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The Whole Picture: A Guide to Finding a Credentialed Holistic Medical Practitioner

There is an increasing demand for healthcare professionals who adopt a holistic approach to managing health and disease in recent years. This is not unexpected, given the rise in chronic conditions and diseases that are influenced by lifestyle factors. Both the public and healthcare providers acknowledge the importance of qualified professionals who can integrate lifestyle assessments, advice, and interventions with traditional medical treatments.


Finding a holistic health practitioner can be challenging and potentially dangerous due to the lack of regulation, misinformation, the potential for harm, financial exploitation, and lack of communication with conventional medical practitioners. It is important to research any potential practitioner thoroughly and to discuss any new treatments or interventions with a conventional medical provider to ensure safety and effectiveness.


What is a holistic health practitioner?

A holistic health practitioner is a healthcare professional who takes into account the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual factors that contribute to a person's overall health and well-being. They use a whole-person approach to treatment, which includes a range of evidence-based therapies and interventions to address the root causes of health issues.

Holistic health practitioners may include medical doctors, nurses, chiropractors, acupuncturists, naturopathic doctors, nutritionists, and other healthcare professionals trained in holistic health principles. They work in partnership with their patients to develop personalized treatment plans that address not only their physical symptoms but also their emotional and spiritual needs.



Their approach is based on the understanding that the mind and body are interconnected, and that a person's health is influenced by a range of factors, including their environment, lifestyle, and genetic makeup. Holistic health practitioners may use a variety of interventions, such as dietary and lifestyle changes, nutritional and herbal supplements, physical therapies, mindfulness-based modalities, and other mind-body practices, to promote healing and well-being in their patients.

Overall, a holistic health practitioner is someone who seeks to understand the whole person and their unique needs to provide a comprehensive and personalized approach to healthcare.


The challenges:

In the absence of clear standards, patients may struggle to evaluate the qualifications and experience of practitioners and may be exposed to unproven or potentially harmful treatments. Additionally, without a clear regulatory framework, there may be little recourse for patients who experience harm or negligence.


Overall, the lack of standardization presents a significant challenge for patients seeking holistic health care and highlights the need for greater regulation and standardization in the field. And while this is taking place in some professional bodies, the following are some factors to keep in mind while conducting research and doing due diligence when searching for a well-qualified holistic health practitioner.


Key points to consider:


1. Verify credentials and licensing body of the practitioner

The credentials may vary depending on their specific area of practice and the state or country in which they are licensed. Credentials such as a degree from universities or certifications and diplomas from colleges for naturopathic medicine, chiropractic medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, or clinical hypnotherapy require years of education, and training as well as supervised clinical hours.

Licensing requirements after accreditation also depend on the country and field of practice. Research the specific requirements for your location and ensure that any provider you work with is licensed or certified by a reputable organization.


There is a minimum level of education required, clinical experience, national examinations, continuing education, liability insurance, the scope of practice, and a background check may be required to ensure that the practitioner has not been convicted of any crimes or engaged in any unethical behavior.


A stringent standard is the statutory licensing requirement which is a legal mandate that specifies the qualifications and standards that must be met to practice a particular type of healthcare. This ensures patient safety standards, effective care, professional standardization, accountability, and legal protection for patients and providers. Practitioners must adhere to these regulations and only provide services within their legal scope of practice.


The scope of practice refers to the range of activities and interventions that a practitioner is authorized and competent to perform within their field of practice. For example, if a practitioner is offering treatments or interventions that are not supported by scientific evidence or that are outside the scope of their training, their credibility may be questioned. This underscores the importance of evidence-based and evidence-informed practice, ongoing professional development and education, and adherence to ethical and professional standards.




2. Training in the basic sciences and how they apply to holistic health

Basic sciences, such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and pharmacology, provide a foundation for understanding how the body works and how diseases develop. This knowledge allows healthcare providers to identify the underlying causes of symptoms and develop targeted treatment plans.


Healthcare providers who prescribe must also understand the mechanisms of drugs, nutrients, or herbs, and be able to monitor adverse reactions to ensure safe and effective treatment. This includes understanding how medications, supplements, and herbs are absorbed, metabolized, and eliminated, as well as potential drug interactions and adverse effects.

The health consequences of drug-nutrient interactions can range from mild to severe, depending on the nature of the interaction and the patient's overall health status. Some consequences may include decreased medication efficacy, increased risk of adverse effects, nutrient deficiencies or imbalances, and organ damage. Healthcare professionals must receive proper training and education in drug-nutrient interactions to prevent and monitor these adverse outcomes

Without a strong foundation in basic sciences, healthcare providers may be more likely to make errors in prescribing. This can have serious consequences for patient health and safety.


