A Complete Guide to Understanding Holistic Medicine and Holistic Naturopathy Treatment
by Mokhtar Akbari, Homeopath and Naturopath in Ottawa Gatineau
Most people who look for a naturopath in Ottawa Gatineau assume that they will get holistic treatment. But naturopathic medicine is not always holistic. It does not always aim to treat your whole being. And when it is holistic, it can be so to varying degrees.
At the Ottawa Gatineau Homeopathy Clinic, we offer truly holistic naturopathy. Here, we explain what is holistic naturopathy and how you will benefit by receiving treatment that is truly holistic in nature.
Mokhtar Akbari is a co-founder of the Ottawa Gatineau Homeopathy Clinic. He is passionate about helping patients learn about holistic medicine and benefit from it.
What Does "Holistic" Mean?
The word holistic comes from the greek root holos, which means "all, whole or entire". The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines holistic as: "relating to or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts".
Therefore, in naturopathic medicine, a holistic treatment considers all levels of a human being. It encompasses your specific physical problem and takes your very individual mental-emotional make-up into account. It is a treatment in which the naturopath understands your disease as it relates to you as a whole to achieve long- lasting health.
A holistic treatment addresses the issue you have in your specific body part (ie: your stomach) and helps to correct the underlying imbalance in your whole being.
Holistic remedies as found in homeopathy are by their nature able to reach into the subtle layers where imbalances occur and the proclivity to disease forming originate. This is the gold standard of holistic treatment.
In reality, many medical doctors and other health care providers such as naturopaths aspire to this type of treatment, but they are often limited by the tools at their disposal. Their tools and treatment methods were not designed with a holistic intent.
Level 1: Holistic Intent
In most cases of medical treatments, the practitioner's only focus remains to improve the condition of the diseased body part, to render it free of complaints and to achieve lab results within the normal range. If this happens the treatment is assumed successful. That is just how far many health specialists usually see. If your specific complaint is better, but you are feeling more and more depressed, treatment is still deemed successful.
In such a case, your naturopath might refer you to a psychologist or try to address the depression themselves with another herb or treatment. But the point is that although many practitioners have a holistic intent, although they see you as a whole person, the methods and tools they use are often not holistic. Therefore, the treatment you receive is not really holistic.
The Body as a Machine
The conventional medical paradigm is actually based on a mechanistic view of the body. In this view, the body is seen as a machine, with different components and parts. When there is a problem, we focus on the specific part that has the problem, look at how it is behaving differently than a normal organ, then give it a disease label or diagnosis based on these findings. Then we choose a treatment that was tested on that part (ie: a drug for heartburn) and aim to correct the abnormality in that part.
The whole of medicine is based on this premise. This is why we have medical specialists for the brain (neurologist), the heart (cardiologist), the bones (orthopedic surgeon) and for every other body system and part. This method has its merits and areas of usefulness, but it ignores a very obvious fact about the reality of being human: humans are not machines.
But Humans Are Not Machines
When the windshield of a car cracks, it has no impact on the rest of the car. You can replace the windshield and the car is as new. But when a person sustains a serious injury, say in a car accident, it affects him as a whole. Broken bones will result in psychological distress and trauma which will affect his whole body and mind.
If we are put in situations of emotional stress, our physical ailments tend to get worse. This shows that in a human being, different bodily systems and organs coexist in such an intimate way that they affect each other constantly. And therein lies the need also to understand health and disease in a holistic way, to understand how one organ impacts the other, how the mind affects the body and vice versa.
And what is more, to use methods of identifying disease and treating disease at this level. To ask: what is going on in the whole person and how is the imbalance in the whole person creating or contributing to the disease i am seeing in this specific body part or organ? This is the crux of holistic treatment. And it is largely ignored by today's medicine!
Unfortunately, naturopathy does not escape this world view. It is shaped and informed by the mechanistic paradigm of conventional medicine. Therefore, although naturopaths use natural methods and substances, and although most of them have holistic intent, many of the methods that they use for identifying and treating disease are mechanistic, meaning that they focus on the part or organ and treat the part or organ in isolation.
