with the equally unappealing alternatives of paying a fortune for
health insurance or going without and worrying about it, which do
Robert Anton Wilson puts it, “The universe contains a maybe.” A
tossed coin doesn’t have to land on one side or the other — it can
land on edge. And the way this works out in life is that when either
of two alternatives becomes too expensive or unappealing, it’s
time to start looking elsewhere. So the answer to the question is,
“None of the above.”
step back a second and look at this. Why is the demand for medical
services so high? If you’re middle-aged, you may remember that
when you were a kid, going to the doctor was an unusual occurrence.
Cancer and degenerative illnesses were rare and were spoken of in
if you’ve worked in a corporate office, you’ve probably noticed
that scarcely a day goes by without someone leaving for a doctor’s
appointment. One out of two men and one out of three women will come
down with cancer, and we’re seeing a veritable epidemic of other
degenerative illnesses, many of which show up in children. Is the
increase in health problems just the result of population growth?
Better reporting of statistics?
People are much sicker than they used to be. Everyone has health
problems. In fact, Americans are among the sickest people in the
a reason for this. Most people know nothing about how to maintain
their health. Conventional medicine doesn’t address this, but
holistic health does, pointing out that illness typically arises for
three reasons: nutritional deficiency, toxic overload, and stress.
Most people now have all three and are completely unaware of it. Let
me give you a little background.
deficiency occurs because conventional produce is grown in depleted
soil, and because most people don’t eat enough produce anyway. The
typical Western diet is high in sugar, fat, and refined
carbohydrates. Obesity is commonplace — Americans are overweight but
undernourished. You can’t eat that kind of food and expect to stay
healthy. Unfortunately, this is still many people’s idea of a good
to Earthsave statistics, the average U.S. man’s risk of a heart
attack is 50%. For a vegetarian, it declines to 15%, and for a vegan
(no dairy or eggs), 4%. Women who eat meat daily have a 380% greater
chance of developing breast cancer than women who eat meat less than
once a week. The statistics for other diseases are similar.
celebrated sixth-century Chinese physician, Sun Simiao, said,
“First try food; resort to medication only when food fails to
effect a cure.” Food includes herbs, which were the original
pharmaceuticals. However, much of modern medicine is driven by
pharmaceutical companies, and they have no interest in herbs, which
they can’t patent and profit from.
to our time, Thomas Edison said, “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.”
Unfortunately, most doctors know nothing about nutrition, and
Western medicine isn’t geared toward causes or prevention anyway.
overload occurs for the same reasons: most foods in the conventional
Western diet contain poisons that build up in our organs. Meat
contains residues of growth hormones, chemical fertilizers,
herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics. (About half the antibiotics
produced in this country go into animal feed. Most people get far
more antibiotics in meat and poultry than they ever do by
is similar. Sugar softens and weakens the digestive system, and
refined carbohydrates clog it up. Other toxins include environmental
poisons (DDT, PCBs, MTBE, etc.), vaccinations, and our increasing
exposure to electromagnetic radiation: cell phones and towers, power
lines, electric blankets and microwave ovens, TVs and computers.
what about stress? Everyone is under stress from the fast pace of
life, job hassles (or, conversely, unemployment), and family
this it should be clear that conventional medicine, even if
completely government-paid, can’t handle the avalanche of health
problems. Even doctors are throwing up their hands at the
increasingly mysterious and obscure illnesses they’re called upon
to treat. It’s as if the quality-control department had to repair
every item that left the factory because of one defect or another.
By the time it reaches that point, you have to look at the overall
process and figure out what’s wrong.
only one way to change this. Instead of waiting till we get sick,
then going to a doctor and saying “Fix me,” we have to take
responsibility for our own health. Many holistic techniques
emphasize the need for this.
do this, as with everything else, we need education. To most people,
the workings of the body are a dark mystery. They know nothing about
the concept of internal energy, which is fundamental to Chinese
medicine, or about the various organs and how they work together.
You can prevent most problems and heal the rest if you know how to
go about it. This “Better Health Plan” is better than anything
you can get from any insurance company. Staying healthy
shouldn’t — and doesn’t — require a medical degree or a
significant portion of your income.
not that we’re completely unaware eating more grain, beans, and
vegetables, and less meat, dairy, and sugar is good for us, but how
many actually do anything about it on a long-term basis? Old habits
die hard. However, illness and the cost of medical insurance can be
powerful incentives to change. If we used medical insurance the way
it was intended — for emergencies like broken bones, instead of
systemic illnesses—the number of claims would drop like a rock,
and so would the cost.
actually had to do this in Cuba, as Geoff D’Arcy, a doctor of
Oriental medicine (O.M.D.), indicates in his article “Cuba’s
Green Revolution." Loss of Soviet subsidies forced
the Cubans to convert to organic farming and to use herbs (which
they started growing) for health problems, instead of the
pharmaceuticals they could no longer afford.
is just as well, because in addition to being expensive, most
pharmaceuticals are highly toxic and typically address the symptoms
rather than the cause. In fact, about 100,000 people die every year
from adverse drug reactions, according to a 1998 article in JAMA.
Moreover, the pharmaceutical industry is one of the most aggressive
in its marketing and is adept at persuading people to want drugs
they don’t need.
a rural clinic in Cuba, according to D’Arcy, “The whole
community has access to acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy,
even if on a crude level. The two doctors and two nurses of this
rural clinic suggest cooking classes at the vegetarian restaurant
for those with diabetes and hypertension. ... With meat harder to
come by, people are eating lots more home-grown vegetables and
fruits, and the Cuban people are almost reluctantly becoming
doesn't mean we need to start growing herbs, because a number of
companies offer good-quality herbal products at reasonable prices.
But it’s imperative to learn about the vast health improvements
possible using holistic means, such as a vegetarian diet and herbal
remedies. Regular, vigorous exercise is also important — and often
overlooked. The purpose is not to burn off calories but to keep the
muscles, joints, and glands toned. (Needless to say, if you're not
in good physical condition, start slowly and work up to it
people think holistic methods are too vague and ineffectual to make
a dent in serious health problems, but nothing could be further from
the truth. We’re accustomed to instant gratification, and medicine
is always holding out the prospect of a “magic bullet” for
various illnesses (the cure is just around the corner). But
conventional medicine is not the only way; it’s not even the best
way. Holistic techniques typically succeed where medicine doesn’t.
It sounds too simple to be true, but it happens all the time (see
the articles in the Cancer section).
people, for example, consider an occasional cold normal. But as
George Ohsawa said in Zen Macrobiotics, “Even one cold in
ten years is a bad sign, for there is no bird or insect that ever
catches cold, even in cold countries and cold weather.”
time passes, evidence only mounts that the holistic route is the way
to go and that more people need to know about it if we’re ever
going to dig ourselves out of the healthcare crisis. Education is
the way to accomplish that — not only to improve our health but to
escape the ever-tightening clutches of the medical, pharmaceutical,
and insurance industries.
Shannon Brownlee reports in the April 2004 Washingtonian,
“More than 60 percent of clinical studies — those involving human
subjects — are now funded not by the federal government, but by the
pharmaceutical and biotech industries. That means that the studies
published in scientific journals like Nature and The New
England Journal of Medicine ... are increasingly likely to be
designed, controlled, and sometimes even ghost-written by marketing
departments, rather than academic scientists.”
worst thing about conventional medicine and health insurance is that
it’s buying into fear. Did God really put us here to live in fear
of dread diseases and to ransom our health back from the medical
profession for tens of thousands of dollars? We fear what we don’t
know, and if you learn about how the body works and how to stay
healthy, you lose your fear of illness — and of not having health