Some examples of common drug-nutrient interactions are:

  • Grapefruit juice has serious adverse interactions with cholesterol and blood pressure medicines as well as blood thinning drugs. Grapefruit juice and extracts can inhibit the metabolism of these medicines, and alter absorption leading to changes in blood levels that have the potential to reduce the effectiveness of the medicine or increase toxicity.

  • Calcium and iron supplements can interfere with the absorption of some antibiotics, such as tetracyclines and fluoroquinolones.

  • High doses of vitamin E and Omega 3 supplements can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with anticoagulant medications. Patients undergoing surgical or invasive procedures that lead to bruising or bleeding need to stop taking these supplements before the procedures.

  • St. John's Wort can decrease the effectiveness of some medications, including antidepressants, oral contraceptives, and immunosuppressants.

  • Potassium supplements can increase the risk of hyperkalemia (high potassium levels) when taken with certain medications, such as ACE inhibitors and potassium-sparing diuretics.


A health professional who has proper training and knowledge in drug-nutrient interactions can prevent serious health consequences for the patient. Here are some ways in which a health provider should be prescribe to ensure patient safety:

  • A medication review is required regularly when a patient is taking multiple medications that can interact with each other, or when a medication can interfere with the absorption, metabolism, or excretion of a nutrient and vice versa.

  • An appropriate nutrient recommendation should be based on a patient's medical history, medication use, and nutrient status. Without this, it can lead to over-supplementation or under-supplementation of certain nutrients, which can affect efficacy.

  • Monitoring a patient's response to medications and nutrients to avoid missing adverse reactions and providing appropriate information to patients to watch for signs or symptoms related to an adverse reaction

  • Competency in the interpretation of lab results so that appropriate doses and duration of intake are accurate and monitored for effectiveness and toxicity. L ab markers that indicate the adverse impact of nutrients, supplements, or medication should not be misinterpreted or missed.

Health providers who also utilize lab testing should also demonstrate competency in interpreting these results in the context of the patient's clinical presentation and medical history. This requires a good foundational knowledge of the basic sciences and experience in clinical practice as part of their credentials.


3. Look for reviews and recommendations from other patients or healthcare providers


This can provide insight into the quality of care, effectiveness, competence, and bedside manner. It may also provide insight into the practitioner's communication style, approach to care, and overall demeanor for patients to find practitioners who are a good fit for their personal preferences and needs.

Recommendations from other healthcare providers can help patients find practitioners who are well-respected within the medical community and who may have experience treating similar conditions.



4. Questions to ask a potential practitioner

  • Can you describe your philosophy of care? How do you approach patient care and treatment?

  • What types of interventions or therapies do you offer? Are they evidence-based or evidence-informed?

  • Can you provide examples of successful treatments or outcomes that you have achieved with patients?

  • How do you measure success in your practice? What metrics do you use to evaluate treatment effectiveness?

  • How do you integrate traditional medical treatments with holistic or alternative therapies?

  • How do you stay up-to-date with the latest research and developments in your fieldWhat is your policy on follow-up care and ongoing support for patients?

  • For areas that are not within your scope of practice, do you have a referral network of professionals?


5. Know your rights as a patient, including your right to informed consent and confidentiality


Respect for patient autonomy and informed consent is a fundamental principle of medical ethics that respects the patient's right to make decisions about their healthcare. It ensures that patients have the information they need to make informed decisions about their treatment, including what is the gold standard of care, risks, benefits, and alternatives.

It also helps to ensure that patients are not subjected to treatments or procedures without their knowledge or consent.

Confidentiality is an essential aspect of building trust between patients and healthcare providers. Patients need to feel comfortable sharing personal and sensitive information with their providers to receive appropriate care. Confidentiality protects this trust and ensures that patients' personal information is not shared without consent.

Informed consent and confidentiality are also legal and ethical requirements for healthcare providers under statutory licensing. Providers who fail to obtain an informed consent or who breach patient confidentiality can face legal and ethical consequences, including loss of license or certification.


Overall, finding a credentialed and well-qualified holistic health practitioner requires careful research and evaluation. Patients should prioritize licensing, basic science education, supervised clinical training, professional ethics, practice philosophy, and patient safety and efficacy when selecting a practitioner to ensure the best possible care.


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