Health Wisdom - Pay Attention to the Direction of your Health by Shandor Weiss
I’d like to share some thoughts on health and the direction of health. These ideas are the essence of what I have learned from more than three decades of study and helping people. If I have gained any wisdom or insight so far, none of it is more important than the idea of the direction of health.
Whether we are at the poor or good end of the spectrum of health potentials is not the most important thing. What’s important is not where we are right now. What’s most important is the answer to the question, “What direction is my health going in?” A person with “poor” health now can feel positive about changing the direction and eventually reaching better health. A person in “good” health now may not know if their health is maintaining its relative good status, or is declining. We all face health challenges ... whether we see them or not. For all of us, our health is constantly being stressed. Whether or not we continuously reduce health stressors and/or resist their effects determines where our health is headed. Therefore, we should all check up on our health to make sure it is maintaining its relative position and direction in the face of ongoing health challenges.
Achieving and maintaining good health is like sailing a ship on a long voyage. Will we make it safely to the final harbor, or not? Whether or not our health is good can only really be measured at the end of our life’s journey. We shouldn’t be lulled into a sense of false security just because the sea is calm right now. There may be periods of clear sailing, but there will no doubt be hazards along the way. Many people feel that they are in good health, even while a health storm is developing just beyond the horizon. They say, “Oh, I’ve always been in great health, except that now I have this cancer (or diabetes, heart attack, arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, etc.).” But isn’t that an incongruous statement? How can health be good, if a person gets ill? The problem is this: the beginnings of poor health lie hidden from our view. Like a storm beyond the horizon, like pirates lurking around the bend, and like an underwater shoal or reef or the hidden parts of an iceberg, the unseen causes of disease can shipwreck our health unless we steer clear of them ahead of time. Like scrupulous sailors, we should be constantly cleaning, repairing, preparing and steering our ship to withstand and avoid the storms, reefs and pirates on the sea of life.
Environmental toxins are one of our most serious hidden health hazards. They are the single most significant cause of the widespread epidemics of chronic degenerative diseases. Toxins are linked to the development and increased rates of Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, auto-immune diseases, allergies, asthma, addiction, diabetes, autism, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, mental illness, infections, and even social ills like inner city violence. And that’s just to name a few conditions linked to the effect of toxins on health. There are many more. The stresses of increased exposure to plastics, petrochemical fumes, pesticides and herbicides, radiation, electromagnetic fields, drugs and heavy metals presents unprecedented health challenges to our powers of natural self-healing. It is our decreased capacity to heal ourselves naturally, due to the effects of toxins, that leads to so many illnesses and to premature aging. Unfortunately, all of us have toxic levels of many chemicals regardless of how healthy our lifestyle may be.
Also unfortunate is the fact that many people get ill from toxins even as they think they are getting healthy. Many of the worst toxins are stored in fat. One reason is that these toxins are fat soluble—they “dissolve” into our fat cells. Another way of looking at it is that our bodies don’t know what to do with these synthetic chemicals. Putting them in fat is our way of storing them in the safest way possible. Of course it would be better to just eliminate these toxins from our bodies as soon as we are exposed to them. Unfortunately this often does not happen. What does happen is that when people lose weight through diet, exercise and so on, the toxins stored in fat are released. They re-enter the bloodstream, exposing the body to old toxins as though they are new. Since the body is not storing fat when one is losing weight, the toxins keep circulating and often wind up poisoning organs, glands and cells. This can then cause cancer or any number of other diseases or health problems. I’ve had many patients whose illness was caused by toxins that had been stored in the body for decades and then released as they tried to improve their health.
There are many myths about detoxification. Fasts, juice diets, raw food diets and “cleanses” often make toxicity problems worse. The liver and other organs actually need more protein and other nutrients to eliminate toxins. But most “detox” cleanses avoid or restrict protein. This can be quite dangerous. While some people think cleanses lead to a “healing crisis”, often it is just a crisis. There is nothing healing about detoxing the wrong way.
Even though avoiding and eliminating toxins is essential to health, it takes more than detox, and a good diet, exercise or a good attitude to remain healthy these days. We also have increased stresses from modern lifestyles, such as overwork, unnatural environments, electromagnetic pollution, radiation, global warming, information overload, changes in family structure, crime, terrorism, economic insecurity, drug use, and a rapidly changing world. At the same time, we expect more from ourselves and from life itself. We want to live longer, be stronger, look and feel younger, and remain healthier in the face of advancing age and increasing stresses. In addition to the fact that we and our lives are no longer natural, we no longer want to suffer from the natural processes of aging and declining health. Considering all this, is it any wonder that we need to do more to achieve real health?
Detoxification, diet and nutrition, exercise and all the other “good” things are important parts of health and healing. But the most important part of healing comes from the mind. That’s because the mind determines everything else. Not only do our thoughts and feelings affect physical function, but our understanding, beliefs and attitudes determine our behavior and health habits. And our spirit or our relationship to spirituality determines what and how our minds function. A person may have a “good” mind, but if their spirit is in disharmony, their mind will still make many mistakes about health and healing.
As I continue to work with people I find that healing dysfunctional and detrimental beliefs is one of the most important things we can do. At the same time, most people need to leverage their ability to heal the mind and spirit by improving their biochemical balance, dealing with physical problems, eating well, and so on. By integrating treatment of both body and mind—with attention to environmental issues, also, and all at the same time, the best results are achieved. It is often difficult or even impossible to turn around a declining direction of health without dealing with the body, mind, spirit and environment all together. I call this eco-body-mind-spirit healing.
Healing, as with many things in life, starts with the first step and progresses step by step. Even if you can’t plunge into a total healing process right now, you can take that first step. That first step could be something as simple as eating more organically and avoiding toxins in the home. Or it could be getting professional help to steer you in the right direction. But even if you see the world’s best natural or holistic doctor you still have to make changes in the direction of your health by yourself. It’s not that hard. You just pick one thing at a time, and do it. But you do need the right information to know which step to take.
It is important for all of us to wake you up to the realities of human suffering in these unnatural times. People say we are in the midst of a healthcare crisis. But healthcare is not what people are really talking about. They are talking about disease care. Real healthcare pays attention to the direction of health in order to improve health and prevent illness. Disease care is what happens when the direction of health has already declined too far. We have so much disease and such high disease care costs because very few people are dealing with the real causes of poor health. Real care of health is not based on a gamble, waiting to see if something bad will happen. Real healthcare takes into account the unhealthy effects of living in an unnatural world. It is the job of each of us to find out how to resist the unnatural stresses to health, and to keep the direction of our health improving rather than declining.
Where is the direction of your health headed?
Shandor Weiss, LAc, is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing at the Arura Clinic of Natural Medicine in Ashland, Oregon.