That Is Natural Health? A Comprehensive Guide to Living Healthy (1)
“The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.” – Hippocrates
People following a natural health approach try to identify the root cause of symptoms so they can solve their health concerns, restore balance and optimize health. Eliminating unhealthy habits, performing detoxifying cleanses, and choosing positive, life- and health-affirming choices helps restore the body’s natural vitality. The natural approach offers greater personal power over your health.
Natural Health and Conventional Medicine
A natural health approach provides a more balanced way to create a healthy lifestyle compared with conventional medicine. Natural health means promoting wellness with the natural solution.
For example, if you’re tired, drinking an energy drink is the unnatural approach. Your body doesn’t need caffeine, sugar, and chemicals; it needs sleep.
Natural health can be used on its own – which is called alternative health – or integrated with traditional healthcare. Complementary, integrative or functional medicine combines conventional medical care with one or more alternative, natural health approaches.
Alternative and complementary therapies include massage, acupressure, detoxing, and health supplements. More and more traditional medical doctors and healthcare practitioners are integrating holistic natural health into their repertoire.
In a Nutshell
In a nutshell, natural health means “out with the bad, in with the good” – out with the toxic chemicals, processed foods, bad habits, and in with healthy, environmentally-friendly, toxic-free choices. If you want to get healthy, you should know that natural health works. A health revolution is taking place, and we invite you to be part of it.
Out With the Bad
– Eliminating bad habits (smoking, drinking, unhealthy foods);
– Detox to get rid of toxic chemicals accumulated in the body;
– Removing toxic chemicals from your home and body products.
In With the Good
– Organic, wholesome, preferably plant-based diet;
– Corrective habits (exercise, meditation, counseling);
– Natural therapies (acupuncture, chiropractic, homeopathy);
– Nutritional and therapeutic plant-based supplements and herbs.
The Natural Health Approach: An Example
Rather than isolating one issue, natural health methods look for the ultimate cause of a health issue. Take a headache for example. Using a conventional approach, you may take a couple of over-the-counter acetaminophen pills.
These pills merely mask the pain, though, and the particular solution of taking pills does not take into consideration what caused a headache to begin with.
Using a natural health approach, a person would instead try to figure out different possible causes of the head pain. Could it be emotional stress, dehydration, muscle tension, or a serious issue needing medical attention? Each of these symptoms could be a possible cause of the headache and requires a different solution.
Counseling, aromatherapy or massage work best for mental stress headaches, drinking water can solve dehydration headaches, and a visit to a doctor to further identify the cause of a more serious or unidentified headache issue.
Is Natural Health Anti-Science?
Some websites claim that naturopathy, alternative medicine and the natural health approach are not backed by science, or are “pseudoscientific”. This is unequivocally false and here’s why:
Natural Health Is Internationally Recognized
Not only is complementary and alternative medicine more popular than ever among the public, it is also receiving broader recognition and more funds for research.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world’s most prominent medical research centers, established the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (formerly called the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) in 1998, as “the [US] Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on the diverse medical and healthcare systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.”
NIH defines complementary medicine as that which combines mainstream medicine with non-mainstream, alternative approaches – herbal supplements, massage, yoga, mindfulness, acupuncture, and so on.
NIH defines alternative healthcare as that used instead of mainstream medicine; hence, truly alternative healthcare is exceedingly rare since most people use some combination of natural approaches with conventional ones.
Claims that the natural health approach is unscientific are unequivocally false.
Internationally, natural health approaches are also gaining wider use and recognition. Natural health approaches – particularly nutritional supplements, massage, meditation, chiropractic care and yoga – are used by a full third of people in the U.S. and Europe.
The European Parliament actually held a workshop to discuss how to integrate the growing use of complementary and alternative therapies into traditional healthcare systems. In Australia, complementary and alternative natural health approaches are even more widespread: almost 70% of the population uses one or more alternative approach to healthcare.
Natural Health Is Gaining Wider Acceptance
People with higher incomes use these non-conventional approaches more. This may be because insurance or Medicaid often does not cover alternative therapies, and lower-income individuals may not be able to afford it. Even so, around 59 million people in the U.S. spend $30 billion out-of-pocket on natural, non-conventional approaches to healthcare every year.
