Holistic health is a very vague term in the sense that it kind of refers to treating the whole person -- physical, mental, spiritual, psychological, all the different aspects -- recognizing that we are more than just physical symptoms, that there's a lot of other aspects of health," said Dr. Daniel Kellman of Tulsa Naturopathic Group.
Nature and Nurture
Kellman has been practicing naturopathy for 13 years. Never heard of it? "Naturopathic medicine is a very organized profession that is focused on training doctors in how to utilize natural medicines within the overall healthcare delivery," he said.
"In the states where we're fully licensed and accepted, we're able to do pretty much primary care medicine and prescribe medications if necessary. But we do try to focus on using more natural types of means to do that."
Unfortunately, Oklahoma is not one of those states, so Kellman does what he can here in Tulsa. About four years ago, he got into naturopathic oncology, which according to him, is all about "utilizing naturopathic types of remedies, which are acupuncture, vitamins and minerals, homeopathic medicine, herbs -- things that help reduce side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, and help with surgical healing, and also help with the body's immune system functioning." He is an ND at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
He listed some examples of the work he does with cancer patients: "We use low level energy laser treatment to improve circulation and prevent neuropathy in those patients undergoing platinum-based chemotherapy. We do acupuncture with patients as well... That has been amazing at preventing all sorts of side effects. We have a lot of different herbs that can help patients with their energy -- fatigue is probably the biggest problem with chemotherapy. There are tons of things that we use for nausea, including just ginger capsules and acupuncture as well." There are also "certain herbs and mushroom extracts that help improve white blood cell count."
Some of Kellman's patients are dealing with various other health issues, like arthritis and digestive problems, while others are perfectly healthy, but want to improve their overall well-being. "You can get them on a program where they're much better on a daily level and [it] prevents disease from happening in the first place," he said. "A big part of what we do is really focused in prevention."
Treatment plans are individualized, depending on a variety of factors, such as genetic predispositions, environmental exposures, dietary restrictions, etc. "Everybody comes in with their own set of risk factors," Kellman said.
Holistic health methods include psychological and spiritual guidance. Kellman said with cancer care, "on a daily level, you're helping people with their psycho-spiritual issues and we're trained in counseling and how to counsel people in that way, so it just inevitably becomes a part of your everyday practice... My practice at Cancer Treatment Centers of America is very much focused on helping patients get through their treatment as healthfully as possible." Of course, when patients need more emotional guidance than he can give, he refers them to a psychologist.
Since most pharmaceutical medicine comes from plants, Kellman urges skeptics to give naturopathy a try. He said to remember that many of the ways our ancestors stayed healthy before the invention of modern medicine were holistic in nature.
"I'm more of somebody who believes in integrative medicine. I think that's the best term now for what we have going on. It's an integration of conventional medicine with holistic ideals that's really getting patients the best care," he said.
Kellman warns to keep an eye out for people who call themselves naturopathic doctors but don't have the proper training or certification.
East Moves West
Alternative medicine is another term used to describe holistic methods of treatment. Dr. Curtis Webb of Golden Cabinet Chinese Medicine, 5226 E. 69th Pl., believes it has become popular "because Western treatment protocols have hit a bit of a glass ceiling." When Western medicine fails to help patients feel better, they seek other ways to manage their pain.
"We are looking at the body as a mirror image of nature, so all of the principles happening in nature [are] happening in the body," Webb said. "So whenever we're looking at diseases or health, we're looking at nature as our system of diagnosis and treatment."
Webb has a master's degree in Oriental Medicine and is a board certified acupuncturist, although you don't have to have a license to practice acupuncture in Oklahoma. "I do acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese dietary therapy, and just lifestyle counseling as well," he said.
According to Golden Cabinet's website, they aim to "restore balance, harmony, health and to work preventatively against disease." That sounds a lot like naturopathy and holistic health in general, but each form of alternative medicine is different.
Explaining how acupuncture works, Webb said, "The acupuncture needles, they're stimulating spots that are kind of like talking to the brain in a way. It's like sending a message, telling the brain to activate certain parts of the body."
Just like we hold stress in our shoulders and neck, which can feel obviously tense, we can have other physiological problems and hold knots in other places without realizing it. "Acupuncture needles, they go into those spots and they stimulate those spots and they kind of allow that area to relax a little bit. Just like someone touching your shoulders and rubbing your shoulders -- same thing, but in other spots," Webb said.
According to Webb, acupuncture "gets this mythical or mysterious kind of connotation associated with it, when really it's actually the most practical thing that you can ever imagine. It's very far from mystical or mysterious."
Perhaps such a claim will raise eyebrows, but he stands by it. "Acupuncture has been around for 5,000 years. The survival rate for something that's not effective probably wouldn't be close to 5,000 years," he said.
Other services provided by Golden Cabinet include fertility and quit smoking programs, as well as yoga.
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