WHY HOLISTIC?

As an integrative gynecologist I often get questions from my peers who are more traditional expressing high skepticism in regards to anything that is not the traditional therapeutic path.  In gynecology the traditional path for treatment for most common women's health conditions includes primarily 2 options: birth control and surgery.  Many traditional gynecologists favor these methods as they are easily studied and since we live in an evidence based society most doctors seek out evidence based protocols as the standard of care.  However these traditional treatment methods can actually be very limiting as they don't "regulate" hormonal production but "suppress" it and because they can paint with such a broad brush they often have side effects for many women.  It's like always driving a Hummer when a Fiat will do!

It's not that evidence based medicine does not have it's place.  It absolutely does!  However the reality is that in order to have evidence based protocols you have to have well designed randomized control trials.  What would be the benefit for a company to pour hundred's of thousands of dollars to research or prove how well a plant works that you can grow in your backyard?  What big pharma company can you think of that is investing money to prove that a whole plant or acupuncture is more effective than the medications that they want doctors to prescribe?  Instead those of us in the medical profession may need to start to consider that there is something to be said for andetodal medicine--especially in regards to things that may not so easily lend themselves to reductionist science.  It is actually possible for both andedoctal and reductionist science to co-exist--if you truly understand how holistic therapies are proposed to work in the body.

Don't know what reductionist science means?  Sure you do!  Anytime you turn over a product or medication and you see in big bold print the words "active ingredient" you are looking at a product of reductionist science.  This type of science seeks to find the most essential active product, drug or compound that is active against whatever you may be using it for---for example pain or headache.   If you take the part of a compound that is the most potent then it must be better right?  Not always--remember the body doesn't typically react so well to this stripping down and magnification of the active ingredient as it throws off other systems in the body.  This is why so many standard medications have so many associated side effects.  Now of course in certain cases you may want to pile on as much active ingredient that you can--especially when disease presents at an advanced point.  However taking this approach to every type of therapeutic decision is like taking a blowtorch to every situation when sometimes maybe only a mild fire would do.

Reductionist science is the type of scientific method that is not so easily applied when it comes to anecdotal evidence for whole plant medicine or other holistic therapeutic options.  Although many journals do produce great work on the basic science level in regards to the active compounds in many holistic therapies the truth is there isn't a lot of financial backing behind more advanced studies in this type of work.  On top of that if the basic working theory is that a therapy works because of the whole of it's ingredients as opposed to just it's active parts and that there is a synergy that works in between each part of the whole then it becomes extremely difficult to truly design a study that meets reductionist demands of what we currently consider "evidence-based" medicine.  This causes us as a medical profession to often easily discount and not investigate compounds or therapies that don't have this evidence---without acknowledging the likelihood that the type of evidence or "proof" that we seek as doctors will never be obtained for the financial reasons above.   In that lust for ever increasing evidence for every single clinical action or decision we as a profession have thrown centuries of andedoctal holistic treatments and therapies to the wayside.   

As an integrative practitioner my hope would be that as we advance our knowledge in the path of medicine that we start to be more accepting of the traditional therapies that have been known to be effective in women's health for years and that it starts to be more integrated along traditional therapies.  Learning holistic therapies does not take away the ability to perform traditional diagnostic options or even review traditional therapeutic options.  However every woman should have both the option and the knowledge of the full range of therapeutic choices (both traditional and holistic) that regulate hormonal balance and common's gynecologic complaints as opposed to always bringing a blowtorch to the problem.  Ask anyone you know....would you rather take a natural therapy or one that is synthetic or surgically invasive?