Health . . .
If only it were as simple as selecting the most nutrient dense foods, combining them with mineral rich spices and preparing them into mouth watering works of art.
Simple I say, in jest, considering the knowledge and time needed to do this, but let’s say you’ve made healthy eating a priority. You have researched the best local, organic, seasonal sources, educated yourself on eating the rainbow for nutritional variety AND you’ve taught yourself to cook with an array of spices rich in minerals and flavor. Congratulations! No small feat. But what if health problems persist?
Getting to Root Cause
Chronic illness can motivate us to re-evaluate dietary and lifestyle habits. If you are suffering from a chronic illness, contributing factors have likely been in play long before symptoms appeared. This makes it challenging to sort out what those factors are. Working with a nutritionist to clarify dietary changes is an important first step. Sometimes results are immediate. Removing highly allergenic foods, for example, can reduce fatigue, brain fog and even skin rashes within days. More often than not, however, it takes time to address the root cause of chronic disorders. The body needs this time to repair and reset from nutrient deficiencies, underlying inflammation, blood sugar, hormonal and neurological imbalances after years of dietary assaults. Curbing a quick fix mindset is imperative for chronic good habits to take hold and health to emerge.
Creating Ourselves Anew
There is no shortage of data linking autoimmunity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, digestive and neurological disorders to our genetic makeup, environment, diet and lifestyle. The good news is that we can change the latter three factors and, according to epigenetic research, we may even influence the expression of our genes in doing so. This is why behavior modification and self-care education are critical aspects of prevention and long-term recovery.
The Paradox of Self Care
Healthy lifestyle habits are well documented. It is likely that you are at least familiar with the following recommendations:
- Commit to regular exercise
- Reduce stress
- Increase sleep
- Build a supportive community
- Spend time in nature
- Limit screen time
- Practice mindfulness to increase focus and reduce anxiety
Knowing what to do, however, does not always imply ability. This is the paradox of self-care - that health problems can keep us from implementing the very habits that improve health. A lack of energy can thwart our best intentions; pain, anxiety or chronic stress makes us vulnerable to temporary solutions, bad choices and addictions of all kinds.
Socializing Self Care Solutions
If root cause resolution is the goal, self-care obstacles must be addressed. A powerful tool for doing so is to harness the social aspect of behavior modification. Humans are inherently social; we influence each other. Achieving optimal health should not be an uphill battle against cultural norms, but rather, cultural norms should foster optimal health. There are signs that we are trending upward. Consider that many grass root movements have now taken hold in forward thinking regions of the U.S. Do you recognize any of these trends occurring in your own community?
Farmers Markets, School Gardens, Farm to Table Restaurants, Bike Path expansions, Corporate Wellness Programs that offer flex time, onsite exercise facilities and classes in stress reduction such as yoga and meditation.
Integrative Medicine Leading the Way
Medicine itself is evolving to incorporate holistic healing modalities. Integrative, Functional and Naturopathic doctors are leading the charge for how we incorporate these treatment options into standardized care. Pulling from a larger tool bag, they are challenging a disease-centered model of medicine that relies too heavily on pharmaceutical solutions. What does such a practice look like? Here is a sampling of the services they provided:
Education: Classes and workshops in preventative diet and lifestyle practices and self-care strategies specific to a variety of chronic disorders.
Support Groups: Scheduled sessions for patients to share and exchange behavior modification challenges and solutions with one another.
Therapeutic Services: Chinese medicine, acupuncture, nutrition, IV nutrient therapy, homeopathy, integrative chiropractic, osteopathic manipulation, applied kinesiology, integrative psychotherapy, therapeutic massage and bodywork.
If your current healthcare practice does not offer these types of services, you can search the following websites for practitioners in your area who do:
Integrative Medicine: http://integrativemedicine.arizona.edu/alumni.html
Functional Medicine: https://www.functionalmedicine.org
The Greater Good
To date, the health care insurance industry has not capitalized on the tremendous cost savings that will result from root cause resolution and preventative care coverage. How long can this go on? Our nation is facing staggering cost predictions to treat an epidemic of chronic disease based on current standards of care. We might also ask how long we can accept Big Food and Big Agricultural practices that trade our health for profit through the use of chemicals, preservatives and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), to name just a few? Such practices are coming under increased scrutiny, but they require consumer awareness and vigilant activism to effect policy change.
Thriving in a Time of Great Transition
Until mainstream medicine evolves beyond pharmaceutical maintenance of symptoms to root cause resolution, what can we do to manage our own health? How can we thrive during this time of great transition? To the best of our ability, we must take responsibility for our own health, seek knowledge, learn and lean into life affirming habits. YES, there is more to heath than healthy foods, but what a powerful place to start. What we choose to eat, each and everyday, is perhaps the single most significant contribution we can make to our own health AND to shifting cultural norms that will uplift us all. When we purchase organic, seasonal, locally grown, whole food we cast a vote for these food practices to become the new normal. Let’s create demand for a more meaningful mainstream.