15 Holistic Therapies for Chronic Health Problems
Looking for new solutions? Give these treatments a try.
Adobe Stock/Marilyn Barbone
ADHD (and Anxiety)
Executive and cognitive brain functioning can be improved through neurofeedback, says Dr. Jingduan Yang of Bryn Mawr’s Yang Institute of Integrative Medicine. First, Yang uses 3-D imaging to map brain waves. Then he creates individualized therapeutic plans. On average, patients need 40 one-hour sessions to see lasting results.
Having anxiety is like being stuck in fight-or-flight mode. “Acupuncture releases that stress, strengthening the nervous system and allowing it to function properly,” says Lance Isakov, acupuncturist and founder of Village Wellness in Berwyn. Similarly, “Reiki brings you to a relaxed state very quickly, where you can let go of the stress,” says master teacher Laurie Elder. “That allows you to go into a different mode where you can rest and heal.”
Arthritis and Spinal Stenosis
CBD can reduce bone and nerve pain, but only if you use the right product. CBD can come from either hemp or marijuana plants. “It’s the same CBD chemical, but its source has different implications,” says Dr. Ari Greis, an orthopedic expert and director of the Rothman Institute’s medical cannabis department. Gries advises people to use products that are properly labeled and sourced. “Make sure you’re buying from a legitimate company, so you know what you’re taking,” he says.
Asthma and Allergies
Wayne’s Lynn Feinman, who holds a doctorate in naturopathy, uses vitamins, nutrients and herbs to boost clients’ immune systems. Detoxification is often the first step. “If our gut and blood are clean, we’re in a good place,” she says. “The goal is to decrease the body’s inflammatory response to histamines.”
Yang believes autoimmune diseases may be caused by “biochemical imbalances influenced by environmental stressors and genetic predispositions.” Bodies can be overloaded with copper or heavy-metal toxicity and be lacking in other things. After diagnosing patients through blood and urine tests, Yang uses nutrient therapy—tinctures, tablets or capsules—to help bodies break down and eliminate harmful substances.
Health insurance typically covers acupuncture for the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. “It’s mostly for the nausea,” says Megan Conover, co-owner of Healing Place Acupuncture in Wayne. “But acupuncture is a whole-body treatment, so they also get relief from back pain, insomnia, anxiety and blood-sugar imbalances.” Relief is common after one session, but treatment should continue as the body changes.
Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism
Ayurvedic practitioners like Bryn Mawr’s Mary Rider are seeing a lot of thyroid disorders—especially in women. “Working moms are typically running on caffeine and stress,” Rider says. “Their thyroids will over-act and go hyper, then go hypo and get sluggish.” Exercise is a must, as are diets focused on portion control and nutrients. Rider also uses herbs, pastes and oils. “In most cases, we can reverse the thyroid disorder and get it functioning properly again, unless they’re already on medication.”
Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis
Naturopaths like Feinman take a holistic approach to digestive disorders. “‘Remove, replace, repair and re-inoculate’ is my mantra,” she says. “What are the aggravators? What are the nutrients your body needs to heal?” Each patient gets a unique plan with foods, herbs and vitamins. Rider, an Ayurvedic expert, treats IBS clients with customized diets, plus powders, teas and tablets that aid digestion. She also uses a topical treatment, pouring herb-infused oil over her clients’ abdomens. “The oil penetrates deep into their tissue, healing from the outside inward,” Rider says.
Knee and Hip Pain
Chinese medicine treats bone pain by first expelling cold-and-damp qualities. Then, acupuncture needles bring healing red and white blood cells to the area. “We create an anti-inflammatory response without medication,” Conover says. Nutritional counseling and dietary changes also help clients manage their pain.
Acupuncture relieves migraine pain by releasing muscle tension in the neck, shoulder and upper back. Getting the muscles to relax and the chi to flow may require several trips to an acupuncturist like Isakov. But clients should feel some relief with a session or two.
Sports medicine acupuncture is specifically designed to relieve overworked muscles. “When they’ve been in one position for too long, muscles get stuck and dehydrated from lack of blood flow and chi,” says Isakov. “Through acupuncture, we release the muscle fibers and fascia.” And that relieves tension, gets blood flowing and promotes healing.
Perimenopause and Menopause
Rider uses Ayurvedic herbs and plants like anantumal and shatavari to regulate a woman’s body temperature. For vaginal dryness, she offers herb-infused suppositories filled with ghee that restore tissue in the female reproductive system. Feinman, meanwhile, deploys herbs like magnolia, ashwagandha, passionflower and chamomile. Vitamins are another must. “Your ovaries aren’t the only thing out of whack,” says Feinman. “All of your hormones can be affected, so we need to nourish and rebalance your body.”
After the birth of her first child, Elder was emotional, exhausted and short-tempered. She turned to Reiki for relief, with treatments once a week for almost four years. “I still didn’t sleep. Reiki didn’t change my child’s behavior,” Elder says. “But it changed my experience of it, boosting my energy level, easing my stress and helping me reconnect with my body.”
Reflux and GERD
The problem isn’t necessarily what you eat, but when and how much, says Natalie Loschiavo, owner of Balanced Nutrition & Yoga in Newtown Square and West Chester. “If the stomach is full, it can press on a valve and open it, releasing contents and creating reflux,” she says. And the valve may also not close securely. Nutritionists like Loschiavo customize diets that involve frequent, small, nutrition-packed meals that stop stomachs from getting overly full.
Type 2 Diabetes
Small nutritional tweaks can make big differences in the health of Type 2 diabetics. Add whole grains, fiber and protein to breakfast by switching cereals and eating fruit with peanut butter. “Most people don’t eat enough food—certainly not for breakfast,” says Loschiavo. “A nutritionist can create a healthy, balanced plan specifically for Type 2 diabetics.”