I have been a strong advocate of basic balanced nutrition and nutritional supplements to support health and performance my entire career. This is a no-brainer to me since the body has basic requirements that need to be met to allow upkeep and building/strengthening tissues. There’s really no substitute.
If battling obesity and hormonal disruption, whether human or animal, taking a pill is never going to substitute for healthful diet and exercise. The drug oriented approach fails for many other scenarios as well, either because it is only attacking symptoms, not the cause, or because the drug cannot hope to overcome the negative effects of things like poor diet, high calories, inadequate exercise, smoking, etc. without a change in those influences.
There’s no question that the criticism of drug oriented medicine is valid. However, where this realization goes wrong is in throwing out all the advances of modern mainstream medicine in favor of a back to nature/holistic/alternative, etc. approach.
For example, avoiding antibiotics in favor of arsenic, or current deworming drugs for herbals or diatomaceous earth, is nothing short of foolish. The alternatives are not only well documented to be ineffective, they can also be more toxic. Nosodes instead of vaccines are largely safe but also ineffective. Even many homeopaths draw the line at recommending nosodes as an alternative to vaccines.
Medications cannot substitute for nutrients in basic nutritional needs or diseases related to deficiencies like equine motor neuron disease. On the other hand, nutrients or herbals can’t necessarily always substitute for pharmaceuticals in disease states. The same holds true for other therapies such as acupressure versus acupuncture with needles or alternative diagnostic methods that claim to substitute for well established diagnostics like blood tests or radiographs.
Holistic is supposed to mean attending to the needs of the whole person/organism, mental/spiritual and nutritional as well as what the disease state requires. Too often though, holistic morphs into a goal for anything alternative that does not involve main stream veterinary medicine or any drugs. This can do a real disservice to the horse.
I prefer a WHolistic approach where WHole refers to the whole of resources available to you. This is also known as integrative medicine, and it means you take the best of what all worlds and disciplines have to offer.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD