Holistic Health and Lifestyle

Healing starts with you By Abigail Thorpe

Holistic and integrative medicine is not a new idea—we’ve been talking and reading about it for years, and, in many cases, using it. But with the many options available, in addition to the seemingly endless fad diets, nutrition tips and health “solutions” that pop up, it can be difficult to drown out the noise and get back to the basics of what a healthy lifestyle means for you.

Fortunately for the Sandpoint community, there are various local establishments with a focus to help you along your journey to health and healing.

The very term holistic gets thrown around a lot, but what does it really mean? “Holistic medicine addresses that concept of treating the body as a whole unit, rather than as pieces of a puzzle,” says Jeff Pufnock, L.Ac. Ph.D. of Embodied Virtue in Sandpoint. “Western medicine will often want to attack things in a symptoms-based way, whereas holistic medicine attacks things in a nourishing-the-whole-system way so that symptoms resolve by addressing what is the root cause of the disease.”

But holistic medicine doesn’t exist apart from traditional Western medicine; ideally, they work together to treat the individual in the best way possible. “Supporting our body to heal itself is the most natural thing that we can do when we are sick, but sometimes that is not enough and the body needs help. That’s when outside interventions become important,” adds Scott Porter, owner of Sandpoint Super Drug and pharmacist and functional nutrition practitioner. “Whether a person takes a probiotic or an antibiotic, it’s important to know how effective it will be and any unwanted side-effects. There’s a place for both of these approaches in our approach to health.”

Holistic medicine starts from the basic idea that everything in the body is related—the physical, mental and emotional. “There is no difference between the thoughts that you think and the symptoms coming up in your body, they say the exact same thing,” says Jessica Youngs, L.Ac., co-founder of Embodied Virtue. “Once you begin to perceive your reality that way, your entire life shifts because you realize it’s a circle.”

With this idea of the body working as a whole, comes the foundation of holistic health—that the body can heal itself, and that personal health starts with lifestyle. But what does a healthy lifestyle look like, and how can we approach and incorporate various forms of medicine and holistic health into our lives, no matter what place we’re starting from?

It Begins with Self Personal health begins with the mindset that your health is in your own hands, and that you hold the power to take control and help heal yourself, says Pufnock. Holistic health requires more of a commitment and buy-in from a person, as negative thought patterns and approach can often prevent healing. Open mindedness is important. If you approach new forms of medicine or health with skepticism, odds are you won’t see results, regardless of whether the approach is a good fit for you or not.

Lifestyle Lifestyle is the No. 1 thing we can change to support our health, and the best part? It costs nothing to improve. “This includes how we breath, the amount of water we drink, restful sleep, our posture and how we move, and generally having a positive attitude,” says Porter.

Many of the symptoms we exhibit are a direct result of our personal lifestyle choices and can be changed all on our own. Stress has a direct and powerful impact on our health and can often be dealt with by making relatively easy lifestyle changes. “Experts now believe that chronic stress accounts for 80 to 90 percent of all doctor’s visits,” says Arla Markael, owner of Highlands Day Spa North. “The stress response in the body, designed to help us with critical fight or flight, is not meant to be a continued state of being. ... When stress is chronic, it wears down the adrenal glands, leaving the body exhausted, and keeping other important systems, like your immune system, on off.”

Exercise, posture, positivity, sleep and even self-care practices like massage can all help decrease stress and increase health. And, of course, diet is key—what you put in your body has a huge impact on how you feel. Many health problems can be traced back to poor diet and lifestyle choices. A good variety of organic vegetables and fruit is vital, but you can also seek help from a dietician or nutritionist to dive deeper into what foods your body requires more of, and what may be difficult for it to process. Oftentimes, elimination diets like the Whole 30 can help you determine what food sensitivities your body has in an effort to help prevent or heal various health issues.

“Supporting our innate health is the most natural thing that we can do. The body is amazing at fighting off diseases, getting rid of toxins and generating the energy our brains need to thrive,” says Porter.

Going the Extra Step Beyond our personal diet and lifestyle, there are many ways to support our health in a holistic way that can both treat and prevent various health issues. Chiropractic work, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, acupuncture and naturopathic care are some of the various practices that help support health, but it can often be overwhelming where to start and how to approach a modality or holistic practice that is foreign to us.

We have unlimited access to information, both good and bad, but simply googling the latest nutritional supplement or fad is the worst way to approach your health and can be a huge waste of money and adversely affect your body. Certain key supplements like vitamin D with K, probiotics, and vitamins you can’t get from diet alone are essential for nutrition, but beyond this, it is important to seek the advice of a certified naturopath or practitioner. “Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s not harmful, and that’s the important thing about supplements,” says Pufnock.

“If you have limited resources, use those resources in the best way possible, which would be actually meeting with a health-care professional you feel comfortable with,” adds Youngs. Ask friends and family what symptoms or issues they had, and who they’ve worked with in the past to help find a reliable practice you feel comfortable with. Many practices, like Embodied Virtue, offer free consultations to help people explore if they are the right fit.

Rather than buying supplements you’re not sure of, book an appointment with someone, or schedule an introductory session to see if massage or acupuncture is the right fit for you—and go in with an open mind.

Spas and practices like Highlands North Spa offer many options to help relax, heal and rejuvenate the body, like Far Infrared Sauna, Anespa showers, High alkaline water and various forms of massage that can help reduce stress and treat muscle tension and joint pain. “Holistic and alternative practices can be a great tool for getting body systems back up and running. The intent is to aid the body in healing itself through nutritional tools, de-stress tools, removing energy blocks and more,” says Markael. “Massage is known to put the brain in a healing and restorative brain wave that is as restorative as seven hours of sleep.”

The key to approaching holistic health is to remember that everything will not work for everyone. Be open-minded to trying something new, but don’t be dissuaded if something does not work for you—something different might be a better fit. And remember: “Holistic medicine often times is not an immediate fix, but it is the best fix for most things,” says Pufnock.

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