Sunday, October 11, 2009

The quick fix

Hello and welcome to the Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center blog. I don't actually know if anyone will ever read these posts, but for me, as someone who is a writer at heart, and someone with a LOT to say about wellness, this is a fantastic outlet. So if you have found it, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share my ideas.

This week especially I have been thinking about "the quick fix." It all started with an interesting conversation I was having with Dr. Smiechowski as we were driving around Rutland in her convertible with the top down and bamboo trees sticking out the back. (This might sound normal, except that it was a cold, rainy October day in Vermont...but when you need some bamboo trees and you don't have a truck, you do whatever you have to do...) Anyway, we were talking about our work, and how we have really been lucky to be able to work with some amazing clients. But then the conversation shifted to the notion that despite our efforts, some people just do not understand what holistic wellness is. Some people come in to meet with us and expect us to do something magical or prescribe a holistic pill that is going to "cure" them of what they are struggling with. Unfortunately, that is not holistic wellness.

Clearly we live in a time where people have come to expect everything instantaneously--from drive-through banks and fast food restaurants to the information superhighway--the Internet--where it is possible now to find almost anything you want in seconds. Unfortunately, this same mentality has carried over into the medical field. People go to a doctor where they may sit and wait like cattle in a room full of sick people. The doctor, if you are even lucky enough to see a doctor, may or may not know anything beyond your name. Because the doctors often have large numbers of patients to see, they need to look at you as quickly as possible, and then will usually prescribe a medication or medications for you, or send you off to a "specialist" where this whole process is repeated. Then you go to a pharmacy and wait for them to dispense your medications, which you take and expect to get better. Even our antibiotics have become susceptible to the desire for a quick one time almost all antibiotics were prescribed for ten days--now, we even have some that can "fix" you in as little as one to three days!

So often when people decide to explore holistic wellness options, they come in with the same philosophy of expecting an expert to look at them quickly and make a quick fix recommendation. Now, don't misunderstand--sometimes the fix is quick and easy. But most of the time, by the time you are aware of a problem with your body, it is beyond the point of an easy fix.

A true holistic practitioner is almost never going to give you a quick fix. Instead, they are going to educate you about what is happening and why, and act more like a coach to help you make the long-term changes required to make lasting benefits to your wellness.

For example, here is a common problem we see at the Pyramid...someone will come in and say he or she is having problems sleeping. After the initial examination by the holistic practitioner, the practitioner will most likely make some lifestyle change recommendations to allow the person to come back to being able to sleep soundly. Unfortunately, many people are not willing or able to make these changes...they just want to be prescribed something "natural" to get to sleep. The irony of this is that the only true natural way to sleep is to allow your body to sleep when it is tired and wake when it is rested. Using any invasive substance to help you sleep is not natural at all, whether it came from a pharmacy or it came from a plant. So lifestyle changes are usually what is required to get your sleep back on track.

Often, sleep troubles are the result of stress...and so the best, most natural course of action is to find ways to relieve stress. Sometimes it has to do with food and beverage intake, and so dietary changes are required. Sometimes it even has to do with the amount and time of physical activity, and so changes in this area may be the best course of action.

Sometimes there are homeopathic remedies, herbs, or acupuncture needles that will help. But these are not usually instantaneous fixes. Often these will help set up the possibility of success, but the client must accept responsibility for his or her own well-being and actually make the lifestyle changes necessary to make sure that the desired result occurs.

Sure, this is different from the way traditional Western medicine works. It is different from what people usually expect and want. But there are lots of benefits to doing things the holistic way. First, if you are having trouble sleeping, there is usually an underlying cause. So just taking a medicine to help you fall asleep does not actually address the cause...and often people are stuck taking sleeping pills for the rest of their lives. No matter what the substance, taking anything long-term puts pressure on your liver and stresses your whole body. Over time, some medications can actually become toxic. So masking the symptom (trouble sleeping) does not relieve the stress of what is causing the problem. Granted, some people do not care as long as they sleep. But by learning the true cause and by making often subtle but powerful lifestyle changes, one can learn how to improve the overall quality of life for the rest of the life. Lifestyle changes often also have no side effects except improved wellness and perhaps even confidence and self-esteem. Most people actually report feeling happier and more energized when using holistic methods, too.

