Finding Dr. Right
More and more Americans are looking for practitioners who will approach their health from a holistic, whole-person perspective. “Too many people right now are just being treated,” says osteopathic physician Rob Danoff, D.O., M.S., the director for two residency programs at Aria Health in Philadelphia. “Treating is not the same as healing, which means helping physically, emotionally and spiritually.” Integrative practitioners and holistic physicians like Danoff work to understand a person’s unique medical, family and occupational history; lifestyle; and emotional and physical symptoms in order to get to the root cause of an illness. “One pill or one treatment does not fit all,” says Danoff. “We try to individualize care to the person, not the disease.” If more personalized health care sounds appealing to you, you’re in luck because there are a growing number of integrative options to choose from. It pays to take the time to explore these various schools of healing and find out which most resonate with you: Studies show that up to 70 percent of any treatment’s success results from the patient’s belief that it will work. To help you get started, here are brief introductions to the seven most common types of holistic care.
Ayurveda Followers of this ancient Indian medical tradition believe that every person is born with a unique constitution that’s a combination of physical, mental and emotional characteristics. Each constitution is ruled by three basic “energies”: airy vata, which controls movement; fiery pitta, which controls digestion; and grounded kapha, which controls structure. Because illness is said to come from an imbalance of these three, an ayurvedic practitioner will assess your energies and recommend diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes in order to restore balance. She may also prescribe purification practices, such as massage, herbal medicines or a cleanse, to rid your body of toxins. Learn more: ayurveda.com
Chiropractic The focus of chiropractic therapy is on the structure and function of the spine and its effects on the body’s musculoskeletal and neurological systems. As a result, most practitioners primarily treat back, head, neck and joint pain and stiffness. A chiropractor (D.C.) will take a medical history, do a physical exam and sometimes order an MRI or X-rays, then manipulate, or adjust, your spine and extremities accordingly. He also will often suggest rehabilitative exercises that you can do at home, as well as better positions for sleeping, sitting and the like, to help ease discomfort. Learn more: acatoday.org
Homeopathy Homeopathic medicine is based on the law of similars, which states that “like cures like.” Practitioners use substances found in nature— herbs, minerals, foods and animal products—and greatly dilute them with water to create “micro-doses” of whatever ails you. For example, when you peel an onion, your eyes usually itch and water, your nose runs and you sneeze. So when a cold or allergy is causing those same symptoms, a remedy made from onion can help calm them. Homeopathic remedies are safe and usually inexpensive. Learn more: homeopathic.org
Integrative medicine Integrative physicians are M.D.s who may concentrate on specific areas, such as OB-GYN or endocrinology, but also practice holistic healing. As such, they bring together conventional and alternative treatment options, from medications to meditation. The common thread is that they provide individualized, patient-centered care and rely on lifestyle modifications (e.g., nutrition, exercise and stress reduction) to cure illness and manage chronic disease. Many also have training in areas such as homeopathy, aromatherapy or acupuncture. Learn more: holisticmedicine.org