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Wellness vs. Holistic: Is There a Difference?

By Pamela Shenk, CHt

In my practice I often hear patients use the words wellness and holistic interchangeably. Most people assume that these two words mean the same thing. But they have very different definitions. Let me take a moment to help clear this up.


Wellness can be defined as freedom from disease. Wellness research shows that when people take care of themselves and manage their lifestyle, they are healthier and more productive and do not miss as much time from work. This also results in less need for medical services.

Holistic, on the other hand, describes an approach to life, rather than a focus on illness.  Holistic is based on the laws of nature. Therefore, when we say we are holistic we are talking about our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. When one part of a person’s life is not at its best, it impacts all of the other parts of that person. For example, if we are nervous or anxious, this may result in a physical reaction such as a headache or stomach ache. When we are angry and stressed over a long period of time, we could possibly develop an ulcer.


A holistic approach goes beyond eliminating symptoms. Normally, if we have a headache, we take an aspirin. With the holistic approach, we may take the aspirin, but then we figure out what is going on in your life that caused the headache in the first place. Is it caused by something mental, physical or emotional? The idea is that once you get to the root cause and resolve the cause, the symptom goes away.


So, wellness is what you can achieve when using a holistic lifestyle. Holistic health supports reaching higher levels of wellness as well as preventing illness. When you have a total sense of well-being it encourages you to not only help yourself but to encourage others to be proactive with a healthy lifestyle. We all know that everything is better with better health.


When you decided to have bariatric surgery, you made a major step towards a holistic lifestyle. Many patients are able to get off of or even eliminate their medications after surgery. This demonstrates that although we sometimes have to take medicine, when you get to the cause of an illness and fix it, your life can change in many ways. We encourage you to consider incorporating a holistic approach into your lifestyle by listening to your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual self.   

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