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Miquella Young

Professor Maslanka
English 122-600
May 3, 2015
Holism not a Hoax, Western Medicine the Imposter

No matter what television program it is, there is no way to avoid the prescription drug

commercials. It’s like a broken record, repeating side-effect after side-effect. The medical

companies claim their products are the solution to sickness, when subsequent commercials show

the truth of the matter: “recall…you may be entitled to compensation”. The technological

advances behind western medicine have revolutionized healthcare, but not all for the better. The

people of society have the illusion that they are healthy, when reality dictates that, “medication is

only keeping them alive” (Bloomer). The topic of overall health and well-being is only addressed

in holistic medicine, and that is exactly what society needs more of. Holistic practices are not

widely accepted; however, the sub-fields vary widely, ensuring there is at least one practice that

suits anyone individual. For the health of our society to improve, it is necessary that holistic

practices and ideas are integrated into every medical institution in America because its inclusive

nature is vital to the well-being of every individual.

Even though there are varying practices within the realm of holistic medicine, there are a

number of basic principles that all of them follow. Holistic medicine, also referred to as

alternative or complementary medicine, is a form of healing that includes the mind, body, and

spirit; it is not the illness that is treated, it is the individual as one complete being. This type of

medicine gives consideration to the inherent self-healing powers of humans. However, this

process is closely guided by a health care professional. The relationship between this kind of

physician and the patient is much more extensive because it includes every aspect of the patient’s
life. These doctors search for the causes behind the illness to cure it, instead of trying to

superficially alleviate symptoms. Some of the most common and more popular practices in

holistic medicine are herbal remedies, deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic care, massage

therapy, yoga and progressive relaxation, among countless others (Baker 44).

By identifying the underlying causes of an illness and then resolving them, Holistic

medicine achieves the true meaning of “healing”. If something is healed, it is made whole again.

Western medicine neglects to consider the human existence as a whole, and therefore does not

“heal” a person by only alleviating his or her symptoms. On the other hand, alternative

medicine, “with its emphasis on healing instead of technology, may do as much to improve the

health of our citizens as any scientific discovery about the many diseases that still plague us”

(Worsnop 124). Each scientific discovery regarding medicine is a step for human-kind, but it is

not always a step forward. With advanced technology, we cannot forget about the other parts of

society that were once successful without technology and advanced scientific research.

Technology has played the key role in society for all of the 21st century. As technology grew

stronger, society’s knowledge of and care for healing declined. Medical institutions must

consider healing as a partner to technology so that patients can begin to heal their whole bodies

and not just the disease.

Many doctors in today’s society see illness as a physical ailment; however, it is much

more than just the body, it includes human thought and emotion. Doctor Dan Reeve spoke in

“The New Medicine” regarding how, “healing is about the will to live” (Bloomer). Curing an

illness is so much more than just getting better in holistic medicine, it is about having hope that

there could be a brighter future ahead despite all the negative factors. Hope is a vital emotion in a

successful holistic healing process and is very different than optimism. Optimism says there is
something better that lies ahead no matter what, which can tear a patient down when negative

complications inevitably rise again. In fact, research suggest that, “hope stimulates our immune

functioning and helps combat against the onset of illness” (Worsnop 125). The power of human

thought should never be underestimated. Holistic practices in medical institutions could unlock a

patient’s potential to increase the functionality of the immune system and result in shorter

hospital stays.

Unlocking inner potential for healing is indeed a remarkable feat of the human mind, but

people are also social beings and must have support, a continuing motivation that only holistic

practices can give. Holistic Programs, such as “Heart Health” in southern California, have

revolutionized the healing process, but it did not come without supplemental human

encouragement. For example, patient Bill Fink, a survivor of a triple by-pass surgery, quadruple

by-pass surgery, and two heart attacks, knew that he needed to shift his lifestyle to improve his

living conditions. He was taking countless medications and had three grandchildren on the way,

among other important roles he continued to fill in his community (McCartney 45). This three-

month holistic program, paired Bill with a doctor who not only took the time to get to know him,

but to follow him daily and ensure he completed his lifestyle-altering changes. He transformed

his diet, his weight, and stress levels with a little bit of self-motivation and a lot of family and

professional support. It is not easy to alter human behavior, especially when they have become

habit. Moreover, alternative programs, like this one, begin a new revolution: they shape the face

of what society knows as medical institutions. These programs are all about unlocking the idea

that “there is a way to get better” and helping patients realize the potential within themselves.

