A woman aged 52 came to see me for a holistic opinion after having suffered from stomach pains for more than a year.

She had some heart burn, but her main pain was in the lower stomach. After medical investigations, she had been told she had diverticulitis.

There was something about her aura, facial expression and body language that suggested to me there might be deeper emotional issues contributing to the pain.

As the holistic consultation unfolded, it emerged she had lost her husband, her brother and her mother over the last few years. Her father had died of bowel cancer and she was worried that she might be suffering from cancer the same thing.

In this situation, the individual needs a lot of reassurance, empathy and healing techniques in addition to full medical investigation for a proper diagnosis. Here, the integrated approach of combining modern medicine and complementary therapies, healing and social support is the only way to revive the individual 's confidence and positive feeling of life. In 1947, the World Health Organisation defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing".

Until now, the NHS, medical professionals and the public have concentrated only on physical wellbeing. But recently government policy signals a change, emphasising the importance of emotional wellbeing for health.

Health is now defined as "being confident and positive and able to cope with the ups and downs of life. "Research has shown that emotional distress creates susceptibility to physical illness and indeed can lead to physical illness such as irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and cancer. Epidemiological studies have also shown that social and emotional support can protect against premature mortality, prevent illness and aid recovery.

Many small and large groups exist to provide such support. The way forward is to get conventional doctors, holistic doctors, complementary practitioners and the public together to share their experiences and gain strength from each other in a non-threatening, non-judgemental safe setting. We are trying to develop such a group under the auspices of the British Holistic Medical Association, and had our first meeting yesterday.

Representatives from some other groups were also present. For more information, please contact Wendy Miller (BHMA) 01273 725951 or John Kapp 501708.