It isn’t enough just to tackle physical symptoms: medicine has to become more holistic. Integrative medicine aims to take the whole person into account. The holistic or integrative approach is not about bolting conventional and complementary medicine together though – as some people think. In fact many medical doctors who know nothing of acupuncture or homeopathy try to practice holistically, especially in family medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, pediatrics, and psychiatry.
The mind and body are continually adapting and coming back into balance: a wound heals; we eat digest and excrete; we work, get tired and sleep. Our resilience hinges of this ability to regenerate and self-heal. When they falter we get ill. Sometimes an illness is a sign that adaptation is at work – for instance when your temperature shoots up as the body fights off an infection.
Generally – though some of us clearly have more resilience than others – it reduces as we get older. Yet even the most resilient person can be overwhelmed if the challenge is big enough: a serious physical injury, or a deficiency disease, or a severe infection or even a very traumatic event that triggers a mental breakdown. In these circumstances modern medicine may do valuable life-saving work.
But where long-term health problems are concerned it is people rather than doctors who need to take more control; the same with stress-related ailments, or with just staying well and thriving under pressure. Nowadays many doctors would agree that drugs or surgery are not always the answer. The notion of holistic integrative healthcare is an ever more popular way of the sorts of problem that medicine cannot cure, and which have to be lived with, managed well and with optimum self-care.