Many patients, like Pam Hamilton do not like the options that are given to them by their doctors;

Pam was told, “if a steroid shot does not relieve the pain, consider surgery” to cure her neck and
back problems (Tiernen 36). Most of the options given by doctors who practice western

medicine are painful and expensive, and many of these unnecessary costs could be eliminated

with simple holistic practices like deep breathing and visual imagery.

The medical institutions in our current society do not have enough time to provide each

patient with effective care. Sure, nurses can be seen as a tool for the healing process. They do put

on a smile and take care of a patient for a day at most, but they do not know each patient’s story

and are not around the patient for their entire stay in a hospital. In today’s hospitals and local

physician’s offices, “the average amount of time a physician time a medical doctor spends per

patient visit is currently only six minutes” (Van Der Reit 7). This is not nearly enough time for

the doctor to understand, or even grasp, the circumstances that put their patients in the hospital.

These quick, superficial conversations can take a direct toll on the longevity and speediness of

recovery. I have witnessed this first-hand when my mom was hospital-ridden for a week just last

month for severe asthma and allergy conditions. She felt a lack of attention and care amongst the

hundreds of other patients being tended to by the doctors and nurses. She had no way to feel

comfortable in such a foreign environment. Her blood pressure rose to unhealthy levels during

this week away from home, and she was undoubtedly stressed and prone to infection. The illness

kept her bedridden and on high doses of countless medications, even for weeks after she returned

home from the hospital. On the contrary, Holism practices full concentration and understanding

of each individual’s circumstances. If holism revolutionizes the medical institutions around

today, physicians may have known to gather my mom’s full story and consequently find better

methods to cure her, rather than just piling on the pills. The lack of understanding towards the

needs of each individual in a hospital should demand holistic practices be mandatory in all

settings like this one.

The stress of being in the hospital is one of many stressors humans experience every day

that can be eliminated with preventive holistic practices. Stress not only leads to illness, but

prolongs it and sometimes worsens it. Constant stressors of everyday life will directly affect the

healing process if not addressed as part of the illness. It is no surprise to many that, “stress,

especially chronic stress, directly affects the body’s immune system” (McCartney 3). However,

often nothing in our lifestyle is altered to include stress-relieving activities. Yoga, for example, is

a practice that not many would believe is a medical aid, yet it is. Especially in more advanced

yoga practices, the instructor focuses on mindfulness on how the body is feeling. This direct

connection relieves stress and promotes general well-being; that is why doctors who practice

alternative medicine often use yoga as part of the healing process. Some turn to holistic practices

not knowing they are labeled as such, like yoga, but others refer to these techniques as a last

result. In his article, Anthony Daniels tells the story of his grandmother’s skin condition. The

waiting lists for both private and public dermatologists was pushing nine months, so she turned

to alternative medicine out of desperation. After a miraculous healing, Anthony Daniels still had

nothing to say to her except, “It was difficult in the circumstances to persuade her that

homeopathy had no rational basis” (Daniels 4). In regards to this claim, his grandmother was in a

high-stress situation. She had a medical condition that affected her appearance and her level of

self-esteem. It makes sense that she would turn to a holistic physician who understood the

urgency of her situation, whereas typical doctors do not have the resources available to relive the

stress of their patients, in addition to their illness.

