Oliver's Blog

Wednesday 1st May 2019

Ways to Stay Healthy - Three Methods For Finding Optimum Health

We live in contradictory times, where science has discovered so much about how the natural world and our bodies work, and yet we have lost the understanding of how we can all look after our own health. If we get a headache, a hacking cough, back pain or hayfever, what is there that we can do ourselves to help our symptoms? Perhaps the advent of pills in bottles has made us lose knowledge of the home remedies that we can use with these kinds of symptoms.

One of the reasons I first became attracted to Oriental medicine back in the 1980’s was that it had preserved its traditional wisdom of the simple changes we can all make when we become ill, and also how to keep ourselves well. In fact, Oriental medicine has a far more developed understanding of the every day causes of illness than western medicine. Macrobiotics in particular stressed the things that everyone can learn and do themselves, and today offers a fantastic way of looking after our own health.

As I see it, we need three things to be able to look after our health well:

1. A Way of Understanding How Our Bodies Work Holistically

Oriental medicine has a very detailed picture of how the body works, looking more at all the many functions of the body as well as its structure. It is also holistic, looking at how our physical, psychological and spiritual sides all work together to create health.

To take one example it sees the lungs as not only bringing air and new energy into the body, and therefore giving us physical energy (as you can experience when you get outside for a brisk walk or other exercise) but also lifting us emotionally, and creating more positive thoughts. If the lungs are not working so well, then as well as feeling physically drained of energy, we can feel down and depressed, and we tend to see the world in a negative way, focusing on everything that is wrong or bad rather than on what is good. 

Checklist for our holistic health:

  • Internal organs, for example the lungs, are connected to our emotional health
  • When we improve our physical health this has a positive effect on our state of mind

So, if we are suffering from a physical lung problem like asthma or hayfever, or are feeling depressed and negative about our life, strengthening the health of the lungs will help all three conditions.

2. A Way of Assessing Our Internal Health

In the west we have developed blood tests, X-rays and scans to look inside the body. In Oriental medicine they developed other ways of seeing what is happening inside the body by looking at subtle changes in the skin, different regions of the face, our posture and behaviour, features of the hands and feet, the tongue and in the whites of the eyes, and by listening to the strength and quality of the voice. We can also get a better idea of what is happening inside the body by feeling the quality of the skin and different areas of the back and abdomen over our internal organs.

Checklist for understanding what’s happening within our body:

  • The skin, face and posture can show what’s happening inside our body
  • Our behaviour and voice also indicate our internal health
  • Hands, feet, tongue and eyes also display our wellbeing

Using a combination of these ‘Oriental diagnosis’ methods we can get a clearer idea of which of our internal organs are doing well, and which are not doing well. We can then focus our attention on helping bring the troubled organs back to health, maybe healing a health problem in that organ, or improving its functioning so we feel more energy and more well within ourselves.

3. Knowing How To Change Our Internal Health

There is a whole range of do-it-yourself things we can do. As western research is now beginning to show, our daily food has an enormous affect on our health. Over many years of seeing clients and students with many different kinds of health problems, I have seen that just eating a balanced plant-based diet clears up a lot of illnesses. Then we can also take a further step and eat more of the foods and dishes that help particular organs and bodily functions come back to health.

Exercise is a natural and essential way of looking after our body, whether it is part of our work or daily life, or something like walking, running or sports, Tai Chi or yoga. We all need to make sure we are getting regular exercise to promote our blood, lymph and ki (energy) flow, deeper breathing etc. And again Oriental medicine has worked out specific exercises to help particular organs of the body, for the lungs, kidneys, liver etc to speed up healing in particular areas.

Ways to Stay Healthy - YOGA

How to make changes check list:

  • Exercise promotes the flow of energy in the body
  • Herbal medicine may also help
  • Compresses and steam baths can be very healing
  • Lemon, ginger and hot apple juice can heal a number of minor conditions

People around the world have developed various compresses and applications using local foods or herbs, to help with particular symptoms. We need to remember these as they can be a great help when we are suffering. In macrobiotics we use salt packs to give deep heat to relieve period pains or intestinal cramps, steam baths to shift stuck mucus in the lungs and sinuses, a ginger compress to ease lower back pain, and many others. These are easy to use and can be surprisingly effective.

Also around the world many medicinal drinks have been made using herbs or common foods. For example a hot lemon and ginger drink can relieve a sore throat, or a hot apple juice for tension headaches.

Health - Freedom Is In You Hands

Learning these three things - how we work, how to assess our own health, and how to positively change our health – gives us a remarkable sense of freedom and having more control over our health and lives, rather than feeling a victim of whatever illnesses come to us. We can change most conditions in the body ourselves, which feels very empowering.

Understanding these ways of looking after our own health is also the most effective way of enjoying good health throughout our lives, as our health is primarily the result of how we live each day of our life. Rather than propping the body up with long term medications, everything we do to help our health now, increases our health for the rest of our lives as well. If you’d like to find out more consider one of our health consultations.