Most people associate the word “health” with an absence of disease. Merriam Webster considers health to be “the condition of being sound in body, mind or spirit; Especially: free from physical disease or pain” Master Herbalist, Teacher and Author, Rosemary Gladstar defined health in her book, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health as, “the practice of living healthfully every day.”
I believe that if you asked 100 people what good health means to them you will get 150 answers. Health means different things to different people. For some, good health may simply mean being free from illness or disease. Other people will define health as feeling well enough, and having enough energy to do everything I want to. I’ve known people for whom being in good health meant simply being alive.
I believe good health is a condition where the body and mind are each balanced, allowing them to work at their peak performance levels, both together and separately. By this definition good health is different for everyone, and I believe this model of health allows for individual differences in body chemistry while still giving a solid goal for which to aim.
Consider a person with Autism. By the dictionary definition, a person with Autism will never be “healthy” because they will never “be free of physical disease.” I know many people with Autism who have used bio-medical techniques to improve their functioning levels, and the quality of their lives. A few of these people must stay on specific protocols in order to avoid a “relapse of symptoms.” One such young man, who is very close to me, avoids any food which contains gluten, wheat, sugar or is high in oxalates. He maintains these dietary restrictions by his own choice because when he doesn’t follow these simple rules for eating he has a lot of trouble concentrating, and he has difficulty speaking. When he sticks to his protocols, this young man is healthy. He thrives, he learns, and his body and mind work together and allow him to reach his full potential. When he breaks those protocols he can not function within his typical daily routine. His body and mind are not working together – he is unhealthy.
I am diagnosed with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. By the dictionary definition I will never be “healthy” again. You know what? I don’t buy it. When I work to keep my systems balanced, and my immune system working at its peak I have absolutely no symptoms and no progression of MS. In fact, over the last 7 years I have reversed progression that was previously there, improved and eliminated symptoms and regained my health.
I am healthier today than I was before my diagnosis.
Why is any of this important? Because, before you can embark on a path to health, you need to understand what the goal is. To quote the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you’re going, then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”