The Whole Person Matters | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

The Whole Person Matters


"The side effects of this medication may be difficulty sleeping, dry mouth, constipation..."

Have you ever stopped to consider the harm many drugs can cause? A drug can cure one health condition only to give you another one. The list of side effects on prescription and over-the-counter drugs keeps lengthening, it seems, and some "side" effects can even be life threatening; more than 1.5 million Americans end up in the hospital every year due to adverse drug reactions and 100,000 people die, according to Public Citizen's Health Research Group.

Naturopathic physicians take a different approach than traditional western medical doctors; they see and treat the whole body and not just one particular area. The five distinct aspects of a naturopathic practice are: causing no additional harm to the body; exercising nature's healing power; treating the root cause of a health condition; recognizing the whole person instead of only a body part; and using the physician as a teacher.

I have absolutely no medical knowledge, and I often find myself simply wanting my painful and obnoxious symptoms to disappear. In most general-medicine practices, the approach is usually doing whatever it takes to minimize and eliminate symptoms. Unfortunately, suppressing symptoms without dealing with the real problem can cause more harm to the body than good. Naturopathic physicians, however, believe it is vital to find the real cause of symptoms.

Jennifer McKinley, a master herbalist and nutritional consultant in Oxford, believes that modern medicine has its place, but it also tends to cover things up. "They throw pills at the problem instead of finding the source. Natural medicine is about finding the source of why someone is having a particular issue and fixing that problem so the whole body is better," McKinley says.

Our bodies have a unique ability to heal, but self-created obstacles often handicap our immune systems. Naturopathic physicians encourage patients to let their bodies perform healing functions as they determine what harmful factors are compromising the process and what healthy elements should be added to a patient's life. They recommend exercising and maintaining a healthy diet as first steps in naturopathy.

McKinley believes strongly in maintaining a healthy, colorful diet and trying to eat as many organic foods as possible. It's no secret that organic eating is sometimes costly, but McKinley cautions: "Whatever you aren't willing to spend on your grocery bill will wind up on your medical bill."

Looking to natural remedies first, McKinley advises clients who suffer from severe headaches to drink more water, for example, as a throbbing head is often the first indication of dehydration. For extreme migraines, she encourages clients to eat a few bananas each day as a magnesium deficiency is often the cause.

Naturopathic professionals adopt the idea that no illness of any magnitude happens without a direct cause. Symptoms are not the illness, but rather the body's way of attempting to heal. According to the principles of naturopathy, no person can completely recover from an illness without identifying the underlying reasons.

My body pays a toll, for example, when I am mentally distraught. Naturopathic physicians take this idea to the next level as they identify a patient as a whole person rather than just a collection of symptoms. In my case, instead of simply prescribing a pill to reduce anxiety, a naturopathic consultation would thoroughly dissect the physical, mental emotional and spiritual aspects leading to my complaint.

Jerusha Stephens, the first licensed acupuncturist in the state of Mississippi, says that while acupuncture is its own field, it does share similarities with naturopathy, as it is also a completely natural approach. "The connectivity between our mind, body, and spirit is something that should not be ignored," Stephens says.

As a patient, I am often overwhelmed walking into a doctor's office. I feel intimidated that he or she knows far more about my mysterious human body than I do. Naturopathic physicians work to bridge this common gap by serving as a teacher, spending time with patients to help them gain an understanding of their body.

"It is totally about education," McKinley says, adding that those in naturopathy highly value prevention. They promote it by educating for healthy lifestyle decisions. Rather than fighting disease, naturopathic physicians believe that building strong health is the best approach to staying wholly healthy.

Naturopathic physicians don't turn a deaf ear to the list of harmful side effects of many leading prescription drugs. While they can and do use drugs as a last option, the main emphasis of naturopathy remains the use of natural healing agents.

Eat Clean
Eat Clean
Clean eating is not a particular diet, but rather a lifestyle with one main rule: Only eat foods that had a mother or that came directly from nature, according to Clean Eating Online (

By avoiding processed foods as much as possible, clean eating encourages the body to maintain a healthy balance and proper functioning.

But, like with every eating plan, I had many questions and found the rules difficult to follow.

A friend who always eats "from the earth" recommended I shop around my grocery store's periphery where I find the fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy and meats. I have found this specific approach to be one of the best guides to eating clean depending, of course, on how the particular store tries to entice us.

Alternative Pain Relief
The fear of needles is widespread, and may prevent patients from experiencing gratifying, drug-free pain relief. Acupuncture is "the practice of inserting needles into the body to reduce pain or induce anesthesia." Research has found acupuncture to provide relief from issues like migraines, dental pain, menstrual cramps, asthma and even nausea from chemotherapy.

Chinese medicine focuses on five key emotions: fear, worry, joy, grief and anger, and their corresponding meridians on the body. If a patient is especially worrisome, for example, the acupuncturist would work near the spleen. For treatment of specific phobias, the kidneys would indicate the acupuncture location.

In 2009, Mississippi legalized the practice of acupuncture by licensed acupuncturists. The first licensed acupuncturist in Mississippi, Jerusha Stephens, says only six other acupuncturists join her in the state, and strong regulations still govern the practice. Every acupuncture patient must first have a referral from a medical doctor, and insurance generally does not cover acupuncture procedures.

For more information about acupuncture in Mississippi, visit

Home Remedies Busted!
Myth: Apply mayonnaise to a burn immediately after it occurs and leave on 10 minutes.
Fact: Gross! Mayonnaise and other foods can actually breed bacteria and lengthen the healing process.
Myth: Drink apple-cider vinegar for heartburn relief.
Fact: While apple-cider vinegar aids in killing germs, growing hair and losing weight, it does not reduce heartburn. The smell and taste alone should be enough to detour you from this false home treatment.
Myth: Comb lemon juice through your hair; sit in the sun; get great highlights.
Fact: Do what you want, but I recommend against going cheap with your crowning glory. Lemon juice lightens hair in the worst way possible, and may actually cause white, fried and dried blotches.

See more at

Aerobic Hearts
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. While this statistic can leave us speechless or prompt us to donate to the American Heart Association, it rarely hits us deeply enough to actually work to change the statistics.

Cardiovascular exercise is essential in promoting healthy hearts. The Centers for Disease Control recommends 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise (high-intensity, heart-rate elevating) three to four days a week.

To meet these recommendations, find something that will spark your interest like biking, swimming, jumping rope or running.


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