The Alternative Way

By Glenda Winders

December 5, 2008 5 min read


Holistic medicine helps patients find new ways to get well

Glenda Winders

Creators News Service

A growing acceptance of holistic medicine is giving people more alternatives when it comes to staying healthy and fighting off disease. Today, increasing numbers of people are using treatments -- both old and new -- that are part of a proactive approach to wellness.

The American Holistic Medical Association said on its website that the aim of today's patient is a balance of the physical, environmental, mental, emotional, social and spiritual influences that have the potential to get out of whack and threaten good health. Among the treatments they endorse are some that have been judged questionable in the past. Chiropractic, hypnotherapy, osteopathy, meditation and aromatherapy are only a few that are now recognized as treatments both for keeping a person well and treating illness when it occurs.

When a person does become ill, the physicians who subscribe to AHMA principles often recommend mind-body interventions and natural remedies rather than surgeries and prescription drugs. They believe in the body's innate ability to heal itself and that a positive relationship with a doctor is as important as the treatment prescribed.

Many alternative choices have been around for centuries. Acupuncture, for example, is a traditional Chinese practice that may date back to the Stone Age, when sharp rocks were believed to have been used in the treatments.

"Today's acupuncturists insert hair-fine needles into points chosen to move stagnant chi and balance yin and yang according to a patient's signs and symptoms," explained Judy A. Gadler, licensed acupuncturist and master of traditional Oriental medicine. "Chi is the flow of energy that moves smoothly throughout our bodies in pathways, called meridians, to protect us from disease and keep our organs functioning properly. Yin is the quiet, introspective, moisturizing, cooling side of a person's being and yang is active, expansive and warming. In the body, there is a constant balance between the two."

Gadler said the flow of chi or the imbalance of yin and yang could be disrupted by trauma, emotional distress, stress and temperature extremes and lifestyle choices such as lack of exercise, overwork, poor nutrition and insufficient sleep. Keeping the chi strong makes it less likely that adverse effects will occur. If they do, she said acupuncture can help a patient heal faster without drugs.

Gadler has seen many success stories in her practice at the Mission Valley Acupuncture Clinic in San Diego. Her favorite is a woman whose doctor told her she had less than a 10 percent chance of becoming pregnant because of uterine scarring from endometriosis and that she should have a hysterectomy and consider adoption. But with Gadler's help, the outcome was quite different.

"Today she has two beautiful children without using drugs or any other medical intervention," Gadler said.

Unani, popular in Asia and especially the Indian subcontinent, assumes the presence of the elements of fire, water, earth and air in the body and keeps them in harmony with herbal therapies. Ayurvedic medicine, which originated in India and dates back many centuries, adds space to the other four elements and aims to keep them in balance with yoga, meditation, herbs and massage.

Reiki, which was developed by Mikao Usui in Japan in 1922, involves manipulating the body's energy through the palms. A patient lies down fully clothed, and the practitioner moves his or her hands to various positions on the person's body.

"Benefits such as feeling relaxed, headaches or other pain going away, release of tension or anxiety and general improvement are the norm," said Maureen Pua'ena O'Shaughnessy, author of "My Naked Journey: A Reiki Master's Quest to Live Authentically" ($15, Pua'ena Publishing) and a Reiki master who practices and teaches in Hawaii.

Other benefits can include increased joy, creativity and ability to fulfill one's potential. She has seen patients recover from glaucoma and arthritis, and she said recovery from surgery or injury is cut in half by Reiki treatments, which can even be done at a distance.

Reiki practitioners advise ending each day in the Gassho position (hands held palm to palm, as in prayer) and reciting a list of life principles: Do not be angry, do not worry, be grateful, work with integrity and be kind to others. It's not a bad way to finish the day, no matter what medical treatment you choose.

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