Naturopathic Philosophies: VITALISM and HOLISM

The last post gave a broad “Overview of the Naturopathic Profession.” This one will cover the 2 core Naturopathic philosophies. Before we dig into the Naturopathic philosophies, what exactly is a philosophy anyway?

(Meaning of philosophy from a quick google search)

In this instance, the 2nd meaning is more applicable. (highlighted in the picture)

Therefore, our Naturopathic philosophies are there to guide Naturopaths in their practice.

Philosophy 1: Vitalism

Simply put:

VITALISM is the common understanding that the body has a “vital force” that strives to heal itself and maintain health at all times.

This vital force has been recognized in every culture’s traditional medicine and been given many names such as Chi, Qi, Prana, Spirit, Life Force, Mana, Energy, Soul, Viriditas, etc. [1]

I sometimes I think of our vital force as the “Health Bar” or “HP” bar of your character in video games. This is always coloured red and starts off full but decreases as your character receives damage.

A full health bar! [2]

This damage can be liken to anything contributing to ill health such as any form of stress (physical and/or emotional) or environmental toxins like what we put into our mouths (the most common), what we put into our minds (negative thoughts and emotions) and what impacts our bodies (like electromagnetic radiation).

It is optimal to always have “full health“, however that isn’t realistic.

Many things in life deplete our health on a daily basis.

However our saving grace is this VITAL FORCE . Which always tries to restore our health.

Again, in many video games one can restore one’s “HP” by doing many things.

Some games let you recover your HP when you have run away from the danger and are in a safe environment and decide to rest. This is akin to removing those stressors in your life that are depleting your Vital Force.

Most games also give you the option of using magic potions that restore your character’s HP. This is akin to things we do that restore our health such as restful sleep, eating nourishing foods, thinking positive and healing thoughts, de-stressing, spending time in nature, using Herbal Medicine (😉), etc.

In summary, as Naturopaths, we believe that we all have a VITAL FORCE that spurs our body’s innate ability to heal. Your body definitely WANTS to keep that HP bar full and stay as healthy as it can be and will promptly heal itself as long as we give it the right conditions to heal.

Philosophy 2: HOLISM

(Meaning of holism from another google search)

HOLISM is synonymous with Holistic and is characterized by the belief that:

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

Aristotle (384-322 BC)

This means that everything exists and operates as a system that is interconnected and interdependent.

Modern science might call this Systems Theory:

“Every system is bounded by space and time, influenced by its environment, defined by its structure and purpose, and expressed through its functioning. A system may be more than the sum of its parts if it expresses synergy or emergent behavior.” [2]

For example, the health of our bodies cannot be separated from the health of our minds and emotions. One might suffer constipation from depression or diarrhoea from stress/anxiety. Our physical health is deeply interconnected and interdependent with our emotional health.

Similarly, our health is connected to the health of the environment around us. If we are constantly breathing in polluted air, or drinking polluted water or eating contaminated foods, would not ill health swiftly follow?

Thus, Naturopaths always keep this philosophy of holism in mind when treating a client.

This means assessing the health of every system of the body with respect to everything the individual brings to the consultation – from their family history and genetics, to their birth conditions, early childhood development and experiences, full health history, current state of health, relationships, financial situation, living environment, nutrition and dietary habits, lifestyle, self-care, sleep and much more.

In summary, the philosophy of HOLISM is the belief that every part of a system is interconnected and interdependent. Naturopathic treatment embodies this by considering the many things, both internal and external that contribute towards the health of an individual.

I hope this has been useful to you in some way.

Please leave a comment for questions and share if you think it might benefit someone else. 🙂

The next post in this series will focus on our 7 core Naturopathic Philosophies.

Thank you for your time 🙏🏻


Posts in this series:

  1. What is Naturopathy?
  2. Overview of the Naturopathic Profession


  1. World Naturopathic Federation. (2017). WNF White Paper: Naturopathic Philosophies, Principles and Theories. Retrieved from
  2. Pixel Art Maker. (2018). Health Bar Full. Retrieved from
  3. Wikipedia. (2020). Systems theory. Retrieved from

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