By: Jaime C. Cua, M.S.Nutritional Biochemist Knowing the real meaning of health and learning the art of natural healing are prerequisites in our quest for lasting health. Without knowing what health is, how do we intend to achieve it? Without understanding its real meaning, how do we know if we have already embraced it? On the other hand, if we know health, curing illnesses become relatively easy, for we would be able to come up with practical guidelines in turning a sick person, who wants to get well, back in the direction of health. Real Meaning of Health Health is a natural state of wholeness within us that we feel and radiate when we live in complete harmony with nature. It is a quality of life one will soon learn to discover for himself through understanding and supporting the great natural biological systems (genetic, nutrition, and environment) out of which life arose and on which life greatly depends. In relation to our human body which is made up of intricate network of organ-systems, health can only be achieved if these living components function properly and are synchronized harmoniously toward attainment of a completely natural state which is ‘wholeness’. Health is wholeness. The word ‘health’ is derived from the Old High German root word for ‘whole’, which implies that all parts are present, properly arranged and functioning in a harmonious balance. World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not the absence of disease or infirmity’. In other words, health is vibrant living characterized by a constant feeling of utmost wellness within the core of one’s being.Misconception of Health Concept of health in our modern society does not reflect its original meaning. Most laymen as well as most medical doctors use the word ‘health’ more in the sense of freedom from disease, pain or defect. The common notion that “we are healthy when we are not sick” has unfortunately misguided us toward poor health. We simply take our health for granted when we are not ‘sick’. In other words, health preservation is our least concern when we are free from serious symptoms or have not yet been diagnosed with a disease. When we intuitively know that our health has finally failed due to recurring pain and discomforts that greatly interfere with our daily activities, we would merely consult a good doctor with an expectation that a sophisticated ‘quick-fix’ will give us instant relief and thus bring us back to health. Without knowing the real meaning of health, disease-oriented doctors indiscriminately prescribe the ‘medicine of surgery, radiation and drug’ to manage a disease condition. By suppressing the symptoms or normalizing the blood chemistry with ‘medicine’, the patient is led to believe that his actual illness is being treated, thereby leading to a ‘cure’. Even without looking deeper into the underlying causes of the illness, the patient is amazed to find himself back on his feet almost immediately even without making positive changes in his nutrition, lifestyle and environment. These fortunate events reinforce the patient’s attitude that cure is easy as long as we are under the expert care of a good doctor. Our tendency to rely on doctors and medical technology more than on ourselves and our natural healing power has resulted in what is called the ‘passive patient syndrome’ or the giving up of personal responsibility by the patient. Our over-reliance on doctor and medicine has destroyed our incentives to find the real cure of our disease condition. It has also made us less inclined to take care of ourselves and to keep strong from within in order to fight infection and other threats to health. Clinical Significance of Symptoms Symptoms are the only clues to the real nature of a disease. They are created to fight illness or defend the body. They are our body’s effort to restore balance and harmony. For instance:1) Sneezing is our body’s effort to detoxify the system by serving as a natural drainage for our dead viruses, dead bacteria and dead white blood cells;2) Coughing is our body’s effort to clear our airways of phlegm, and noxious particles such as inhaled smoke and infectious virus particles;3) Fever is our body’s effort to heat up our internal environment to pep up white blood cells and other components of immune systems to fight pathogens;4) Pain is our body’s effort to enforce rest as an aid to healing. It is an alarm that we may have suffered an injury;5) Diarrhea is our body’s effort to get rid of irritants before they are absorb into our system and cause further damage. Unfortunately, instead of understanding these simple body wisdoms, most doctors use drugs to suppress these symptoms - the very responses we need for healing. If runny nose is promoting our body’s internal housekeeping, why suppress it instantly with pharmaceutical cold remedies? If coughing is our body’s attempt to clear airways of phlegm and other irritating substances, why suppress it urgently with cough suppressant? If fever is an ally in our recovery from infection, why suppress a low-grade fever immediately with antibiotics and anti-pyretics? If pain is our alarm bell to warn us of our recent injury, why suppress it imprudently with powerful pain reliever? If diarrhea is an important detoxification process to get rid of irritants and toxins, why suppress it aggressively with constrictive anti-diarrheas? Recognizing an Alternative Approach Conventional medicine does not recognize the important role of symptoms in a disease condition. It does not also believe that our