What is Holistic Health?
Holistic Health and Functional Medicine take a scientific approach to total body health, and when all our systems are healthy and balanced, sickness, irritation, and disease go away. It is a fast-growing, evidence-based clinical approach that addresses the environmental influences and imbalances that underlie disease—with the idea that when these are addressed, the body can return to its natural state of health and balance.
When things get out of balance, we feel sick. When all of these systems work together properly, we are healthy. All of these networks of our biology work together for health, but when something is out of balance, it creates dysfunction or disease.
Here’s What Holistic Health is NOT:
- A method of diagnosing diseases and treating specific diagnoses
- A specific diet
- A multi-level marketing company to sell supplements
- A one-size-fits-all approach to health
- A quick fix for all that ails you
Here’s What Holistic Health IS:
- A “wide-angle lens” approach to correct core imbalances in your body’s systems. When balance is restored, a person feels, functions, and performs at the highest level possible, and is free of chronic disease.
- A mindset for achieving health and wellness through self-exploration
- An opportunity for you to partner with a practitioner who can help you discover the systems that are out of balance and causing or contributing to your symptoms
- A process to increase and improve the client’s health span, not just their life span.
My Holistic Health Core Principles:
- Every person is a genetically unique individual
- Treatment is holistic and patient-centered, rather than disease-centered
- The dynamic balance between body, mind, and spirit is well worth pursuing
- All internal body functions are interconnected and should be treated as such
- Real health includes a positive vitality—not just the absence of disease
The Holistic Health Approach
The science of Functional Medicine approaches the problem of illness by looking at the deeper root causes of the signs and symptoms, instead of only treating the symptoms. I view the working body as a machine made up of seven systems that, when in balance, function efficiently and effectively for total wellness.
The Seven Systems:
- Digestion: nutrition and gut health
- Defense and Repair: immune health and inflammation
- Energy: energy regulation and mitochondria
- Biotransformation and Elimination: toxicity and detoxification processes
- Communication: endocrine (hormones), neurotransmitters, and others
- Transport: cardiovascular (arteries and veins) and lymphatics
- Structural Integrity: from the cellular level (cell membranes) to muscles, bones, and joints
Taking a survey of your symptoms, filling out a questionnaire, and visiting with a Holistic Health practitioner can help you identify which systems may be out of balance. From there, a personalized game plan can be designed to guide you through making the adjustments in your lifestyle to bring these vital systems back into balance.
For most people, the first change to be made is with nutrition. This is the place where the biggest, immediate impact can be made. Replacing processed, toxic food with natural, wholesome food is like replacing water with gasoline in your car’s gas tank. It can make all the difference in the world as to how that engine runs!
Beyond healthy food choices, Holistic Health incorporates supplements, lifestyle, and environmental recommendations that are proven to positively impact your quality of life. And for those who want to go even deeper, easy at-home lab studies can be done to measure your unique sensitivities, biomarkers for health, or genetic predisposition to certain imbalances.
Perhaps you know a person who has suffered symptoms as a result of mold in their home, or exposure to certain toxins. The signs of exposure to an unhealthy environment may take years to appear as symptoms. The harmful effects accumulate over time and can eventually lead to a chronic condition. The holistic health and wellness process can help you discover whether or not your environment – past or present – may be affecting your health.
Holistic Health is a shift from focusing on the health of specific structures or organs to the overall health of all the body’s systems. These systems are the “machines” that make our bodies work. They are not isolated to one organ or part of your body; they’re integrated systems that are made up of multiple parts, use the resources our body makes available, follow a program set by our genetics, and are affected by our diet, environment, and lifestyle.
About Kathleen Stross
I was the kind of student that some teachers loved, and others grew tired of. I was the one with all the questions. This insatiable desire to understand things continues to this day. I have always wanted to know as much as the teacher by the end of the class. Upon graduating from PT school, I went to work in a rehab center for brain injury recovery.
