It is said that in old China the physicians only were paid as long as the patients remained healthy. As soon as a patient got sick, there was no reward anymore.
Our health depends on the proper function of our organism and the proper function of our organism depends on our lifestyle. Such an effect cannot be achieved by drugs or any other kind of therapy. Therapies provide a support for some time. But the main contribution to our health is our own effort.
Of course, health has many other influences. The genes play a role, and so does the psychological and social situation. The so-called psychosomatic effect is important for our well-being. But in how far all these factors (the genes or the psychosomatic situation) have an impact on our health depends on our lifestyle.
A healthy organism can face difficult psychological and social situations or even infections without being impaired. This is called the robustness or resilience of a person. Our lifestyle improves or diminishes our inborn and acquired resilience. Moreover, our somatic stability has also an important impact on our psychological balance. This is called the somatopsychic effect.
Preventive medicine is concerned with everything able to increase the resilience of a person, the ability to face difficult somatic, psychological, or social conditions. Preventive medicine is not well known. Medicine today is mainly understood as what is called curative medicine. Curative means to try to treat diseased states. Often this is not very successful if no preventive measures are taken. Curative medicine is far too often just piecemeal and sometimes it resembles more a garage. That is, the principles of preventive medicine should be part of every cure, too.
Naturopathy knows many measures to improve resilience. They might be as simple as body brushing in the morning, which takes less time than brushing our teeth. Well known is the cold morning shower. Less known is the evening footbath. The highly effective winter bathing in the sea has unfortunately become rare. Only a few people still do it and if you take a winter bath with a child there is a probability that someone will call the police for child abuse. Hardening, the Spartan ideal, has no value in today’s parenting. But robustness is important for the old and the young.
The three pillars
The main contribution to robustness and resilience are the three pillars of health.
Nutrition provides the nutrients for a good function of the body. It improves the microbiome which improves the immune function and has a major impact on the mood and the well-being in general. Exercise keeps the body in a good shape and increases endurance and resilience. Sleep is the maintenance of all organs and is important for general and local repair mechanisms.
There are medical guidelines for all three pillars. But we should not take them too seriously. They just provide a point of reference. Important is to have an idea of what we want to achieve – with our health and with our lives. Even more important is to take the responsibility for this process.
Our actions to support our health should become part of our life. They should not be regarded as a bitter pill one has to swallow. It does not make any sense to eat things one does not like just because of certain guidelines. But it makes a lot of sense to try new things out, to learn about the quality of food, to experiment with tastes and to get a better feeling of what food has to offer. This complex procedure is especially helpful in children who don’t eat what they are served.
The same applies to exercise. People often say, ‘I must go to the gym and lose 5 kg and when I achieved that I will feel good and then real life will start’. There is no health benefit in such an attitude. It tends to fail. It creates disappointment and anxiety. We must feel good with our actions, in the first place. Then, afterwards, we will see other benefits like losing weight or better blood exams.
Most people think they have to go to the gym to exercise. Yet, there are so many better ways to approach motion and exercise. Motion is life. The aim should be to enjoy motion and to enjoy our body or at least to feel comfortable with it.
What mostly lacks is fantasy. Juggling, for example, can easily be practiced for a few moments during office times. It improves brain function, fosters concentration, and tunes fine motion. It is good for the balance. It improves how we move (most of us have a poverty of motions). It reduces stress and it is fun. It is a perfect way to enter the world of motion, much better than lifting some weights. The German national health service even promotes juggling for its members to improve health. Exercise should reduce stress and not increase it.
Stress and its impacts are one of the major health threats. Therefore, stress-management is of utmost importance, not only for the grown-ups. School stress has become a kind of epidemic and often starts with the beginning of elementary school. Most children live in an unfavorable environment, in animals one would say in an environment not suitable for the species. Why do we not care enough for a healthy environment for ourselves and our children? There are many answers to that. One is advertisement. The term Margarine Syndrome (Becel Syndrome) refers to the tendency to expect to live like in the advertisement, with everybody happy at the morning table. The sun is shining, and a butterfly is circling over the family. But life is different.
This difference between expected and experienced life is especially big in children and adolescents. They are raised with the expectation that life will be simple and fun. Moreover, in the social media a prototype prevails they never will achieve. Unfortunately, this does not lead to less screen use, but to more. The problem of screen use is only a symptom of a deeper problem, but it is a symptom easily noticed. Unnoticed, but equally damaging, are the impacts of chemical pollution due to toys, electric devices or even cloths, harming the development of children or making sterile.
All this is a short outline of what preventive medicine is about. It includes somatic, psychological, and social measures.
Parents often feel that there far too many challenges to face and they are easily despaired. Parents’ burn-out has become the rule, not the exception. “Burnout occurs when the distance between the ideal and the possible lived reality becomes too much to bear.” Parents adhere to a Margarine Syndrome they are not even aware of.
Health improving measures should not consist in another burden. Parents are already loaded enough. It should be a relief when a change of habits is intended. The change of habits should not be an impossible ideal. To be effective, any intention, any change should be started carefully and cautiously, not expecting an immediate reward. It should not be the bitter pill to be swallowed until real life starts.
There are many ways to take responsibility. A good start is to work with the three pillars of health.