Over the last century, religion, spirituality, and science have all played a major role in health care, although they have never been integrated with traditional medical science in the United States. Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is a set of medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not part or integrated as part of Western medicine which is the dominant health care system in the United States. Religion and spirituality have both played dominant roles in healing since the beginning of history.
Today it is believed that prayer and faith can bring healing and is referred to as holistic healing, or focus on the mind, body, and spirit rather than just the cause for an illness. A paradigm shift is a adjustment or change in one’s view of a subject or approach toward a subject. Presently in the United States, a paradigm shift is occurring with the roles of traditional Western medicine and Complementary and Alternative medicine. In recent years, there has been and increased interest in CAM and holistic healthcare although traditional medicine remains the dominant health care system.
As Americans are becoming more and more interested in CAM and holistic care, the integration of CAM into the mainstream medical care system is becoming more evident and once again religion and spirituality becomes part of the health care system. How is religion and spirituality related to health care? Different cultures around the world have rich histories full of religion, spirituality, and cultural practices and beliefs. These different cultures have all developed various types of CAM over thousands of years.
In health, religion and spirituality work together for healing using prayer, meditation, and faith. The psycho-physiological effects of healing using faith have not been proven through the scientific method, which is why this method of healing remains separate from scientific medicine because it is not measurable or quantifiable. In medicine, the focus of healing is on the physiological cause for the illness. With CAM or holistic healing, the focus is not only on the cause but on the whole body, mind, and spirit.
Shifting the approach to illness to one of an integrated health care system of traditional medicine paired with holistic approaches can expand our methods of healing and can address all issues of an illness, cause and effect. Over the last century in the US, traditional medicine has been the dominant source of healthcare. Lately, traditional medicine has begun to lose its popularity with Americans due to the impersonal treatment of the patient among other factors. People are looking for a more personal approach to healing and they are taking more responsibility for the choices they make in health care.
Many people seek care from both their traditional doctor and a CAM provider for various reasons including an emphasis on health rather than disease and a focus on the condition of the patient rather than on an ailment or disease. Traditional medicine in the United States is Allopathic medicine or Western Medicine. This system is based on quantifiable scientific research. Health as it relates to science is a focus of healing an ailment or disease, not healing the whole body cause and effect of an illness.
Complementary and Alternative medicine can include massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, homeopathy, herbalism, nutritional therapies, and aromatherapy as well as many other methods. All of these methods of healing in combination with Western Medicine as a paradigm shift or new way of approaching health care can provide a new way of viewing health care and can treat the whole mind, body, and soul. Instead of focusing on treating an illness, an approach toward total body health and prevention of disease is a much more eclectic system of health care.
CAM can offer the alternative methods to healing which in combination with traditional methods can offer better healing and healing capacities. The shifting paradigm of traditional medicine and CAM will continue to prevail over the next few years due to the increasingly culturally diverse United States and the growing interest of alternative medicine practices and religious and spiritual approaches to healing. An integration of traditional methods and alternative medicine can provide better treatment for patients due to the direct relationship between stress and neuroendocrine responses in the human body.
The psycho-physiological aspect of stress as it relates to disease has become more and more popular for study in recent times. This understanding has shifted the focus of healing to a more integrated one of understanding emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and behavioral factors and how they directly affect health. As this understanding continues to shift, CAM and holistic medicine will become more and more popular and a definite shift will occur in our culture where CAM and Western Medicine are combined for a better health care approach.