They see you as a whole, they have holistic intent and what they best they can do in terms of holistic treatment is to give you different treatments for different parts with the hope that this will help you as a whole. No doubt it will help you to some extent, but the treatment they are providing still does not address the bigger picture, it does not address the deeper imbalance that connects your ailments together. This is the level at which most health practitioners, including many naturopaths, operate.
Naturopathic Medicine is an umbrella term for different natural treatment modalities. As per the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, naturopaths may use a wide range of natural treatment methods including:
suggesting lifestyle changes (diet, exercises, sleep, etc.)
traditional Chinese medicine & acupuncture
These all have their usefulness but the systems of natural medicine that are actual based on a holistic premise and use holistic tools to identify and treat disease are mainly homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Nutrition can also be applied holistically to some extent but by and large homeopathy and TCM are the main avenues of deeper holistic treatment.
Level 2: Deeper Holistic Treatment
At the our clinic, we specialize in classical homeopathy. In principle, we treat all ailments with homeopathic medicine unless individual circumstances dictate otherwise. We believe that homeopathy provides the best and deepest form of holistic naturopathy possible. Here is why:
The homeopathic system of medicine is designed from the ground up to assess and treat the whole person.
The homeopathic assessment aims to understand the imbalance in the person as a whole and how this imbalance impacts or sustains the specific ailment that the person is consulting for.
Scientific studies of homeopathic medicines are performed to assess their potential to heal the imbalances that permeate the whole person (body and mind).
The homeopathic treatment aims to simultaneously treat the central imbalance and the specific disease in the body part.
Homeopaths assess the success of their treatment by improvements in the specific disease and indicators of improved health in the whole person.
A Case Example of Holistic Naturopathy with Homeopathy - Assessment and Case Analysis
To illustrate the elegance of homeopathy in the realm of holistic treatment, we will use a fictitious case example. Fred is a patient who comes in for the treatment of eczema on his forearms. The mechanistic way to treat eczema is to see it only as a problem that is specific to one organ, the skin. The treatment is of course a cream to treat the skin itself. This can take the form of cortisone or some other agent.
From a homeopathic perspective, our first question about Fred is : What is unique about Fred's eczema, how is it different from other types? We question Fred and figure out that his eczema is :
accompanied by severely dry skin,
worse in the morning when he wakes up,
worse when he is in a warm place,
and worse after he eats mashed potatoes.
Furthermore, he elaborates that when the eczema gets really bad and he is itching himself non stop, he feels as if he is in a limbo, dazed and confused about it all. He does not understand why it is happening. He think and thinks about it but he can't figure. In the end, he just feels confused and lost.
Now we have individualized his eczema, knowing what are the specifics that make it peculiar to him and also how it makes him feel as a whole.
A Holistic Assessment
We now continue the homeopathic assessment, going over all of his body systems from head to toe. Fred volunteers the following information:
Mentally, he feels very slow and dull, especially he is asked to focus and accomplish many tasks at work. He can't concentrate properly and finish the work on time, which makes him anxious and uncertain about his future at his job.
He hardly sweats at all, even when exercising or during warm weather.
He is very thirsty in general and is always sipping water.
He has had severe constipation for his whole life and can only have bowel movements every few days with the use of laxatives.
He has arthritis in both knees, with pain and lots of cracking and grinding, especially in stairs. He says he falls behind when going on hiking expeditions with friends. He then wonders why he is so slow. And the more he thinks, the more confused he gets about it all.
Holistic Case Analysis
What should we make of all of this information? If we look closely, we will see that all this information from different parts of the body, converges in 2 main threads:
Dryness: There is dryness on the skin, dryness in his cracking joints and dryness in his digestive tract, leading to constipation. Also, he can't sweat properly and he is thirsty all the time. So there is a dry imbalance in his body, or an inability to process water properly. Mentally, the counterpart to this dryness is a dry mind. A dry mind means a mind that is inflexible, that is slow and has difficulty adapting to new situations and demands. Indeed this is what Fred experiences.
