This was a statement I made to my microbiology class. It was a class of students training to become registered nurses. It also, was a class of half Americans and half Africans. Even though, I had been teaching them other courses for months, they all wanted to know what my definition of healthy is and how it could possibly be different from others. Before I get to that let me explain why I mentioned the demographics of my class.
As we went through microbiology, learning about all the diseases and how they affect the body, I would get vastly different responses to certain illnesses. Why? Why would an American be in fear of malaria, while the Africans just shrugged their shoulders? The same reason that before the chickenpox vaccine, we were not afraid of chicken pox. We had children play together because it was better to get it as a child than an adult. Since the vaccine, people are suddenly becoming fearful of a rather mild disease. Yes, there can be complications with any illness, as there can be with any medication or food you consume. This is where my definition of health is different from many others. What you are constantly exposed to becomes the norm. That doesn't make it right or wrong, good or bad; it just is. We adapt to our environments, sometimes without even realizing we did it. This too, is important in how we view health.
How do you define health? Most would define it as the absence of illness. Okay, so you don't have a fever or diarrhea (which by the way are the body's natural defenses and not necessarily bad). Did you take acid reflux medication today? Blood pressure, allergy pill, insulin or inhaler today? These are signs that you in fact, are not healthy. How many would still think that they are even though they take daily medications? Here is where our differences begin and how our society would benefit from re-organizing our thoughts on health.
All of the above medications are taken for lifestyle diseases. Yes, Type 1 diabetes is more of an autoimmune disease and not considered lifestyle, but what if autoimmune diseases are part of lifestyle diseases? There are a few factors we need to look at in regards to health: What you eat/drink, What you think, How you react, Do you breathe, move, and rest well? I am not against medications when they are truly necessary, however, I do not believe any medication should be for life. This discord, dis-ease, in the body is a sign that we are not balanced and is a warning to get there before it is too late. Maybe if we treated medicine this way, we would have more truly healthy people and drastically lower health care costs. I digress, what does being truly healthy mean?
First and foremost, what do you eat? If it comes from a box, a bag, a can, most school cafeterias and any fast food it is poison to your body. Why? because it is primarily chemicals. Our body does not know what these toxic chemicals are nor how to use them. Therefore, it tries to detoxify them, it tries to eliminate them, but it also just stores them to deal with later. This is where inflammation, immune system overload, liver cirrhosis and obesity come into play. Your body is doing what it knows to do, it senses something dangerous and it reacts, send out the troops Inflammation is a way to protect the body, keep foreign substances controlled and immune system deployed to handle the attack. After daily attacks and therefore continuous inflammation, disease begins to develop. This could look like heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes. It could also look like migraine headaches, allergies and asthma.
So, how does our food lead to this attack on our health? Well, it isn't food, it's chemicals. It is mutated food, engineered food. I will discuss genetically - engineered foods later. In order to create foods that taste good and will last on shelves for extended length of time is why we have most of the chemicals in our food, but others are so that they will look good or cause our body to crave them. It is interesting to go back even 70 years ago and look at food. It was just that food. It grew on plants and animals, we mixed it with other ingredients, cooked, fermented or canned it. Today, it is difficult to find a jar of pickles without food dye and at least two other chemicals. What happened to putting cucumbers in brine (water, salt and maybe herbs) and letting them ferment into pickles. Why do we need to color our pickles green?
The cleaner your food, the fresher and the fewer ingredients the better. Yes, that box of macaroni may seem easy and cheap, but what is in it? How long is that list of "ingredients"? Is it actually food or is it hydrolyzed, isolate, and modified? These things may not create an immediate reaction, like hives, headaches or fatigue, but over an extended time they will assist in dis-ease in the body.