body is endowed with an enormous healing power that could be tapped to restore functions and to relieve symptoms. Hence, most doctors use aggressive (often highly invasive) therapies to act in place of body’s own existing healing potential. Instead of supporting our immune system with adequate rest, fresh air, whole food and therapeutic doses of nutritional supplements, we rely heavily on antibiotics and other anti-infective drugs. Instead of nourishing our endocrine system with basic raw materials to encourage hormone synthesis, we depend on exogenous sources to adjust our body’s chemical levels. Instead of enhancing our immunocompetence through comprehensive natural alternative approaches, we use surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to ‘cut, poison and burn’ malignant growth. In many instances, conventional medicine underestimates the body’s natural healing power and appoints medical doctors as Nature’s master, charged with taking healing from Nature’s hand. On the contrary, natural medicine believes that symptoms are the only clues to the real nature of an illness and therefore must not be suppressed. In fact, a naturopathic doctor looks for symptom patterns, trying to get a comprehensive picture of the patient’s health status and disease condition. The more pieces of information he can fit into the medical puzzle, the more accurate his recommendation will be. In this respect, a good naturopathic doctor tries to interfere as little as possible with the natural progress and stages of a disease condition. He acknowledges his supporting role and acts as Nature’s assistant, setting up conditions conductive to natural healing. On our part, we must recognize that symptoms are vital communication cues used by our body to warn us that something is wrong and need our immediate attention. They forecast an impending illness so that early supportive measures may be undertaken to reverse or prevent a disease condition. They may be used to gauge the effectiveness of a therapeutic program or to monitor the progress of a disease. Therefore, suppressing the symptoms with drugs while our health continues to deteriorate really makes no sense.Searching for a Lasting Cure Conventional medicine is continually searching for more ‘magic pills’ that offer instant ‘cure’. Ironically, drugs cure no disease. It only stabilizes a disease condition. Drugs create many side effects and drug-induced illnesses which are more difficult to treat than the original disease. This is because drugs are alien molecules which disrupt the architectural design of our body and life-sustaining functions based on this architecture. Our long-term reliance on synthetic drugs can slowly ruin our delicate organ-systems by causing metabolic dearangement, functional disorders and slight anatomical changes that require another drug to counteract the side effects of the previous one. This may result in a vicious cycle until one ends up on more and more prescription for life. In search for a lasting cure, we need not to look elsewhere for the greatest healer is found within us. Even without our conscious awareness, we are blessed with an enormous healing power that can heal many seemingly hopeless illnesses if we only give Nature a chance to work. Natural healing is a time-dependent process requiring watchful waiting as our marvelous self-healing and self-regulating biochemical machinery harmonizes itself using the natural healing substance we feed into our system and the favorable physical and social environment which we may occasionally have the opportunity to choose or improve.Live Closer to Nature As a natural being, we are governed by nature and are nourished by it. Since our entire body is made from food, water, air and (light), it is logical to assert that primary health care must be built on appropriate choices of what we eat, drink, breathe, and not on synthetic drugs and high technology. High technology is life-saving and must be employed in many crisis situations (such as organ failure, severe infection, and physical injuries) which require sophisticated diagnostic techniques, life-supporting systems, powerful drug therapy, reparative surgery, and hormonal replacement. In the absence of severe health crisis, tapping our inner healing power (through relaxation and sleep, optimum dietary regimen, lifestyle modification, programmed exercises and internal detoxification) is far better therapeutically and economically when degenerative illnesses are only beginning to appear or have not yet reached a critical stage.Give Nature a Chance to Work Recovery by natural means is always possible when our healing mechanisms are still intact. In other words, when the network of all our vital organ-systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, excretory, neuroendocrine, digestive, musculoskeletal, etc.) are still functionally capable of doing is limited tasks, our ailing body could still recover from illness when given timely comprehensive support. On the other hand, subjecting oneself to powerful drug therapy and unnecessary diagnostic procedures tend to further weaken the already fragile organ-systems, causing a sick person to become sicker, quicker until one inevitably reaches a critical point of no return. Degenerative diseases may be complicated, but simple recommendation may provide the answer. Just live closer to Nature and our body will take care of its own healing. Nothing will ever go wrong if you choose this path of health-building for Nature is always the Greatest Healer.