/or offended very easily and with reason. When we talk about health-related issues, we're talking about people's quality of life—what they get to do on their days off, if they can work, whether or not they can provide for their children in the way they want to.
Some people go farther and demonize western medicine completely for its inability to cure them, leaving them with undesirable options to treat illnesses and conditions that significantly lower their quality of life. Alternative medicine and homeopathy are appealing because it appears to give you more power and control over your health, seemingly without risky side-effects. Despite my new-found and growing respect for complementary medicines, I STRONGLY CAUTION against this course of action. It can reinforce magical thinking and lead you to more danger instead of recovery.
As with everything health related, it's important to really think through what is going to safely work for you and what isn't. Every decision you make is a risk. Take the western medicine and risk side effects in the long-term? Try alternative medicine and risk suffering a treatable symptom/condition for longer, possibly making it worse? Every situation is different and being open-minded to both sides of medicine is important.
Holistic methods are not supported by the scientific community but have shown promising results in trials and for me personally. While the research continues to be mostly sparse and inconclusive, there is always a call for more research because the method has shown possibility. That possibility is really all I need to place some selective hope in integrative medicine. This kind of thinking seems to be a growing trend in our society as integrative medicine becomes more popular.
If anything, I've learned (and am learning) that it's all about balance. If you're like me and have a knee-jerk reaction to turn your nose up at holistic methods, maybe take some time to explore what it has to offer. You can still do your research (I encourage it!) but consider taking a leap of faith, the same way you do when you try a new conventional medicine. The basis of these health-related discussions are deeply personal and their outcomes can be incredibly life-altering, for better or worse. It's ultimately up to each of us to decide what is best for us both individually and as a whole and to advocate for the things that make a difference in our lives.
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