starting with your diet and organic products
Nearly everywhere we turn, we hear people with concerns about health, both their own and that of those they love. Illness is a common thread that we all share, and inevitably, we will all experience illness in some form. How we respond to those experiences of illness can have tremendous impact not only on our individual health, but on the health of the whole planet.
A yogic lifestyle lends itself to wellness. The combination of spiritual consciousness balanced with a physical practice gives us great advantage. As mindful people, we have an interest not only in preserving our own health, but also the health of the world as a whole. Protecting and preserving it ensures that we will have a healthy environment in which to thrive.
By definition, holistic health care considers us as whole individuals, greater than the sum of our parts. We are, like the planet on which we live, comprehensive beings and any method we use to heal ourselves should reflect that. We have a responsibility within our mindful lifestyle to consider this bigger picture as we make choices in consideration of our health. These choices can have a trickle-down effect that impacts wellness across the globe.
Organic products, alternative health treatments and fair-trade products for health are all over the marketplace these days. We often evaluate such products, wondering, “What will this do for me? Will it satisfy my needs?” Although many of us have asked ourselves these questions and chosen in favor of natural products, it is far less often that we ask ourselves, “Will this choice help others?” Much of the press for alternative therapies or organic products stresses the ways in which they will benefit us as individuals. It is rare that the emphasis is placed on the greater good.
While the environmental impact of what we purchase may be the furthest thing from our minds when the baby has a fever or we have a bad cold, by thinking about the ramifications of our decisions when we pull that supplement off the shelf, or choose organic fruits and veggies, we can feel good about extending the benefits of a mindful lifestyle to cultures and areas of the world in desperate need of preservation.
By choosing the right products in our search for the healthiest lifestyle possible, we can broaden healing beyond our individual scope. A wonderful way to do this is by not only choosing natural methods of health and wellness, but by choosing the products and services from companies which specifically work to heal you as they heal the planet.
Natural, holistic, and traditional methods of healing have deep roots in human culture, and for good reason: most of these methods consider the balance of our body systems working in harmony, as well as sustainable ways to achieve this balance. Chemical-free methods of enhancing wellness are not new. Western medicine has largely ignored the balance and spirituality components of true wellness, and we are beginning to see how negatively this impacts both planet and people. “There is no health without environmental health,” says Dr. Todd Pesek, MD, a Cleveland-based holistic physician. “Without that component, there can’t be true wellness. We are all connected to each other, and we depend on the Earth in more ways than most people take the time to realize.”
David Crow, an acupuncturist, herbalist, activist, and founder of Floracopeia, a source for therapeutic aromatherapy oils, discusses the problems of the mindset of western healthcare. “While modern medicine has made great advances, iatrogenic (caused by treatment) illnesses are among the leading causes of morbidity and fatality, and treatable chronic degenerative diseases have reached epidemic levels,” he writes in The People’s Pharmacy: Creating Grassroots Heathcare Systems. “Holistic medical systems offer significant benefits in the treatment of symptoms arising from these root causes. Every clinician, however, is well acquainted with the limitations of what natural medicine can do when these root causes are not adequately resolved in a patient’s life.” Many of these root causes lie in our environment.
By concerning ourselves with the state of affairs of the earth and her people, we can help address many of the ills that we face in modern times. “Most health problems in modern America can be attributed to five causes,” says Crow. “They are nutrition, environmental pollution, socio-economic stresses, spiritual emptiness, and medical treatments and drug toxicity.” Living a balanced lifestyle and feeding our spirits as well as our bodies makes sense. Doing so can counteract all of the circumstances that contribute to ill health. By making conscious choices as we purchase health care products and services, we move closer to a world devoid of these concerns.
But can we truly expect quality health and wellness options within holistic healthcare and traditional healing methods? “Absolutely,” says Dr. Pesek. “Traditional healing methods have been passed down through generations, and tested on many, many people. The cultures that practice their unique forms of indigenous medicine – from the Maya cultures in Belize to the Ayurvedic medicine of India – have insight and experience that western medicine simply doesn’t have. The treatments they use are powerful and effective. Most people aren’t aware that a great deal of modern drugs used to treat illness are derived from plants and traditional healing knowledge.” These paths to wellness utilize natural therapies and the ability of the body to heal itself, as well as the connection of the mind and body to the spirit, and to the environment.
How can we consciously choose health and wellness promoting products that will do the most good? Can we find them around the corner?
Here is a crash course in conscious healthcare.
1. Know your options. Research your natural alternatives not only for common treatments, but also for more complex healthcare issues. Complementary therapies exist for just about everything, from headaches to infertility to AIDS.
2. Consider supplementing your diet to prevent illness, rather than simply treating yourself with chemical drugs when you get sick.
3. Eat your organic veggies (and fruits). Not only will this minimize your exposure to harmful chemicals, but you will send a message that you don’t want these in your food, your water, or your earth. You will also promote land conservation because many organic farmers also use sustainable practices to grow their bounty.
4. Purchase products that are indigenously prepared when possible. “By doing so, you will receive the full benefit of the healing knowledge of the culture, and also bring a real living wage to those who produced it,” asserts Dr. Pesek. Be sure that the product’s revenues go back to the areas from where it came. Dealing with companies that buy cheaply from small farmers can’t guarantee a market for that farmer for a lifetime, nor can it promise a decent wage. Pesek’s company provides a label for its growers to supply healing supplements in the global marketplace. Read your labels. If a company does this, they should mention it somewhere.
5. If that’s not possible, look for labeling that mentions Fair Trade. “Fair Trade illustrates an equitable, financially stable and fair partnership between marketers in more developed countries and indigenous peoples of the world. It helps to provide low-income artisans and farmers with a real living wage for their work,” says Pesek. “Fair Trade compliant interactions and businesses ensure fair pay in their respective local context, provision of equal employment opportunities for all people (the most disadvantaged come first), support of environmentally and culturally sustainable practices, and the development of healthy and safe working conditions within the local context.” All of these assure that the cultures that respect the environment will be able to continue to do so and still make a decent living, and provide you with effective healing.
6. Remember alternative practitioners in your choices for treatment. Local holistic physicians, acupuncturists, naturopaths, chiropractors, and midwives incorporate many of these beliefs in their practice, and can utilize them in your care. They are also great resources if you have questions.
“There are companies out there that go beyond fair trade and beyond organic, and more are beginning to follow suit,” explains Pesek. These companies, such as Floracopeia, Guayaki, and Earth Healers give back to the areas around the world from which their products come. They help “tether economic benefit to our world’s natural places and the cultures in these areas,” he says. We need to give communities a strong bottom line to motivate them to walk away from destructive practices. Businesses like these provide direct financial benefits to communities in need with something to offer the global community in terms of health and wellness by giving actual partnerships to indigenous suppliers, and paying them what they are worth. They push for organics, sustainability, and fair business practices. In return, the very best of what they have to offer is available to you.
By voting with our dollars and spending consciously, we send a message to practitioners of western healthcare, pharmaceutical companies, and farmers (and anyone else who hears the voice of currency) that we want to live well, we want to be well. The next time that you walk into the store looking for echinacea to ease illness, to pick up an herbal supplement, or some nice organic berries, feel good as you place them into your basket.
Somewhere, a world away, the small sustainable farmer tends his echinacea knowing his family will be fed. The indigenous healer gives freely of his knowledge in the true spirit of healing, knowing that generations of healing will be safely preserved after he passes. And another farm that uses pesticides will wonder if there is a better way.
Now, don’t you feel better already?