Whose health is it anyway?

In the 3rd and 4th century BC Hippocrates, considered the father of modern medicine,  wrote:

“A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings

“The greatest medicine of all is teaching people how not to need it

“If someone wishes for good health, one must first ask oneself if he is ready to do away with the reasons for his illness. Only then is it possible to help him

“Just as food causes chronic disease, it can be the most powerful cure

“Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food

“All disease starts in the gut

During the 12th century Moses Maimonides, the personal physician to Saladin, the sultan of Egypt and Syria wrote that:

“The physician should not treat the ailment, but the patient who is suffering from it

“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means

Much later in 1903 Thomas Edison wrote:

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease

In 2005 Professor Dr David Peters of the University of Westminster wrote:

“Modern medicine, although skilled in waging war on disease, has lost its knowledge of self-healing.  Looking at medicine today, we can see how the ‘arms race’ between science and disease has led to over-reliance on technology, high costs and side effects, and more resistant infections. What is missing is a way of building up the mind-body’s natural defences. This is something the world’s traditional medical systems know about. These systems have had to rely not on scientific research but on their traditional knowledge and skills to trigger healing through touch, words, movement, art, the products of nature, food, exercise and harmonious living.

The implications are obvious: give your body what it needs to work well and avoid the things that harm it. This may include taking up yoga, meditation or dance, giving up smoking, seeing friends or making dietary changes. Do whatever you need to do to nourish yourself intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.

In recent years Dr Dean Ornish, cardiac expert and personal physician to Bill Clinton has said:

“Poor health is not caused by something you don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing something that you already have. Healthy is not something that you need to get, it’s something you have already if you don’t disturb it.

Think about it: Heart disease and diabetes, which account for more deaths in the U.S. and worldwide than everything else combined, are completely preventable by making comprehensive lifestyle changes. Without drugs or surgery.

People who are lonely and depressed are three to ten times more likely to get sick and die prematurely than those who have a strong sense of love and community. I don’t know any other single factor that affects our health – for better and for worse – to such a strong degree.

People tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as a new drug, a laser, or a high-tech surgical procedure. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyle – what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and support can be as powerful as drugs and surgery. And they often are.

But despite all the long-established wisdom above it would now appear that, for a growing number of us, taking care of our own health in 2023 has become primarily diagnostic – undertaking regular screening for the symptoms of potential illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, lung and heart disease, and when illness strikes, we rely entirely on our doctors to cure us with their technologies.

Perhaps is time to stop derailing ourselves with overcooked, processed and fast foods, alcohol and drug dependencies, polluted environment, social isolation, unhealthy relationships, lack of rest and sleep, lack of sunshine and no exercise, and high-tech stress.  And perhaps it is time to give our bodies and minds what they need to thrive naturally – healthy food, movement, rest and sleep, sunshine, honesty and love – and hence avoid illness as far as we possibly can.

“It’s far more important to know what person the disease has than what disease the person has”