A little maintenance goes a long way: naturopath Glenn Ingram Jr. gets you thinking prevention to avoid chronic disease clown the road.
Healthcare is a major issue in politics and economics these days. After all, the U.S. currently has the highest priced medical system in the world yet ranks 37th in performance out of 191 countries (1). Your wallet has probably noticed these huge costs, but you can do something about it By investing in preventive healthcare. Prevention is an investment with great return: you're likely to see more money in your wallet in the future, Because you've invested to keep disease at bay. While they can't be measured, I'd say the non-economic Benefits of feeling Better and living a fuller, more active life are worth much more than the financial savings.
Let me help you get a picture of what I mean by preventive healthcare. Think about your car and how you treat it. You change its oil and get it tuned-up regularly. You control the fuel that goes into your car so it runs properly and burns cleanly. You take it to the mechanic when one of those little warning lights comes on. That's true preventive maintenance; you do all of these things for your car so it continues to run smoothly and doesn't break down.
What if you treated your body more like you treat your car? When you eat processed junk food, don't exercise, and ignore minor symptoms, you aren't participating in preventive maintenance on your body. Just as you wouldn't blame your car's manufacturer for your engine dying if you'd never changed your oil, you can't blame your genetics for health problems resulting from poor maintenance.
At this point, preventive medicine in the United States is mostly about testing and screening for diseases so they can be caught early. While screening is important, it does little to actually prevent disease.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO TRULY PREVENT DISEASE?
The role of the doctor in preventive healthcare is to educate patients to obey the laws of nature in terms of eating, structure and movement, community and lifestyle. This is a foreign concept in our disease-care system today. Ironically, the original Latin root "doctor" means "teacher." "Physician" derives from the Latin "physic" which means "nature."
Just over one hundred years ago, heart disease from non-infectious causes was unknown, and cancer, obesity and diabetes were uncommon. Infectious disease was the bane to our health at that time, but people in less dense populations living traditional lifestyles (without the hygiene problems from dense populations in cities) seemed to be immune from many infectious diseases. For example, in the 1930s, Dr. Weston Price observed that there were almost no eases of tuberculosis in the traditional peoples he studied. He also found that the traditional peoples lived long lives with little chronic disease and superior physical and mental health (2).
Traditional people have maintained excellent health and vitality by following the principles outlined in the following paragraphs and in the diagram printed on the next page. And you can, too!
Nutrition provides raw materials for the body's structure and functions. If you eat food deficient in nutrients, then you'll be deficient in nutrients. If you eat food that has been sterilized, then you'll have difficulty digesting it. Traditional people throughout the world have widely varied diets depending on the local climate and the foods that are available. Some are almost vegetarian, others are almost carnivorous. Some eat fermented, soured or soaked grains and beans, others eat no grains or beans. Some eat dairy and others don't. However, there are similarities: all of these groups of people eat foods in their whole form--or a minimally processed form--as they are more digestible and more nourishing in their whole state. And, all of these groups go to great lengths to obtain raw and/or fermented animal fats full of vitamins, including D, A and K2, along with omega-3s, healthy saturated fats and enzymes. We need these important fats, such as those from raw fermented dairy or high-vitamin cod liver oil (2, 3, 4). These are the superfoods of traditional cultures!
Proper structure allows proper function. Traditional cultures have to be active to survive. Our modern sedentary lifestyles cause our muscles to atrophy so that we have little strength or flexibility. We cannot maintain health without maintaining proper function of our muscles and bones. All of us need to maintain an exercise program that combines strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise. This exercise should be fun and preferably outdoors. I personally love "feeding two birds with one seed (5)" by commuting by bicycle or making my exercise part of my spiritual practice.
Community provides the love and support for encouraging healthy choices. By community, I mean interaction with family and neighbors for fun and socializing. But I'm also referring to community gardens, buying clubs, churches, social activist groups, and local business networks that come together to make life a little easier and richer. We can also come together to exercise, make food and teach each other. Many of these groups exist already; join them and help them grow!
Healthy lifestyle choices provide the action--the actual work of maintaining health. Without a lifestyle that involves time in the kitchen, good nutrition is impossible. Without an active lifestyle, structure cannot be maintained. Without a community-minded lifestyle, the community is weakened and unsupportive. The lifestyle component also includes your sleep patterns and other routines, such as daily prayer or meditation and stress-reduction techniques. [Read more about reducing stress on page 6.] Changing your lifestyle can be very difficulty, as it often requires you to break tenacious habits. I advise you to make one healthy choice and develop it into a habit before making the next change. It's not advantageous to attempt to break a habit without having developed a better one to take its place!
Nature is a powerful guide. Traditional people don't perform research trials on mice to figure out how best to live; they remain close to nature, following her rhythms and learning from her wisdom. Nature should determine what people eat, not the food industry. Survival in nature requires activity and forces us to work together and form communities. I recommend exercising outdoors when at all possible. Live With the cycles of the sun and seasons by dimming the lights in the house at night and getting to bed early. Or, get up with the sun and start your day with a good, wholesome breakfast that provides the nutrients and energy for your day's work or play. Be sure some part of every day includes gardening, a walk in the woods or park, bird watching, or another activity that gives you a chance to connect with the natural world (6).
Sources: (1) World Health Organization 2000 Report, www.who.int/whr /2000/media_centre/press_release/en/print. html (2) Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, 6th ed. By W.A. Price. (3) Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Enzyme Concept by E. Howell (4) The Untold Story of Milk, revised and updated by R. Schmid (5) This excellent little expression is not my own but that of my colleague, Marcus Porrino, ND (6,) Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
Glenn Ingram Jr., N.D., obtained his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) in 2006. Since then, he spent two years in private practice in Portland, Oregon. He now practices with his wife and colleague, Marty Ingrain, N.D., at Through the Woods Natural Health in Pisgah Forest, NC. Visit their website at www.throughwoods.com, or call them at 828-553-6705.
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|Author:||Ingram, Glenn, Jr.|
|Publication:||New Life Journal|
|Article Type:||Cover story|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2009|
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