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Naturopathic Principles: Treat The Whole Person

Date: 29-11-2021

Written by Chantelle van der Weyden BPsych (Hons), AdvDip(Nat), AdvDip(NutMed)


Welcome to the fourth instalment of our naturopathic philosophies series. The fourth principle is Treat the Whole Person (tolle totum).

Treat the whole person encompasses the concept that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Illness and disease impact the whole person, not just a specific organ or body system.

Health, and in turn disease, is an interaction of all aspects of one’s life and incorporates not only health behaviours (e.g. diet, exercise, stress reduction) but also the emotional, spiritual, environmental, social, familial and community aspects of life. A disruption or disharmony within any of these aspects can result in symptoms of disease.

Natural health practitioners take a “patient centred” approach and this is one area that really sets natural medicine apart from allopathic medicine. Time is taken to gain an understanding of the patient as a whole person, rather than a collection of symptoms. This then allows a practitioner to fully elucidate the role the above mentioned aspects of life impact the patient’s condition and symptom picture. And the practitioner then seeks to treat the whole person, rather than the specific organ of body system that is affected.

An example of treating the whole person may be that a patient presents with significant gastrointestinal dysfunction. In taking a patient centred approach and gaining insight to the patient’s whole experience it is revealed that these symptoms started during a particularly stressful life event. In working on not only the patients physical symptoms, but also their emotional health and stress management (i.e. the initial triggering event) the patients symptoms resolve.

It is once the person as a whole is understood, and areas of disharmony are addressed, that true healing can begin.