By Molly Graham BFA, BEd, HFCH, DMH
Health is our most precious asset, but few of us ever think about what “being healthy” actually looks like – beyond a lack of aggravating physical symptoms.
Health is a state of vitality where we are free to pursue our interests with pleasure. We feel well physically, emotionally and spiritually. When we are healthy we don’t even notice the day-to-day functioning of our body; we sleep well, digest our food well, and move in comfort.
The foundation of good health is proper regimen: an appropriate diet for your body typology, hydration, refreshing sleep, the right amount and type of exercise, meaningful relationships, and a good mix of fulfilling work and play.
If we are healthy, how do we maintain it? If we’re not healthy, how do we achieve it?
Negotiating the labyrinth of healing
Most of the time, we visit the doctor because we’re sick and have some symptoms of illness that we want to be rid of. We’re diagnosed with a disease or condition, and given a prescription for medication to control our symptoms.
Antacids sometimes control reflux; painkillers sometimes control pain; antidepressants sometimes control depression. But when you stop taking the medication, the symptoms return because the cause has not been addressed. You are told you must take blood pressure or thyroid or asthma medications for the rest of your life because your disease has not been cured.
We often think we have no choice but to take the medication. This is not true. There are other treatment options outside the mainstream healthcare system that may complement or replace drug therapy, depending on your overall health condition.
Unfortunately, the natural health field is a maze of incomplete and often misleading information. Just because a substance is “natural” does not mean it is safe or effective. What may be helpful for one person may be harmful for someone else with the same symptoms, because the cause of those symptoms may be different. You need a map to negotiate through the wilderness of conflicting opinions to know the proper treatment for any particular disease or condition.
To better understand the “terrain” of what we call health, you must understand something about disease. These may be natural diseases such as measles or influenza; inherited; exposure to toxic substances; or false beliefs (emotional and mental disease) that inhibit normal development. Disease may also arise from blocked stages of development in children.
Disease pushes us to evolve, by forcing us to think about the choices we have made in life and the direction in which these choices are taking us. In that sense natural diseases are here to help us. When we catch a cold, it is usually because we are overtired or not eating well, or have some big decision to make. The cold forces us to rest because we need it.
Natural diseases we typically get in childhood, such as measles and chicken pox, help develop our immune systems to prepare us for life in the big, wide world. Yet today, children are not allowed to be sick. The immunity-building process is often stopped with medications or vaccinations.
True disease causes a noticeable change in a person. The simple case of a child with the flu is a good example: A few days before any physical symptoms (fever, runny nose, coughing) arise, he or she may be grumpy, lethargic and acting out of character. A severe emotional trauma can also give rise to disease. Most of us know someone who “has not been themselves” since a frightening car accident or the death of a loved one.
Symptoms are a sign that there is a problem – our body’s way of speaking to us about something that’s wrong. By taking supplements, herbs or drugs, we can make these symptoms go away temporarily. However, this will not address the cause of the problem. Without symptoms to bother us, we can ignore the issue while the disease progresses unhindered and unnoticed “behind closed doors.” Our disease remains uncured. Then a few months or even years down the road, we have another health problem.
Symptoms can be confusing. Are they a sign of an imbalance, or a true disease or a chronic condition arising out of one or more diseases? Or are they the body’s healing response to a disease or imbalance? They can also be the body’s attempt to compensate for the effects of drugs (also called “side effects”).
An imbalance is a lack or too much of something due to improper regimen. Balance can be restored by applying the natural law of opposites – remove the excess (too much stressful work, too much exercise, too many sweets) or supply what is lacking (more sleep, more play, more water, better nutrition).
A condition is neither an imbalance nor a disease, but a group of symptoms arising out of one or more chronic diseases. A true diagnosis tells the cause of the problem. Arthritis is not a true diagnosis because it can result from many different causes. The same applies to hypertension, Crohn’s “disease”, fibromyalgia, polycystic kidneys, to name a few. These are not true diseases, but names given to certain groups of symptoms that tell you nothing about the causes.
Symptoms that are your body’s attempt to remove damage caused by a disease and restore balance are like a house-cleaning operation, and not part of the disease. For example, discharges (vomiting, diarrhea, mucous), congestion, fever, aches and pains can all be part of this process. Such healing reactions are not usually pleasant, but they often result in a greater state of health. Yet they are not always successful in restoring balance; it may only give temporary relief.
Supporting the immune system is often not enough, depending on your current state of overall health and the severity of the illness. The trick is to know when to intervene and how. To learn more about a system of medicine that supplies a map to understand what treatment to use and when, go to the website www.heilkunstinternational.com or www.homeopathy.com . Being more conscious of what your body is trying to tell you will go a long way to helping you to understand what needs to be done. If you are ill, depressed and anxious because you are working long hours, not getting enough sleep, and your marriage is not working, then the illness will not be cured by taking antidepressants and tranquilizers.