Secondly, what are you drinking? Hopefully, water (not flavored water or vitamin water). Depending on which book you read our bodies are made up of 55-75% water. We need water. But, you've heard this before. So, let me offer you some other beneficial beverages, to aid in everyday health and not just absence of disease. Coconut water is my number one go to for hydration. If you have diarrhea, vomiting, just worked out hard, donated blood or its 90 degrees outside, drink coconut water. Coconut water is more balanced in electrolytes and lower in sugar than other sports hydration beverages. It also, is not colored (food dye is for illness). Then there is kombucha. This beverage is making a big appearance in mainstream media and many are taking to making it at home. Kombucha is a fizzy, probiotic beverage. It is a great substitute for something fizzy (like sodas) and it gives your body healthy bacteria to help boost your immune and digestive health. One thing to look at when purchasing, is sugar content. Some like to keep the beverages sweeter and therefore, have more sugar in the end product. Choose a kombucha with the smallest amount of sugar possible. And don't shake it up - it will spew all over the place!
There are more blogs on the way about what you think, feel and how you react to your environment, so let me just keep this one brief. You are what you think and say. Those are so much more powerful than we give them credit for, and in fact can be used as tools to not only gauge your health, but also to flip it from dis-ease to ease. There are so many articles, books and programs out there on the power of the brain. Yes, if you constantly judge, criticize and look for the negative or down-side; you will find it and you will see it reflected back at you. The first step is noticing what you are thinking, what you are saying and how you react when it is reflected back to you. It's okay to feel what you feel when you begin to notice, but choose to change it and thank yourself for noticing it. If you hold on to it and rehash it over and over, it will only keep happening and lead to dis-ease in the body (we create inflammation for these things, too). Your heart doesn't get a lot of attention when this topic is discussed. It should, because your heart is even more powerful than your brain. So, pay attention to what you are feeling, it too is a message from the body. This most important thing is to breathe and allow for the possibility that it's okay to feel this way and I can change.
Lastly, being healthy is about breathing, moving and resting. We have heard we need to exercise daily and sleep 6-8 hours each night. True, but now the word "exercise" has a negative vibe attached to it. So, how about this - play each day. It should involve the entire body, not just thumbs and eyes. Jump, run, dance, laugh, walk, try a new class like zumba, tai chi, yoga or belly dancing. Join a co-ed sports club. Have fun and move the entire body!
Sleep, is difficult for many people these days. However, if you begin to implement all of the above along with a breathing practice, sleep should come much more easily and have a better quality to it. If sleep is stressful for you, there are essential oils and supplements like magnesium that may help. Other things that have helped my patients, are energy work, massage, journaling and deep breathing with visualization before bed.
Breathing, is one of the most important aspects to health and is also, one of the most missed aspects of healthcare. Because this topic deserves so much attention, you will find many mentions of it on this page as well as www.chiropracitc-now.com/blog. For now, let's take a deep breath together. What happened when you took this breath? Did your shoulders rise up to your ears, was it short and uncomfortable? These are signs that you have forgotten how to breathe. So, let's do one properly. Sit comfortably upright (not slouching - hard to breathe when you the organs are squished), relax your body and allow yourself to breathe normal. On your next inhale, allow your belly to expand forward over your belt (shoulders should not move), continue inhaling and feel it expand through the back and sides. It should feel like this breath is pushing up and out against your abdomen, back and sides. Then exhale, squeezing your belly button back towards the spine (contracting abdominal muscles) and continue to exhale until all the air is out of back and sides as well. How did that feel? Most of us do not understand that our abdominal muscles are antagonistic to the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle responsible for creating the pressure difference that allow the lungs to inflate and deflate (inhale and exhale). The abdominal muscles work in opposition to this muscle, which makes them important in deep exhales, but they get in the way of deep inhales. So, it is okay to relax your belly when you inhale deeply. Do a 3-5 minutes of this before you begin your day and before you end your day. If you find yourself feeling stressed, tired or worried, do it then also.
My definition of health, is not the absence of disease. My definition of health is a physical, mental, emotional and spiritually balanced body. One that works everyday to eat and drink real food, is aware of their thoughts and makes a conscious effort to speak from the heart and out of kindness, moves the whole body, plays, laughs and breathes deeply. Medicine is not needed on a daily basis and balancing the body is the first priority when illness does pop up. Medicine is an option at that point, but not always the first reaction.