Sir William Osler, who is perhaps the most influential physician in recent history, once said, “One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.” Individuals need to be encouraged to educate themselves and feel empowered to take positive actions to improve their health. And since we all have the power to heal ourselves, this is good news! Though drugs and/or surgery are sometimes exactly what we require, we can encourage our bodies to heal using natural approaches throughout treatment.
In many ancient Eastern traditions, the first key in the holistic healing arts is awareness – a relaxed focusing of the mind that is quite unifying and decidedly spirit-strengthening. A strong, bright spirit leads the healing process against disease so that we can fully grasp the nature of our current problems and have the energy to overcome them. Awareness practices that quiet the mind include silent contemplation, meditation and self reflection. However, any relaxing or focusing experience where we pay attention such as appreciating nature or art, or playing a musical instrument can certainly bring peace to our minds.
The second key in healing is activity. Certain activities blend with awareness practices very well including tai chi, yoga and qi gong. Other activities are equally important as well including sports, walking, gardening, weight training or other exercise programs. In a survey of 22,000 physicians, it was discovered that 1 to 2 workouts per week reduced the risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) by 28 percent, 3 to 4 times a week decreased CAD by 34 percent and more than 5 times a week, by 44 percent as reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Furthermore, according to Eastern Asian healing arts, exercise builds digestive fire and therefore is necessary for us to receive the proper nutrients from our food. Without sufficient activity, we may find it difficult to make progress in health, regardless how nutritious our food may be.
With that said, key number three is nutrition. Coupled with exercise, nutrition represents a vital part of overall health and healing. The proper type of food and the quality of it, when digested thoroughly, benefits not only the biochemistry of our bodies, but also our brain function. It enhances the well-being of the mind, including how we feel and how we think.
High quality vitamins and minerals as well as proper supplements are essential for health. Your food choices should include colorful, fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. In particular, organic foods not only have fewer pesticides, 23 percent compared to 73 percent of conventionally grown foods, but in a study of 94,000 food samples from more than 20 crops, they also contain more nutrients. Tests indicate that organic foods have substantially more minerals – as much as 90 percent compared to commercial foods.
Furthermore, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, just one serving per day of fruits and vegetables is associated with a 6 percent decrease in the risk of ischemic stroke (a result of insufficient, oxygen-rich blood supply to the heart). And did you know that consuming cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, cauliflower and spinach results in the prevention of potent cancers? At Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, CA, a study was conducted to document the effects of broccoli consumption among men and women, ages 50 to 74. The results show that those who consume more broccoli (an average 3.7 half-cups per week) are 50 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who never eat broccoli.
In addition to choosing healthy foods, you should always avoid refined, denatured foods such as refined sugar, white flour in breads, spaghettis, noodles and pasta. If the products are not labeled “unrefined,” then they should be avoided. These include canola oil, common vegetable oils, margarine and shortening. Furthermore, be cautious about consuming refined oils in prepared foods in both supermarkets and in natural food stores including pastries, chips, breads and soups.
What may come as a surprising recommendation to you is to avoid reduced-fat dairy products. If you need to reduce saturated fat (dairy products are a rich source), then eat smaller amounts of dairy, or no diary products at all. Many health-conscious people believe low or no fat dairy is better. However, dairy with fat reduced or removed may not support the absorption and utilization of fat soluble Vitamins D and A, which are necessary for maintaining and laying down new bone mass.
Dairy has always been considered a good source of calcium and more often then not, we are still encouraged to “drink our milk” for healthy bones. However, numerous studies have shown that countries with the highest consumption of dairy also have the highest incidence of osteoporosis. The Nurses Health Study found that those who consume the most dairy have the highest hip fracture rates. Vitamin D3, in its natural form (i.e. sunlight), is more effective than D2 and is important for bone maintenance and the absorption of calcium as well as contributing to the functioning of the reproductive system, the digestive system and the immune system.
Rather than seeking the perfect nutritional plan that is instantly available and easy for all occasions, consider your current routine and how you might take steps improve it. Your well-being and ability to heal ultimately depends on taking time to care for your body, mind and spirit and that includes proper nutrition.
So enjoy your sacred time.
Enjoy your activities.
Enjoy your food and the people you eat it with.