BIOHACKING

The Healing Power of Holistic Medicine (And the Tools Practitioners Use to Optimize Health)

by
Mercey Livingston
Author
Medically Reviewed
June 7, 2021

Chances are you’re used to doctors and health providers working in a certain way—they may have a focus on medication and medical procedures (both important and lifesaving), but may not pay as much attention to holistic medicine practices such as nutrition, sleep , and exercise habits.

But with a holistic approach to medicine, lifestyle changes are the hallmark of every patient’s treatment plan. Small tweaks can mean significant changes to your wellness. At Parsley Health, your team (a clinician and health coach) will work with you to develop a personalized plan for things like diet, movement, supplements , and may recommend other personalized healing modalities based on your health and goals.

Below are the basics you can expect from an initial holistic healing treatment plan, though each person’s experience will vary based on current health needs and wants. But these core wellness tenants will always be the foundation: good nutrition, solid sleep, techniques to combat stress, and regular movement.

10 holistic medicine healing tools to optimize wellness

Your holistic health foundation is built on a number of things you do each day—and all can have a significant impact on your health. “The really foundational aspects of lifestyle are things like nutrition, sleep, stress, and movement. Generally, a person’s care plan may or may not include all of those things. If someone is doing really well with movement already, we might not touch on that,” says Nicole Maholy, a health coach at Parsley Health.

“Clinicians and health coaches have the same mindset that we try to do things as naturally as possible to support the body in operating as naturally as we can, but that said sometimes medications are necessary,” says Maholy.

Holistic medicine is an approach that looks at the whole person and the interconnectedness of the body and mind to understand what’s going on and how to treat it. Simply put, holistic medicine treats the person, not just one part of them in isolation. Here are ten holistic tools that Parsely Health clinicians may suggest to optimize wellness.

Nutrition plan

When it comes to fighting inflammation , getting to the root of certain symptoms, and improving overall health, nutrition is one of the best tools you can use. Your Parsley Health team will ask about overall nutrition habits and preferences, your health history, and current symptoms, conditions, and/or goals for health. Then, they create a personalized nutrition plan to support wellness. (And you can expect ongoing support for any and all questions you may have as you begin to implement a new dietary plan.)

A few examples:

Conventional medicine is more likely to skip over the nutritional aspect of treatment and prevention for health conditions, if only because it’s just not a primary focus—medical students will receive only about 19 hours of nutrition training over the course of a four-year medical program. A holistic medicine healthcare provider, such as with Parsley Health , ensures that a good nutritional plan is foundational to good health.

Stress management

Maholy says that an overwhelming amount (roughly 80 percent ) of all doctor’s visits are driven by stress-related issues. And Dr. Tiffany Lester, a physician at Parsley Health, previously pointed out that many patients present symptoms (such as hormone imbalance, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome) which are often driven or worsened by chronic stress.

Stress may be inevitable, but the key to keeping stress from affecting health is developing management tools and lifestyle habits that keep stress in check. You can activate your body’s relaxation response via a number of methods including meditation , a regular breathwork practice , and making time for hobbies just for pleasure. And here’s how you can build a stress-management toolkit (hint: it’s 7 easy steps to rely on to battle your inner tension).

One Parsley member’s chronic stress was debilitating , but after her health coach prescribed a regular meditation practice she shared, “With meditation, I learned how to create space between myself, my thoughts, and the external environment.”

Quality sleep

Getting enough quality sleep is a non-negotiable when it comes to good health. In fact, a recent study found that a lack of sleep in middle age may increase dementia risk . If you aren’t sleeping enough, staying up too late, and/or are waking up in the middle of the night , your body will take a toll, emotionally and physically.

Risks of not sleeping well may include:

  • Weight gain
  • Inflammation
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Heart disease and stroke

Prioritizing quality sleep is key for keeping your mind and body well, so be sure you have healthy sleep habits that set you up for success.

