Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

A garden needs pure water, sunlight, healthy soil, and lots of love in order to thrive.  If we deprive our garden of the essentials of life, it will wither and die.  If we remedy our sick garden with synthetic chemicals, it will not flourish for long. Like a garden, a healthy body requires this very same support and attention.

Yet, it seems healthcare these days has strayed from health care to sick care. For every ill there is a pill.  Instead of focusing on nourishing or healing the body, doctors prescribe drugs to mask symptoms; it’s easier and faster than working with a patient to change the quality of their soil-- the valuable environment within the body. Long before modern medical science came into being, mankind was dealing with illness via natural means. Many of these herbal remedies have borne the test of time, and are still being used today. But often when we tell our doctors we are taking supplements for our ills, we are warned of the dangers or told that supplementation only provides “expensive pee.” They often don’t say this out of arrogance, but ignorance. I don’t blame doctors, for they are taught to prescribe drugs and are not educated in the innate power of nature.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for pharms in critical care, but drugs for the long-term management of symptoms is not healthcare, it is sick care.  Prescription drugs are the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer-- Americans are over drugged and underserved. 

Our seniors are clearly drug addicts at the hands of their doctors.  On average, individuals 65 to 69 years old take nearly 14 prescriptions per year; individuals aged 80 to 84 take an average of 18 prescriptions per year.  Why? Because it is easy for doctors and seniors are notoriously compliant. According to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, “ While medications are probably the single most important factor in improving the quality of life for older Americans  [I completely disagree on this point—this is only because we give the pill for the ill instead of concentrating on health], the nation’s seniors are especially at risk for medication-related problems due to physiological changes of aging, higher incidence of multiple chronic diseases and conditions, and greater consumption of prescription and over-the-counter medications.”   They go on to say that “any symptom in an elderly patient should be considered a drug side effect until proven otherwise." 

After my father was rushed to the ER with a severe headache , various other symptoms and no resolution, I questioned his doctor as to why he had prescribed a diuretic for high blood pressure when my dad clearly suffers from chronic dehydration-- the look on his face was priceless.  There are many natural remedies for high blood pressure that nourish the garden instead of harming the patient.

Pain and other symptoms are Mother Nature’s way of telling is that there is something wrong. And while there is no reason anyone should have to suffer unaided, just treating the symptoms may mean ignoring a problem that could have significant impact on your general health.

So how do we grow our garden?

We eat for life and engage in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, yoga, meditation and other mind-body therapies. Medical experts have long recognized the relationship between diet and the incidence of disease, and that realistic modifications of diet and lifestyle can significantly improve mortality. Research suggests that 85% of all medical problems are caused by stress.  Stress-related symptoms range from tension headaches and migraines to lower-back pain, frequent colds, insomnia and hypertension, and stress contributes to cancer as well--chronic stress changes immune cell genes, leading to inflammation. 

We look within to see what is causing the ill, and we fix it.  If I were dehydrated and suffering from the symptom of a headache, I could take an aspirin and likely feel better.  However, will that aspirin cure my dehydration—a problem that could impact my health and very survival?  No.

Thirty years ago I was suffering from debilitating knee pain, so severe I could not stand up. The doctor told me to stop all forms of exercise and take 600mg of ibuprofen twice daily to manage the pain, and hope that I didn’t end up in a wheelchair (or worse, die of the remedy.)  With the assistance of a far-wiser doctor I solved the problem with nothing other than—you guessed it—targeted and consistent exercise to support my knees—something I do to this day and my knees are pain-free.

Keep in mind that pain’s partner is inflammation, and we now know that most, or perhaps even all chronic diseases are the result of inflammation.   So while you may think you are just managing pain, by reducing inflammation you are also taking a major step in extending your life—just don’ forget to address the root of the problem.

We must also consider the repercussions of our remedy if we are to nourish the garden. If we take a toxic drug such as Tylenol or Advil, we may get relief from a symptom, but we could be causing more ills.  Several studies have shown that Tylenol damages the liver and kidneys.  Each year over 78,000 Americans go to the emergency room for treatment for an acetaminophen overdose, and death by overdose or accidental ingestion causes about 450 deaths a year (Tylenol is often hidden in other pharms such as cough medicine and prescription drugs.) Yet, most patients are told to take the drug daily and even several times daily. Tylenol is often recommended for the pain relief of osteoarthritis, but NICE (National Institute of Health and Care Excellence) is now warning against the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen in the US and paracetamol in the UK). It warns of the potential side effects of Tylenol and says it has “limited benefit”. When used, it should be the “lowest effective dose” for the “shortest possible time.”  In this exhaustive 600+ page report they offer holistic and other non-pharmaceutical recommendations. 

Research links ibuprofen (NSAIDS) use to things like heart disease, circulatory problems, gastrointestinal conditions, bleeding and/or perforation of the gut and the intestinal tract. Again, we need to turn to nature.  Numerous studies have shown that curcumin (turmeric) is at least as effective as ibuprofen and offers numerous health benefits (over 600).  In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers found that 2000mg of turmeric extract was as effective as 800mg of Ibuprofen in reducing the pain and inflammation associated with knee osteoarthritis. (For a good source, try: THORNE RESEARCH – Meriva-SR – 120ct ). Don’t sacrifice tomorrow for today: while it might seem easier just to pop that pill, make every attempt to heal and to manage symptoms with non-toxic alternatives--or you just might add another ill to your list.  Nurture your garden and reap the benefits.

Not sure where to start?  Seek out a Naturopathic Doctor, holistic practitioner, health coach, or cancer coach to help you devise a plan for your specific needs and goals.  If you are an internet-surfer, know that quality, dosage and synergy matter when it comes to supplementation, so always seek out the advice of a professional before you add supplements and before you discontinue any medications.  And by all means, get out and get some sunshine!

This article was originally printed in my Options for Life column in the Spring Edition of Natural Healing Natural Wellness.
~~If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any~~
Elyn Jacobs is a breast cancer survivor, professional cancer strategist, speaker, and the Executive Director for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation. Elyn empowers women to choose the path for treatment that best fits their own individual needs. She is passionate about helping others move forward into a life of health and well-being. Elyn has been featured on CNN Money, Talk About Health, and Breast Cancer Answers and has written for the Pink Paper, Breast Cancer Wellness, Integrative Oncology Essentials, Surviving Beautifully, Body Local and more, and writes the Options for Life column for the Natural Healing-Natural Wellness Magazine. Elyn hosts the Survive and Live Well Radio Show on the Cancer Support Network. Elyn lives in New York with her husband and two young boys.
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