None dare call it alternative’ . . .

To some health promotion professionals, the term "alternative medicine" may connote new and exciting vistas in the world of wellness, but to Alannah K. Levian, RN, ND, DC, BAHom, DCCHom, it sends up a red flag.

"To speak of medicine as being alternative’ has a derogatory slant," says Levian, an Atlanta-based practitioner who has specialized in natural health medicine for 30 years. "What you’re saying is, There’s medicine, and then there are these flaky kinds of things we call alternative. It’s sort of like being an alternative bridegroom."

Only U.S. relies on Western medicine

In fact, says Levian, even the term complementary’ has fallen out of favor among her colleagues. "People said, We’ll throw in a little aromatherapy in the treatment room, or hypnosis, and spice up what we’re already doing, and call it complementary.’ It’s not really acknowledging the fact that America is the only country in the whole world that relies heavily — primarily — on western medicine."

A more appropriate term for the incorporation of non-traditional therapies, and one that is gaining favor, is "Integrative." It is a word, Levian notes, that more accurately describes a truly holistic approach to health and wellness — one that more accurately represents the mind-body relationship.

"This is the first level of educating the [health services] consumer," she explains. "We’re not talking about a choice, which the word alternative’ implies. And complementary’ says that health is compartmentalized into the mind and the body. What integrative’ says is that the mind is in the body, the body is in the mind, and you have to treat both at the same time."

One example of the integrative approach to wellness is Heller Work, created on the west coast by Joseph Heller. "He was a protégé of Ida Rolf [the creator of Rolfing’ therapy]," notes Levian. "While Rolfing [which involves deep tissue work] addresses only the body, Heller recognized that people are going through emotional changes during therapy. So, he has combined deep tissue work and voice dialogue."

Innovations such as these, says Levian, "recognize that there is an emotional/mental/physical constellation, and that all parts must be well for the whole to be well."

Live in accord with your nature

This has important implications for wellness, Levian observes. "The ultimate integrative approach considers the individual as an individual. There are specific nutritional things certain people can do and get well on, while those same things may make others sick. Some people need vigorous exercise, while some need relaxation and meditative workouts. You need to live in accord with your nature, and that requires a little bit of reflection."

There are consultants who specialize in identifying these individual differences, says Levian, explaining how they assess employees. "There are generally five different groups of individuals," says Levian.

"Some might respond well to a carnivorous diet and vigorous exercise. Others might require a vegetarian diet and stress reduction. Hopefully, companies will hire such consultants to come in and assess their employees, and teach people to recognize their individuality," she says.

[For more information, contact: Alannah K. Levian, (770) 321-5518.]