The Western Medical Model and a Holistic Approach

The Western Medical Model and a Holistic Approach

The Western Medical Model and a Holistic Approach

Dr Ron discusses why the Western medical model needs to take a holistic perspective and combine the best of both worlds:

Dr Ron: When it comes to crisis, we know the western medical model is second to none. But we have broken the human body down into so many specialities that we seem to have lost sight of the fact that we are dealing with a complete human being.

Having established the Sydney Holistic Dental Centre in 1983 and having described myself as a “holistic dentist”, it’s a subject that has interested me for over 30 years. As a dentist the focus is primarily on the teeth and the gums; as a holistic dentist my primary focus is on the person attached to the teeth and the gums. A small statement but a significant one.

By that definition you could be a holistic skin specialist. When was the last time your skin specialist focused on the food you eat even though 80% of skin conditions are a reflection of poor digestion. What about a holistic psychologist or psychiatrist, as the connection between the gut and the brain is explored in the interesting field of pyscho-neuro-immunology.

When we explore how western medicine developed into this compartmentalised approach a short history is worth exploring.

In the 17th century a French philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes, was a great thinker and had a profound affect on science. It was a time in healthcare and medicine where there was a lack of structure. He had much to say but three things in particular shaped the way we practice medicine today;

  •  In order to understand the human body it needed to be broken down into its smallest parts and be considered like a machine – we now have more specialities dealing with the human body than ever before
  • That in order for something to be significant they had to also be statistically significant. We need certainty – the randomised control study and meta- analysis are the gold standard of an evidence-based approach.
  • The mind and body needed to be considered separate. While this may have had more to do with appeasing the church at the time it has had a dramatic affect on how we approach diseases of all kinds, whether the symptom of the disease is physical or mental.

The western medical model takes a very reductionist view of health, both in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases. When dealing with the appropriate management of the condition the patient presents with a symptom, which often involves deciding an appropriate medication or surgical intervention to remove the offending body part or organ.

From this approach prescription drugs have become the backbone of modern medical practice, providing an insight into how the body and disease is approached. If you have an inflammation, take an anti-inflammatory; an infection, take an anti-biotic; depressed, take an anti-depressant etc. etc.

The holistic approach takes a more multi-factorial approach to disease health and wellness, looking at nutritional and environmental factors that may have thrown the body out of balance and understanding the intimate connection between those factors and the affect on both and the mind and body, which of course are intimately connected.