Whether you are in the midst of a health crisis or hoping not to find yourself in one,

Alternative medicine is not only a healing process, but also a preventative process. Anyone who

is already involved in complementary medicine is prone to be more conscious about their health
overall. This is the reason why many skeptics do not understand why so many people take part in

this form of medicine if it does not always work. Many researchers are tentative to accept

complementary medicine because, “such healthy habits make it difficult to tease out whether

supplements prevent illness or maintain health” (Bloomer). In fact, they do both. There is

research to support both prevention and maintenance of health, but scientists do not see the

connection between these two forms of healing since it is foreign to western medicine. For

instance, Dr. David H. Gorski claims, “I've got no objection to massage but don't claim it's a

treatment for anything” (Baker 27). A massage may not be comparable to a prescription

medication, although it is a treatment. It could be for stress, which leads to illness, or for

relaxation, which prevents illness. Just because a massage is not prescription strength does not

mean it can be just as, if not more, effective at providing well-being, and in many cases, before

illness strikes. In hospitals and physician’s offices, holistic practices could still support the health

care industry economically, as well as create financial stability for the patients who will be able

to shorten their stays at these institutions.

Many say that holistic medicine is not scientifically supported, and that there is a lack of

concrete evidence. Scientists have begun, but must continue to spend time researching the

effectiveness of holistic practices so that they are integrated into our current health systems.

There is so much more to learn about the complexities of the human brain, so further research on

this topic will allow scientists to see the “facts” on why the mind and other factors must be

included in medical practices. There are emerging, “[neurological studies] that are proving, in the

language of science, that our emotional state, thoughts and feelings, has an enormous influence

on physical phenomena like pain, healing and even our ability to fight off infection” (Tiernan

15). Scientists may not see the concrete ways that holistic medicine cures the human body which
leads to many of the controversies and uncertainties that exist today, nevertheless they will soon

realize how vital the whole being is in all medical and preventive practices. Just as western

medicine is not always dependable to cure every patient, holistic medicine follows those same

principles. Biologically, a pill that should relieve a headache does not always function as I

should because every human has slight differences in body composition and chemistry (Van Der

Reit 51). The same follows with stress relieving and relaxation practices, for example. Not

everyone will find meditation comforting, and not everyone will easily let loose; it may be easier

for some to relieve tension or stress mentally and physically than others. That is why there is

such a wide variety of alternative techniques. Not one practice will work for every individual

since this type of medicine is very unique to each person, and needs much attention and time to

discover which techniques work the best with their bodies. This attention could be integrated into

our medical institutions, where professionals could help the everyday citizen comprise a program

of holistic practices that is just right for their whole being.

Our society is struggling with keeping healthy, and western medicine just does not seem

to be doing the trick. Even though alternative medicine is “unlikely to diminish in the coming

years, given its broad appeal and growing acceptance” (Smith 23), the only way to ensure its

continuity is to further integrate these practices into our already established medical institutions.

Many skeptics claim that alternative medicine is just a fad, and they will soon realize that it is

ineffective in curing their illness. Moreover, holistic medicine would not already be as

established with research and prospective studies to support the mind-body connection if it ever

planned on leaving society for good.

Works Cited

Baker, Beth. "Alternative Medicine." CQ Researcher 6 Sept. 2013: 741-64. Web. 28 Apr. 2015.

Bloomer, Ronald H. The New Medicine. Perf. Dana Reeve. First Run Features, 2006. Film.

Daniels, Anthony. "Don't believe in miracles: everyone likes to attack Western medicine, says

Anthony Daniels, but we must ignore the siren song of hocus-pocus and respect

rationality." Spectator 31 Oct. 2009: 25. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 26 Apr.


McCartney, Jenny. "The cult of 'wellness': Our desperation to believe in power of lifestyle

change makes us vulnerable to charlatans." Spectator 28 Mar. 2015: 18+. Opposing

Viewpoints in Context. Web. 26 Apr. 2015

Smith, Kevin. “Against Homeopathy – A Utilitarian Perspective.” Bioethics 26.8 (2012): 398-

409. Consumer Health Complete - EBSCOhost. Web. 25 Apr. 2015.

Tiernen, PJ. "In a Profession Steeped in Science, Holistic Measures Gain Acceptance." Critical

Care Management 1 Sept. 1998. AHC Media. Web. 24 Apr. 2015.


Van Der Reit, Pamela. "Complementary Therapies in Health Care." Nursing and Health

Sciences 4.13 (2011). Ebsco Host. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.


Worsnop, Richard. "Alternative Medicine's Next Phase." The CQ Researcher 7.6 (1997): 121-44.

CQ Researcher. Web. 16 Apr. 2015.