Confusion: Fred's emotional experience of the stress brought on by his eczema is a state of dullness and confusion, which is similar to the his experience of stress at work and stress while hiking with friends. Here, we see that 3 separate problems coalesce into one similar experience. In homeopathy, this experience is seen as a very important part of the central imbalance that Fred suffers from.
In this case, Fred was diagnosed by his physician with eczema, anxiety, constipation and arthritis. These are the local diagnosis of the parts. Now in terms of his holistic picture, we identify the core imbalances that need treatment as a dryness imbalance accompanied by a central experience of slowness, dullness and confusion.
In homeopathy, this is what we want to treat as this is the core imbalance that underlies the eczema. A skin that is not able to sweat and regulate its water content cannot be healthy, no matter how many creams you apply to it.
Now we look at our tools for holistic naturopathic treatment. As I mentioned previously, homeopathy is built from the ground up to be holistic. The treatment in homeopathy is by using homeopathic medicines.
These are made from herbal, mineral or animal substances (without harming animals). They are made in a very specific way which is unique to homeopathic remedies. Their fabrication process brings out the healing potential of the medicines while removing any toxic effects.
Discovering The Healing Properties of Homeopathic Remedies
To uncover the healing potential of these remedies, scientific experiments are conducted in homeopathy. These are called provings. However, while conventional medicine studies the effect of a substance only one a specific organ, system or part of the body, scientific studies in homeopathy aim to find the effects that a natural substance can have on the whole body and mind.
This means that in these studies, information is gathered about the effects of the substance in every organ and part of the body. Information is also gathered on the general effects of substances across body systems (like dryness for instance). Finally, data is gathered about the kind of mental impression or central experience that every substance can uniquely heal in a whole person.
This information is then amassed in databases and allows homeopaths to understand how a natural substance affects the body and mind as a whole, and what kind of central and general disturbances it can heal.
Alumina - The Homeopathic Remedy
Alumina, the homeopathic remedy made from aluminum oxyde, was tested in scientific proving experiment Dr. Samuel Hahnemann and published in the book The Chronic Diseases in 1828. An online version of the Proving of Alumina can be found at Homéopathe International.
Dr Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, found that when homeopathically prepared, Alumina can heal many symptoms related to a general dryness imbalance, including eczema, arthritis, constipation, and mental dullness, slowness and confusion.
Since then, countless people have been treated with this remedy. After matching this remedy to Fred's symptoms and deciding on it. We will give him 2 granules of Alumina 12c to take by mouth, daily for a month. During the course of this month, Fred will undergo a deep holistic healing response.
We say "deep" because in addition to his eczema improving, Fred will notice that his general dryness imbalance is improving, and with it all of the symptoms that were associated with it. He will see improvement in his bowel movements, his skin will start sweating more, his knees will become less dry and painful and his mind sharper and gradually more able to function.
After a few more months and gradually higher doses of Alumina, Fred will find that his experience of self doubt, self questioning and confusion in times of stress will start to fade. Although his mind is working better and faster, yet there is another part to his healing journey.
He will find himself doing work to the best of his capacity and hiking to the best of his capacity, and letting the results be what they may. He will feel happier and more free and accepting of himself and his limitations. This he will find to be one of his most precious unexpected benefits of receiving true holistic treatment. He came in for his eczema and left feeling better on a whole other level, and healthier too.
Indicators of Improved Health in the Whole Person
Fred was surprised to see that at every follow up consultation, his homeopath precisely tracked not only his eczema and other ailments, but also his overall level of energy, mood, quality of sleep and sense of well-being. These form an integral part of a homeopathic follow-up and are hallmarks of a deeper holistic treatment method. Over the next months, Fred saw improvements in all these areas as his eczema and other physical symptoms got better.
This then is a glimpse of what is possible when you consult us for some holistic naturopathy treatment in Ottawa Gatineau or online through video consultations. As naturopaths specialized in homeopathy, we have the holistic intent needed to treat you the person and the tools needed to make holistic treatment a reality for you. As a result, you will experience benefits on a deeper level and see your overall health improve along with your specific ailments.