Explaining holistic medicine

What is holistic medicine?

What is the benefit of seeing a holistic medical provider? What makes them different from conventional doctors?

There are many buzzwords to be found when searching for different medical providers. “Holistic,” “natural,” “alternative” and “Functional Medicine” all pop up here and there. The term, alternative, typically denotes someone who is not a medical doctor. Alternative, then, places itself in comparison to “conventional” medicine. Holistic simply means looking at the whole person and treating the whole individual instead of the disease while working to heal/cure the root cause rather than addressing the symptoms.

Because “holistic” is a way to approach health, there are many types of practitioners that technically fit under its definition. Even a medical doctor can be holistic if they practice medicine in the manner described above. The types of practitioners who typically fit under the holistic umbrella include naturopathic doctors, chiropractic physicians, functional medicine practitioners, herbalists, acupuncturists and sometimes certain types of body-workers.

Holistic means looking at the whole context of a person’s health. For example, someone with allergies can take an over-the-counter medication for their symptoms but a holistic practitioner would consider the totality of the case. Perhaps they are eating a standard American diet and have higher levels of systemic inflammation. This means that their immune system is easily triggered by a benign stimulus (tree and flower pollen, for example). Perhaps they are also not sleeping well or are doing shift-work that has significantly altered their natural sleep rhythm.

Holistic medicine involves considering the whole person.

This would potentially increase immune dysregulation as we heal and reset when we sleep. So rather than just giving the person a natural remedy for allergies, a holistic provider seeks to address the underlying conditions, find and treat the root cause of the symptoms, and view the patient as a whole. This may take the form of providing patient education and guidance about diet, lifestyle, sleep, exercise, stress-management, natural anti-inflammatories and any other relevant facets of the individual case.

Holistic medicine takes a distinct approach to patient care. Conventional medicine unfortunately has evolved around the dictates of the insurance industry. The average primary care provider (PCP) spends around seven minutes with each patient. That is not a lot of time to get a deep and comprehensive understanding. A lot of PCPs are dissatisfied with the way the system has changed over the years, which sometimes leads them out of insurance networks. Most holistic practitioners have a longer and more detailed intake – spending between 60-120 minutes with a patient during the initial visit. This gives natural providers a much greater understanding of the whole picture of the case. It allows them to treat individuals instead of diseases.

My background is in chiropractic and naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic philosophy sums up the holistic approach to medicine with the following six principles:

  1. First do no harm
  2. The doctor is a teacher
  3. Treat the whole person
  4. Prevention is the best medicine
  5. Identify and treat the root cause
  6. The healing power of nature

Following these tenets leads us to build a therapeutic alliance with patients. I frequently tell my patients that they will do the work to get and stay healthy, but I will show them the path, cheer on their success, troubleshoot their hurdles, and walk next to them on their journey. Natural medicine seeks to treat the whole person using the least invasive or risky treatments first. We believe the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Using the healing power of nature means employing botanical medicine, body work/massage, lifestyle modification, dietary changes, exercise, mindfulness, etc. We have a broad toolbox to draw from. Sometimes it means literally prescribing more time spent in nature. Finally, we recognize that the Latin root for doctor (docere) means teacher. I work with my patients to teach them healthy ways of living, thereby empowering them on their health journey.

None of this is meant to demonize “Western medicine.” Conventional medicine has made miraculous and life-saving advances. There are certainly situations where surgery or medication is the first thing warranted by a health problem. I consider myself an integrative practitioner because I know how to work with other medical professionals so that each patient gets the care s/he needs. From my experience and that of my mentors, holistic medicine can help with a wide variety of health problems – particularly chronic conditions that benefit greatly from lifestyle and dietary changes. The advantage of being a holistic provider is that we get to spend more time with our patients to establish these changes, and our approach is built on addressing the root cause. Patients end up feeling more empowered to improve their health and ultimately get great results.

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Dr. Jessica Keating
Owner & Physician , Willow Clinic of Natural Medicine
Jessica Lodal Keating graduated with her doctorate in chiropractic medicine from National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) in Lombard, IL in December of 2016. She graduated summa cum laude and salutatorian of her class. She completed a primary care internship at the in-house clinic in the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center in downtown Chicago. There she was able to provide natural approaches to health and wellness to an under-served population. She also led efforts to solicit supplement donations from local doctors in order to provide these supplements to patients free of charge. During her time at NUHS, Dr. Keating also studied traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and became certified to perform acupuncture, moxabustion and fire cupping. She uses the wisdom of eastern medicine to complement her holistic approach to assessing each individual patient and treating the whole person. She participated in various other seminars and trainings over the course of her studies including MPI’s full-spine adjusting seminar and Apex’s Fundamentals of Functional Blood Chemistry. Dr. Keating also completed her Doctorate of Naturopathic medicine in 2018, graduating valedictorian and summa cum laude. Dr. Keating has worked in several natural primary care offices in the greater Chicagoland area. She is also a full-time naturopathic clinician at National University of Health Sciences. There she is able to help shape the next generation of naturopathic doctors. She has a home-call practice where she treats patients in the comfort of their own homes all around Chicagoland. Dr. Keating loves balancing private practice with teaching and clinical supervision. Dr. Jessica Keating received her bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon before deciding to attend NUHS. After her undergrad degree, she grew frustrated with the field of political science and sought a new career path. Her own health had been dramatically improved through diet, yoga and herbal medicine. Because of these experiences, she decided to deepen her understanding of natural medicine by pursuing a higher degree. Dr. Keating remains committed to her own health journey on a personal and professional level. She aims to help others thrive and maintain optimal health by guiding them down the same path and educating her patients by empowering them to take their health into their own hands. Dr. Keating practices holistic, natural primary care. She treats GI conditions, autoimmune disorders, women’s health, sleep issues, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, back pain as well as working with patients on weight loss and general wellness promotion. She treats pediatric, adult and geriatric patients using diet, lifestyle modification, herbal medicine, physical medicine and acupuncture. In her free time, Dr. Keating loves reading, biking, cooking and playing with her cats. Dr. Keating also enjoys yoga, tennis, rollerblading, going to the movies and travelling with her husband. She has been to 28 different countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.
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