Physicians, Heal thy Planet was the title of this year’s annual American Association of Naturopathic Physicians conference held in Tacoma Washington. Presenters addressed macrocosmic concerns such as global warming and environmental pollution, as well as microcosmic ailments that begin in the womb with fetal exposure to thousands of unregulated synthetic chemicals. It is always challenging to look directly at illness, but that is what we did during those four days, in order to understand and identify a road to recovery. That road is the subject of this month’s newsletter.
Just as we are a reflection of the environment, the environment is a reflection of ourselves, and at this point what we see is a very sick 21st century planet. Historically, there are three time periods during which human proliferation has seriously influenced the global environment.
The first period lasted thousands of years, with the creation of stable agricultural communities and a resultant increase in human health and longevity around the world. The second period, which began about 200 years ago, is a profit motivated industrial or technological era. While the socio-economic trends of this second time period appear flawed, it has been an unavoidable and predictable stage of human evolution.
We are now entering the third time period of human evolution, amidst the tumultuous demise of the techno-industrial era. Many refer to this period as the “Ecological or Sustainable Revolution”. This is a time period in which science, economics and spiritual environmentalism must converge in order to cultivate a sustainable and healthy co-existence between humans and the rest of the planet.
This third period of human evolution needs to occur in an accelerated fashion, combining realization, understanding and positive action for host earth and her inhabitants to survive. Corporate entities including our government and the conventional medical system, all reflections of our society, will find this acceleration very challenging and strenuously resist efforts to change. (For more on this perspective please see my website Articles paper: “Non-Violent Health Care Evolution”.)
Macrocosmic Symptoms of a Profit Driven Society
Symptoms of a profit driven global society include global warming, soil depletion and soil destruction. Global warming has far reaching affects including loss of land base, drought, weather extremes and alterations of floral distribution all impacting the health and well being of humans and other animals. Food supplies will soon be running low because contemporary industrial farming techniques are not sustainable. Industrial farm-field irrigation methods lead to soil sterility from salt contamination and overuse of soils leads to actual soil loss leaving no food for the plants to grow in.
Microcosmic Symptoms of a Profit Driven Society
The physician of today must take into account the impact of a chemical presence unlike ever before. Of the nearly 100,000 mostly unregulated synthetic chemicals produced, the adult body typically harbors about 700. Chemical damage to the fetus is especially troubling, due to the sensitivity of developing organ systems during gestation and infancy. Fetal damage from plastic and other contaminants (see Plastic and Our Toxic Times newsletter) will often appear decades later in life with conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
The impact from a toxic environment on human health challenges today’s physician in ways unknown to our medical predecessors. Following is an example of how simple medical conditions of the past have been confounded by the side effects of a chemical laden society.
Wheat of today (see Wheat newsletter) is unlike that of the past due to industrialized farming techniques. Higher than ever in gluten, genetically modified, this common grain stresses our bodies and promotes allergic and autoimmune reactions leading to conditions such as hypothyroid, hepatitis C and bowel disorders. Additional toxins found in polluted air, water and food further cloud the picture of why people are fatigued, depressed, angry, irritable, hypertensive and otherwise unhealthy.
On a biochemical level, over exposure to chemicals, including herbicides, pesticides, synthetic hormones, air pollutants and heavy metals causes increased cortisol to be secreted from the adrenal gland. Excess cortisol inhibits thyroid hormones that give us our vitality and energy. Since we use about 75 per cent of our daily energy for processing toxins in the body, excess toxic exposure can really hurt.
While toxic food and toxic environmental contaminants are normal side effects of a profit based society, there is a way out.
The Sustainable Revolution
Since the established infrastructure of our society is broken, we need to look elsewhere for solutions. Just as my patients have the common characteristic of taking more responsibility for their health, it is up to the general public to identify and cultivate new and sustainable lifestyle habits. Following is a potpourri of suggestions to help assist in generating a Sustainable Revolution.
Motivational Documentary Movies
King Corn, by Cheney and Ellis.
The Future of Food, by Deborah Garcia
Power of Community
Motivational and Inspiring Books
The well written book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver is an excellent aide. This account of her families first year of sustainable farming is inspirational, educational and a comprehensive resource on a host of topics including the economic and socially destructive practices of corporate driven agriculture. She offers a wealth of sustainable living resources and a few good recipes. Barbara creates a wonderful weave of the tragic state we are in, the forces behind it, and a refreshing and realistic look at the way out.
Other Books of a Sustainable Nature
The Botany of Desire
CRC Handbook of Medicinal Spices by James Duke
Duke’s Handbook of Medicinal Plants of the Bible
Sustainable Living Cookbook Authors
Alice Waters: The Art of Simple Food
Deborah Madison: Local Flavors
Janet Fletcher: Fresh from the Farmers Market
Dr. James Stark of the Regenerative Design Institute (RDI) spoke eloquently about their leadership program to educate people for a sustainable agriculture and culture. His center in Bolinas, California, is a non-profit organization dedicated to the education and training of skilled leaders in regenerative design. RDI works in partnership with Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute and retreat center. For more information on their programs please go to their website: www.regenerativedesign.com
At Home Tips
Dr. James Duke is a leader in the field of herbal and nutritional medicine. According to Dr. Duke most plants have about 5,000 biologically active compounds, and about half of these constituents are common to all plants. These active compounds are used by our body to maintain health. Whether our body uses the ingested active compounds or discards them depends on our state of health and changing daily demands. This is why pharmaceutical synthetic plant derivatives will always be of limited value; they lack the full spectrum of activity.
Many of the plants that Dr. Duke addresses in his natural medicine guides are the very ones that pharmaceutical companies have used when developing new drugs. Dr. Duke explained that whole plant therapies often out perform the drugs they were derived from, with little or no side effects.
Here are some of his examples of everyday spices and the conditions they can address:
Anti-cancer and cancer prevention: Turmeric (enhanced by concurrent consumption of black pepper), Clove, Red pepper, Caraway, Caper
Gout: Celery, Chamomile
Anti-inflammatory: Red pepper, Ginger
Alzheimer’s: Rosemary, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Mints, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Turmeric
Anti-diabetic: Clove, Turmeric, Cinnamon
Anti-arthritic: Mint, Peppermint
Immune boost and antiseptic: Garlic
Heavy metal removal: Coriander, Cilantro
Anti-depressant: Saffron, Turmeric
To eliminate environmental contaminants Dr. Duke suggests:
Chlorophyll (found in Chlorella and all green vegetables), Brown rice, Green tea, Rice bran, Spices
Dr. Duke’s Foods to Avoid
Avoid Dirty Dozen (non-organic foods: in order of degree of contamination):
Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce and Potatoes.
Another presenter mentioned that non-organic coffee is our most heavily contaminated ingestible, with non-organic tea the second runner up for this dubious distinction. And don’t forget the common food allergen soy, with 125 mg of aluminum per baby formula serving, a concern when one out of two baby boomers are expected to get Alzheimer’s disease (see Alzheimer’s: A Natural Approach newsletter).
Dr. Duke’s Foods to Favor (if non-organic)
Onions, Avocado, Sweet corn, Pineapple, Mango, Asparagus, Sweet peas, Kiwi, Banana, Cabbage, Broccoli, Papaya
Prenatal Toxic Concerns
Global Communities and Sustainability
Local Farmers Market Resource
Grow Your Own
In very brief summary, a Sustainable Revolution is possible if we all participate. I hope this month’s newsletter has provided some useful signposts en-route to achieving this goal.
Jon Dunn, ND