There are a lot of terms thrown around to describe healthcare approaches; western medicine, eastern medicine, traditional medicine, alternative medicine, integrated care, and so on. Often these phrases mean different things to different people. So what do we mean when we say, “Complementary Health Care?” We believe in taking a holistic approach to good health; combining modern medicine, proper nutrition, physical exercises, mental exercises, relaxation techniques, and a good night’s sleep to help you feel great and be your best, every day. We suggest pursuing the whole shebang.
Aspects of Complementary Health Care
Nutrition is a massive component of good health, and there are many, many facets. Rather than going into all of them, I’ve selected just a few of the more important or more popular.
A diet isn’t how you lose weight; it’s everything you eat every day. While you can lose weight on any diet, a truly healthy diet is one filled with a wide variety of foods. You should eat colorful vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, lean proteins, and unsaturated fats while avoiding saturated fats, having little to no raw sugar or “white carbs,” and an abundance of wonderfully flavorful fresh herbs. Don’t think weird, green smoothies with a bitter aftertaste. Think five-star meals you can make at home for less than you spend on unhealthy fast foods. I could write an entire article on how to maintain a healthy and delicious diet, but I’ve already done that. A few times. So let’s move on.
The problem with terms like “natural products” and “organic products” is that they’re marketing slogans that are so well known that they’ve shaped how we think of food. There is no single set of standards to qualify something as organic, and certifying authorities differ on what they consider genetically modified, or whether they’ll allow seeds that are sprayed with pesticides to be called pesticide free after they’ve grown into plants. While eating organic isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s better to know what you want that word to mean, and to find food sources that meet your needs. Whether you prefer cage free, locally sourced, non-GMO, sustainable, or all of the above is up to you. It takes some effort to figure out which companies you trust, but it can be very satisfying once you do.
The key to proper supplementation, other than using VitaMist, of course, is to determine ahead of time what your body needs. Have you had your vitamin D levels tested? Are you at an age where your body doesn’t produce enough intrinsic factor to absorb B12 properly? Are you on a diet that lacks in specific nutrients, or are you concerned with the depletion of minerals in the soil? Figure out what your body needs before overwhelming yourself with the variety of options out there. It never hurts to get some free nutritional training, too!
The dreaded E word. While it might make you cringe, there’s no denying its amazing benefits. I’ve always been fond of the phrase, “Eat well to feel good and manage your weight. Exercise to feel great and live longer.” The older we get, the more the walls of our heart stiffen, causing the cardiac diseases that are so prevalent today. Exercising helps keep your heart flexible and robust.
The best way to treat your heart well is to get that pulse elevated for at least 30 minutes per day. It may seem daunting, but the first step is straightforward. Just take your first step straight forward. Then another. Then other. Throw on your favorite music, and go for a walk. Walk for 15 minutes, then turn around and go home. If you prefer a change of scenery, there are a lot of free walking apps from companies like Under Armor that will map a path for you to take. As you get more adjusted to walking long distances, you can even step it up to jogging, swimming, or biking. Your heart will love you for it, and you’ll cherish your freshly invigorated metabolism.
I was about including something non-threatening here, like taking up dancing or playing a sport with friends, but I don’t touch on the benefits of weight training enough. For starters, it’s another exceptional way to get that heart pumping. That’s enough to earn it an A in my book, but it also helps you maintain your weight. The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn naturally. Musculature also uses your circulatory system more efficiently than fat, so your heart doesn’t work as hard when you’re relaxing. Then there’s the obvious benefit of being able to pick things up that you couldn’t before. A handy talent to acquire. When it comes to weight training, you should start off light. Set a goal of how many sets you want to do, and how many repetitions in each set. Then pick a weight that lets you get to that goal, while still feeling like you accomplished something. Don’t try to overdo it! Even light weight training is very good for you, and it avoids injury or that feeling that you can’t get out of bed the next day.
Yoga is a trend that’s not going away, and for very valid reasons. Recent studies have shown that it doesn’t provide the same heart benefits as strenuous exercise. However, it’s still a great way to build your core muscle strength, improve your flexibility, reduce injuries, and to center yourself. That last point makes it a great segue into our next section of the Mind.
Not understanding your brain can be one of the most significant impediments to good health. There are many issues that require the guiding hand of a good psychologist or psychiatrist. Though even if you don’t have mental health concerns, or in addition to these traditional routes, the benefits of mindfulness are far more numerous than you know.
Two different practices that I’m squeezing into a single section. NLP stands for Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and it combines what we know of neurology, language, and programming to help you reprogram yourself to behave in a way that’s more beneficial to you. Hypnosis has similar goals, but rather than reframing and reprogramming through language, it uses guided relaxation and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness, sometimes called a trance. Both techniques provide an entryway to your subconscious, to help change you on a behavioral level. The best part is that you get to set your goals and what you want to get out of a session. The therapist is just there to help guide you.
