Updated: Aug 27, 2020
Finding yourself scratching your head with the same level of perplexity comparable to standing in a grocery aisle looking at the vast array of different toilet papers? Isn't it all the same? Don't they all perform the same function?...
Let me break it down for you...
Holistic healthcare and integrative medicine are often seen as synonymous as both view treatment as “whole person care” and is more a way of practice rather than the protocols by which certain health ailments are addressed; treatment is all encompassing, focusing on mind, body and spirit. Holistic healing believes that each individual has the innate capability to heal and return back to homeostasis (your body's sense of balance... and equilibrium) if given the proper tools and knowledge to implement lifestyle changes in a conducive environment with proper support. An example of holistic healthcare would be energy healing, a practice often denounced and seen as controversial by standard healthcare practices as “energy” can be hard to quantify with standard scientific instrumentation. However, more research has been proving that energy does in fact play a role (and perhaps a very large one) on the control of biology. Guan & Reed’s research exemplified this on a cellular level by the modulation of electromagnetic frequency (which are wavelengths of energy) on the influence of membrane sodium, potassium and calcium ion channels. Why is this important or what does this even mean? Think of these ion channels as the pistons that ignites and propels the engine that is each and every one of your cells which ultimately ensures that meat suit of yours is able to perform the mundane daily activities such as breathing, solving complex problems and tasks or simply telling your kid to stop picking his nose for the 52nd time -- all of this, at the level of the cell, can be influenced by wavelengths of energy! ...Now let's table this thought as it pertains to paradigms of healthcare practices until we reach the end of this blog post... Other practices that would often be categorized under holistic or integrative treatment include: massage therapy, acupuncture, aromatherapy and meditation.
Functional healthcare is defined as the model that approaches care in a cooperative engagement between patient and healthcare provider “to address the underlying causes of disease and promote optimal wellness” through the bio-individualized approach of utilizing one’s genetics, blood biomarkers and lifestyle to better create an efficient means of treatment. Functional medicine is much like holistic medicine in that the patient is seen as a whole rather than a malfunctioning system. However, this form of practice often takes a more systemized approach to treatment and may employ traditional techniques of cause and effect correlations to determine the origin of the ailment being addressed. Nonetheless, the focus of functional healthcare is to promote vitality and health/life optimization rather than just the absence of disease.
Western medicine (also known as allopathic medicine) is the healthcare system that “treats symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation or surgery” -- hey, don't shoot the messenger, this is verbatim from the National Cancer Institute's website that is a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This form of medicine is often synonymous to “putting a Band-Aid over the problem” with said: drugs, radiation or surgery. Forms of treatment are often directed to a specific organ system (i.e. antidepressants for neurological, blood pressure medication for cardiovascular) without much consideration towards the body/anatomical being as a whole. Western medicine is what has driven the ideology of “a quick fix” which has made it very difficult for the implementation of alternative medicines that, by nature of the practice, may typically take more time. This doesn't mean that there isn't a place for allopathic care -- quite the contrary, this form of healthcare is unfortunately very much needed as oftentimes individuals find themselves in such dire circumstances that other options may be too far gone as a consideration.
Where does nutrition fall in all of this? Ever been at the doctor's and was told the generic, "you need to lose weight" but never provided any further guidance? Newsflash.... Nutrition is an aspect highly emphasized in holistic, functional and integrative medicine but is sadly lacking in the traditional Western medicine approach. Traditional healthcare education barely places focus on nutrition and more time is concerned with the learning of the “efficacy” and use of the latest pharmaceutical drug. Despite this, nutrition should be in the forefront of education and training both to the public and within our healthcare systems. And although the trend is definitely (albeit, slowly... even my own father didn't understand why I was going into the field of nutrition because, "isn't that what doctors are for?".... Bless his heart) shifting this way, there are certain ideologies with outdated “scientific research” that may still be primitively referenced to this day. The dissolution of these beliefs may only fully resolve when the majority population that are stubbornly holding on to them pass with the generation, opening the road for new modalities and thought patterns to bloom.
The trend towards alternative medicine is beautifully represented in the practice of chiropractic work. The basis of this practice revolves around the realignment of energy (recall what was mentioned above under holistic/integrative medicine) throughout the body, but was widely dismissed by standard medical practices as quackery up until the early 1900s. After much push and shove by these practitioners, chiropractic work finally gained the respect that it deserved and is now often provided as a complementary alternative form of treatment within the standard healthcare system.
To the tune of that final note, I implore you to be your own pioneers and advocates of inquisition when it comes to exhausting all routes of health and lifestyle optimization when finding what is right for you. After all, I hardly believe that you would accept being told that there's only one model of a car, one style of sneakers or one flavor of ice cream (eew to mint chocolate chip, but you might like it!) that you could choose from - EVER! So why would you limit yourself in this way when it comes to health, or even healthcare?