Holistic Health: Alternative Medicine for Healthy Living


July 22, 2023

Holistic health is a means of looking at the whole person in mind, body, and spirit when considering their overall wellness. This holistic health approach to healthcare combines both alternative medicine and conventional medicine to treat the whole person and not just the symptoms.

What Is Holistic Health?

Holistic health or holistic healing is often defined as a form of integrative health care that looks at the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. This kind of holistic healing often involves integrative medicine and holistic health practices that can overlap with modern-day Western medicine.

What Is Holistic Health Care?

Even though people today are living longer than ever before, they also are experiencing chronic stress and illness that impact their overall well-being.

For many living with chronic disease and undiagnosable symptoms, the modern healthcare industry has failed them, and it is time that a more holistic, whole-body solution to healthcare became the standard way we diagnose, treat, and prevent illness.

Unlike our traditional medical system, which typically focuses on treating a specific concern after it has arisen, a holistic health approach to health care focuses on looking at the whole body and not only treating, but identifying the root cause of illness and preventing future illness from occurring. Holistic healthcare also prioritizes the many external and environmental factors which could be supporting or negatively impacting our overall health and wellness.

Traditional Medicine vs. Holistic Medicine

Traditional medicine is often viewed as being the opposite of holistic medicine when in fact the two forms of health care work very well together. Traditional medicine typically refers to the conventional Western medicine approach to health care, which involves a four-year medical school program and additional medical residency training in a specific field of medicine.

Typical traditional medicine does not include a lot of training in the more holistic healing practices such as herbalism or nutrition and instead focuses on a deep understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the human body, pharmacology, and the ability to identify, treat, and ideally cure disease.

Holistic medicine on the other hand includes more holistic healing practices like herbal medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and naturopathic medicine to find the root cause of a condition and heal the person by taking a more whole body vs. a specifically targeted approach.

This is why both traditional medicine and holistic medicine can be incredibly valuable for supporting the holistic health of a person, however, they can be even more beneficial when combined together as they both fill gaps the other form of medical practice may miss.

cup of tea representing a holistic health practice

Types of Holistic Health Practitioners

    • Naturopathic Physician: Naturopathic doctors (ND) are considered more holistic doctors and are trained to identify the underlying causes of disease, rather than focus on the sole treatment of disease. Similarly to traditional Medical Doctors (MD), Naturopathic doctors must attend a four-year accredited Naturopathic school of medicine before receiving their Naturopathic Doctor license and accreditation.
    • Functional Medicine and Integrative Medical Doctors: Functional medicine or Integrative medical doctors are physicians who received traditional medical degrees and obtained their MD license, however, they take a more holistic approach to the treatment of disease similar to the approach of a naturopathic physician. Integrative medical doctors may have sought out additional training in more naturopathic forms of medicine or even received their naturopathic physician license in addition to their traditional medical doctor license.
    • Registered Dietitian: A registered dietitian has advanced training in nutritional science, medical nutrition therapy, and counseling. Registered Dietitians are required to complete four years of undergraduate study in the area of nutrition, as well as a master’s degree in nutrition.
    • Chinese Herbalists: Chinese herbalists focus on the use of herbs to support the holistic health of the body and mind. Chinese herbalists will often be combined with acupuncturists for a holistic approach to treating patients.
    • Chiropractor: Chiropractic doctors treat conditions that affect the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. Similar to other healthcare practitioners, chiropractic doctors will often have specialized focuses in peri-natal care, pediatrics, nervous system disorders, etc.
    • Massage Therapist: Massage therapists focus on supporting the health and well-being of a person by manipulating their muscles and joints for optimal wellness. They sometimes will also include traditional holistic approaches like cupping for further benefits.
    • Acupuncturist: Acupuncture is a key part of traditional Chinese medicine that focuses on reducing pain and chronic stress, but is often used to help address other health concerns such as infertility, skin conditions, and more.
    • Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctor: A traditional Chinese medicine doctor utilize herbal medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, and other forms of bodywork and holistic healing modalities to treat the whole person in body, mind, and spirit. Traditional Chinese medicine practices have been used for more than 2000 years to treat, prevent, and diagnose disease.

woman holding carton of blueberries

Holistic Health Alternative Therapies

The following are some of the most common holistic healing practices that take a whole body approach to wellness.

