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Popularity Of Holistic Medicine

The health care debate in the United States has allowed a wider focus on modalities in treatment of disease. As standards of care change and the population adapts to increases in cost while dealing with other physical barriers to treatment, the general population has begun to explore alternatives to their primary care physicians. An ever-widening field of alternatives is available to anyone who explores holistic care however superficially. From acupuncture to massage therapy to herbal infusions, the possibilities to supplant or augment traditional Western medicine are vast. The question remains, are these therapies increasing in popularity?

This question has been asked by a large number of universities and scientific research centers and the answer appears to be in the affirmative. The popularity of holistic medicine is rapidly increasing in the United States, and in other Western countries. Nearly 50% of the population of the US has opted for alternative treatments for a wide variety of physical and psychological issues. Those numbers correspond with similar trends in Europe and Australia.

Several studies by prominent universities reflect a number of reasons why Americans are choosing to explore alternative therapies nearly twice as often as more conventional therapies. Holistic medicine explores the entire human body whereas conventional medicine looks at each organ individually. While this directed approach is the most suitable for treating trauma, it can be too individuated when seeking to control a chronic illness. Holistic medicine addresses the overall individual, focusing not just on the physical body but also on the mental, emotional and spiritual states.

Without the benefit of scientific studies, the layperson can see that the US population has begun to explore holistic care in ever-increasing numbers as evidenced by the astronomical increase in practitioners of yoga. As more people become familiar with the mind/body/spirit connection that is at the heart of most yoga teachings, it is natural that the practitioner would seek out that same universal dynamic when requiring health care. Within a few blocks of most yoga studios, the average observer is likely to see a number of other facilities that might provide holistic care including health food stores with separate sections complete with oils, unguents, vitamins, minerals and supplements.

Familiarity decreases fear and that is no less true when it is applied to alternative medicine. Thirty years ago, it was rare, if one was not in California or New York, to find someone who had experienced acupuncture. Today, acupuncture has become so common a therapy that many large health insurance plans will cover a series of treatments. Even veterinarians have moved towards holistic care for certain animal ailments, often supplementing a prescription of antibiotics with vitamins like niacinamide and a continuing dose of probiotics which has proven effective in preventing issues that stem from the use of antibiotics. Many veterinarians also work in conjunction with human acupuncturists who have training with animals because the work so clearly can provide pain relief and swelling reduction in most animals.

Most holistic treatments, while providing a more gentle approach to care, also tend to have fewer negative side effects than treatments recommended in a Western care environment. This fact, alone, increases the number of patients who will choose the less invasive modality.

As the general population encounters more situations where holistic care is available and even recommended by their trusted health care professional, the opportunities to acquire such care also increase. It is inevitable that the trend towards holistic care will continue especially as more Americans become educated to the benefits of a "whole" approach to health care. Concerns about pesticides and lack of nutrients in the food supply, as well as the alarming increase in medical costs will also contribute to an increasing exploration of alternative therapies.