What to Know About Seeing a Holistic Doctor

Dietitian doctor

There are many reasons you might consider seeing a holistic doctor or a naturopath. The decision stems from a lack of satisfaction with traditional medical care they’ve received for some people. Others might want a balance of different approaches to their health care. 

There’s a specific condition they’d like to work on treating for some people, and it’s also a good way to get an additional perspective on your health and wellness. 

There are even more serious situations where a patient experiences a negative outcome from the conventional medical care they receive, leaving them with a desire to explore their options. 

If you’re considering a holistic approach to your medical care, the following are things to know. 

What is a Holistic Doctor?

Holistic medicine is one that takes a whole-person approach to health. A holistic practitioner will work with patients to improve their health and wellness by treating their minds, body, and soul. 

A lot of holistic medicine will integrate elements of traditional medical care with complementary and alternative medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine is known as CAM. 

The specific treatments used will depend on the type of practitioner you see and your needs. 

Types of Holistic Doctors

Some of the different types of healthcare practitioners you might see that are considered holistic include:

  • Osteopath: An osteopath is also known as a doctor of osteopathic medicine or a DO. DOs are licensed physicians and medical doctors like doctors of medicine (MD). DOs are licensed to practice medicine, and their training is similar to medical doctors. A DO goes to medical school, chooses a specialty, and does a residency. A DO also takes the same exam as an MD to become licensed. Dr. Javier Gonzalez is a solid example of an experienced DO.
  • Integrative physician: An integrative physician is a licensed medical doctor who takes an integrative approach to healthcare, combining traditional medicine with conventional and alternative medicine. Integrative physicians don’t have any formal degree—they are licensed physicians who might receive training in CAM or become board-certified in integrative medicine. 
  • Ayurvedic doctors: Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of medicine. The term Ayurveda in Sanskrit means knowledge of life. Ayurvedic practitioners believe health problems stem from imbalanced life energies or doshas. Treatments include changes to diet and lifestyle, alternative treatments, and herbal remedies. In India, Ayurveda is the primary system of care. A practitioner can receive standardized training and become an Ayurvedic doctor. In the U.S., these practitioners aren’t recognized as medical doctors. 
  • Naturopathic doctors: An ND receives training in naturopathic medicine, combining Western science and research, holistic approaches, and natural therapies. A naturopathic doctor goes to a medical college, studying much of the same things as a medical doctor. They take a board exam for licensing, but naturopathic doctors don’t receive recognition as medical doctors. 

What Would a Holistic Doctor Do Differently?

When compared to a traditional health care provider, one thing that most holistic doctors do differently is trying to find the root cause of a disease or the symptoms you’re experiencing. On the other hand, medical doctors in traditional settings will try to fix the symptoms. 

Holistic doctors may prescribe medicines, but they might also recommend lifestyle or diet changes and home remedies or supplements. 

The Price is the Downside

If you think seeing a holistic doctor sounds great, there is a downside for some patients: the price. 

Holistic doctors don’t usually accept insurance, and just your initial visit with them can be hundreds of dollars. Around 55% of surveyed people in the U.S. recently said they’d like an integrative approach to health care, but the costs burden the patient since insurance won’t cover it. 

Only you can decide whether your budget allows for holistic care and whether it’s worth it to you. 

People who see holistic care providers often feel that getting their health and wellness back makes it worth the costs. Many holistic providers take the time to listen to everything their patient is saying, and not just their symptoms. They run intensive tests and can help people return to a sense of balance in their health and their lives. 

Holistic doctors may want to learn more about your lifestyle, family history, and contributing factors to what you’re experiencing. 

Of course, for some people, the expense isn’t feasible for them, but it is worth at least learning a bit more about holistic care. Seeing a holistic doctor doesn’t mean you forego traditional care from providers either, and for some people, the best-case scenario is when their providers work together.