Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Atlanta

The Rise and Fall of Holistic Medicine in America: An interview with Guy Gunter, BSC, DC

Nov 02, 2021 06:00AM ● By Diane Eaton, MCIS

“American medicine doesn’t cure anybody. It just manages disease,” says Dr. Guy Gunter, a chiropractor with a multi-disciplinary, holistic private practice in Sandy Springs.

His assertion is backed by research. In spite of the many benefits of modern medicine, a staggering number of Americans suffer from chronic, debilitating and mysterious illnesses. The U.S. has the highest chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is two times higher than the average of 11 other high-income nations, according to The Commonwealth Fund. And close to one-fifth of Americans aged 50 to 79 have heart disease compared with one-tenth of Europeans in the same group, according to a longitudinal study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

A major factor in these disappointing numbers? American medicine, as a rule, has left behind the holistic perspective it once embraced, choosing a fix-the-parts, specialization model. While it can sometimes work wonders, the industry has in effect turned its back on the premise of holistic medicine: that the body can heal itself if given the support it needs.

“In Chinese medicine, you’re clearing out the blockages to chi; in Ayurveda, you’re clearing out the blockages to digestion,” says Gunter. “The idea that there’s some kind of obstacle that is interfering with health, and that removing it can restore health, was common to just about everybody. But the pivot to a mechanistic approach—the movement of medicine to be about surgery and pharmacology instead of lifestyle management—has reached its zenith now.” And America’s health suffers as a result.

With a degree in microbiology, a master’s degree in bacterial genetics, certifications in Traditional Chinese Medicine and applied kinesiology, and a long-standing passion for the study of nutrition, Gunter’s well-rounded approach speaks to his holistic perspective.

What Does Holistic Mean?

To Gunter, a holistic approach involves gathering as much data as one can and using creativity and imagination to come up with a likely hypothesis. “Everything is connected,” he says, “and you’re attempting to locate a thread [to follow]. With someone who has an obvious digestive illness, for example, you want to find out what other organs are affected. You can test them [with alternative testing methods] and see which organs are off-balance.” Then, if a practitioner “knows that there’s a gut connection with that organ and the meridians that feed that organ, for example,” they have a thread to follow, guiding them to respond to the condition.

But the mechanistic approach has prevailed in modern American medicine for a long time; cementing it in place was the publication of the Flexner Report in 1910. Paid for by the American Medical Association, the report “stopped all medical doctors from experimenting with any form of medicine except drugs and surgery,” says Gunter. It was a reaction to certain physicians at the time studying chiropractic and homeopathy and experimenting with electromagnetic medicine. In effect, the report defined what modern medicine could—and would—consist of from that point on: namely, drugs, surgery and nothing more.

The COVID Response Revealed Cracks in the System

The refusal of the AMA to take a holistic approach has also handicapped the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic, says Gunter. “There has been no suggestion of any kind of remedy except the vaccine,” he points out. “All they could think of was, ‘It’s got to be a pharmaceutical answer.’“ Further, the pandemic revealed the AMA’s inability “to deal with a novel problem that they don’t already have a traditional answer for. The coronavirus comes in, and they immediately treat it like the 1918 flu pandemic.”

Even as a wealth of data about those who suffered most from the virus became available, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) didn’t take the opportunity to expand their response to the pandemic, says Gunter. “The first thing we find out is that [many] people dying from COVID have co-morbidities. They’re obese or they have diabetes problems or lung problems, for example. But did we see any commercials from the CDC saying that people should start taking a multivitamin and get out and walk half a mile a day? They refused to accept data from non-medical sources or look at anything new. Even a paper in the Journal of Virology doesn't make it to the CDC. It just revealed the complete lack of efficacy of modern medicine. All they said was to wear a mask and stay away from each other.” And wait for a pharmaceutical vaccine.

Chiropractic: More Holistic Than It Seems

While these days, chiropractic is typically accomplished with the single-vision approach of a specialist, it was originally developed as a highly holistic practice. Early in the 20th century, chiropractors primarily worked with farmers at a time when eating organics and breathing pure air was commonplace and exercise was intrinsic to their livelihood. The chiropractor’s job was understood to be to “help clear what they called the ‘innate moving energy’ that enters through the head by adjusting the spine and clearing the pathway,” says Gunter. Every vertebra was associated with an organ in the body, so a problem area in the spine would suggest a weakness in the corresponding organ, providing another “thread” to follow.

“A chiropractic adjustment stimulates all of the channels of communication that run up the spine, to the brain, and back to the body,” says Gunter. “You’re also freeing up areas that are caught or impeded. If you have a vertebra out of place, even if it doesn’t hurt, there’s going to be muscle spasm around it that’s going to interfere with the nerve flow out of that level. That’s been proven. By releasing it, you get a tremendous amount of data flowing up and down the spine, strengthening the organs and clearing the nervous system.”

Spurning Holistic Wisdom Comes at a Price

Not surprisingly, losing touch with a holistic approach to health has other downsides. Consider how we deal with pain. “We have a tendency to suppress pain,” says Gunter. “We think, ‘Oh, my shoulder’s hurting, so I’ll take some Advil and make it go away.’“ And if our medical practitioners only treat us by helping us numb pain, we might miss out on valuable information that can support our health in more ways than one. “One of the major shoulder muscles, the subscapularis, is the only muscle that shares a direct nerve with the heart,” says Gunter. “If you’ve got heart problems, you will always have a weak subscapular, and it will crack and hurt.” A practitioner that understands that can work to heal the underlying heart problem that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. And the shoulder gets healed in the process.

Treating an issue as if it exists in isolation has additional disadvantages. “What happens when you get a medication? It isn’t very long before you have to have a second medication to deal with the side effect of the first one. And that tells you that you’re not interacting with the body in a way that strengthens it.” A holistic approach, he says, recognizes that the body “has its own ability to regulate itself and decide what’s good for it.”

Bringing Holism Home

Most important of all, says Gunter, is for people to take ownership of their health. “The crux of my practice is the idea that nobody is going to fix you but you. You have to be personally responsible for answering for your own health.” He advises people to honestly assess how successful their practitioner is at managing their wellness. “Are you feeling better? The only person that can figure that sh*t out is the person who wears the body,” says Gunter. “It’s about overcoming the fear of being responsible and [the belief] that only medical doctors can save you. It’s the big message of the last 18 months.”

Taking a holistic approach delivers better results, according to Gunter. “My observations are that the less I try to tell the body what to do, and the more I support it in overcoming its difficulties, the better things work. The regulation of the brain and the body can be relied upon. That’s where healing happens.” ❧


Dr. Guy Gunter is in private practice at Healworks in Sandy Springs. For more information, visit healworks.net.

Mailing List

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!

* indicates required