Q. What is Holistic medicine?
A. This has different meanings for different people. The American Holistic Medical Association, an organization of medical doctors and doctors of osteopathy, defines it as "a philosophy of medical care which emphasizes personal responsibility and fosters a cooperative relationship among all those involved. It encompasses all safe modalities of diagnosis and treatment while emphasizing the whole person--physical, mental and spiritual."
In my practice, it means doing exactly the right thing for the individual from among all the options available. Sometimes that means pharmaceuticals, sometimes an herb or vitamin, and sometimes just listening and reflecting back on the nature of their situation.
Q. Can I smoke and stay healthy?
A. No, but if you are unable or unwilling to discontinue smoking, you need to take measures to limit damage. Even though everyone seems to have an Uncle Bill who smoked, drank, and caroused until he was 95, the greatest majority of people who tax the body with these and other burdensome substances suffer negative health consequences.
Q. What is natural medicine?
A. This is the use of substances and treatment methods found in the natural world to address illness or maintain health. A doctor of naturopathic medicine is someone who has had postgraduate training, usually four years, in most of these methods. Training encompasses study of herbal medicine, nutritional and lifestyle approaches, and work with the body and the emotional aspects of health, to name a few.
Q. What is homeopathy?
A. This is one of the more controversial techniques in alternative medicine in our country, although it is much more widely embraced in Europe and parts of Asia. Homeopathy uses exceedingly dilute solutions of thousands of natural substances to (according to homeopathic theory) stimulate a healing response in the body.
The two main schools of thought in homeopathy seem to be "Classical" and "Symptomatic." A Classical approach uses detailed assessment of symptoms to decide which homeopathic product will best stimulate the response. Symptomatic homeopathy treats, as you can guess, symptoms. There are hundreds of products available for flu, colds, fatigue, you-name-it.
Now, does it work? I have seen effective homeopathy where other treatments have not worked. I have also had patients come to me after years of homeopathic treatment that didn't help, who needed other forms of therapy.
Finding a practitioner who knows how, when, and when not to use homeopathy is probably a good place to start finding a homeopathic approach to your health situation. In the Puget Sound region, there are many trained homeopathic practitioners. Most large cities in the U.S. also have such practitioners, though they might not advertise, depending on state law regarding homeopathic treatment. Book and Internet resources on homeopathy are plentiful and can serve as a sufficient starting point.
Henry Hochberg, M.D. is a board certified family physician with a special interest in wellness and natural approaches to health care. Send your health and medical questions to: Ask Dr. Henry, c/o Woodinville Weekly; P.O. Box 587; Woodinville, WA 98072; or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.