Your body is an incredibly complex organism. What happens in one place affects another — and that includes mental trauma. Psychological harm can often manifest in physical pain.
Fortunately, the converse is also true. Treating your body as a complete unit and addressing your mental and spiritual needs can improve your physical self. Here’s how holistic medicine changed my life and how it can help you, too.
What Is Holistic Medicine
Holistic medicine revolves around the concept that your physical well-being hinges not only on microbial causes of disease but its relationship with your mental, emotional and spiritual health. A trip to a holistic doctor isn’t like any other appointment you’ve experienced. Your practitioner will ask you about lifestyle factors such as your intimate relationship or lack thereof, work situation, diet and exercise habits.
My first visit ended up with me breaking down in tears on my practitioner’s couch. I had recently escaped an emotionally abusive marriage, and the pain was still raw.
Your treatment regimen will likely consist of various factors, none of which may involve medication. Please don’t panic — many such practitioners maintain close liaisons with medical doctors, enabling you to get prescriptions such as those necessary for safe withdrawal from opioids or antidepressants to help reset your brain’s neurotransmitters.
However, unlike conventional treatments, your regimen will encompass modalities such as nutritional therapy and acupuncture. This protocol has its basis in science, not new age mysticism.
For example, nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of sufficient magnesium intake can influence depression. Rectifying these imbalances alone can help curb cravings and bring about a healthier mental state.
That’s not to say that holistic medicine only helps address mental disorders. I originally sought help for chronic back pain, not my achy breaky heart, after all. However, it does consider contributing factors such as your emotional state and how they contribute to your physical pain.
Understanding Mental Trauma’s Physical Effect
Science has long understood that your mind and emotions impact your physical well-being. Studies of chronic pain patients, for example, reveal that many of them endured severe childhood trauma, and many believe those unresolved conflicts contribute to disease development.
You can notice the physical manifestations of mental and emotional disease the next time you encounter a stressful situation. Pay attention to how your body responds. Does your jaw clench? Do the muscles lining your spine contract into tense knots? Some people manifest severe symptoms such as bruxism, while others grow seemingly inexplicably achy from all the tension.
The effects extend well beyond making you feel sore when under pressure. Research out of Australia, for example, shows that chronic tension can cause physiological changes in your brain, effectively rewiring it to keep your blood pressure elevated. Heart disease remains the number one killer of men and women worldwide — it’s impossible to overstate the importance of controlling your systolic and diastolic numbers.
Experts disagree on whether chronic stress can cause diseases like cancer. However, long-term tension can weaken your immune response, potentially leaving you more susceptible to developing such conditions.
Harnessing Holistic Techniques to Transform Your Life
You can harness the power of holistic medicine to transform your life. While you should see a practitioner to address specific concerns, you can reap considerable benefits by incorporating the techniques below into your daily lifestyle.
1. Elevate Your Diet
The food you consume affects your overall well-being, sometimes as much as medication. For example, those with peanut allergies can experience fatal results from consuming only a small portion of the problematic food.
The best diet is rich in plant-based foods for phytonutrients and antioxidants and lean protein for muscle recovery. Strive to eat foods close to their natural forms, avoiding excess processing. The way food is processed sometimes results in chemical changes that can spur disease.
Practice mindfulness while eating. Observe how you feel after certain meals and note any physical changes. Part of my holistic medicine journey revealed a mild sensitivity to canola oil — it spurs an inflammatory response. However, I never would have recognized the effect without mindfulness as I don’t experience gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and diarrhea — I get puffy and sore a few hours after consumption.
2. Move Every Day
Exercise is vital to overall mental and physical well-being. Activity stimulates endorphin flow, natural body chemicals that produce an opioid-like effect to ease chronic pain and create a mild euphoria.
The trick is finding something that you love. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated its guidelines to recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise weekly or half as much vigorous activity. Dancing and taking walks in nature are two free and fun options.
3. Practice Meditation
Meditation and mindfulness share much in common — a regular practice of the former can serve as a stepping stone to including more of the latter in your daily life. You can meditate anywhere and anytime you can steal a few quiet moments to sit or lie down comfortably and shut out outside distractions. If you have trouble taming your mind or find yourself ruminating on negative topics, guided meditations can gently help you reframe your thoughts.
4. Connect With Other Humans
Positive connections with other humans can heal. Seek out a supportive, nurturing tribe you can turn to when you need a mental health boost. Participate in activities like volunteering that give you a sense of purpose while connecting you with others who share your mission.
Holistic Medicine Changed My Life — Can It Help You, Too?
Although I sought help for chronic pain, my treatment protocol helped me recover from an emotionally abusive marriage. Holistic medicine genuinely changed my life — why not give it a try and see if it can help you, too?