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Holistic Medicine Print E-mail
by Ron Kennedy, M.D., Santa Rosa, CA

Dr. Kennedy Life Style
Food and Nutrition
Adequate Sleep
Aerobic and Strength Exercises
Loving Relationships
Creative Expression
Spiritual Life
Dental Health
Substances to Avoid

We live in a quick fix society, in fact one could say we live in a society addicted to the quick fix. If your gizmo isn't working you want the part or the pill which will make it work, "and don't bother me with the details." However, if the gizmo isn't working, and the basic causes are not identified and dealt with, your thing-a-ma-jig is going down the drain soon, in fact your zorch may have to be removed and replaced with someone else's zorch if you continue on with your present life style.

Although not termed "holistic medicine," the core ideas of what now goes by this moniker dates back at least 5,000 years, originating in China and India. The fundamental idea is that of living in harmony with self, other, and nature. In Greek culture, Socrates recognized this idea and taught his students to consider the body as a whole and not part by part. Jan Christiaan Smuts introduced the term "holism" in 1926. Holistic medicine gained acceptance through the 1970s up to the current time and has become one of the accepted methods of alternative medicine. Practitioners of holistic medicine are doctors who understand these principles and are there to assist you in understanding and dealing with the fundamental causes of illness so that healing is a complete experience which will last for the rest of your life. In this article I will deal with some areas that are commonly in need of attention.

Life Style

This refers to the way you organize your life and focus on your priorities. When you list your priorities, is your health at the top of the list? If it isn't, you are cheating whoever or whatever is at the top of your list because you are going to be less effective in achieving those objectives and/or serving those people. You are likely to die sooner, perhaps before your destiny on this earth is fulfilled. Putting your health at the top and quality time with the people you love and serve is a good beginning to reorganizing your life style.

The life style disease of the modern world is "fragmentation." This involves hurrying from one job or person to the next without ever really "being" anywhere. In a highly competitive society people feel that they must hurry to compete. The idea is to amass as much money as possible. People are living out the absurd message of the popular bumper sticker which says, "He who dies with the most toys wins!" If you continue in the direction you are going, you are likely to get to where you are headed. Is that really the destination for which you were placed on this earth? More toys? Is your life style consistent with what you know to be so about your life?

Many people are living lives not unlike that lived by a hungry mouse frantically searching for the cheese in a maze. The hypnotic effect of mass media and the frenzied herd instinct generated by the fact that almost everyone else is doing it is almost to powerful to break away from. A good long talk with a holistic health doctor can go a long way toward reorganizing your life style.

Food and Nutrition

Next in importance to the way your prioritize your life is the fuel you present to your body to generate the energy you need to go forward. There was once a time when people were more closely connected to the land and the opportunity to have an unhealthy diet was difficult to locate. You either grew your own or you went to what we would now call organic groceries or farmers' markets. Now that industrialization, capitalism, urbanization, and specialization have been thoroughly integrated, fewer people are connected the farm and more are connected to the pharmacy.

Rather than tell you what a healthy diet looks like (because this is different for each person), let me lay down some principles which will guide you to a healthy diet. Redirecting your life nutritionally means staying away from processed foods. It means finding a source of real food, food which has been grown the way food was once grown, without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, which has not been sprayed with weed killers and which has been grown from rich soil which has been cared for properly.

That spells out o-r-g-a-n-i-c g-r-o-c-e-r-y. Find one and resolve to spend the money required for real food. Maybe you have to drive 50 miles to get there. Drive it. You may have to spend 50% more for real food. Spend it. Your money is better spent on health now than illness later. You may also find that if you eat organically grown food that you eat less, spend less, and effortlessly lose those pounds you have been trying to lose.

You know how you tell your children to choose their friends carefully, to hang out with the right crowd? Those principles apply just as well in food selection. Stay out of regular food stores, the G&Gs, Safeways, Raleys, Food For Lesses, etc. etc. Also avoid MacDonalds, Burger King, Wendy's, Pizza Hut, etc. Eat at home. Prepare your own meals. If you go out, go to a restaurant which specializes in preparing organic meals.

Once you are choosing only organic foods, you may find that your health is not dramatically better. The fact is people become sensitized, "allergic" to certain foods. Until these foods are identified and eliminated the chances of a super-healthy life are still dim. If you are on what seems to be a good diet and are still ill, I suggest you seek professional help. A holistic doctor is your best bet.

In general terms it is best to derive your nutrition from a wide variety of sources. The chemistry of the body is complex and requires many different types of fuels and additives. It is not like your car which takes three things and goes. Your body needs hundreds of things to go.

