There is a growing population in America and around the globe who are turning to holistic, alternative practitioners for all of their health needs. The western medicine practice of “medicate or operate” has proven to be a redundant, and often dangerous approach to health care, led by not only physicians, but also by insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Chronic illness, overflowing medicine cabinets, outrageous costs, and a basic distrust of the medical establishment, are pushing people to finally take charge of their health and to learn alternatives to traditional care. This brings up the question, what is alternative health?
To understand the nature of holistic health, we first have to redefine our place in the world. Instead of seeing ourselves as mechanical bodies that may need “fixing,” we have to begin to realize our entire connection to nature and the universe. We are, after all, energy. Regardless of our religious beliefs or cultural histories, the scientific truth is that we are dense energy made up of minerals, water, enzymes and nutrients. We have a sophisticated infrastructure, a massive transportation system, a board of directors, managers and employees, all working twenty-four hours a day to keep us alive. The heart is our main pumping station, and our conscious mind the director and decision-maker. We have an electronic system that works properly when everything is connected or “plugged in,” and when there is a conductive medium for that electricity. We are 70% to 80% water, the best conductor of electricity, and within our complex human “cities,” we also have systems of absorption and elimination, waste disposal, recycling plants, intake valves and entry points. If we look at our bodies this way, we can understand why western medicine has concentrated on medications or surgery to alleviate problems within these systems.
The holistic practitioner understands these systems, but also incorporates the sub-conscious and unconscious mind, the different layers of energy that surround us, our genealogical and geographical history, and the very important soul of our existence.
Our connection to the earth is somewhat simple. We learn at a very early age that the earth has a north and a south pole. As children, we envision actual poles, often with flags, and we learn these poles are either positive or negative. When we learn about magnets, we understand that opposites attract and likes repel, but seldom do we put this is the context of constant energy that flows around the earth and around us. We aren’t always taught that we are made up of the same material as the earth we walk on. We have the same minerals, all elements with a specific polarity, and we, too, are 70% to 80% water. We are conductors, and when healthy and balanced, we are little filaments of light reaching to Heaven or the universe.
Lightning strikes the earth several thousand times a day. This electrical energy from above breaks apart chemical bonds, ionizing the air and the water, and recharges the earth’s surface. We can feel and smell the difference after a cleansing rainstorm. Because we walk on the earth, we are also supposed to be continually “recharged,” our chemistry realigned for optimal performance and our cyclic energy fields cleared of impedance.
But we are human. As human beings, we make choices. We choose to eat improperly or not hydrate our bodies. We choose to become stagnant ponds or to push our bodies beyond their capabilities. We choose anger over understanding, judgment over compassion, war over peace, and all of these things cause our precious systems, our living beings, to go out of balance, deteriorate, and eventually die.
Holistic health looks at the whole body and its connection to Heaven and earth. It is not, as some proclaim, as simple as adding certain vitamins or herbs, or drinking a specific tea, or writing a book that proclaims a holistic approach only to have the final message resort to surgery or “miracle cures.” It is, instead, the whole person, where you came from, and where your parents came from. It is how and when you moved and changed your drinking water and diet. It is the “little’ things that have happened to you on your earthwalk; the children, the accidents, the divorce, the jobs. It is examining the way you think about yourself, if you truly love who you are and are committed to the relationship you have with yourself. It is understanding your spirit; not your religion, but the spirit that guides you and allows you to be healthy or prohibits you from finding the right path.
The holistic approach to health takes the time to ask questions and receive the information your body, mind and spirit are ready to share. When did your headaches start? How long has your back bothered you? Did you fall as a child? Are you happy at work? When did you decide you were depressed, or did someone decide that for you? Why did you have the surgery and do you believe it worked? What medications are you taking and why?
The answers to any of these questions often bring up more questions, and more often ignite that part of the brain that holds onto memory. We suddenly remember that we had knee trouble after learning we didn’t get a promotion at work, or before we moved to a new state. We remember that the headaches started soon after the car accident when we didn’t think we were hurt, or right after childbirth when we thought the backaches were normal. We took aspirin, or started taking prescribed medications, so we could get back to work. We masked the symptoms, and then got a new signal from the body later that something was still wrong. Our knee problem turned into a hip problem, so we had surgery. Our job problem turned into migraine headaches, so we took more pills. We moved from Montana to Florida and didn’t know the water was so different. We had a toothache and got crowns, but didn’t remember that the ear problems or coughing began soon after that. The questions bring us back to reality and often to the cause of the problem. Now what?
