That Is Natural Health? A Comprehensive Guide to Living Healthy (3)
Read the second part of the article
Easy Ways to Get Started
Some of these efforts will take longer than others. For example, we can’t easily get rid of the persistent organic pollutants which persist in the air, water and soil although they have been banned for many years.
However, here are some simple steps you can take:
– You can lobby your representatives to force past polluters to clean these up.
– You can make your consumer voice heard by paying attention to where you spend your money.
– You can educate yourself about where toxic chemicals lurk, and minimize your exposure as much as possible, especially if you are pregnant, or for young children.
A Natural Health Diet: A Way of Life
If you want to live in a more healthful way, you must address the way you eat. Healthy eating is not a trend; it is probably the single most important thing you can do for your health on a daily basis.
Eat Organic Foods
Choosing organic foods is best because certified organic producers must follow specific laws and regulations, which include using virtually no chemicals – although truth be told, some are allowed.
Buying organic is better for your health and better for Planet Earth.
Organic farming is better for your health: one study found organic fruits have more antioxidants and less pesticide residue. And buying organic crops and meat is better for the Earth: organic farmers must follow sustainable farming practices, like improving biodiversity, crop rotation on fields, and biologically-friendly pest management.
Organic products cannot use genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or any genetic engineering. Even organic produce contains chemical traces; you can wash some of it off, but research shows that washing does not remove all the chemicals.
Quick Tips for Cleaning Produce
Avoid the fruits and vegetables which have the most pesticide residue, and look for those which have the least, if you must eat conventionally grown produce. If your budget is tight, you can choose which fruits and vegetables to buy organic, versus conventional, for yourself and your family.
To remove pesticides from produce, soak fruits or vegetables for 20 minutes in a large bowl full of a solution of 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water (i.e., if you use 4 cups of water use 1 cup of white vinegar), then scrub lightly with a scrub brush and rinse.
Eat A Plant-Based Diet
Eating a low-fat vegan or vegetarian diet has many health benefits: it can lead to weight loss, improve insulin function, lower blood pressure, and lower your risk of heart problems. Vegans generally have lower levels of bad cholesterol than people who do not eat a strictly plant-based diet. Not only that, but meat takes more energy for your body to digest.
Eating lower on the food chain also reaps enormous benefits for the planet, and is kinder to animals. Agriculture – including both animals and plant crops – account for one-third of all global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO). Livestock in particular account for more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation – the world’s cars, trucks, and planes. Becoming vegetarian can therefore help curb threats to the environment and the future of humankind.
Quick Tips for Gradually Becoming Vegetarian
Try Meatless Monday, an international movement where people eliminate meat one day a week. This can be a good trial for vegetarian natural health recipes, and to begin a transition to a plant-based lifestyle.
Look for one of many superfoods for quick boosts to energy and health, like goji berries, chia seeds, or golden berries.
Many people interested in a healthy, natural diet choose to eat a gluten-free diet because this protein – found most commonly in wheat but also in other common grains – can trigger digestive problems.
Try a Raw, Vegan Diet
Have you heard about eating raw? Some people are choosing to eat exclusively raw food; this preserves all of the natural enzymes and nutrients present in food. You can start with 75% raw and 25% cooked and gradually work your way up to a fully raw diet.
Or you can do a raw food detox, eating raw for a week or a month, and see how much better you feel afterward. Gradually introducing one food type back into your diet, such as corn or dairy or wheat (gluten), can help you identify which foods your body is most sensitive to.
One study found a 70-100% raw diet reduced bad cholesterol, but also decreased vitamin B12, which you need for the proper functioning of the brain, and which is typically only found in animal products. When eating raw or vegan, you will need a B12 supplement.
The Benefits of Eating Healthy: Weight Loss, Wellness and Energy
Can a plant-based, clean diet help people lose weight? Absolutely. People who eat vegan or vegetarian generally have lower body-mass index (BMI) than those who eat meat; in other words, they weigh less. One study found that people who eat more fruits and vegetables also have a probable lower risk of cancer and osteoporosis.
A diet high in saturated fats (often found in red meat) can reduce the effectiveness of good cholesterol (HDL) and increases the risk of hardened arteries (atherosclerosis). “People who eat vegan or vegetarian generally have lower body-mass index than those who eat meat; in other words, they weigh less.”
