Natural Health: Teaching Vail residents to become their own best physician
Vail CO, Colorado
We are on the brink of a revolution in health care that is driven not by technology and new drugs, but by the recognition that prevention is the best medicine of all.
The American medical system is at a crossroads. As the new Obama administration begins its tenure, the possibility of universal health care has suddenly become a viable option. While some folks question the affordability of such a drastic transition, I believe that universal healthcare can be economical and effective over the long haul … if we include real strategies for preventing disease. As a doctor, I know that it is far easier, and much cheaper, to prevent illness than it is to cure it.
Unfortunately, our current medical system places little emphasis on prevention; and perhaps even less emphasis on wellness. American health care is a disease-oriented model, which focuses almost exclusively on the identification and elimination of disease through evidence-based application of technology, drugs and surgery. Within this paradigm, health is defined simply as the absence of disease.
The UN World Health Organization offers us a different and perhaps more meaningful perspective on health. Since 1948, the international organization has defined health as “an active state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.” This definition was later expanded to include intellectual, environmental and spiritual well-being as well.
As a naturopathic physician, I wholeheartedly share this holistic view of health. I believe that health is a dynamic balance between many interdependent factors that ultimately allows each of us to fulfill the highest purpose of our existence.
I also believe that health is a fluid state that is constantly changing, always moving in the direction of either optimal wellness or irreversible disease. So to be “healthy” is an active process that requires constant effort to achieve and maintain.
In my mind, the cultivation of health and the prevention of disease are synonymous pursuits. I find that when you upgrade your level of health, new diseases are unable to take root in your body and mind, and old diseases start disappearing spontaneously without ever being addressed directly. For this reason, it’s important to establish wellness on all levels and to propel your entire life towards an ever-increasing state of health. This often requires the guidance and insight of a skilled teacher.
It’s interesting to note that the word “doctor” is derived from the Latin root “docere,” meaning teacher. So to be a doctor is in essence to be a teacher. And to be a skilled doctor is to be able to demonstrate not just how to eliminate disease, but how to avoid disease in the first place and how to proactively develop and sustain a high level of wellness.
Sadly, our current health care system fails to project health onto patients.
It’s hard, if not impossible, for patients to be optimally healthy while relying on chemicals and other strong interventions that countermand the healing impulse of the body. Over time, such interventions serve to weaken our organ systems and to gradually, but thoroughly, turn us into pharmaceutical dependents.
Any future sustainable medical system would be wise to empower patients to project health on themselves; and to teach each of us to become our own best physician. Through basic wellness measures, including a judicious diet, moderate exercise, stress management and mild detoxification, we can improve the state of our health and actively avoid the suffering that has yet to arrive.
Prevention is indeed the best medicine of all. I’m optimistic that Obama’s new secretary of health and human services, whomever that may be, will embrace preventive medical services and in turn put “health” back into our health care.
Nick Bitz is a Naturopathic Physician specializing in preventive health care. He works at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards. To reach the clinic, call 970-926-7620.