9 ways to take charge of your health
We're all interested in natural ways to take care of ourselves. Luckily there are a wide variety of holistic and alternative medicine types to help us do so.
We’re all interested in natural ways to take care of ourselves. Sometimes we need a little help from professionals to guide us through particular challenges. There is a wide variety of treatment modalities to consider. We’ve compiled a few—some familiar and some less well known.
These modalities treat everything from addictions to zits, and they can complement or even replace conventional medicine—whether you’re facing a little health hiccup or a grave health crisis.
Natural modalities can break old paradigms by shifting energies and highlight how emotions and energies affect physical well-being. Awareness of the connection between physical and emotional states of being can start—and speed up—the healing process.
Although most of these approaches focus on a specific type of illness, they also effectively treat other health problems. To determine if a particular treatment might work for you or a particular health condition, talk to a certified practitioner.
Note also that these nine modalities represent a wide range of healing, but they don’t address all possible types of natural healing.
Naturopathic medicine involves a wide range of possible treatments, including botanical medicine, acupuncture, and other therapies, but food and nutrition are essential ingredients.
“Dietary counselling is a foundation to any treatment plan,” says Dr. Agnieszka Matusik, a naturopathic physician who combines nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, and other therapies to treat patients. She uses different modalities for different people, depending on their issues and health goals.
Matusik recently treated a woman with uterine fibroids, often the culprit in certain female problems that cause abdominal lumps, constipation, bloating, and heavy, painful menstrual periods.
The Mayo Clinic estimates that 75 percent of women have these tumorous growths. They’re rarely cancerous and often undiagnosed—but when they are detected, the possibilities for healing go beyond surgery or medications.
Matusik treated her patient with the herb chasteberry to stabilize progesterone production, omega-3 fatty acids to balance lipids and reduce inflammation, and a supplement containing an extract of diindolylmethane (DIM) to improve estrogen metabolism.
Matusik also recommended cruciferous vegetables to increase antioxidants and detoxify the liver of excess estrogen. The results? Reduced pelvis pressure and bloating, less menstrual cramping, and regular bowel movements.
“I also prescribed castor oil packs for the pelvis to increase nutrients and remove waste from uterine cells,” says Matusik. “These packs relax pelvic musculature, which decreases cramping.” As well, she used acupuncture to improve energy and blood flow and disperse stagnated energy.
“Your gut is the cornerstone of your body and very important to overall health,” says another naturopathic doctor, Karen McGee. “If it isn’t in top form, many other therapies won’t be as effective. Most patients need nutritional guidance or diet changes, which will dramatically influence the results of other modalities.”
In this “art and science of spiritual self-improvement,” the brain waves of healer and receiver are synchronized into an alpha state (deeply relaxed and meditative). Their waves also pulse in unison with the earth’s magnetic field.
Most anyone can benefit from reiki, and it can affect health issues and healing in surprising ways. “My youngest client is six weeks old, and my oldest is over 85,” says Janice MacMillan, a reiki practitioner.
According to MacMillan, “Pregnant women have an easier time birthing and experience less postpartum blues with reiki. People slated for surgery often use it to relax before and after surgery.”
One of her clients is a 70-year-old female. “For almost a year before treatment, she experienced dizziness and felt like she was zig-zagging when she walked,” says MacMillan. “She fell more than once. Although she visited her family physician and a heart surgeon, she wasn’t medically diagnosed. She was exhausted and frustrated.”
During the final balancing of her energy, MacMillan noticed her toes were curled under and wouldn’t release. “Often when the lower back is in pain and the feet are not able to relax, it’s an indication of not feeling safe or grounded in the world.
“I suggested she return to her physician to have her feet checked.” Indeed, the client was fitted with insoles that corrected her dizziness and falling. She still enjoys regular reiki sessions as a means of self-care.
Low back pain, joint pain, tendonitis, frozen shoulders, and jaw problems can be remedied with a skilled Bowen therapist’s thumbs and fingers, which gently maneuver muscles and tissues.
Bowen moves are performed over the muscles and tissues rich in mechanisms, such as spindle fibres, Golgi tendon organs, and stretch receptors, which communicate with the nervous system. These mechanisms affect the body’s tissue tension.
