Holistic medicine encompasses an extremely diverse set of therapeutic systems and healing modalities. But one thing they all seem to share is the notion that health depends on balance between sets of opposing forces. These systems regard illnesses not so much as "things" in and of themselves, but as reflections of imbalances in the physiologic processes that make us alive.
This idea, of course, is not the exclusive property of "alternative" medicine: allopathy clearly recognizes the concept of homeostasis and identifies many exquisitely balanced anatomic systems and physiologic feedback loops. But in day to day practice, the idea of restoring equipoise to an unbalanced set of systems is seldom the guiding therapeutic principle.
The theme of balance lost and regained echoes throughout this issue of Holistic Primary Care. You'll find it in the biochemical yin-yang relationship that exists between the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and the way these two groups of essential nutrients influence immune system function. It comes up again in our exploration of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system, and the ways in which they become unbalanced in many diabetics.
On a much larger scale, you can see it in the dynamic between an ancient medical system like traditional Tibetan medicine and the prevailing biomedical model. In exploring and integrating specific techniques and practices that derive from alternative healing systems, it is essential to balance the imperative for physiologic "effects" with your patients' very real and equally valid need for psychological and spiritual sustenance—to maintain the right relationship between the mechanics and the meaning of medicine.
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All the best for a prosperous mid-winter,
Erik L. Goldman
Editor in Chief