A Look into Mind-Body Medicine

In most Western medical practices, mental health and physical health are viewed as two separate entities; physical health is handled by a primary care physician and mental health is covered by a psychologist or psychiatrist as needed. However, newer practices are pulling from centuries-old beliefs that the health of the mind and the health of the body are more interconnected than we’ve been practicing.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

In ancient Greek times, there was a firm and widely held belief that the mind and body are connected and influence the health of one another. A well-known Latin phrase was developed from this belief: “mens sana in corpore sano” translates to mean “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” In essence, total, holistic wellness is wellness in both your mental and physical health. This duality between mind and body remained the common belief and practice until the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods when they were separated into two different entities. In the 17th century, Rene Descarte described humans as being comprised of two contrasting substances which could not unify with one another; the mind being sentient and able to reason but without substance, and the body with substance but constricted to the physics of earth whereas the mind is not.

Reconnecting the mind and body.

As medical knowledge progressed and our understanding of health deepened, the importance and influence of the mind began to creep its way back into discussions of physical health in the 20th century. They began to study the power that the mind has over the body in the wake of studies on how placebos can affect the body’s ability to control pain.

Mind-body health today.

Today, an entire sector of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is devoted to researching the connection between mind and body health. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) studies the impact that mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect a person’s health.

Some mind-body medicine practices from the NCCIH include mindfulness, meditation, tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, massage, and homeopathy. Mind-body practices also promote the use of natural products like herbs, minerals, probiotics, and vitamins.

The designation that mind-body health practices are “alternative medicine” presents a misinforming picture of the power that incorporating these holistic practices in life can have. “Alternative” gives the impression that all typical Western health practices are abandoned when in reality it just expands the scope through with which we view these practices and understand their impact.

Understanding Holistic Care in Relation to Chronic Illness

In my recent blog post “Understanding Approaches for Pain Management and Patient Care”  I speak on the lasting effects of holistic health care and the benefits that it has in terms of managing pain and taking care of the “whole” patient.

Before I get started, it is important to mention that the holistic approach to health does not reject conventional medicine, but is a sensible, complete form of healing that considers your child’s entire picture of health and uses the best and most appropriate options for healing. It is a process of strengthening every system of the mind-body and allowing your child’s natural healing potential to flourish.

Many of the chronic health problems that affect children will respond best when addressed from a holistic point of view.

Conventional v.s Alternative Medicine

Aside from conventional medicine, alternative medicine covers a broad range of healing philosophies, approaches, and therapies that can be used alone, in combination with other alternative therapies, or along with conventional medicine. Most homeopaths, naturopaths, and doctors  of oriental medicine are holistic practitioners, considering all aspects of their patients and assisting them in achieving a vibrant state of health.

But not all alternative practitioners can be considered holistic, nor is a conventional medical doctor necessarily not holistic. Alternative practitioners who believe that all disease is caused by vitamin deficiencies or spinal misalignments are no more holistic than a medical doctor who believes that all illness is caused by germs.

When it comes to medicine, it is beneficial to not have an either/or attitude. Both conventional and alternative have an important place in health care and can make a powerful team in certain situations.

Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine (another word for holistic medicine) is an emerging system of health care practiced by medical doctors who respect all valid systems of healing, recognizing the value of each one.

Alternative and conventional treatments are combined in order to meet the needs of the patient on all levels of healing. The treatments that are the most effective in helping the patient are the ones used. It is not a matter of what type of medicine is better. It is a matter of what works for each patient.

 

 

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