Health News Digest

July 21, 2008

A Look At Holistic Medicine:  Theory And Practice

Dr. Saddler

By  Michael D. Shaw

Holistic medicine is described as a doctrine of preventive and therapeutic medicine that emphasizes the necessity of looking at the whole person—his body, mind, emotions, and environment—rather than at an isolated function or organ; and which promotes the use of a wide range of health practices and therapies. Another aspect of holistic medicine puts ownership of the patient’s health back with the patient, teaching the precepts of exercise, a good diet, adequate sleep, fresh air, and moderation in personal habits.

This healing doctrine differs from conventional or allopathic medicine, whereby a disease is treated using remedies (generally pharmaceutical drugs) which produce effects different from those produced by the disease under treatment.

A term that came along some years after “holistic medicine,” is alternative and complementary medicine, defined by the NIH as “those treatments and health care practices not taught widely in medical schools, not generally used in hospitals, and not usually reimbursed by medical insurance companies.” Complementary medicine also strives to draw from the best healing modalities available, and will mix a variety of therapies in with conventional allopathic approaches.

As it happens, many patients—especially aging baby boomers—have much higher expectations for their health than did previous generations. A large percentage of people are seeking alternative care, and take as negative role models such celebrities as the late Tony Snow, who pursued orthodox therapies all the way down the line, and even mocked alternative methods, only to die at age 53. While death is not optional, examination of other approaches seems prudent in this information-rich age of ours.

An almost universal complaint of patients these days—even if they don’t quite articulate it this way—is the diminishing doctor-patient relationship. No doubt, the lack of face time between the doctor and patient is a direct result of cost-cutting measures inspired by government agencies and insurance companies. However, most patients believe that this is the wrong aspect of health care to cut back on, and are convinced that the quality of their care is affected. Critics refer to the current situation as a sort of fast-food approach to health care: conversation is kept to a minimum, decisions are made quickly, and the overall experience can be less than satisfying.

By its very nature, a holistic/complementary approach does require a more extensive doctor-patient relationship, and this is one reason why patient satisfaction is generally quite high in this sort of medical practice. Indeed, there is a growing movement of traditionally-trained doctors, who have established their offices along this model. Let’s look inside one of them.

In Pasadena, CA, we find Paulette Y. Saddler, M.D., recipient of numerous awards, and a regional pioneer in the new medicine. While battling breast cancer, she discovered first-hand the importance of incorporating alternative approaches with mainstream traditional allopathic internal medicine. Dr. Saddler’s motto of “Healthy Bodies Inside and Out” is well-represented in these and other therapies, performed in her office…

  • Utilizing a combination of the TriActive cold laser and acupuncture in the treatment of surgical scars, outcomes are often superior to the traditional approach of injecting corticosteroids into the scar.
  • Patients undergoing breast radiation may get acupuncture for fatigue, and receive medical barrier cream to revitalize the top layer of skin cells, that prevent bacteria from entering as well as maintaining the water-holding properties of the skin. Acupuncture can also be used around the radiated area, to prevent radiation dermatitis.
  • A combination of treatments is used for the reduction of facial lines and wrinkles. Botox therapy is combined with oxygen infused serums to add hyaluronic acid—a natural component of connective tissue. Aluma, which tightens facial tissue and encourages collagen production, is used in conjunction with Juvederm—a hyaluronic acid filler. This combination approach produces a more natural appearance than conventional modalities.
  • Weight reduction is addressed with neurotransmitter therapy and acupuncture to boost metabolism and reduce cravings, along with healthy diet recommendations and exercise programs. Neurotransmitter therapy using natural supplements is in contrast to conventional SSRI drugs such as Prozac, Zoloft, Effexor, and Celexa that in effect “trick” the brain into functioning as if it has more neurotransmitters.

What’s the takeaway here?

Holistic/complementary medicine is certainly an appealing idea, and as Dr. Saddler demonstrates, such practitioners do exist. Nevertheless, the most wonderful medical doctrines in the world mean little unless you take control of your own health care. Educate yourself, ask questions, and don’t settle for mediocre outcomes.