From our perspective at the Pyramid, it is a no brainer. When you need Western medicines, by all means, use them. But for something like problems sleeping, the best long-term solution is to figure out what is causing the lack of sleep, and then do something to fix it.

Another example that I work with a lot is depression. Many times people will come in to counseling because they are feeling depressed. Sometimes the reason is very clear--and it is a situational depression. That is, "event A" occurs which makes the person feel depressed. So the solution is either to eliminate "event A" or change how one feels about it. Taking any sort of medication might help reduce the symptoms of depression, but a person is not really going to feel fully better until "event A" is no longer a threat. And of course, it is only natural for humans to feel sad from time to time. This is a normal part of the human experience.

Other times, however, the cause of the depression is not as obvious. Sometimes people come to a counselor expecting that the counselor is going to tell him or her what to do. Unfortunately, healing from emotional difficulties is no easier than healing from physical ones. Like with the problem of sleep, people with depression may need to make minor or major lifestyle adjustments to achieve the desired result. And of course, there may be homeopathic remedies, herbs, acupuncture needles, or a regimen of self-care that might help, but lasting change is going to come only from the client accepting responsibility for his or her own wellness. Of course, one of the problems with depression is that it usually includes a complete lack of motivation for doing the things we know would help us...but that is where a good holistic wellness practitioner comes in--someone to help coach you through the difficult times.

Of course, there are times where the quick fix is important and even necessary. If you are having a heart attack, for example, you probably do not want to reach for an herbal supplement. You are probably going to want to get to the emergency room as quickly as possible and take everything that they offer you to quickly save your life. But if the problem is not yet life-threatening, holistic wellness may be a good course of action, or at least a supplement to traditional medicine.

But if you find a practitioner claiming to be holistic who offers a quick fix, you should probably be skeptical. There are undoubtedly some exceptions to this rule. Some modalities do work quickly for some problems. For example, Bowen therapy does wonders for helping reduce the pain of carpal tunnel syndrome very quickly. Reiki often helps immediately reduce pain associated with cancer. Simple homeopathic remedies will virtually eliminate the symptoms of ADHD. Quantum biofeedback can help wipe out other ailments. But in general, promises of quick fixes in the holistic field are red flags.

However, there are lots of wonderful practitioners out there who are qualified and ready to help you take over your own wellness care and make lifestyle changes. As the health insurance industry changes rapidly, it is becoming more and more apparent that we as human beings must take charge in managing our own wellness care. Stories of insurance companies not covering necessary treatments abound on the Internet. More and more, people need to accept the responsibility for their own lives.

Here are some simple lifestyle changes you can make immediately to help improve the quality of your life:
1. Eliminate high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars from your diet.
2. Reduce white bread and pasta intake and increase whole grain intake.
3. Replace soda and juice with water as often as possible.
4. Increase fruit and vegetable intake, taking care to include a rainbow of foods every day.
5. Eat organic and local whenever possible.
6. Reduce portion sizes.
7. Find a regular routine to reduce your stress.
8. Get your heart up every day for at least 20 minutes.
9. Get plenty of sleep and rest.
10. Minimize substance use and eliminate addictions.
11. Find natural ways to detox your body to keep everything functioning as well as possible.
12. Plan regular fun in your life.

Our commercialized society would like us to believe that it is vitally necessary to buy $6 lattes or drive the sharpest looking car or even use a medication to help us with a problem we didn't even know we had. (The other day I saw an ad for a medication to help people grow thicker eye lashes!) But there is another way...a holistic empowering way. There is nothing more powerful to know that you created your own state of wellness by the choices you make. And that can ultimately be more empowering than turning over your own health for a quick fix.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!
Ideas? Thoughts? Comments? E-mail me!

Dr. William Kelley
Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center
120 Merchants Row
Rutland, VT 05701


  1. Hey Bill.
    I will put a link on my blog and other sites so you can start to get some traffic.
    Good luck!

  2. Hi, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post. It was
    practical. Keep on posting!