    • Chiropractic Care
    • Herbal Medicine
    • Massage Therapy
    • Energy Work (Reiki)
    • Therapy
    • Yoga and Meditation
    • Acupuncture
    • Physical Therapy
    • General Western Medicine
    • Nutrition Counseling
    • Personal Training

When all of these complimentary therapies come together for holistic health care, a person is much more likely to experience wellness on a deeper level that allows for a more joyful and truly healthy way of living.

tea and digestive bitters on a wooden table representing holistic health practions

The 5 Aspects Of Holistic Health

Holistic health looks beyond the physical body and addresses the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual health of a person. All of these 5 aspects of holistic health are what enables a person to truly live each day in the healthiest, happiest way possible. When approaching wellness through the lense of holistic health, it’s important to recognize that if one area of health is compromised, most likely other areas will be as well.


Our physical health is what most people think about when they think of health. This is mostly because it is the physical body that often shows physical signs and symptoms of either optimal or sub-optimal health. These physical signs and symptoms are also more easy to track and measure, versus other non-physical signs and symptoms that can feel more abstract.

When focusing on physical health there are a few key practices that everyone can benefit from and can make a huge difference in your overall well-being:

    • Sleep for 8 hours each night. This will allow your body to truly rest and repair from the day.
    • Eat a nutrient-dense diet that is high in plant-based foods and organic/pastured animal products.
    • Maintain a balanced blood sugar by eating meals and snacks that contain fat, carbohydrates, and protein every 3-4 hours.
    • Move your body for 30 minutes each day. While every person’s exercise routine will be different, everyone can benefit from at least 30 minutes of movement each day.
    • Limit processed foods and hydrogenated oils which are highly inflammatory and can increase the risk of chronic disease.
    • Do not smoke, and avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

essential gardening tools for beginners woman outside in garden


While often overlooked, our emotional health is just as important as our physical health — especially because our emotional health can affect our physical health if it is not prioritized.

Ways you can support your emotional health:

    • Seek out therapy when needed. Therapy is an essential part of supporting our emotional health and should be utilized whenever necessary.
    • Practice mindfulness and stress reduction habits that can help you better manage life’s daily stressors.
    • Keep a journal to record you thoughts and feelings. Use your journal to record what you are grateful for as it can help bring positivity into times of stress.


Research has shown that the happiest people on earth have deep connections with their friends, family, and community. This is often why religion is connected with happiness as it can provide a deep sense of community and support, no matter what faith a person chooses.

Ways that you can support your social health:

    • Make time for in-person connection. While technology has allowed for us to feel connected more, research has shown that virtual connection still does not provide us with the same level of happiness as in-person connection does.
    • Get involved in your local community. Whether this is through your church, local volunteer organizations, clubs, or programs at your kids school — getting involved in your local community is one of the best ways you can support your social health and improve happiness.

    • Set boundaries with people in your life that may increase stress or bring about toxic energy. Also do not be afraid to walk away from friendships and relationships that are negatively affecting your health.

woman getting on the edge of a bath tub with a candle


Spiritual wellness does not necessarily mean that you need to become religious, although the two often have overlapping practices and principles. Instead your spiritual health should focus on how you are connecting with your inner soul, and the greater world around you.

Ways you can support your spiritual health:

    • Spend time in nature
    • Spend a few minutes each day meditating
    • If you are religious, take the time to practice your faith


The last aspect of holistic health is our mental health, which often overlaps with both our emotional and physical health. The big distinction between our mental and emotional health though is that while our emotional health refers mostly to our daily mood and emotions, our mental health refers to our cognitive abilities that affect how our brain functions.

Ways that you can support your mental health:

    • Always keep your mind active by seeking out learning opportunities and problem solving practices that challenge your brain.
    • Incorporate grounding activities like gardening, meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices that calm your mind and ground your body in the present.
    • Consume nutrient dense foods that are high in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids that will help reduce overall inflammation and support cognitive function.
    • Avoid excessive drinking, smoking, and consuming recreational drugs.
    • Improve gut health with gut healing foods like bone broth and prebiotic and probiotic rich foods. Since the brain is directly connected to the gut a healthy gut is essential for a healthy mind.

By focusing on these 5 aspects of holistic health, and incorporating more of the holistic healing modalities detailed above, we can reframe the way whole body health is viewed and learn to start looking at our bodies as the incredible systems that they are.

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Meet Meg

Mom of two, and registered dietitian specializing in prenatal, postpartum, and infant wellness. My passion for supporting moms and babies began more than a decade ago, but nothing made me more committed to helping moms and babies thrive than going through my own pregnancy and postpartum journey.

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