Equally important to the food you eat is the water you drink. In descending order, from the healthiest to the least health, here is the water list:

  • double steam distilled, carbon filtered
  • steam distilled
  • reverse osmosis, carbon filtered
  • spring water
  • tap water
  • fizzy bottled water

The purpose of water is to cleanse the body. You get all your nutrients, minerals etc. in the food you eat. These minerals are chelated, meaning bound to organic molecules and thus transportable and bio-available. Mineral water contains unchelated minerals, most of which will be a burden on the kidney because they must be excreted. Anything else you hear about it is water company propaganda. The best source of water is not listed (rain water collected in stainless steel containers in non-industrial areas of the world) because it is almost impossible to find. Rain water is distilled water. When water is distilled by man there are still volatile organic substances like chlorine to remove. That is where carbon filtration is important. Bottom line: invest in a steam distiller. The pay back in terms of money saved, both on bottled water, and in expenses avoided for illnesses which never happened, will be significant.

Do not ignore the importance of water to your health. Next to the air you breathe, it is probably the next most important thing you put in your body.

OK, so now you are eating organic food and drinking distilled water. None of this matters much if you are not digesting and absorbing the food you eat. If you are still not feeling well, consult a doctor to investigate your digestion. There are specific tests which can be done to reveal what needs to be done to improve your digestion.


Transformation refers to change, but a specific type of change: that which could not have been predicted. Staring at a tadpole or a caterpillar for the first time, one would never guess that in a few days hopping and flying will be happening. One can see transformation by looking into a child's kaleidoscope and turning it slowly. You know change is happening, but it is unpredictable. A healthy life is in a constant state of transformation. Aliveness and transformation are one in the same. When transformation ceases, illness begins.

Education, as it is conceived in our schools, does not take into account certain subjects. For example relationship, good nutrition (in place of real education we get the "food pyramid"), and transformation. A quality education in transformation would allow one to direct the course of his or her life to make a real difference. The one thing that is profoundly missing in the modern world is the experience of making a difference. I know, I teach a correspondence course entitled Making The Difference You Want To Make.

Adequate Sleep

A common failure of people leading an otherwise healthy life is going to bed too late and getting up too early. I am myself guilty of this. For most people the ideal amount of sleep is eight hours and many of us can make it on a lot less. Because we can make it does not mean it is the best for us.

When you close your eyes, your pineal gland begins to release melatonin. This marvelous hormone / antioxidant / anti-aging agent puts you to sleep within 30 minutes. The pineal continues to release melatonin through most of the night unless light of significant luminescence strikes the retinae. If you get up to have a snack or use the bathroom and turn on the lights at 3 AM, the pineal shuts down the supply of melatonin and although you may get back to sleep, that sleep with not be as deeply restorative as it would have been had you not turned on the light. If you must get up, grope around in the dark and leave the lights off. If you want to sleep late, sleep in a room without windows to the outside. When the sun comes up, your melatonin level goes down.

Most important, go to bed at a time which allows you eight hours of sleep. You will live longer, feel better and get more accomplished. Now to follow my own advice.

Aerobic and Strength Exercise

A healthy life-style requires that you keep your muscles in good strong condition. The only way to do this properly is to exercise those muscles. The heart muscle is made strong through sustained moderate stress. The skeletal muscles are made strong through weight bearing exercise. To do one form of exercise and not the other is to ignore an important aspect of your health. Of course you should be cleared by your doctor to do this type of exercise and if you are not familiar with the parameters of the exercise you contemplate, you should find a trainer to help you get started.

Loving Relationships

The presence of people to relate to who are supportive of your life and with whom you can interact on a regular basis is important to your physical health. This has been proven by scientific study and demonstrates as well as anything the relationship between your spiritual self and your physical self. It is not necessary to be married to have such relationships, so don't rush out and get married because you think that is the only way to live longer. A bad marriage can shorten your life as well as a good one can lengthen it. Relationship is the key and it need not be sexual relationship. The important item is someone with whom to talk and share your inner thoughts and feelings. If you find yourself without such relationships, the responsible and wise course for you would be to establish a relationship with a psychotherapist and explore your life. Insight brings openness and openness brings loving relationship.

Creative Expression

You are on this earth for a purpose. You have a destiny. Life has a plan for you laid out by God Himself. These three statements are examples of paradigms or, as I like to call them, contexts. A context is an idea so deeply believed that reality is created around it. A lot of self exploration is required before you find the presence of one single context.

