CARRIE STEELE’S RECENT article on the Vitality documentary moviereally got me thinking. As I get older, I find myself increasingly grateful for my health. Sure, I have a few aches and pains thanks to creaky joints left over from an over-enthusiastic few decades of sports and gym, but all in all, I feel (and act) a lot younger than my 44 years.
You might say that I’m lucky to have the right genetics, but I’m not too sure about that. Rather, I credit my ongoing generally good health to being something of a health nut. I have been as far back as I can recall, maybe not quite as intensely so as in recent times, but I always tried to eat reasonably carefully and to get in a fair amount of exercise. Being a vegetarian since 1996 has surely helped.
The fact that I was a total stress monkey for most of my life makes me think that you can get away with a lot as long as you’re careful to cover the basics (diet and exercise), even if this isn’t an ideal long-term approach.
Over the years, I’ve refined my diet and been even more dedicated to getting in enough exercise, including lots of cardiovascular training. That’s led to an increased feeling of well being, especially since I went vegan about a year and half ago. Additionally, in the last decade or so, I’ve tried to reduce my toxic burden by using eco (and people) friendly household and personal products, and by using organic oils and nuts.
Perhaps the biggest positive change is that the last six months have been a continuous lesson in stress-reduction, thanks mostly to Bikram Yoga (my yoga blog series starts here). Fleeing the big city and the corporate rat race in favour of an idyllic life as a full-time writer in a smaller town has also made an impact.
So things are going well, there’s no doubt about that, but something got me churning things over. Just a day or so after Carrie’s article, I noticed the following quote on the Humans Of New York’s Facebook feed:
“I’m a pathologist, which means that I run the lab, and I’m continually shocked by all the unnecessary lab work that comes my way. Doctors have to find something wrong with you, because preventative measures aren’t sexy. They know that you’re more likely to appreciate them if they tell you something’s wrong than if they tell you to stop drinking 40 oz sodas.”
It occurred to me that one of the benefits of being healthy is that I don’t have to see my GP much. Then I registered that one of the reasons I’m healthy might just be that I avoid my GP like the plague. I’ve got friends who see their GP at the drop of a hat and come away with the usual prescription for anti-somethings. Antibiotics or antihistamines or even worse, things such as cortico-steroids and the like. Then there are the unnecessary tests, the blood pressure meds, cholesterol fighters or anti-depressants that might not be needed.
Believe me when I say that I’m the first one to see a doctor if I really need one. My theory is that my doctor works for me, so I expect to be referred to a specialist or to be taken seriously when the time is right. But dropping by with the sniffles to get massively over-prescribed antibiotics that won’t do a thing anyway? No thank you, I’ll choose time and the holistic approach over that any day.
As I’ve said before, modern medicine is the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, trying to clean up the mess as best as it can. Prevention is better than cure, but prevention is something that modern medical practitioners caught on the conveyor belt of BigMed and BigPharma barely understand.
Even worse, prevention is a bad business model – regardless of the good intentions of the Hippocratic Oath. If your patients are all well, all the time, then being a doctor isn’t exactly going to be a lucrative profession any more.
I’ve had first hand experience with this phenomenon – I’ve been involved with a holistic veterinary clinic since its inception over a decade ago. It’s run by the best holistic vet in the world (in my humble opinion) and she works wonders with animals that have been written off by conventional vets. Barring the apparent miracles, over the years there’s also been a virtually endless parade of animals with chronic conditions.
Like human patients, these cases are the bread and butter of a conventional clinic – your dog’s got skin issues? No problem, just pop in every so often for a repeat of the steroids that manage the condition. Cat’s got joint problems? No worries, have we got a cream or pill for that – you’ll need to buy it every month for the rest of the animal’s life though. Such is the conveyor belt, but when you look at the situation holistically and wonder why the animal has a chronic condition, you tend to find the key that’ll make the problem go away forever. Which is great for the animal and the owner, but not so good for the practice’s bottom line.
If you don’t think that the same applies to human medicine, think again. From skin conditions to serious autoimmune issues, the standard response is to send you away with something to manage the condition, never an actual cure because that’d take much longer than the 10 minutes that your doctor has allocated to care about your health. Throw some bad dietary advice into the mix and you’re heading in the wrong direction.
A friend of mine has been left hanging with a very serious autoimmune condition – modern medicine has pretty much shrugged its shoulders and said well, we can try to manage it but good luck. His situation improved drastically when he started to do his own research around nutrition, something a doctor or specialist was never going to do for him because as much as they want him to be well, they don’t really have the time or genuine inclination to make that happen.
Getting back to the animal example, loads of the holistic clinic’s patients are fed for most of their lives on cheap pet food, which is the animal world’s equivalent of cheap fast food. Eat low quality fast food as your only source of food for a few years and see how you feel. But when their diets are changed, and the correct supplementation is added in, their health improves, usually by an order of magnitude.
The same applies to humans, which means you! The fundamentals of health start with diet and exercise, and it doesn’t take much to make a huge difference. No one’s saying you have to become a raw vegan ultra-marathon runner but taking some small steps will have a big effect on your well being and quality of life. All the information is right out there at the tips of your fingers, so do your research. In most cases, some common sense will tell you all you need to know:
Eat healthy food in favour of fast, processed and other obviously unhealthy foods. The choices are usually pretty simple.
Get some exercise – any exercise. Run, walk, take up a sport but do something to become more active.
The more you do that, the less chance there is that you’ll need to see your doctor, especially over the longer term. The same goes for your family (if applicable) and that’s even better. ASHLEY KRAMER