Unscientific as they were by modern standards, the ancients can teach us a lot about health.
The Greeks and others focused less on specific diseases than on harmony between the mind and body. Maintaining mind/body balance, they knew, keeps us strong. When it is disrupted, we fall prey to illness.
Today, we can have the best of both worlds--the insights of ancient wisdom bolstered by 20th-century science.
Power healing: The four key aspects of my concept of well-being are relationships, diet, environment and detoxification.
Strengthening these four pillars of healing will maintain the balance and harmony that protect against illness. If you're ill, these factors will work together with medical care to help you get better.
In recent decades, evidence has grown that strong relationships are a potent force for health. Example: A California study found that marriage, close friendships and membership in church or community organizations lowered the overall death rate, as well as the risk of death from cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Good relationships strengthen your ability to deal with stress. The heart is under less strain and the immune system fights off disease and cancer better when you feel supported by friends and loved ones.
Social support makes you feel capable of doing positive things for yourself and your health.
The first step in strengthening this pillar of healing is to become aware of its importance. How...
- Take stock. How much time and energy do you devote to others? What can you do to nurture more gratifying relationships?
- Make an effort to help others. Volunteering (at a soup kitchen, hospital, school, museum) reduces stress and eases health problems. By giving to others, you give to yourself.
The relationship with your doctor is also important. For more about this very special relationship, see the column directly below.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE
It should come as no surprise anymore that what you eat has great impact on your health, and that the standard American diet--high in fats, low in vegetables--is a recipe for serious illness.
You can strengthen this pillar of healing dramatically with one simple step. Eliminate--or at least sharply reduce--your consumption of the junk foods that make up 30% of the average American's calorie intake.
By avoiding processed foods--whose nutrients have been replaced by sugar, salt and shortening--you reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Healthful snacks: When you snack, choose raw vegetables, nuts and seeds rather than junk food.
Two nutrients deserve special attention...
- Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive impact on virtually every aspect of cell function. Their gradual disappearance from modern diets has been linked to diseases ranging from arthritis to depression.
Fish that are rich in omega-3s include salmon, albacore tuna and sardines. Flaxseed oil and flaxseed flour (Kay’s Note: Flaxseed are not SCD legal – too rough) are the best vegetable sources.
- Magnesium regulates the enzyme reactions that support life in virtually every cell, but two-thirds of Americans don't get enough in their diets. Advancing age depletes the body of this mineral, as does stress. You probably need more magnesium if you suffer from irritability... palpitations... muscle tension or spasms.
Green vegetables (especially broccoli), beans, seeds and nuts are good sources of magnesium.
Lifestyle includes regular physical activity. You don't need to go to a gym. Just incorporate activity into your routine--by walking instead of driving the car, for instance.
Chemical and biological pollutants wreak havoc with the body, suppressing the immune system, damaging lungs and raising cancer risk, as well as causing minor health problems. Air pollution and toxic dumps are big culprits, but the risk of exposure is greatest indoors...
- Don't permit anyone to smoke in your home. Secondhand tobacco smoke increases cancer and heart disease risk and aggravates asthma. Carcinogenic tars cling to curtains and furniture.
- Leave your shoes at the door. Pesticides and other toxic wastes come in with you off the street, and are collected by carpets.
- Fight molds. They can cause allergy symptoms, eczema and asthma, as well as fatigue, joint pain and headache. Some secrete toxins that suppress the immune system. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 50%... discard moldy food... ventilate basement and attic.
- Ventilate your stove, heater and dryer properly. These appliances produce toxic gases (carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and formaldehyde). Helpful: A carbon monoxide detector. Cost: $50 to $80.
Your body has natural defenses against environmental pollutants as well as toxic substances produced by normal cell processes. The liver breaks these pollutants down, at which point they are excreted by the bowels and kidneys. To enhance and support your body's detoxification efforts...
- Avoid over-the-counter medications when possible. Many common drugs impair the liver's ability to break down toxic chemicals. Use natural substitutes.
Examples: Acetaminophen (Tylenol) depletes the body of glutathione, a key detoxification chemical that protects against cancer and boosts immune function. If you take Tylenol daily, work with your doctor to remedy the source of pain, rather than just treating the symptom. Avoid alcohol, which further depletes glutathione from the liver.
Cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac) and similar drugs widely taken for heartburn impair liver function. Instead, learn strategies to avoid heartburn altogether--eat small, lowfat meals, at least three to four hours before lying down... take chewable calcium with each meal... avoid alcohol and coffee.
- Actively boost your body's natural detoxification capability. Do this by consuming foods that neutralize carcinogens and other chemicals that damage cells.
Helpful: Cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower) and those containing carotenoids (such as carrots, tomatoes).
The most toxic environment in your body is the digestive tract. Help your intestines expel toxins by eating fiber (fruits, vegetables)... and add fermented foods (such as yogurt) to your diet, to maintain the healthy bowel bacteria that break down toxins.
(Kay’s Note: Article adapted to be SCD foods compliant.)