The healthiest people in the world are the ones passionate about life. People who feel wonderful, think clear and look great. If you're not among those, but instead wake up each morning feeling tired, depressed and reaching out for the caffaine, then you don't need just medicine.

By Freeda S'souza

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Published: Fri 30 Apr 2004, 2:44 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 12:32 AM

You need holistic medicine. An approach to healing which is fast gaining ground in the west.

Alternative medicine is so popular in the US and UK that a clear majority seems to be preferring it to conventional medicine. The trend is likely to fast catch on in the Middle East too, says Dr Mark Atkinson, one of the biggest names in the world of alternative medicine. "My prediction is it will come over here, probably in the next year or two. It is inevitable. More and more people realise the limitations of conventional approaches," he said.

Dr Atkinson, one of UK's leading physicians specialising in holistic medicine, is keen to be a part of the change that is foreseen in the region. "I want to return and maybe run a clinic, actually help the people in the UAE to use the holistic approaches. I'm considering coming back to the UAE on a regular basis. I would be open to the idea of working with hospitals," he told City Times. Dr Atkinson was in Dubai recently to lecture a select group of Jumeirah residents on latest health concerns, besides creating awareness of holistic medicine.

Conventional medicine with its drugs and diagnostics only symptomatically treat a problem. Contrary to this, holistic medicine starts with the premise that before one turns to chemical drugs, one should start with safe natural approaches, essentially nutritional approaches that are the foundations of good health. Holistic medicine is all about providing an insight and a clue to illnesses and prevent it from happening.

Besides the physical level, holistic medicine treats the mental and emotional level as well. Dr Atkinson believes that to cure an illness, "you have to look inwards at the panorama of your life, somewhere there is some disharmony that leads to the problem, and it tends to be related to your diet, exercise, the way you relax, your relationships." Dr Atkinson, himself, specialises in depression, a medical problem which is projected to be the second largest health concern by 2020. "As we go through life, we accumulate experiences, which shake our belief system, which determine our behaviour," he explains, adding that depression can be effectively treated with the right supplements and diet consisting of healthy foods such as natural fresh vegetables and oily fish. Another big global health problem is that of obesity, which is caused by not just wrong eating choices, but also emotional and psychological factors.

At the lecture, Dr Atkinson focussed on selecting the right fuel mixture for the body, the most important ingredient that supports one's well-being. "You are what you eat. Your food is dictating and influencing your life," he says. The type of nutrition required varies from person to person. For instance, some people may need a high protein, high fat diet, while others may require high carbohydrate, low fat and low protein diet. Some others may be in-between. The key is to determine how your genetic programme processes your food. Conventional medicine often has one solution for everyone. "But in holistic medicine, we match the nutrition programme to the person's individual needs. We then discover what his medical needs are and treat him for it."

Holistic medicine stresses on natural foods. "Nature gets it right, man generally dosen't. The more you tamper with it, the more likelihood that it will harm the human body," says Dr Atkinson. Many foods appear very healthy but are devoid of nutrition. For instance, some oranges contain zero vitamin C. Some products look nice and have extended shelf life at the expense of nutrition content. Thus, even if you're eating all the right fruits and vegetables, there is still a possibility thta you are nutritionally deficient. This deficiency can be corrected with the right supplementation taken for the right period in the right combination, he adds, adding that 95 per cent of the people are deficient in key vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Also, your body tends to crave the very thing that is not good for it. For instance, if you're craving sugar, that is your red flag warning that you have a health problem.

Holistic medicine deals with taking self responsibility and commitment to your health. "Prevention is the heart of holistic medicince," Dr Atkinson says. "There are so many mistruths in diet, it is unbelievable," he says, explaining that everyone thinks cholestrol contributes to heart disease, which is not true. It is instead the increased intake of vegetable oil, hydrogenated fats and sugar, which leads to oxidation or damage of cholesterol by free radicals in the body. The reduced intake of saturated fats from our diet is yet another misconception. "We need fats in moderation to be happy and healthy. One of the greatest tragedy is the pasteurisation of milk. It chemically alters the milk, reduces vitamins and minerals and destroys enzymes," Dr Atkinson says.

Even if we have our diet right and we are taking the right supplements, we are wasting our time if we can't absorb them through the digestive tract. Any digestive problem suggests that you are not maximising the benefits of supplements. One of the ways to correct this is by supplementing the diet with probiotics, which are good bacteria. We have over 100 billion bacteria living inside our small and large intestine. "If you eat a bad diet and lead an unhealthy lifestyle, the ratio between the good and bad bacteria is disturbed. We should be having 85 per cent good bacteria," Dr Atkinson said.

Dr Atkinson believes, that medicine should not just treat the physical body which has a mind, but a spiritual being as well, which has a mind, emotions, relationships, expectations and a past. "In order to treat a person, I must understand the person first. All of us are carrying around this big baggage of emotional hurt. The shopping bag of past emotions some people carry is quite extraordinary. In holistic medicine, we first identify what is the cause of the problem, spend time listening to the patient. One of the most powerful relationships in holistic medicine is that between the healthcare practitioner and the patient," Dr Atkinson said.

In addition to diet and supplements, a good exercise regime and control over our emotions are important too. Negative thoughts can lead to release of chemicals which are harmful to the body. In life, we alternate between pleasure and pain. Unfornately, all that's happened in our relationships in the past continues to affect us even now. "You need to release these semotional packages," he says.

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