Meditation is a mindfulness exercises that will help you to relax, reduce stress, gain energy, break a habit, forge new habits, build confidence, I could go on, but this sentence would turn into a paragraph or two. Meditation is something that you can do just about anywhere, to achieve a variety of results. If you are interested, there are a lot of apps for your phone that will provide free training on how to meditate. To get more than the basics, you typically have to pay, but the basics alone are a sturdy foundation that will help you in nearly every aspect of your life.
Massage therapy has a tremendous array of benefits, many of which are physical, but I’m focusing here on improving your mental health. Stress is a leading cause of disease, whether it be infectious, heart disease, sleep disorders, high blood pressure or any number of stress-related issues. Few things age us faster than stress, either internally or externally. Sadly, it is not possible to eliminate stress from our lives, but massage therapy can help manage it. Reduced pressure leads to decreased anxiety, improving your mood and overall outlook. It enhances sleep in both quantity and quality, providing you with higher energy, a clearer head, improved concentration and reduced fatigue. Reducing your stress also helps to improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Many even claim they receive a sense of perspective and clarity after a massage. The emotional balance it provides is just as valuable as the physical benefits.
No matter how much you pursue good health, there will come a time when you are unwell. There are many, many options to choose from when this happens.
Herbalism is a traditional medicinal practice that uses plants and extracts as remedies. It goes by many names, such as medical herbalism, herbal medicine, botanical medicine, herbology, and phytotherapy. Herbalism occasionally extends to other natural products such as bee byproducts, fungus, minerals, shells, and even animal parts.
Often touted as having a long history of use, herbalism has undoubtedly been around for a while, but this long history is not always the grand selling point that people imagine. It’s important to remember that the materials used in herbalism contain a vast variety of chemicals, not all of which are healthy, and many of which have competing effects. An herb is not safe or effective just because it has been used for centuries. People once though bathing was unhealthy or that dangerous substances like mercury could cure disease after all.
However, many botanicals have been studied extensively by scientists. While a lot have been debunked or disproved, some have been shown to have health benefits in clinical studies. The rich tradition, combined with scientific research is something that should boost your confidence.
Do not always trust what you read on Facebook or a blog. Do a little research for yourself on the botanicals you wish to incorporate, and even ask the opinion of your doctor. You may be able to find some fantastic complementary therapies and improve your overall health.
Osteopathy has some dubious roots, but today it has grown into a fully accredited health care profession with requirements on par with those of a medical doctor. In fact, schools that grant the title Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) are, in essence, just medical schools with the addition of topics such as physical manipulation to promote good health. If you choose an osteopath as a physician, you will often find that the only real difference between visiting a DO instead of an MD is that a DO may be more likely to have researched complementary healthcare practices than most MDs have. I must warn you that there has been a notably higher rate of DOs promoting potentially dangerous health care practices than MDs, but this why it’s important to research your local healthcare providers before choosing one that suits you
But isn’t this supposed to be an article about alternative medicine? Nope. This article is all about taking a complementary healthcare approach. There is a tendency to think poorly about western medicine in certain circles, the supplement industry being one of those circles. We here at VitaMist believe that waiting until you’re sick to address your health is a poor choice, but that doesn’t mean that western medicine doesn’t have any answers for you. In fact, it’s backed by years of research bent on finding answers to those questions. While much of that research was paid for by the pharmaceutical industry and companies looking to turn a profit, it’s easy to forget that your local doctor is not a greedy corporation. They went to school to learn about how the body works, how to test it for disease and injury, and how to fix or alleviate those issues. Your local doctor spent the better part of a decade (even without including continuing education) learning these things because they wanted to help people. If your doctor doesn’t always have the best bedside manner, don’t let your opinion of their personality discolor your evaluation of their talent. It can be hard to learn social skills when you’ve got all those books to memorize! So the next time you’re wondering if your physician is secretly a robot or lizard person, remind yourself that they are trying to help you, and it’s absolutely OK to ask questions!
Other Complementary Health Approaches
There are far too many other complementary healthcare options to list here, from traditional Chinese medicine to homeopathy, acupuncture to chiropractic manipulation. (Unfortunately) There’s no single correct answer. Your body is not mine or the next person’s, and your life experiences are vastly different. I can’t tell you which health approach is exactly right for you, but if you’re interested in knowing more, you can contact me at [email protected] I might even make my next article a topic you ask about in your email.
Lastly, and most importantly, tell all your health care providers about your complementary health approach. It’s not complimenting your health care routine if you’re not on the same page as your doctor, and many alternative methods can interfere with your medications and treatments. Give everybody involved in your health care all of the details on what you’re doing to stay healthy. Doing so will help ensure coordinated and safe care.