Example One

Life sucks. That is a context. If it is your context you do not think "life sucks." Rather you look out at the world from life sucks and what you see is a world sucking. It looks like a crappy world, not a good place to be. Others experience you as cynical. You experience yourself as a realist.

Example Two

Life is an exciting adventure. If this is your context you never think to yourself "life is such a fantastic adventure." You simply go and live an adventurous life. The world looks exciting. Others see you as daring. You see yourself as fun loving.

In neither one of the above examples is creative expression present. These two people are living out unconscious lives from unconscious contexts, beliefs so deeply held as to be unexaminable. To live a life of creative expression requires awareness of contexts. Until that time one is living out a kind of script.

Upon recognition all compulsive thought and behavior disappear and there is a clean clear space in which creativity can happen. This space of creativity was once occupied by compulsive thought and behavior. When this happens the IQ jumps dramatically and the experience of well being fills your life.

The joy of creation is something few people experience. It is also something worth working for. And, finally, it has a definite impact on your health. For example, doctors who cannot transcend the contexts they learned in medical school are destined to be unhealthy specimens and die early, that is to say, they will manage their own health with medical school dogma they learned decades earlier. Most docs are coming along rather slowing in that regard. I am pleased to tell you that the doctors available though this web site are, by and large, creative beings.

Spiritual Life

I am not here to tell you what kind of spiritual life you should have, only that you need to have one. For the best health possible it needs to be clear to you that you are more than your body. A few of us are lucky and have had near death experiences. I know as a certainty that I am more than this skin bag in which I live. Until you have the direct experience of that fact, take it on faith. You do have a spiritual life, but to be in direct experience of that spiritual life requires creative intention on your part.


While ingestion of pure food and water is commonly recognized as essential to health, except among some allopathic doctors who think drugs produce health, elimination of toxic byproducts of normal digestion and metabolism, as well as of diseased states of digestion and metabolism, is often overlooked or shoved aside. Without detoxification you would die within a few days. You have large organs in your body charged with almost no other responsibility than detoxification. The colon, liver and kidneys work as a team to get rid of substances which can easily kill you if not excreted. A holistic doctor will take a close look at your state of toxicity. The fact is, all of us are in some state of toxicity. It is only a matter of degree. Relatively low levels of toxicity we call health. For example creatinine is a toxic product of protein breakdown. There are measurable levels of creatinine in your body right now. However, unless these exceed normal levels, we call you healthy, at least from that perspective.

The colon is your most important organ of elimination. If that organ is not working well, your overall health is in jeopardy. You want a doctor who will not overlook, or gloss over, a problem you have with your colon which you may not even be aware of yourself. You want your doctor to look carefully at your kidney and liver function. Doctors who do this and also consider your relationships, spiritual life, creative expression, etc. we call holistic.

A hologram is a special piece of technology which presents a three dimensional picture on a two dimensional surface. If you break a hologram into a thousand pieces and look closely, you notice that each little piece presents a complete picture of the original hologram. In like manner, each of your organs and each of the aspects of your life reflect all the others. A holistic doctor attempts to see the whole picture, not just stare at your blood pressure readings, or your toe fungus.

Dental Health

The holistic physician will also take a careful history of your dental health and examines your teeth and gums as well, whereas your average doctor will leave that to the dentist. The holistic physician understands that there is a relationship between dental health and general health. The presence of amalgams raises suspicion, especially if accompanied by fatigue and/or poor concentration. Mercury toxicity and conduction of current through metal fillings located close to the base of the brain are high on the list of causes of these and many other health problems. For more details see dental amalgam mercury poisoning.

Other clues to general health are often found in the mouth. Often the first sign of the yeast syndrome to be found on physical exam is a coated tongue. The presence of infected teeth, is associated with arthritis. Many vitamin deficiencies are seen in the condition of the lips, gums, and tongue.

Substances to Avoid

In addition, a holistic doctor will look carefully at your possible exposure to toxic substances. Items such as chlorine and fluoride in drinking water, aspartame in diet drinks, MSG, recombinant BGH (cow growth hormone), and toxic substances in carpets are only a few examples of common (FDA approved) toxic substances.

I have not attempted to take you through the entire gamut of considerations which go through a holistic doctor's mind during a history and physical exam, but rather to introduce you to the idea of holistic medicine. In my view, it is a clearly superior way to practice medicine, so much so that I would not consider entrusting my health to any other type of doctor.

You can gauge the degree of holistic medicine practiced by the amount of time your doctor spends with you. If it is slam, bam, here is your prescription, you can rest assured this is not holistic medicine.


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