When many of us get sick, the first person we think of visiting is the good ole’ primary care physician. But despite technology advances and prominence in our society, traditional healthcare isn’t necessarily the best option for every type of sickness.
There are many other forms of treatments and types of doctors out there that many of us are unfamiliar with. Holistic, naturopathic, and alternative medicine are just a few of the many terms that are used interchangeably and a bit fuzzy for those of us who have grown up in America’s healthcare system.
So in the spirit of being informed and knowing your treatment options, let’s take a closer look at what nontraditional doctors do and some key differences between different types of health practices.
Holistic medicine is a broad term that encompasses many different types of doctors who do not practice conventional medicine. There is a philosophy here about treating the whole person and that treatment should involve the mind, body, and spirit. In a holistic view, health cannot be achieved without a balance of these three human elements. This is an overall approach to life, rather than a single medical practice.
This is another broad term that encompasses several wellness approaches, including homeopathy, herbalism, and traditional Chinese medicine. Practicing these types of medicine typically requires one to achieve an advanced degree and certification. Alternative medicine can be used instead of conventional medicine or alongside it as necessary.
Homeopathic medicine has been gaining popularity in the Western world and was founded on the principal of the “Law of Similars.” This is the idea that if a large amount of a substance produces illness, then small amount of it can cure a person of it. Under the umbrella of holistic medicine, homeopathic treatments address the needs of patients as a whole. These types of doctors often recommend taking all-natural dietary supplements if you don’t get enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet.
Naturopathic doctors focus on a holistic approach, proactive treatment, and comprehensive treatment. These doctors treat many types of medical conditions, including life-threatening ones like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Although these doctors can perform minor procedures on wounds and cysts, they do not perform major surgical operations. Many of these doctors diagnose patients in the same way that conventional doctors do, but they present a wider array of treatment options that are more natural.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
This is one of the oldest types of medicine in the world and dates back over 2,000 years. It has gained popularity in Western cultures recently as well and focuses healing on the concept of “qi,” which means life force. Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnoses can be subjective and include more personal observations of the physician than other types of medicine. Herbs and animal parts are often used to treat conditions.
Ayurvedic Medicine was developed in India and although it reflects that particular culture, it has a global reach as well. It focuses on the physical elements of earth, water, wind, water, fire, and ether and three distinct personality types. Ayurveda researchers have been focusing their attention on how to use ginger, turmeric, boswellia, and gotu kola for treating conditions like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s. Treatments often involve herbs, yoga, detoxification, and massage.
Complementary medicine does not attempt to replace conventional medicine, but rather complement it with non-invasive procedures that don’t involve medications. Examples of this type of medicine are chiropractic, massage therapy, and acupuncture. Chiropractors and massage therapists use hand techniques to align the spine to ease health conditions, while acupuncturists use needles to trigger key points on the body. Each of these fields of medicine requires extensive training and certification in the U.S.
Natural Health Services
Regardless of which type of non-conventional medicine you look into, these are some of the services that natural health practitioners may be able to assist you with. It’s a good idea to understand all of the treatment options available and keep an open mind about the safest and best ways to treat what ails you.
- Anti-aging services
- Hormone therapy
- Chiropractic adjustments
- Diet, counseling and nutrition
- Gynecological services
- Life coaching
- Metabolic therapies
- Sports medicine
- Chronic pain
- Digestive issues
- Respiratory conditions
- Heart disease
- Fertility problems
- Adrenal fatigue