Holistic health helps us to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Now we know the cause, but what is the cure? Are we back to a certain herb or tea? No. The process of relying on a certain herb, vitamin, tea, or modality as a “cure” for our condition is still the western medicine approach to health of treating the symptom with a dosage of something or fixing one part of the body as a cure-all for the entire being. The holistic approach mandates dealing with the whole picture. It also inherently demands that the patient begin to take charge of his or her own health. That, in itself, warrants education, and the holistic practitioner is bound by practice to begin educating the client about the body, mind, and spirit so that the client has more control and understands the reasons for any and all suggested therapies.
The correct approach is contained in the Seven Keys to health as explained in “Forget the Cures, Find the Cause.” Is the body in alignment? Is the body hydrated correctly with healthy water? What exercises or stretches are important to recovery? Is the body properly nourished and is there absorption of that nourishment? Is the body eliminating waste and toxins correctly? Are the three parts of the mind helping or hindering the healing process? Is the spirit positive or negative?
There are specific bodywork modalities that many refer to as holistic health. Massage, reflexology, Reiki, and yoga are a few. There are also those who refer to themselves as holistic counselors such as diet experts, nutritional counselors, and herbalists. Then there are western medical practitioners who refer to themselves as holistic doctors or nurses, but who are mostly just incorporating vitamins or herbs in their practices.
Reflexology is very holistic in its approach because the feet and hands are the human connectors to the energy around us and provide “maps” to energy blockages, but it is still a modality, a useful form of bodywork to help bring the body back into balance.
Massage in all of its commercialized forms is also holistic in nature as it increases circulation, thus empowering the circulatory and lymphatic systems to transport nutrients and eliminate toxic wastes. It helps to ease stress because the body doesn’t have to work as hard to get back into balance, but it, too, is a body modality.
Nutritional counselors concentrate on food and/or vitamins, but too often are educated only on a specific manufacturer’s line of nutrients or are unaware of the possible consequences to different body systems because they are not fully holistic-educated professionals.
Yoga is a popular stretching and relaxation process, but again, is a modality, not an answer. If the body is misaligned or there isn’t proper nutritional balance, yoga can actually cause more stress on muscles and joints and become a problem rather than a solution.
Herbalists provide nature’s remedies from plants, but it has to be remembered that herbs are medicine. No herb should be taken on a daily basis for too long, as herbs can then be more harmful than helpful.
Traditional doctors who are incorporating vitamin supplements or piecemeal massage into their practices are, unfortunately, merely substituting for pharmaceuticals and partial, temporary physical relief from a symptom.
It’s time for true Complementary Alternative Medicine. It’s time for western medicine to drop the elitist façade and for alternative practitioners to get scientifically educated so that patients and clients can have the best of both worlds. Doctors need to understand the many modalities and approaches to holistic health, and then refer patients to the proper practitioners with trust and cooperation. Alternative therapists need to understand the science behind medicine, not just the implied spirituality or energy, and then refer their clients to cooperative and informed physicians.
In many Native American cultures, the word medicine means self-knowledge. Many Native American tribes have incorporated the principles of Holistic or alternative health for centuries. The Native American Medicine wheel calls in the four directions of North, East, West, and South, and then allows all participants to speak and be heard. Each direction is given a color, a vibration, and each is given an animal spirit to guide it. The East is the Eagle and the color yellow or orange. It is rebirth, a new day, just as we awaken to the new sun. The South is red, and the coyote is the animal. This direction is for our soul purpose, our reason for being here. The coyote is the trickster, and we often listen to our minds instead of our souls when making decisions. We “trick” ourselves into believing we’re doing the right thing or are on the right path. The West is the cave, the color black. The bear goes into the cave with faith that it will heal and wake up I spring. The cave allows us to go inside of ourselves and find the true answers to healing. The North is the White Buffalo, a sacred animal to many tribes. This is the direction of healing. Making a personal medicine wheel can be the beginning of understanding holistic health.
We all need to become more educated and informed, more in touch with our natural being, our connection to Heaven and earth, so we can take charge of our own health. Health care costs will go down, the pharmaceutical companies will lose their power over our lives and eventually evolve into the medicinal companies they were intended to be, surgical and applied litigation would decrease which, in turn, will lower insurance costs, and the average person will be able to live a healthier, longer life.
We were meant to walk the earth in balance. We were meant to remember that we are a part of her, just as the earth is a part of God or the Creator. We were meant to use the earth’s resources to heal ourselves and to stay healthy. We were meant to respect our body, mind, and spirit as a powerful triangle, a magnificent creation, a cooperative miracle. That is the nature and definition of Holistic Health.

Author's Bio: 

Rayna Gangi is a Holistic Health Consultant, author, teacher and therapist. She is also the popular host of the international podcast, The Holistic Health Hotline with Rayna G. on