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What you need to know about holistic health care

Sarah Kelsey is a lifestyle writer, editor and spokesperson based in Toronto. She was the editor of AOL/The Huffington Post Canada’s StyleList, Style and Living sites. Today, she's a freelancer writing for some of North America’s top pub...

Tips for going holistic

It’s no surprise that studies suggest more and more people are going holistic. In fact, research from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine estimates approximately 38 percent of adults (about 4 in 10) and approximately 12 percent of children (about 1 in 9) are using some form of complementary or alternative medicine. But before you hop on the holistic health bandwagon, there are a few things you should know about the industry. SheKnows.com spoke with Dr. Kamau Kokayi, a family practitioner at Patients Medical in New York City, and Dr. Svetlana Kogan, an internal medicine specialist and founder of Doctors at Trump Place about holistic health options.

Reiki

The quality of holistic therapies vary widely

SheKnows.com: Discussions surrounding holistic health options are all the rage these days. What does holistic mean and how can someone tell if the service or product they're using is, in fact, holistic?

Dr. Kamau Kokayi: Unfortunately, holistic is a broad term to which all non-conventional therapies have been appended. Some of these therapies are well researched or have a long tradition within a culture, like acupuncture, while others require more unique skills, like reiki or other forms of energy work. The quality of practice will vary widely.

Dr. Svetlana Kogan: Holistic, to me, is a very subjective term. To most of us, it means the approach taken by the doctor assessing our health is done with the big picture in mind. A holistic doctor will ask you about your lifestyle, your family, your food and your goals in life among other things and will consider how your genetics and social environment shape your health.

Most common holistic practices

SheKnows.com: What are some of the most popular holistic health options or treatments on the market?

Dr. Kamau Kokayi: Chiropractic, colonic therapy, acupuncture, massage, cranial sacral therapy, applied kinesiology, herbal medicine and reiki therapy.

Dr. Svetlana Kogan: Ironically, I believe vitamins and supplements are the most common holistic products on the market. In my opinion, these things can only be considered holistic if they were custom chosen for you by your holistic doctor based on your unique requirements, not based on what the salesperson at the vitamin store tells you. Sadly, if not chosen holistically by a doctor, vitamins and supplements can do more harm than good.

Research your holistic options

SheKnows.com: What kind of research should people do before they choose a holistic product or see a physician?

Dr. Kamau Kokayi: It's usually best to get a word-of-mouth referral from a satisfied customer. In the age of Internet browsing, it's very easy to check on the background of a practitioner, clinic or modality.

Dr. Svetlana Kogan: Personally, I would only go to a board-certified doctor with extensive experience and interest in holistic health. I would avoid going to any practitioners who are self-proclaimed "holistic doctors" who, in case they hurt you with their therapies, will immediately dump you on someone else.

Holistic health care regulations

SheKnows.com: Is there any regulation for the holistic health industry?

Dr. Kamau Kokayi: You have to look at specific modalities or types of practice like chiropractic, acupuncture, etc. The more established therapies have state licensing while some holistic medical therapies involve some kind of certification within their profession.

Prevention and wellness are part of holistic care

SheKnows.com: Will investing in holistic health options actually make a difference to the quality of your health?

Dr. Kamau Kokayi: Yes, as long as you are able to choose a therapy that really addresses your set of imbalances. For instance, if you have structural issues and can find a chiropractor or body worker that can correct these, you're more likely to experience a benefit since your regular doctor may not have much to offer in this area.

Dr. Svetlana Kogan: Absolutely, yes. Holistic doctors are very preventive in their philosophy. They are very much into wellness, good eating habits and physical and mental exercise. All of this is a sure equation to a good health!

Risks of using holistic health options

SheKnows.com: What are the risks involved in trying holistic medicine or practice?

Dr. Kamau Kokayi: Risk is dependent on the kind of therapy you receive; for example, getting an inappropriate adjustment from a chiropractor or receiving acupuncture that causes pain. This is why it's important to do your research.

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