Thursday, December 20, 2012

Let Thy Food Be Thy Medicine

   Herbal medicine is becoming more mainstream each day as people search for alternatives to traditional allopathic medicine. However, along with this new found curiosity comes much misunderstanding.  Many people still have the allopathic mindset and view illness as something that just "happens to you" and use herbal remedies as nothing more than natural alternatives to replace prescription or OTC drugs.   Unfortunately when people only focus so narrowly, the whole point of holistic, natural medicine is missed.  The importance of natural health is not only focusing on the "remedy", but striving to improve the overall health of your body so that all of your body systems may work in harmony with each other to be your first line of defense.  To do this, one must remove themselves from the current "diagnose and treat" train of thought prevalent in modern medicine and instead focus on prevention. In order to get at the root of an ailment or disease, one must be willing to change his lifestyle in regards to what he eats.
   The most important factor in maintaining a healthy body or healing a disease is nutrition.    A quote found in my Understanding Holistic Health textbook states:
"We are all familiar with the old adage 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' This one has certainly earned its credibility. Obviously, the best way to become healthy is to remain healthy! Yet, ironically, we understand this concept when it comes to our cars or homes.  If we failed to fill the car up with gas, we would be silly to wonder why it stopped running on the road. Yet, when it comes to the human body, we continually fill it with poor quality foods and expose them to environmental and dietary toxins, and we wonder why they do not operate at peak performance. Worse yet, this healthy degradation begins to form patterns among those with similarly poor health habits, and the trend becomes accepted as normal, therefore unavoidable."
  The reason holistic medicine focuses on diet is because diet is often the CAUSE of the issue. Taking an herbal remedy to alleviate a symptom while simultaneously consuming toxins in processed foods is nothing more than putting a band-aid on a bullet wound.  For example, say someone looks into natural remedies for their child's constipation without taking his dietary habits into consideration.  Just a quick Google search for "natural remedies for constipation" would offer a plethora of recommendations to bring relief. However, when treating any issue naturally, the diet must always be considered.   Most processed foods contain artificially hydrogenated oils, and one of the main afflictions attributed to consumption of hydrogenated oils is constipation.   If that child continues to consume the same diet of processed foods, the underlying problem that is the source of the constipation will not go away, even if you add a multitude of herbal teas and/or supplements into the diet.  Likewise, a person suffering from migraines may turn to natural remedies after a doctor can find no cause for the affliction. She/he may ask around and hear that the herb feverfew is known as an effective remedy for migraine suffers. Let's also say that this individual consumes the SAD(Standard American Diet) and consumes massive "sugar-free" foods such as yogurt and diet soda believing them to be healthy.  In the case of the above mentioned migraine sufferer, his/her sugar-free foods laden with artificial sweeteners are more than likely contributing to the occurrence of migraines.  Many studies have linked aspartame consumption to migraines, seizures, and other neurological issues. The main thing to remember is that artificial sweeteners are chemicals, and despite their clever marketing should never be considered natural or real foods.  The chemicals and toxins in processed foods alter our body's ability to perform the way God designed it to function.  We can take all the herbs and supplements available but if we do not also consider the food we put into our bodies,  we are only alleviating  the symptoms without eliminating the cause.
  Even if someone chooses traditional care over natural medicine, nutrition is still essential to health.  Unfortunately, most doctors receive very little nutritional education in their training.  A physician may prescribe a pill to help with the symptoms, but unless the patient is willing to change their lifestyle the body will not function at its best ability.   Most prescription drugs have several side effects, which lead to more drugs being prescribed to "help" with the side effects.   Obviously, prescription medicine isn't a magic cure-all or else it would cure the disease and the patient could stop taking it.  Even herbal remedies are not recommended for long term use. However, most people who begin taking a prescription are on them for a lengthy amount of time if not indefinitely.  Pills for hypertension may help lower blood pressure, but is it really doing the body any favors if one continues to consume a similar diet that likely contributed to the condition in the first place?   Traditional medicine is too ready to write a prescription for every ailment, many of which are diet related.  It may seemingly offer a speedy "cure", but in reality the disease itself is not eliminated.
     We live in an instant society that wants a quick fix.  Changing over to real foods seems too hard or too expensive. However if you look at the alternative most people choose, are pharmaceuticals really the quick and easy fix they seem to be?  The cost of the doctor visits and prescriptions aren't cheap either.   Yes, changing a diet from processed foods to real food does take a commitment.  It is a journey that involves learning and altering  habits that have long been ingrained in us.  Either way, we make commitment: a commitment to spend money taking pills or a commitment to change they way we live and improve our overall quality of life.  Instead of focusing on what we have to "give up" when we choose to eliminate processed foods from our diet, we should look at the big picture to see what we will gain instead.  There are no negative side-effects from eating healthy food so what do we have to lose?

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