“Bowen moves prompt a response from the body through the nervous system to re-adjust areas of imbalance,” says naturopathic doctor Jonathan Bablad, an advanced Bowen practitioner. “This therapy seems to balance the parasympathetic and autonomic nervous systems, which helps people who are functioning in stress mode.”
Bablad successfully used Bowen therapy in treating a very tall 41-year-old man who had been experiencing sciatica for approximately eight months and who walked with a limp.
“I assessed a piriformis spasm that was compressing the sciatic nerve. It took three Bowen sessions, approximately nine days apart, to resolve it. After the first Bowen session he was considerably better, had about 35 percent improvement after the second, and by the third session his issue had completely resolved.”
Bablad adds that chronic pain, infertility, asthma, and allergies can also be addressed with this therapy, which relaxes patients and allows healing to happen naturally. “The speed with which people can recover from long-term conditions is remarkable,” he says. “But what really surprises people are the breaks between moves, where the practitioner actually leaves the room. This allows the body to respond to what has been performed.”
Bowen moves offer information to the body. It’s easier for the nervous system to relax and respond when another person isn’t in the vicinity—even if that person is a healer.
Integrated speech/language and yoga
For the last six years, 11-year-old Samuel and his parents have wrestled with autism spectrum disorder. Lisa Dymond is a speech/language pathologist and yoga teacher who knows him well; she offers integrated speech/language yoga programs to children with
“This program weaves speech and language goals into a yoga routine, so language skills enter the body through a potentially more receptive nervous system,” explains Dymond. “Communication skills such as following directions, sequencing information, and staying on topic are woven into the dialogue of yoga class.”
During yoga, Samuel can stay on topic, concentrate, co-operate, follow directions, lead by giving directions, and observe another person’s body to get information about what to do next.
He spontaneously uses yoga postures outside of class, such as to remedy hiccups and to self-calm. “He was able to ride a bike for the first time last spring without needing to re-learn to balance,” says Dymond. “He continues to practise identifying the right from the left sides of his body.”
Parents and siblings are welcome in class, which helps support the practices at home and reinforce language skills’ frequency and repetition.
Dymond adds that success is defined by how individuals challenge themselves to be their best selves, and that differs from person to person.
Deep flow massage
If you’re anxious, you may have physical problems with your head, neck, and shoulders. If you’re not grounded, you might feel it in your lower back. If you fear moving forward, your knees might bother you?for your knees lead the way as you walk though life,” says certified massage practitioner Genevieve McCorquodale.
McCorquodale practises deep flow massage, which incorporates different massage modalities, including Swedish, deep tissue, shiatsu, Ayurvedic, lomilomi, and reflexology.
Deep flow massage is said to bring body and soul into alignment by combining energy clearing with muscular and skeletal release. The result? Anatomical and emotional healing.
“One of my clients is a 57-year-old woman who was diagnosed with isolated breast cancer,” says McCorquodale. “She knew I couldn’t cure her disease. What she needed was the nurturing aspect of massage to help her cope with the cancer treatments.”
McCorquodale also uses aromatherapy to relax the body or increase energy, depending on what her client needs. Fragrances can treat sinus and digestive issues, provide grounding, and facilitate healing.
The combination of muscle and energy release from deep flow massage may ease the stress of everyday life by improving sleep, increasing the mind-body connection, and helping to prevent future illness.
Health kinesiology (HK), a drug-free, nonherbal, and noninvasive way of restoring the body’s normal function, is said to correct the electrical and chemical flow in the body, allowing it to heal itself.
“Light pressure is applied to a muscle and the response is monitored,” says practitioner Linda Orr Easthouse. “Once the stresses are identified, gentle techniques are used to bring the body back into balance and harmony with itself.”
Easthouse describes HK as “a blend of the best techniques and knowledge from Western natural medicine and traditional Chinese medicine.”
Paul was 48 when he suffered a back injury after a work-related fall that broke two vertebrae and several ribs. “He had healed relatively well and had good movement, but was in constant pain,” says Easthouse. “Two sessions were needed to reset the meridians and restore energy flow through his back. Paul’s pain stopped entirely.”
