We all have a different health journey. Our stories are vastly unique, just like our individual bodies. In order to be open to holistic and natural medicine, we must know two core elements at the deepest level of self knowledge.
We must know how to listen and understand our bodies and we must be mindful our programming when it comes to medicine.
How to Listen
Our bodies are just that. Our. Bodies. Not the collective, but an individual system that’s more unique than a snowflake. What works for my body might not work for you and the major differing factor could be a genetic mutation that you possess and I do not. Your body simply came into this world with a different code then mine. In order to truly take a holistic healing journey, you must know all the quirks of your body and you must understand what triggers your body into a reactive state.
For many years, I produced websites and marketing content for functional medicine doctors and chiropractors. My doctors served patients who spent years in the traditional medical system, yet never found solutions to their health problems. Their doctors simply gave them a pill to treat a symptom and avoided fixing the actual problem. And once someone’s body begins the journey down managing chronic conditions with pharmaceuticals, eventually the drugs cause additional illnesses and the patient ends up on multiple meds with spiraling health issues and no solutions.
Of course, there are cases where traditional medicine is necessary. That’s not the conversation I’m having here. Many of my functional med docs would take a new patient and place them on an elimination diet to basically try and hit the reset button on their body. The successful patients took the diet seriously and learned how their body reacted to food. Once they established a baseline, the patient and doctor worked together to reintroduce foods and see what triggered the body into dysfunction. Once they identified the source of the problem (gluten, corn and dairy are usually at fault), they created a plan to better understand how to move through their regular lives avoiding triggers that would send the body into dis-ease.
Each body is different. Each body needs different support systems, supplements and plant goodness to find it’s point of homeostasis- or balance. Once that state of balance is hit, the body can function at its optimal level.
The point is, in order to reach optimum levels of balanced health, we really must take the time and effort to understand what sets our bodies into a downward spiral.
Sugar and its many cousins are my kryptonite. When my body is not in an optimum state, a little too much wine, gluten, rice or fruit will send my body down a cycle of inflammation. In the past, I’d have full blown leaky gut, itchy skin chaos with bloating and just feeling shitty. I’ve wrestled with this issue ever since I drank some bad water on a photojournalism assignment in Egypt. My gut got wrecked and nothing was the same again. No more beer, fermentation or sugars. I didn’t figure this out until 3 years after that trip when my neighbor, a nutritionist and massage therapist who specialized in inflammation, spent the time to help me look at everything I was eating or drinking and pinpoint the problem. To be clear, I was already a mostly healthy eater and predominately organic.
I was floored. The healthy green fruit drinks I had every day were loaded with sugars and my body was not having it. From that point forward, I’ve used diet and nutrition to better understand my body. I am not a saint, I love my pizza and kettle chips, but I know when my body can handle it and when it can’t. I also know that to compensate for certain times of the month when hormone driven cravings win, I need to trim back on other aspects of my diet and boost up some supplements.
I’ve gotten to the point where I can stop a full blown inflammation outbreak long before the major signs rear their ugly heads. I can reverse engineer what caused the problem and eliminate it fast. Because I’ve taken the time to learn and understand my body on a very deep level.
No matter where you are in your healing journey, I highly recommend you create a journal and simply notate what you eat, when you eat it and how your body reacts. Begin to notice exactly what goes into your body and where it comes from. Be sure to note your mental state too. Certain foods can cause brain fog or just a bad mood. Other foods can cause the opposite reaction and a multitude of clinical research links nutrition deficits to ADHD, especially in children. You must become your own wellness advocate and defend your body from the external toxins and the medical industry itself.
Understanding Our Medical Programming
Our second challenge is to understand our medical programming and how it impacts the choices we make in our holistic journey. Most of us have done some sort of personal growth work and explored limiting beliefs. I believe that this understanding of limiting beliefs must also be explored when it comes to our medical programming.
When did we, as a society, turn away from medicinal plants and natural methods of healing our bodies with food? When did we demonize the ways of shamans and medicine women as methods of healing in sync with the natural rhythms of the planet? When did we become so lazy and blindingly faithful in modern medicine that we completely disregard the benefits of the plant world?
Like I said, there is a place for both allopathic and naturopathic medicine. We can use both to heal our bodies. But to shun one and blindly believe in the other without question is to our own body’s detriment. We default to the “experts” too often. Our bodies are telling us exactly what they need, we simply have to listen.
We must understand our medical biases and how they may be preventing us from seeking healing from alternative methods. What were you taught as a child in regards to visiting the doctor and seeking medical attention? Were you taught to question the doctor’s diagnosis or simple adhere to everything he or she prescribed? Were you taught to find answers from the plant world for colds and rashes or were such traditional healing methods thought to be old wives tales or folklore?
I see the bias against natural healing every day. I mention healing anxiety with CBD or cannabis and people simple brush it off, roll their eyes or call me a pot head. When I excitedly tell someone about my experience with medicinal mushrooms or Juice Plus, they kind of glaze over. To be clear, the conversation is in the context of them asking me a health related question. Yet, because the solution isn’t coming from a prescription pad or an expensive doctors office run by for profit corporate conglomerates, it’s blown off or ignored.
And that’s just their choice. And six months later, we’re having the same conversation again. And again, because the solution is from the plant world and doesn’t come from a pharmacy, it’s ignored.
I once had a family member who found tremendous healing benefits from CBD. My uncle started asking me all about my experience and we were sharing all sorts of healing stories. He was floored at the results, and I hadn’t told him about CBD to begin with, he discovered it on his own. My aunt just rolled her eyes at us and said, “that’s just that stuff from Facebook. It’s hogwash”. I gave her my one-eyebrow raised WTF? face and said nothing, but I was floored. That people can completely disregard an entire medicinal plant that’s been used for healing for thousands of years because they originally discovered it on social media was just stunning to me. Both of them struggle with chronic illnesses caused by their food choices over decades. The traditional SAD diet. Solutions that, had they been listening to their bodies in the first place, could have saved them decades of pills, doctors visits and surgeries.
My uncle did the right thing. He discovered it online and then went into a nice, reputable distillery in his town, asked a ton of questions and invested in a quality line of tinctures. All on his own. And then he experimented and found a solution to his chronic pain. A solution his doctors had been unwilling or unable to provide.
This scenario is played out in living rooms all over the world, all day long, for years. So many disregard medicinal plants because they hold preconceived beliefs of what “medicine” is, where it comes from and how you receive it.
If we’re all to embrace the healing properties of the plant world to help support our bodies through this age of pandemics and rampant toxicity, we MUST do the work to both understand our bodies and understand our biases. We must be open to a new way of healing and we must be willing to mindfully experiment with our bodies to find our own solutions.
We must listen and we must be open.