ECOLOGICAL MEDICINE, WHAT IS IT?
Ecological medicinet includes holistic care of the body and earth, also taking into account the farms, the water, the care of animals and children. It respects the body and spirit and does not harm or damage to its vitality or integrity. It recommends minimal use of pharmaceuticals, mostly in emergencies, and relies 95% of the time on safe and time tested methods to prevent disease and opitimize health. Just as we do not want to put synthetic chemicals into the water supply and into the soil where plants are grown, we do not want to inundate the body with chemicals. The therapy of modern medicine is 90% pharmaceutical drugs, and the drugs are basically all foreign to the evolution of life on the planet.
Use even a mild modern medicine like ibuprophen for a long period of time and it will make you sick: it is common knowledge that it harms the stomach, but less known (and worse) it can overtax the liver, the main blood cleanser of the body. Imagine you have a water filter which cleans your water: that is what the liver does for the blood. Imagine using a dirty water filter every day! With chemical drugs, additives in food, and chemicals on food we are doing what humans have never done before. In Oriental and holistic medicine the liver’s cleansing capacity is said to be extremely important for maintaining vigorous health. It works in tandem with the immune system, which fights off disease factors. Modern medicine is performing an experiment with humans: the large scale use of synthetic chemicals for most people on this planet. Something like this has never been done before. What will be the results?
Our body is like the earth, and we need, now more than ever, to take special care of both: good healthy organic foods, exercise and fun, friendship, and holistic healing practices like:
1) Herbal medicines, which are safe and effective. These are like concentrated food medicine, whole, organic and not toxic to the body.
2) Healing foods. Food is truly our primary medicine, that is healthy and real foods. Healthy diet is a huge part of ecological medicine, and there are foods, which will be examined later, that are especially healing. These should be a part of our daily diet.
3) Healing exercises for the body, and these can include tai chi, yoga, therapeutic stretching, fitness exercises and others.
4) Sensible life style. For example, adequate sleep, no excess eating or alcohol, minimal synthetic drugs, no to recreational drugs, friendships (very healthy), eating well and moderately, periodic medical check-ups, healthy work habits, crativity, fun and music.
5) Maintaining a healthy body, mind and emotions through self-study, meditation, work with others, friendships, creative projects.
Negative attitudes and emotions are not good for health, deplete the energy, and adversely effect our daily happiness. We can strive to nurture an affirmative life style every day, from the moment we get up.
I have been in the field of holistic medicine for thirty years, as a clinician, researcher and writer. An acupuncturist by training, I have considerable experience in the field of Oriental and preventative medicine: nutrition, diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture, as well as a host of health promoting activities like yoga and meditation. The primary goal of this ancient and modern form of medicine is to harmonize and rejuvenate the body so that disease cannot take hold, so that people do not have to depend on chemical drugs and surgery. It is safe and very effective, and has a track record of hundreds of years. But is it not the only system of health care that needs to be used or respected: Naturopathic medicine from Europe, Ayurveda from India and others, and the sensible use of conventional medicine.
Modern technological medicine is powerful and remarkable, and all will, at some point in life, depend on pharmaceuticals or surgery to deal with a health problem. The other side of the coin is that this kind of medicine is overused and polluting. Too many people rely on drugs and surgery; hospitals are spewing out chemicals at an alarming rate; and people are becoming walking advertisements for the pharmaceutical industry.
There have been some very interesting recent studies about longevity on this planet. The bottom line is that the people that live the healthiest and longest do not rely on modern medicine except in emergencies. They live in relatively isolated areas, like the mountains of Sardinia, where there is less access to drugs and hospitals. An article in a recent New York Times Magazine focused on the Greek island of Ikaria where people live well and long. Four factors are involved. 1) Reliance on natural foods, a Mediterranean diet which includes herbs, small amounts of meat, fish, olive oil, garlic, lots of vegetables and virtually no “junk” and processed foods so common in America: sugar, white flour, fried foods, excess meats, and too many sweets. 2) Though the writer did not specifically mention this, another factor was glaringly obvious: few doctors on the island, and a minimal use of pharmaceuticals in the elderly. 3) Also important: an active social life, and a community that welcomes and accepts all. These people do not isolate themselves in front of televisions or computers. They work, talk, drink tea, and play games. 4) An active spiritual life; they are Greek Orthodox, and while not overly religious, they believe in a higher power and attend church.
The reader might not know but the elderly population in America is shockingly inundated with medical drugs. Tragically, in my clinic I see few people over the age of sixty who are not on some medical drug, and amazingly enough often three or four—that is not scientific medicine. No one knows the side effects (the harm, for example, to the liver which detoxifies chemicals); it is shoddy and worse, it is unethical. I know of healthy elderly people who shun the overuse of drugs, but now they are a distinct minority.
The key story in this fascinating article in the Times is about a Greek man from Ikaria who had moved to America. In his early middle age he was diagnosed with a deadly cancer for which his doctors said he would soon die. They prescribed chemotherapy, possible surgery. The man reflected and decided to go back to his little home island of Ikaria. There he lived in his family home and prepared for death, in the village of friends and relatives. But a funny thing happened. He started to feel stronger, healthier, and soon was going out to work with his vegetable garden and vines. To make a long story short he lived, and was still living when this article was written, and became a healthy and vigorous old man. At one point he had decided to return to America to ask his doctors what had happened to his deadly cancer. But his doctors had all died.
This is a great country, and until recently Americans have been vigorous, resourceful and honorable. We have also been an adaptable and intelligent nation. We can do better.
The people of Ikaria, the island in Greece, have few of the health problems that plague Americans, and their local doctor, a kind and considerate fellow, does not start work until ten or eleven. He does not have many clients, and mostly they chat, and besides the people are out enjoying themselves, or drinking herb tea on the patio. Some are gardening, or working, others are gossiping and smiling in the sun. Yes, Ikaria is a more relaxed place, with fewer temptations of bad food or junk entertainment, and a general diet that is just plain healthy, but still: Do we really need all these drugs, procedures, surgeries, and bogus advice? Do we care about the health of our farms and the planet? And, most important, do we care about our neighbors, our grandparents, and our children’s children? Time is running short. The Earth, and our bodies, as well as our mental/emotional health, will not permit continued abuse of our ecology and life.
To reiterate: ecological medicine advocates for a healthy person, community, and planet, and pays great respect to children, our future, our farms and farm animals, the source of our nutrition, and our elderly. We need to use the best of conventional and holistic medicine for the maintanence of our bodies and spirits, but health is more than ourselves and body: it is our communities, earth and the whole planet.