I’m willing to bet that you or someone close to you is currently struggling with some sort of life-threatening illness. You probably could even name 4-5 people off the top of your head who are dealing with scourges like cancer, heart disease, diabetes or high-blood pressure. I know that I can name several myself. I also know that number would drastically increase if we included our friends, co-workers and family who are also contending with diseases like arthritis, acid-reflux, severe allergies and obesity. In fact, it’s probably a lot easier on us just to list those folks who we know that are NOT suffering from something!
It’s sad that we live in a world that is so sick. However, it’s absolutely tragic that we’ve come to believe that being sick is “normal”. Of course all of the gurus in the health-related industries really think that having so many sick people around is great. And why not? Illness (not to mention our fear of it) equals a steady supply of cash flowing straight into their pockets. Think about it! How many fortunes are being made from ‘specialized’ medications (which at best can only “manage” disease or symptoms) or from exercise DVDs, fitness machines or specialized diet supplements that supposedly will keep us healthy? Yet overall, America is becoming sicker and sicker and weaker and weaker. Make no mistake! As far as profit-minded big-business is concerned, eliminating demand for their products (i.e. making people better) would just be slitting the throat of golden goose. And believe me—there’s just no incentive for them to do that—at all.
Personally, I’m taking my health a lot more seriously these days. And with good reason! My family tree has been hacked at and chewed up pretty hard over the years. I lost my Mom to breast cancer over a decade ago and my Dad finished his last round of chemo for intestinal cancer last year. Watching them suffer has prompted me to search far and wide for deeper answers when it comes to maintaining my own health.
What I’ve found is surprising! It seems that some of the most important practices in obtaining and maintaining good health don’t involve pills, powders, DVD’s or fancy-dancy infomercial machines at all. They don’t even involve drinking some juice squeezed from some exotic berry grown from the side of some mountain inTibet. In fact, it seems that the things that can give us the most vibrant health and best insurance against disease are actually things that are easily obtainable or equally easy to put into practice. Unfortunately, they are also the most neglected.
It is my personal opinion that a major part of our personal character development is to strive for mastery over our health or at the very least to take responsibility for it. So today, I’d like to share with you some of the most valuable things that I’ve learned over the past couple of years about developing/maintaining good health. As you’ll see, they will serve as an excellent foundation by which you can reach any level of health or physical development that you desire.
The Basic Principle of Good Health
There’s one vital concept that you need to understand up front. Our body is a complex bundle of simple but efficient interrelated systems. These systems work together to basically pull in air, water and organic matter and push out a bunch of stuff that is a lot less useful. When these systems are up and working in harmony we call that “health”. When one or more of them has become impaired we call that “illness”. When one of them ceases to function altogether it triggers cascading domino effect inside the body that basically causes the whole business of living to come to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
Now here’s the thing: IF you and I want to stay healthy and live to a ripe old age, THEN we have to make sure that we take care of these basic systems and keep them working as optimally as possible. Once these systems are damaged—and that damage sets in—it is very difficult or impossible to reverse by human means. Therefore, the primary focus of any personal health plan must be on preventing disease from setting in to start with!
The following three suggestions (in my opinion) can make a big difference in our body’s ability to fight off disease. They work because they focus on supporting our body’s most vital systems—keeping them clean and conditioned.
1) Practice Deep Breathing: Often!
What you and I call “normal” breathing does not give us enough oxygen for our bodies to work optimally. Chronic high stress coupled with a lifestyle of physical complacency has caused most of us to breathe a lot shallower than we were designed. If we physically worked or exercised more we wouldn’t have that problem. (But who wants to get outside and work when we have Farmville, right?) By habitually “shallow breathing” we only take advantage of a tiny percentage of our lung’s capacity to take in the life-giving, blood enriching oxygen. This doesn’t allow enough time to extract more than a small fraction of oxygen during a typical breath. Some sources say that realistically we are only breathing at 10-20% capacity at any given time.
