Is there really a difference between a conventional approach versus a holistic approach to health? I’d like to give you two scenarios to consider in answer to this important question. 

Would you say this is a holistic approach to health? 

Scenario #1

You arrive 15 min earlier than your appointment time to fill out your paper work and check your insurance coverage.  You take your seat in a crowded waiting area, complete the paperwork, take a bathroom break, and then return to wait it out.

Your primary care physician referred you to this new doctor because of your 8-month history of pain in your stomach. Fortunately, you remembered to bring your blood test results, list of medications, and copies of your ultrasound and Cat Scan results in case this new doctor is not connected to the electronic records from the 3 other doctors you have recently seen. You are hoping to finally get an answer to what is causing the pain and how to stop it.

It is now one hour since you signed in.

Really, six people called before me? When will I ever get to find out about this pain? For all I know, I could have cancer just like my Aunt Ruth.

You step back up to the front desk to ask how much longer. You get a frosty quip- “The doctor is seeing patients and will see you as soon as she/he can.”  Not a polite, informative, nor reassuring answer. Patience. 

Finally, the nurse calls your name and escorts you to the doctor’s examination room. This new doctor asks you what your problem or complaint is and reviews your paperwork and lab results, and is focused on inputting this data into your electronic record. He/she then examines you upon his/her specialty training and your complaint. 

You are reassured that nothing major is wrong and your results are all “within normal limits.”

So why don’t I know what’s wrong with me? Why do I still have pain?

This doctor hands you a prescription for Motrin or maybe even a narcotic pain medication to hold you until you can get an appointment to see your Gyn doctor, even though you’ve recently had a normal annual Gyn exam.

Now let’s look at another version of a holistic approach to health for the same patient.

Scenario #2: 

You arrive 15 min before your appointment time, hand over your 4 paged personal medical history papers you completed at home, as well as your outside lab and Xray tests results.

You join the other three patients sitting in the waiting area. After about 20 minutes the nurse invites you back to see your doctor.

The doctor spends a total of 50 minutes with you for your visit.

She/he asks you what your problem is while looking at you instead of typing on the computer. This doctor knows that your body language can be a helpful clue to understanding your problem. She/he listens to you without interruption.

Then the doctor asks you about what type of work you do, how much sleep you get each night, what you usually eat for breakfast and/or dinner, any food allergies or intolerances, how much time you spend outdoors, how much exercise or how physically active you are? She/he questions you about the use of any medications or supplements, as well as any alcohol, cigarettes or drug use, now or in the past. 

This doctor also reassures you that nothing major is wrong.

She/he explains that symptoms lasting more than six months means the problem is chronic, not acute.  Not acute means the doctor can comfortably tell you there is no evidence of infection, holes or leakages in internal organs, or tumors in your abdomen. 

Because she/he can sense that you are still feeling a bit stressed, the doctor again reassures that you definitely do not have cancer. And you are not given pain medication. But you are given information on how to do an elimination diet to identify possible food intolerances/allergies. Then, she/he asks you to do a 24-hour water or bone broth Fast to detox to cleanse your system. The doctor then recommends you take activated charcoal capsules to help bind gaseous byproducts from your current diet.

You are given handouts on nutrition including information on how to eat more high fiber foods and the health benefits of whole food plant-based eating.  You are instructed to keep a food diary for at least one week and then follow up again in 2 to 4 weeks depending on your response to the recommended therapy.

Which scenario do you think is the more holistic approach to health?

Did Scenario #1 or Scenario #2 feel more compassionate and caring?

Which had a disease management approach versus a find-the-cause approach?

Did Scenario #1 or Scenario #2 offer you a means of figuring out your problem?

Which one put you in charge vs referred you to yet another physician/specialist?

Without a doubt, it is Scenario#2 that demonstrates a holistic approach to health because:  

  • You spent more time with the doctor instead of sitting in the waiting room forever
  • The doctor listened to you without interruption and you can have a real conversation with the doctor
  • The doctor focused on finding the root cause of your problem instead of merely treating your pain symptoms 
  • Finally, the doctor educated/informed you about diet and lifestyle as key contributors to improve your health

A holistic approach to health means understanding that balance is important because everything is interconnected and each part relates to, affects, and is affected by the other.

There is a new trend towards a more holistic approach to health that includes diet/lifestyle corrections, as well as attention to the mind-body-spiritual triad and our overall well being.

I’m Dr. Sy Powell a board-certified OBGYN gone rogue! I now practice from a holistic functional medicine perspective. I know that a functional medicine approach can completely change your life for the betterIt’s done so for me. For a FREE e-book about taking back control of your health, visit this page. And to learn more about my work, visit my services page. Yours In Health