Health starts with you. Self-care is not selfish. Taking care of oneself, mind, body and spirit, is the true foundation of good health and well-being. Sadly, our current medical system focuses on the treatment and management of diseases, not the prevention or reversal of them. The simple “pill for an ill” approach doesn’t work for the web of complex chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and obesity that is ravaging our society. We need a more wholistic approach; a whole-person approach; a holistic approach: A FRESH approach to health.
A simple answer: treating the whole person.
The term “holistic” in medicine comes from the Greek word, holos meaning “whole.” According to Merriam Webster, holistic was coined by South African soldier and statesman Jan Christian Smuts in the 1920’s as a philosophical term. He used the term to describe his complex philosophy regarding the organization of nature. Viewing the universe in terms of “wholes”—that is, organisms and systems instead of molecules and atoms. In his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, he defines holism as “[the] tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts through creative evolution.”
As a physician, my approach and definition of “holistic” medicine is characterized by the treatment of the whole person: their physical, mental, social, environmental and financial factors, rather than just the symptoms of their disease(s). I believe and know the value of science, including conventional testing, medications and procedures when necessary. However, within our current allopathic medical model, the body, a complex and interconnected set of systems, is divided into individual “parts,” where patients have to seek out different doctors accordingly. Seems quite the opposite of Smuts theory of “wholes” being “greater than the sum of the parts.”
What does a holistic health routine look like?
We compiled a simple recipe, a prescription, for your whole holistic health: We call it the FRESH 5 Rx, or “Recipe for Health.” Rx is Latin for “recipe.” The serving size is one: You!
Our FRESH approach is an acronym that stands for:
FOOD: The fuel we give our bodies to live and thrive. When it comes to our health, food may be the problem, but it’s also the solution. The FRESH program puts food-first and based on your own individual, metabolic, dietary and lifestyle needs, you will discover the foods that truly nourish you. “One bite at a time.”
RELAXATION: We live in an extraordinary time in history that requires us to be highly competitive in order to keep up with the demands of our careers, families and societal expectations. The FRESH model uses several meditation techniques and finds ways to help you better manage your physiological and psychological responses to stress. “One breath at a time.”
EXERCISE: Just move—it’s good for the body, mind and spirit! Setting realistic fitness goals by finding things you enjoy doing is the key to long lasting results. The FRESH team will help keep you moving, remember—small steps will amount to big change. “One step at a time.”
SLEEP: Sleep is a medical necessity—nobody can function without it. The FRESH team will take a closer look at the reasons why you may have trouble sleeping and will help you get the “zzzzz’s” you need so you have more vitality in your life. “One nap at a time.”
HAPPINESS: The way we feel about ourselves, approach our challenges, and our general outlook on life plays an important role in our well-being. Using the tools of Positive Psychology, the scientific study of human flourishing, the FRESH team provides support and encourages people to focus on their strengths to set goals and pursue hobbies and activities to increase their happiness. “One smile at a time.”
What is holistic medicine?
Holistic medicine is an evolving term. One of the fathers of the movement, Dr. Bob Anderson defined it as, “that aspect of medicine which considers the whole person—physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—within the setting of their physical and social environment, and which utilizes all safe means for diagnosis and treatment, emphasizing those aspects of practice which promote optimal health.”
According to the American Board of Holistic Medicine (ABHM), holistic medicine includes botanical medicine, nutrition, physical modalities such as massage and spinal manipulation, mind-body techniques like hypnosis and guided imagery, and treatments deriving from non-allopathic traditions like Chinese, Indian and Native American medicine.
Today, the term integrative medicine is more suitable and appropriate to describe this type of medicine. Dr. Andrew Weil describes it as “integrative medicine cherry-picks the best of both conventional medicine and complementary therapies, providing there is an evidence base for its utility.” That’s a really important part of it all: Holistic medicine is an established science.
Steps you can take for holistic care
I believe you are your best doctor and know your body better than anybody else. Listen to it, care for it, and if you “don’t feel like yourself,” call a doctor. The body knows. To stay healthy, my wife and I created the FRESH Rx, and we encourage you to ask yourself, “How FRESH was I today”? We hope you will follow our simple FRESH Rx, or “Recipe to Health.” Let us spell it out for you:
Food Rx: Eat more plants
Relaxation Rx: Relax for 10 minutes/day
Exercise Rx: Move for 30 minutes/day
Sleep Rx: Sleep 7-8 hours/night
Happiness Rx: “Other People Matter”: Yes, based on the scientific research, nothing (no thing) makes us happier than other people.
Terminology changes, and so will the definition of complementary, alternative, holistic and now integrative medicine. But one thing is for sure: self-care is the best form of healthcare. We believe “when it comes to our health, it all starts with food, but in the end, what we truly want in life is to be happy.” It’s time to get and stay FRESH!
Visit the Vitacost Self-Care Shop to nourish your well-being inside and out.