Overall, the most common holistic understanding of seborrheic dermatitis appears to be that you have exessive levels of inflammation and immune system issues. Instead of focusing specifically on the skin, the focus is primarily on the body as a whole. In order to control your skin issues, you must first bring your body back to pristine health.
Basics of Holistic Advice
The actual meaning of the word holistic health is defined as the “treatment of the whole person, and not just the issue”. In-line with this definition, the holistic practitioners typically don’t like to focus on any specific answer to seborrheic dermatitis. Instead, they take a shotgun approach and list all the possible methods in which they know you can improve your health.
Most of the items that make the list overlap with practically every other health condition they treat.
Some examples of items that are most commonly brought up include:
- Eating whole, raw organic foods
- Cut sugar and simple carbohydrates
- Drink lots of water
- Cut gluten all together (recent trend)
- Avoid chlorine and fluoride in your water
- Buying local foods
- Reducing sodium intake
- Switching to natural products
- Get tested for “food intolerances”
- Avoid inflammatory foods
- Increase healthy fats
- Supplement with probiotics and enzymes
- Give hydrotherapy or acupuncture a try
So, there you have it, the very core of basically all holistic advice. Additional items are then further added to this list depending on the specific condition the patient describes and the practitioner’s knowledge/experience.
Genetics and hereditary/cultural differences are rarely considered in the holistic. The basic belief is that everyone should have equally good health if they follow all the known recommendations; which I believe this is a crucial shortcoming of the holistic approach.
How the Natural Health Industry Works/Thrives
Not too long ago (about a century and a half) “snake oil” salesmen went around the United States selling vast amounts of fake medical cures and potions. Fast forward to modern day and you will see many of the same characters in the natural health and wellness market.
In the United States and Canada, the nutritional supplements and holistic medicine market is currently primarily unregulated. To get a product onto the market requires no actual testing, no safety control, no ethical standards. All one really needs is to have a bit of good marketing and an audience.
Anyone can practically sell anything…
This, in turn, creates a flooded market, where the immense variety of products alone can create an endless stream of issues for external quality control and government regulation. In the rare cases, when supplements are examined by external parties, it is quite common for quality issues to emerge .
Major Differences in Regulation and Quality of Care
Despite the various pitfalls, it’s difficult to put an umbrella label on the holistic industry as a whole. A few bad apples don’t necessarily mean the whole bag is spoiled. As with any profession, there are certain factors which will influence the quality of practitioners you encounter.
The biggest of these factors appear to be where you live and how the industry in your area is regulated.
For example, in some US states, there exists a subset of holistic practitioners classified under the label of Naturopathic Doctors. These individuals undergo medical training that is similar to that of a medical doctor (anatomy, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, neurology etc.) and need to pass a state licensed medical exam in order to start their practice. These individuals much better represent a typical medical professional, welcome conventional treatment methods, and are likely to have much deeper knowledge of health and nutrition. Plus, they have no issue referring you to a specialist when deemed necessary.
On the other hand, in areas where the industry is not well unregulated, the standards and education requirements are usually set by private organizations or associations that have decided to take the lead. This, in turn, has resulted in drastic variability in the quality of advice you will receive.
Potential Issues with Holistic Health Practitioners and Naturopaths
Due to a large number of variables involved, there are some potential issues which must be considered when evaluating the advice of natural health practitioners.
The biggest issue is related to the unregulated naturopaths, natural nutrition specialists, and many other “holistic” health care providers. Most of these practitioners operate small practices based on limited information they’ve obtained in entry-level courses, online resources, and/or anecdotal evidence.
To start your own practice, you can simply take a few courses, learn a bit about opening a business and find a few clients. That’s it. No degree or work experience required. And this is exactly what creates the problem. Because of the low barrier to entry, many uneducated and unethical individuals have an opportunity to earn a living.
Now, I’m not trying to say that natural healthcare practitioners are all evil. I’m simply stating that the industry is mainly unregulated, and the knowledge and ethical standards of each practitioner can vary greatly.
As a result, even though natural health care practitioners can provide good general health advice, things become problematic when complex health conditions require treatment, as is the case for seborrheic dermatitis; as practitioners simply do not have enough technical knowledge and experience.
How do you know who to trust?
Without research, anyone is able to claim anything really. The nutritional market and industry are full of unethical business practices, with the majority of the supplements are unregulated. This brings up many issues in one’s journey in trying to sort the truth from the sales material. Take the time to investigate the claims and the evidence whenever you can.
The Role of the Internet
With the introduction of the internet, things have only gotten easier for unethical companies and individuals. Now they have direct access to millions of consumers and can practically get away with saying anything. This creates the perfect environment for advertising based on false information, fake testimonials and a myriad of other tricks that can be used against the common consumer.
The value of the USA supplements industry alone is currently estimated at upwards of 21 billion dollars per year. In addition to this, there is a vast amount of holistic health care services, which for the most part involve uninsured out-of-pocket payments.
What’s bigger, pharmaceuticals or supplements?
The pharmaceutical industry still dwarfs this number with an estimated value of 300 billion dollars per year. Regardless of size, both industries rely on profiting from people’s health.
Best Way to Approach Holistic Medicine
In the end, it seems that the holistic approach can at least be partially beneficial to seborrheic dermatitis sufferers. The biggest takeaways are in areas of proper nutrition, hydration, and exercise recommendations. However, this knowledge is becoming fairly widespread and many cultures deeply integrate them into tradition anyways.
If you are planning to take the holistic approach to treatment, please be aware of the potential “snake oil” salesmen out there. And since a skin condition can be so visible, the urgency to fix it can open you up to easy manipulation. I’ve fallen into this trap myself, and the power of urgency and confusion surrounding seborrheic dermatitis can really make it hard to resist the potential appeal of a quick fix.
So, prior to heading down this path you should at the very least make yourself familiar with the basics of critical thinking.