Picture this, a sixteen-year-old sophomore cheerleader who was saved by the airbag when her car rolled on a Saturday night, an attorney who fell and hit his head on a concrete bench after a late business dinner, a construction worker whose head was “opened” when he collided with the sharp edge of a front loader. These survivors of horrible accidents need emergency medical care, in the form of surgeries, medications, and technologies to stabilize their systems, control bleeding, and keep them free of infection. Once they are stabilized and the emergency is over, it’s on to “rehabilitation”, or management of the longer term, chronic conditions.
The interdisciplinary rehab team’s job is to restore health to the broken body; by healing the wounds, returning the person normal function, and keep the person free of secondary disease. The best way to do this is through healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, physical/occupational/speech therapy exercises, supportive counseling (for the patient and the family). The planned course of recovery could be sidetracked if the patient developed constipation or an intestinal blockage, a bladder infection, a wound infection, or an electrolyte imbalance. But this interdisciplinary approach to care, where all types of specialists and practitioners work together, made way for the miracles where patients were able to recover from life-threatening brain injuries, return home, and re-integrate into their families and communities. This made sense to me. This was a holistic approach to health and wellness.
Fast forward to the 90’s when healthcare started changing. “Managed care” was the name of it, but to the patients and the providers it was “mangled care.” The process of healthcare delivery became so over-managed that the suits outnumbered the lab coats in the hospital cafeteria. The hose in the healthcare delivery system got so twisted, diverted, filtered, and controlled that there was hardly anything able to come out the other end. In an attempt to reduce the cost of delivery, the powers that be simply transferred the money spent on actual care to those managing the care. In other words, healthcare became a bureaucratic mess. And those interested in and qualified to guide the patient back to health were strangled and unable to do so.
I’m telling this story because I think it is how the ball started rolling to the state we are in today, where doctors don’t have but 5 minutes to be with you to hear your complaint, order tests, and prescribe drugs. Practitioners see more patients in a day then ever before, but patients are not healthier. It’s not access to healthcare, it’s access to health information and a qualified “old fashioned” holistic practitioner that is going to turn the tide from bad food, bad mood, and bad diseases to healthy food, healthy living, and freedom from chronic disease.
For me, when the healthcare culture changed, it discouraged delivery of quality, and interdisciplinary care was no longer encouraged. Communication between specialties was not billable time, so it was discouraged. Without the conversation and consideration about the unique aspects of that patient, customized healthcare delivery died. Protocols were developed that would speed up the process so that every patient was a coin dropped into a sorter that would roll and fall, roll and fall, until you landed in the box with your diagnosis.
I set out on my own to pioneer the practice of vestibular and balance rehabilitation. I participated in neurological and balance research, taught medical and therapy students, and traveled the country teaching practitioners about the developing field of vestibular diagnostics and rehabilitation. My work was getting noticed, and I was asked to consult with more and more complicated patients. My therapeutic rapport with patients led me to further study the mind-body interaction in the field of eidetic image psychology, which proved to be the secret sauce in several high-profile cases of recovery.
For the past 15 years, I have had a concierge PT practice primarily focusing on neurological and vestibular dysfunction affecting balance and causing vertigo. With a marketing budget of zero, patients came and filled my schedule – initially to work on their vertigo, and eventually, to partner in the lifelong journey toward health and wellness.
So, what I am really trying to say is that I don’t feel I am moving into a NEW way of thinking as much as I am holding on tightly to the OLD-FASHIONED WAY – but with a new, science-based approach. A culture of health and wellness care that dates back to the medicine man: the doctor who made house-calls with his black bag of medical gadgets. The true “family physician,” the person who is interested in healing your body, mind, and soul, and who partners with you in the journey toward that outcome.
I did not search out functional medicine as an approach, or as a new service to offer. Instead, functional medicine found me. My practice has evolved over the years to include all aspects of health and wellness, and it seemed like a natural fit for me to move toward the evidence-based study and application of functional, holistic health and wellness. It just makes sense. I think when I tell you a little bit about the Holistic Health approach, you will agree.