Because more patients are asking for holistic, natural, patient-centered care, more hospitals and healthcare treatment centers are adopting natural remedies and approaches to health. As of 2017, twenty-eight medical centers, healthcare systems and cancer treatment centers in the U.S. now have at least one naturopathic doctor on staff.
Natural Health Is Cost-Effective
According to the Institute for Natural Medicine, institutions that use complementary and alternative approaches are “delivering better health outcomes at lower costs”.
Studies have found patients adhered to their treatment plan better, felt their healthcare providers spent more time with them and rated their overall experience more positively. In a different study, naturopathic therapies saved nearly $1,000 per patient with low back issues and people missed 6.7 fewer days of work.
Natural Health Had Its Day in Court… and Won
It’s well known that Big Pharma and Big Medicine have in the past made concerted efforts to keep alternative therapies from becoming mainstream. For decades, the American Medical Association (AMA) tried to shut down the entire chiropractic industry, convincing the public that chiropractic medicine was based on pseudoscience, which means fake science.
The AMA established a Committee on Quackery in 1963 to keep chiropractors from being included on medical insurance, or from becoming mainstream. They spread the word in schools and columns like Ann Landers and Dear Abby, and wrote TV scripts that the entire field was anti-science, and even “killed people”.
But in the David vs. Goliath battle, chiropractic won out. Five chiropractors sued the American Medical Association in 1972, and after an 11-year court battle, the AMA was found guilty of trying to destroy its competition – chiropractors. As a result of this legal victory, chiropractic medicine has now become widely accepted and used and is even now recommended by conventional doctors.
Natural Health Is Ahead of the Curve
However, there are some alternative therapies and supplements for which scientific research has not caught up.
There are simply not enough controlled studies on the effectiveness of various therapies, herbs and supplements – but a lack of studies does not mean that alternative therapies are not effective or are pseudoscientific. It only means that scientists have not studied these yet.
Natural Health Success Stories
People often turn to natural health approaches because it gives them a sense of greater control over their health. People also report that they feel they get better overall support from alternative healthcare providers, who typically give more time to patients.
Katja’s Story: Nothing Left to Lose
Sometimes people turn to natural health when conventional medicine lets them down or runs out of options. “My medical doctors had reached a point in the treatment of my autoimmune disorder where they couldn’t do anything more. The only thing they could offer me was steroids”, says Houston-based artist Katja Akhtar. At that point, she knew she had to take her life into her own hands: “What did I have to lose?” So she researched online and discovered the integrative and functional medicine approach.
Katja’s functional medicine doctor “took not just my medical history but my emotional history and my lifestyle history” she says. “The approach has been vastly different than my experience with standard medicine.”
The old adage by Hippocrates that “food is medicine” applied to Katja’s health. “Modifying my diet was fundamental to my recovery, and on top of that, supplements. Most of what I’m taking are nature-derived supplements”, she says. That’s the advantage of natural health or integrative medicine.
“They consider the entire body, as well as how the [body’s] systems interact with forces outside of it. It’s been extremely effective for me.” Katja no longer has brain fog, she has more energy, and her quality of life has dramatically improved.
Orna’s Story: Medicine in the Garden
In Oregon, licensed naturopathic doctor Orna Izakson has her own story of discovering the benefits of natural medicine. One day she felt so sick that she worried she may need to go to the hospital. Her herbalist neighbor recommended some medicinal plants.
One was growing in her garden. Imagine, she says, “I am sick as a dog, I can’t breathe. But I go to the garden, pick some thyme, pour boiling water over it, breathe the steam, and I went from being on the verge of hospitalization to out of the woods in less than a day.”
Natural health requires taking positive action to change your life.
Orna went on to become a naturopathic doctor, completing a rigorous 4-year medical program. Dr. Izakson is a fierce advocate for the natural approach to healthcare which includes both physical and mental wellness. She regularly hikes in nature to reduce stress and bring more peace into her life, and takes several natural health supplements to boost her energy and overall wellness. “This is the people’s medicine. It’s the weeds growing in your backyard.”
Read the second part of the article
November 26, 2018