Will eating vegan give you more energy? That depends on what you eat. If you eat a lot of sugar, starchy carbs like potatoes and rice, and few vegetables, you may miss out on the energy boost that comes from eating raw, “alive” fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Nutritional Supplements and Natural Health Products
The use of natural health vitamins and nutritional supplements has seen a steady rise over the past two decades, with more than $36 billion in retail sales in 2017. A National Institutes of Health Survey found that 85% of people use natural products for overall wellness, and more than 40% use them to treat a health condition.
As of 2012, the most popular natural supplements in the U.S. – not including regular vitamins and minerals – included flax oil and hemp seed oil, probiotics/prebiotics, melatonin, echinacea, and ginseng, among others.
Today, nearly 20% of American adults take one or more natural health supplement. Aging men and women need more calcium and aging support, while infants as well as pregnant and breastfeeding women need to get more vitamin D. Active adults often seek out plant-based supplements like ginseng, ginkgo and vitamin B12.
Introducing prebiotic and probiotic supplements has a positive impact on your health by improving the state of your gut. The gut biota acts like an “organ within an organ” that affects not just the obvious – digestion – but also the immune system, metabolism, and even mental health. Prebiotics are fiber-dense foods that feed good bacteria, and probiotics are specific strains of bacteria that your body needs for optimal health.
While your body will have some of these from living in the world, enhancing the number of good bacteria you have in your gut will improve your digestion as well as overall health.
What Kinds of Natural Healthcare Providers Are There?
People who use natural or complementary approaches to health often do it because they feel conventional medicine focuses too narrowly on one symptom or body system, with little integration of the body with other aspects of life, such as lifestyle, diet, and social factors.
The great thing about adopting a natural health lifestyle is that it is inherently empowering, allowing you to take charge of your health.
Sometimes you have a specific health concern and you want to see an expert. There are many different types of healthcare providers who adopt a natural approach: Naturopathic Doctors (ND) and Naturopath Practitioners (NP)
Naturopathic doctors (ND) must receive a 4-year post-graduate medical degree from one of five schools in the U.S. focusing on naturopathic principles and herbalism, and like traditional medical school have done clinical rotations.
Naturopathic doctors in the U.S. are licensed by state medical boards. Some people earn a certificate in naturopathy that is not as rigorous as the full ND medical training; they are called naturopathic practitioners (NP) or just naturopaths.
Generally, six key beliefs guide the practice of naturopaths:
1. Heal with the power of nature: the human body has a strong, built-in power to heal itself.
2. Identify the root cause: find what is underlying symptoms and treat that, rather than suppressing symptoms.
3. Treat the whole person: healthcare providers need to treat a person holistically, including their physical as well as mental, emotional and social health.
4. Doctor as teacher: Naturopaths help patients learn what they can do to improve their own health and well-being.
5. Do no harm: Use methods, herbs and techniques that do not cause harm on a person’s self-healing mechanisms.
6. Seek prevention first: Always seek to proactively prevent disease and illness.
Twenty-three states in the U.S. license individuals with ND degrees to practice medicine. Each of these states has slightly different laws. In some states, NDs can call themselves a doctor, diagnose and treat patients with natural substances, education, and lifestyle prescriptions. In a handful of states like Vermont, Arizona, Oregon and Washington, a ND can also prescribe medications or do minor surgery.
Integrative and Functional Medicine Practitioners
Integrative medicine means integrating conventional and complementary approaches when treating people. It is a holistic approach, involving a person’s physical body, but also the mind, emotions, and social habits that may affect overall health and wellness.
Functional medicine practitioners use an integrative approach but additionally use an approach that considers all the body systems to understand the root cause of diseases, similar to naturopathic doctors.
Functional medicine goes a step beyond integrative medicine by looking for a specific cause for every problem, especially issues like autoimmune diseases or diabetes, to find a solution tailored to each individual. A functional medicine provider may run genetic or environmental tests, in addition to traditional tests of biological function, for example.
People trained in several healthcare fields can receive a certificate in functional medicine or integrative medicine, including doctors (ND, MD, DO, DC), nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, registered dieticians, and acupuncturists.
Read the fourth part of the article
December 6, 2018