By Dr. Kivette Parkes

I recently took it up on myself, to start asking people if they thought they were in good health. Their answers were somewhat surprising and, it led me to a process of reevaluation and redefining the Concept of good health. For example, this is how three different people, all of whom were clearly unhealthy, responded to my question. A middle-aged woman said, “I think I am pretty healthy for my age. I am not overweight and my blood pressure and cholesterol are good, plus I try to eat well.” This same woman, does not exercise, eats and drinks significant amounts of ‘low fat’ and ‘sugar free’, processed foods and takes a prescription medication for depression.

Another response from a young woman in her twenties was, “I have never been admitted to a hospital and I am hardly ever sick, I know I am not perfect but I feel like I am pretty good” – This young woman is about 50 lbs overweight and has painful, heavy, periods. An older gentleman who had not a check-up in over 10 years and suffers from insomnia commented, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. All Doctors want is to get me on a bunch of drugs. I feel as good as I did in high school.” Based on Naturopathic principles, health exists on a sort of balance scale that dips from one side to the next depending on what is happening in the life of an individual. It is varied for different people, always seeking to find that point of perfect balance.

As a society, we have come to view good health in a several different ways. One such way is the belief that health is the absence of a particular diagnosis. As illustrated by the older gentleman who answered my question above, the absence of a diagnosis doesn’t automatically render you healthy. This is especially so, when there are symptoms from the body indicating that there is some imbalance or dis-ease present. Chronic diseases sometimes take years to develop to a level where it can actually be diagnosed and small signs and symptoms should not be ignored because a diagnosis cannot be made.

Many people get hung up on diagnoses without stopping to realize that each diagnosis is simply a collection of symptoms indicating that there is some imbalance or destructive process is occurring. Despite the name or label given to the disease, discovering and addressing the underlying cause is the most effective way to support the body and assist in restoring balance. The other popular view I wish to explore is, that good health is the management of disease through the suppression of symptoms. This is by far the most common view of good health and it is propagated by our current health care system.

We are all too familiar with the now commonplace pharmaceutical advertisements in the media geared at helping the public manage their symptoms. Most of these drugs will never result in a true and lasting cure for any chronic disease because they are all aimed at suppression of symptoms. A healthy body will get acutely ill occasionally. These events are usually the response of a functioning, intact, immune system. Instead of symptom suppression, the body’s efforts should be gently supported. These episodes are usually self-limiting and the symptoms will disappear after the disease process has run its course. In an acute illness like a fever, for example, our first instinct is to take a drug to suppress it. Usually, no thought is given to the cause of the fever or assisting the body in its attempt to heal and balance itself. The end result is a weakened immune system that leaves the individual more susceptible to disease.

As witnessed by the steady decline of the overall health of the population, suppression of symptoms does not lead to good health. A healthy body will occasionally get acutely ill. This illness is usually the response of a functioning, intact, immune system. Instead of symptom suppression, the body’s efforts should be gently supported. The episodes are usually self-limiting and the symptoms will disappear after the disease process has run its course.

Good health is not perfect health. It is ultimately the ability of the body to heal itself and restore proper function despite different insults, coupled with the individual’s ability to adapt the ever-changing world in a balanced and appropriate way. Good health is simply, the ability to live life free from physical restrictions, mental or emotional disturbances while enjoying positive social relationships without the use of unnatural substances.

The only way to do that is support your body by helping it in its constant quest for balance. The basic needs of the body are proper nutrition through whole foods, adequate rest, positive social interactions, functioning routes of elimination and exercise. For most people, this simple formula is the key to unlocking the highest levels of health. When the body is supported, it has the innate ability to heal itself and take a person from a state of dis-ease to health.

Consumers should make an effort to seek out health care practitioners who are dedicated to helping them achieve a state of good health. A good practitioner is willing to listen, educate and use their expertise to guide their patient improved health without the risk of side effects and the goal of lasting cure. Everyone deserves to experience the wonders of good health and vitality.