One of the very best things that we can do to energize and detoxify our system is to practice deep diaphragmatic breathing every single day…actually as often as possible. We need extra oxygen to fuel the repairs and maintenance that’s going on inside our bodies on a cellular level. Deep breathing is like putting ‘high octane’ performance-grade fuel in our cellular tank! Your lungs will absorb far more oxygen supercharging your system from your cellular level all the way up.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, start by sitting relaxed and comfortable. Slowly begin drawing in breath by concentrating on expanding your belly fully before allowing air to fill the ribcage. You want to feel like the first 50% of your breath is going into your belly below your bottom rib. It’s not really—it’s actually fully expanding the diaphragm like a balloon. (This also gives some of your internal organs a good detoxifying massage.) Continue breathing, slowly increasing the volume of each breath but making sure to not strain. Work up gradually until you can easily draw in a breath that takes 10-15 effortless seconds to fill the lungs. Then slowly release for an equal count. Do this 10-25 times in a row every day…or optimally take several deep breaths every couple of hours. For best results practice this at varying times throughout the day.
2) Unleash the Calvary in your Gut
Believe it or not YOU are made up of more than one living organism. Yep, that’s right. In fact, you have trillions of tiny micro-organisms alive and crawling around inside of your body right now! And, if they weren’t you’d die. These micro-organisms are called probiotics and they are a large group of beneficial bacteria that aids us with digestion and fortifies our natural defense against illness.
According to The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide the healthy gut has 500 different types of intestinal flora that are programmed to help keep an entire host of nasty infectious bacteria at bay. The problem is that processed foods, treated water and exposure to antibiotics can kill much of this vital line of defense and leave us vulnerable to infectious diseases. The bottom line is that if you have a healthy frontline of probiotics defending your body it helps take excess stress off of your already taxed immune system—which then has more time and energy to fight other nasty things in our body like cancerous cells and viruses.
Eating an abundance of fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir or supplementing with quality probiotic tablets will help keep your floral army in peak shape. I particularly enjoy eating Greek-style yogurt which is packed with probiotics and extra protein. However, nothing beats naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi. (I will have a special how-to guide for creating these natural powerhouses at home coming in the next few weeks.) These home-cultured foods tend to have super-hearty healthy bacteria that not only survive a trip through the stomach but survive well in the intestines.
3) Eat close to the Earth
This is the most important nutritional philosophy that there is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a preacher or a hard-core Darwinist we’ll all agree that human beings are basically reconfigured dirt. That is to say that all of our nutritional support must come from the soil—although indirectly through plants and meat. One observation that I’ve made in my research is that the “further we get” from our soil the worse our health becomes.
One of the most damning habits that our culture has adopted is industrial food processing. Sure, it helps us to preserve food for shipping and storage but unfortunately the process strips many of the most vital nutrients from our food. What should be good, nutritious power-packed food becomes little more than washed-out junk. What’s worse are the insecticides, herbicides and chemicals that are added to the processed items that will kill our protective intestinal flora and set us up for all kinds of health issues.
Now understand, eating “close to the soil” doesn’t necessarily mean to picnic in your garden, though that would be excellent and (speaking from experience) pretty fun too. It simply means to try to eat the majority of your diet from things that have as little industrialized processing as possible. Ideally they would still have “life” in them per se. I heard an old adage years ago that said “If you want to live a long time then eat things that are still alive”. Of course we’re talking about vegetables and fruits and not animated critters of any kind. My family and I love to have family time growing vegetables out of our garden. Angie and I have learned that you don’t have much trouble getting kids to eat things that they were involved in growing…plus, it’s a good way to teach them the philosophy about being close to the soil.
In a nutshell
There’s so much more we could discuss on the topic of health. If room allowed we would discuss the benefits of eating lots of healthy fats, drinking green tea, conditioning our heart and muscles to work efficiently through activity…etc. But for today I think I’ve given you the most important part: Take good care of your body’s most vital systems. There is no drug or treatment that can fight disease better than a healthy immune system. So, the better you treat your body the healthier you’ll be. And that my friend is something that we can all live with.