Regular exercise

Exercise and movement play a role in disease prevention and management, so they’re a valuable part of a holistic approach to health. Not only does regular exercise check a lot of boxes, like reducing your risk for a heart attack and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, it can also help balance hormones , improve digestion, and stabilize blood sugar.

That said, you can also take things too far when it comes to exercise , which can result in amenorrhea, hormonal imbalances, and sleep disturbances. Parsley’s health coaches help members finding the right balance and type of movement that they enjoy—and will stay consistent with—that will help them reach their goals. If you’re also dealing with stress, your health coach might recommend exercise like yoga or dance to help you reduce tension and feel better.

Supplements

While nutrition is always your first line of defense, supplements may also be a part of your health plan. (Start here: What to Know Before You Start Taking Daily Vitamins .) They can be used short-term or long-term to help with issues ranging from nutritional deficiencies and fatigue to inflammation and more.

And it’s best to have your doctor work with you on which supplements are right for you and your needs. The quality of supplements is also key because many store-bought supplements may not contain the quantities or potencies of ingredients they claim. Your doctor can also do testing to check what exact deficiencies you may have, and then recommend the best pharmaceutical-grade supplements for your needs.

Using complementary modalities as part of a holistic approach

Once you have established a solid health foundation, your doctor or health coach might also recommend complementary wellness modalities and tools to help further your healing and optimize your health. The below holistic medicine tools may be recommended:

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice where an acupuncturist inserts tiny needles in specific parts of the body to promote healing, reduce pain, balance hormones, and more.

“When we have someone that’s dealing with menopause or hormone fluctuations after they’re trying to get off birth control or they’re wanting to get pregnant and they’re struggling with infertility, acupuncture is a really awesome adjunct to support people in creating hormone balance ,” says Maholy. Maholy also says a Parsley practitioner might recommend acupuncture for someone struggling with sleep issues or for pain management. Acupressure techniques like acupressure mats or ear seeds may be an option for those looking for something they can do at home.

Sauna

Infrared saunas are another tool that your practitioner may recommend you add to your routine if it’s available to you. Heat therapy has been used for hundreds of years as a natural, non-invasive way to achieve certain health outcomes. Here’s an explainer of heat sauna versus infrared saunas , and the health benefits of both.

According to Maholy a doctor or health coach may recommend heat therapy for sleep, relaxation/stress, and detoxification. “If someone’s dealing with a significant toxic load, infrared saunas can be a nice tool to help them detox,” says Maholy. In addition to detox, they may also help with pain, circulation, and help support the immune system.

Red light therapy

Red light therapy (RLT) is a therapeutic technique that uses red low-level wavelengths of light to treat skin issues , such as wrinkles, scars, and persistent wounds, among other conditions. “Red light therapy is another ancillary technique that we recommend for people sometimes. That can be really great for wound healing, tissue repair, hair growth, and can reduce pain. It also stimulates collagen and elastin production. And it can help with arthritis and reduce pain and inflammation,” says Maholy.

Therapy and counseling

Mental health is just as important as physical health, which is why your Parsley Health practitioner may recommend seeing a therapist or counselor to help you cope with stress, trauma, and other emotional issues. “For people that are struggling with mental, emotional, or traumatic experiences, anxiety , or depression and eating disorders [we recommend therapy],” Maholy says. Even with general feelings of overwhelm, such as coping with the pandemic, therapy can be a helpful intervention. Here’s how to take an effective mental health day .

The takeaway

A holistic approach to health will not look the same for everyone and may include everything from nutrition to regular sauna sessions. Working with a holistic medicine provider can help you find the right tools for you.

Ready to start your healing journey? Find out how Parsley Health can help.

by
Mercey Livingston
Author

Mercey Livingston is a health and wellness writer and certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. She is passionate about translating expert and science-based wellness advice into accessible and engaging content. Her work is featured on Well+Good, Women's Health, Business Insider, and Prevention.com among others. When not writing, she enjoys reading, trying out new recipes, and going to new workout classes all over New York City.

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