HK includes other treatments—magnets, essences, whole food, natural supplements, at-home health care machines—that are meant to help restore the body’s electrical flow through the lymph system and rebuild broken meridian circuits.
“In a single session, your therapist may identify allergies, rectify nutritional imbalances, deal with phobias and psychological stress, rebalance chakras, and start the process of detoxifying the body from heavy metals, vaccinations, and drugs,” says Easthouse. Other health issues treated by HK include chronic pain, digestive issues, and depression.
Medical hypnosis and mindfulness
Toronto-based psychiatrist Adam Stein uses hypnosis to treat everything from cocaine addiction to exam anxiety. “The mind is an extremely powerful tool that can either drive us to the depths of despair or motivate us to reach for the stars,” he says.
Because of the misconceptions portrayed by stage hypnotists and Hollywood movies, Stein finds many people don’t associate hypnosis with healing. To illustrate how hypnosis works, he shares his experience with a 25-year-old man who struggled with cocaine addiction for four years.
“We accessed his subconscious mind with various techniques and replaced the cocaine craving with a food substitute—in this case, tuna fish,” says Stein. “He began to see results within the first four sessions, and with follow-up appointments remains cocaine free now, two years later.”
Stein also helped this patient deal with his underlying post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and painful memories of the past, which all needed to be addressed to decrease anxiety and promote healing.
“The ability to discover triggers and understand why we are stuck in our present difficulties is the first step in the healing process,” says Stein. “Regardless of the malady, learning coping techniques is fundamental to the road to recovery.”
NeuroModulation Technique (NMT) is based on the theory that underneath our flesh and bones is an informational source that initiates all bodily functions. Sometimes this source
Take food allergies, for example: the immune system is so mixed up that the body damages itself by reacting inappropriately to foods it should accept as nutritious. NMT is said to identify and correct this confused informational system and encourage the body to normalize.
“One of my clients is a woman in her mid-sixties with severe allergies to various foods, especially those with gluten and lectin,” says naturopathic doctor Reni Schulz. “She reacted with eczema on the skin, pain in various body parts, swelling of mucous membranes, and extreme itchiness all over.”
In NMT, muscle response testing raises the body’s awareness to the confusion in the informational system. Then, the system is moderated so it achieves homeostasis. Schulz says, “After several treatments, my client’s allergy symptoms almost vanished.” NMT also effectively treats pain, asthma, sinus and respiratory problems, infections, and inflammation.
“Healing is not a one-time event like taking a painkiller for a headache,” she adds. “It’s a process that for some may mean a treatment or two, but for others is a long journey. NMT—as with other treatments in holistic medicine—is not usually a single event.”
Restoring equilibrium in the body by correcting underlying nutritional and biochemical imbalances or deficiencies in individual biochemistry is the goal of orthomolecular medicine (OM). Natural substances are prescribed, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, trace elements, and fatty acids, to restore optimal health.
“I’ve used this modality to successfully treat anxiety, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and insomnia,” says naturopathic doctor, Christina Bjorndal. “For instance, I saw a 32-year-old male patient who suffered from depression for 15 years. After starting the orthomolecular protocol, along with my counselling, his depression lifted within 10 weeks of treatment. He experienced his first depression-free Christmas in many years.”
OM treats the root cause of the illness. Bjorndal explains that there are many levels to healing, and OM works on a physical level, similar to pharmaceuticals. She also addresses the mind and emotions through counselling, thus ensuring that optimal health is maintained by changing the underlying thought processes.
“OM is a great natural alternative to standard drug therapy for conditions in the mental realm, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia,” she says. “These illnesses have more than one root cause, and it’s important to address the behavioural, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels of healing using specific counselling techniques.”
She regularly uses Gestalt psychotherapy, compassion-focused therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy when treating patients.
“Some people have been in the conventional medical system for a long time. They’re told they have to take prescription drugs for the rest of their lives, or that they’ll never get better,” says Bjorndal. “That’s not true in all cases.”
Holistic healing doesn’t necessarily replace conventional medicine, but it can harmonize information and improve treatment plans.
Finding the approach that works for your body or health condition—or as an ongoing means of self-care and illness prevention—can be a process of trial and error. But when you find the right modality, it can change your health … and your life.