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Holistic vs Western Healthcare

Holistic healthcare is natural healing with a “whole life” philosophy. This means integrating treatment for the mind, body and spirit. Holistic healthcare differs from Western medicine in many ways, including approach, treatments and techniques. In the U.S. there has been a rise of interest in incorporating holistic treatment into our healing practices.


A key difference between holistic and western healthcare is one you likely will notice quickly when researching holistic treatment: insurance coverage. Many holistic practitioners are not covered by insurance plans, or are out of network. Western medical tests and treatments are most often included in insurance plans, making them more immediately accessible for most of us.

Cause of Illness

Holistic healthcare looks for imbalances in the patient’s whole life when addressing an ailment. Social, environmental, and emotional influences are considered with equal levity to physical factors. In Western medicine, physical components like genetics, germs, and physical symptoms are the focus for identifying the cause of an ailment.

Diagnosis & Treatment

In holistic healthcare, identifying a named disease or illness isn’t as common as in Western medicine. Because imbalances are viewed as effects of a whole lifestyle, each case is viewed as personally unique and thus is not as clearly identifiable. Treatments often begin with suggestions for diet and exercise regimens, meditation, and natural treatments such as acupuncture or herbal supplements. In Western practice, symptoms are viewed as signals to a catalogue of known diseases or illnesses. Formal tests are often administered as evidence of these diseases, and standard treatments are identified based on that ailment. Treatments often consist of medication, with suggestions for lifestyle changes after the ailment has healed.

Like anything else, there are benefits and drawbacks to both schools of thought. Doing your own research, talking to different practitioners and finding a balance that feels right for yourself is the best way to find lifelong health. Building a community of experts that you trust and communicate with is key, which takes time.

For more information on holistic healthcare, visit the WebMD website (


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