When a newspaper carried a beguiling, albeit gloomy, headline, "500 man-made chemicals found in a single cell of a 'healthy' 30-year-old," a few years ago, it stirred one's mind — appearing as it did, perhaps, to ‘press-stud’ every reader’s stunned attention with hypnotic effect. There was, however, a striking paradox in the same article. It disclosed a dramatic fact — that no chemical or toxic element was found in the cells of an Egyptian mummy. Yet, we still think that we all eat a healthy, balanced diet.
Millions of people worldwide are subject to some form of illness or disease. Millions have also, likewise, developed the need, if not ‘weakness,’ to gulp down tranquillisers or sleeping pills, anti-arthritic drugs, antacids, and beta-blockers for high blood pressure. In the same breath, one could also relate to the growing incidence of diabetes — or, the ‘fat man's folly’ — aside from cancer.
What's gone wrong, you may well ask. Says Christopher Pick, ND, a UK-based naturopathic physician, who also specialises in clinical and sports nutrition, “This downward health spiral is, for the most part, due to a glut of wrong diets, environmental degradation, stress and toxins in the body, and, of course, lifestyle choices, borrowed from the West, which most people follow, or take for granted.” His riposte, "I have always resonated with Indian traditions, values and esoteric leanings for living long and living healthily.”
Pick emphasises that lack of exercise, over-consumption of valueless or nutrition-less food, or junk-food, and high-stress levels as the pitfalls ahead for the average Indian. "When this happens, over two or three generations," he explains, "the gene pool gets frail." "This," he warns, "can decimate the gene pool [with unrelenting bad diet]," unless it is stopped in its tracks with proper diet, nutrients and appropriate nourishment, including supplements.
Pick avers that what was optimal health in the past is today illness and death — the expected path of the average citizen. He explains: "Nutrient-rich diet maximises your potential for optimal wellness and a long life." In so doing, he fires yet another salvo, "The standard Occidental lifestyle, now blatantly 'aped' in every part of the world, is to ‘blame’ for the majority of health problems we encounter in our healing practice." He adds: "Individual and collective human consciousness appears to have simply forgotten that we eat to live; we do not live to eat."
His resounding caveat: "Your diet is killing you!"
Pick, a staunch advocate of nature therapy and integrative medicine, commends modern medicine, and its high-tech advances, while complimenting it for being a wonderful option in certain impossible situations — besides, medical and surgical emergencies. His only concern is the gross misuse of powerful medications, which do not propagate good health and living, primarily because of self-medication and blatant big pharma advertising ‘glitz’ that promotes ‘quick-fixes.’
What is his prescription for optimal or holistic wellness, in the light of imbalances we are subject to, everyday? “Keep your body clean — internally and externally.” “Supply it with the correct foods in the right quantities and ratios.” “Provide it with necessary nutrients and supplements [not just medications]” “Breathe fresh clean air [if it is still possible!].” “Get adequate sleep [albeit we are now a sleep-deprived society].” “Maintain a positive, optimistic attitude.” If you practice healthy living, in this manner, observes Pick, "you cannot help, but be healthy!"
Pick's wellness programme is based on certain parameters laid down in ancient medicine texts too — treating the individual as one whole, or unit, and not as a person composed of different body parts, organs, tissues etc., As Pick suggests, this is fundamental. It helps us, he says, to avoid ‘compartmentalising’ individuals. This is because, each of us, as individuals, are not only the sum of our parts, but also part of the whole, and as unique as our signature or fingerprint.
Notes Pick, "Within each of us resides an innate and incredibly powerful healing, life-sustaining element. This ‘system’ must be fuelled by essential nutrients on a daily basis to enable it to perform at its maximum potential." You’d certainly think of the Ayurvedic parallel for Pick's ‘resident’ healing power — prana — or, what Chinese medical practitioners refer to as chi.
We need, says Pick, over 15 vitamins, 75 minerals, 12 essential amino acids, and three essential fatty acids, together with sufficient oxygen and fresh, clean water for good health, optimal wellness and long life. You still thought that we’d get all we needed from our ‘balanced diet? You need to think, again. Because, there is more to this than what meets our nutritional needs. "Intensive modern farming methods on barren soil,” as Pick underlines, “deliver grossly polluted food, water, and air. Mix this lot in a bowl, together with the abysmally poor regulation of food producers and retailers by complacent governments. When you add in too much stress, too little sleep, poor preventative healthcare, lack of exercise, the gross ‘misuse’ of antibiotics, pollution, smoking, alcohol, and recreational drugs [e.g., cannabis], or anabolic steroids, and the suppression of positive nutritional information by certain quarters, and what comes out is a problem that is staring us in the face — illness and high interventional healthcare costs."
Pick also delves into a modern parable to bring home the point. "It is not a coincidence that we seek out the beaches to relax and recuperate. Sick building syndrome [SBS] — such as modern office blocks — creates sick people; this is now a recognised fact." "Many people," Pick also notes, "spend the majority of their lives in such places, shielded from the natural cosmic forces, and sunlight, that are so important to a healthy body." Besides, you have what is called as multiple chemical sensitivities [MCS], a new medical diagnosis. “What makes MCS and SBS so difficult to ‘tap’ is there are thousands of chemicals interacting in as many ways — affecting diverse people in dissimilar ways. What causes you to have an allergic reaction might send your associate home with a migraine — even when the same chemical ‘mixture’ is the ‘prompt’ for either health concern.”
Pick blames lack of fibre diet, no less, as a modern ‘illness.’ He observes: "If I told you that I know of a substance that helped protect against breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease, blood clots, diverticulitis, high cholesterol, constipation, gallstones, colon cancer, varicose veins, piles, obesity, oestrogen overload and toxic bowel, would you go out and buy it? Of course, you would!" He adds, there is. “It’s fibre. Fibre is found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts etc. We need to consume more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains — more so, flaxseed — because many of us including those who believe that they eat a 'balanced' diet — are desperately short of even the minimum fibre intake." Pick also emphasises on exercise and relaxation practices, such as yoga and meditation. He says that a properly nourished and well-exercised, relaxed mind-body has a far greater potential for healthy longevity.
What is Pick's ‘must-follow’ recipe for promoting natural health and emotional well-being? "Every type of energy that moves through our genes moulds and maintains our unique individuality with all its strengths and weaknesses. The final expression of it at the purely physical level is health — or, the lack of it. Energy is behind everything manifest, and that which is not. Food, water, air, thought, emotion, love, prayer and our will, to mention a few, flood our bodies with ‘vibrational’ energy. These energy frequencies influence the way we build and maintain ourselves as a totality, sum of the parts and part of the whole.”
There is, of course, notes Pick, no single functional formula, or panacea, that can prevent or cure health affections. The best and easiest thing for us to do is quite simple. Eat a balanced and varied diet. This should include at least 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables as well as foods with added beneficial components. You’d also do well to read labels and scan through what experts advocate by way of dependable and trustworthy articles in the media. However, before you decide on making any major dietary, lifestyle and exercise changes, you’d need to take adequate time to weigh up your personal health and other ‘individualised’ needs with your doctor, or therapist.