Maybe you’re dealing with some serious health issues, or maybe it’s just time for a check up. Either way, you should consider all of your options when deciding on something as serious as your healthcare — and you do have options, by the way.
The medical system in the United States tends to pigeonhole patients into thinking there’s only one way to do things: Feel sick, make a doctor’s appointment, take antibiotics, repeat (or some version of that, depending on your reason for visiting). But if that doesn’t feel right for you — personally, I hate being prescribed antibiotics for every little thing and would rather explore natural remedies — you can start taking control of your care. There are alternative paths to healing, and they all begin with finding the right doctor for you.
Ahead, discover six healing modalities that you may have overlooked before.
Like traditional MDs, naturopathic doctors must be educated at an accredited college for naturopathic medicine. But instead of treating symptoms of illness, naturopaths aim to get to the root of the problem. These doctors believe in the body’s ability to self-heal, so all recommendations and treatments are designed to awaken your innate ability to heal yourself through foods, medicines, and practices that strengthen your immune system, digestive system, and more — so that your body is better equipped to fight illness in the present and in the future. Treatment will likely focus on diet and nutrition, physical therapies, and botanical-based supplements.
If you believe that everything is interconnected, you may find yourself gravitating towards holistic medicine. Holistic practitioners operate on the assumption that optimal health requires balance of the mind, body, spirit, and emotions — and when something is out of balance (say, you’re having digestive issues), it can be treated through a cocktail of therapies that address it on every level. Holistic doctors aren’t against traditional treatments — they might prescribe you medication for that gut issue, for example — but they don’t rely on just one thing. Your personal plan could include a series of mind and body practices (like therapy, meditation, and exercise) to combat a physical ailment.
Derived from ancient Greek practices, homeopathic medicine is highly personalized. Remedies are usually based on plants and herbs, but no two patients will have the same “prescription,” even if they both come in complaining of the same symptoms. (Naturopaths will often use homeopathic remedies in their practice, as well.) If this individualized approach seems intriguing, do research on doctors in your area. Some homeopaths are accredited and licensed, but some states don’t require that homeopaths have a license to practice. It all depends on what you’re comfortable with.
Functional Medicine Doctors — or FMDs — go through the same training as western MDs, but they take a bit of a different approach to healing and are mostly known for treating chronic diseases. Whereas Western medicine may give someone with a chronic illness ways to manage that illness, they don’t believe it can be “cured.” FMDs, on the other hand, take their Western training and apply it to integrative, holistic solutions for patients based on “genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long-term health and complex, chronic disease,” according to Dr. Mark Hyman, one of the most well-respected FMDs today. “In this way, functional medicine supports the unique expression of health and vitality for each individual,” he’s said.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine is an Eastern healing modality that views health through the lens of “balancing the yin and yang of the body, and assessing the flow of Qi, the vital life force,” says Antonia Balfour, the owner of Yin Yang Dermatology, a TCM practice centered around healing skin issues.
Balance is of the utmost importance in TCM, and practitioners see any health problems as a sign of imbalance (similar to holistic medicine). To bring the body back into balance, TCM relies on a mixture of herbal remedies, practices like tai chi, and treatments like acupuncture to help the body and mind regain equilibrium.
If you believe in the healing power of yoga, you may want to book an Ayurvedic practitioner for your next check up. Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing system, was developed in tandem with yoga and the two were actually designed to be practiced together.
Ayurveda promotes gentle, natural, daily self-care practices for mind, body, and soul. The theory is that by tending to your needs on every level on a daily basis, you reduce the risk of needing major medical intervention in the future. It’s a form of preventative medicine at its core, so this may be better suited for those who are looking for a long-term approach to wellness as opposed to treatment for a current health crises.
Of course, this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t continue seeing your regular MD — by all means, if you love your current health team, stick with what works. But if Western medicine has left you longing for more personalized care or a gentler approach (as it has for so many), consider this list your first step down a new path to healthy living.
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