WHY PREVENTION IS WAY MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK
And How To Take A More Proactive Approach To Wellness
You know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Well, it’s got some truth behind it.
Here in the West, we’re used to treating problems after they show up. When we’ve got a headache, we take some Advil. When we have high cholesterol, we try to eat healthier. But more and more people are dealing with chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis and with cases like these, treatment isn’t always enough. It’s better to try and prevent the pain and illness rather than simply treating the problems as they come up.
Valuing prevention over treatment has always been a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and here in the West we could learn a few lessons from that. Most people think that eating right and working out is good enough to prevent illness, but for most people, doing the minimum isn’t going to cut it–especially if you have a chronic illness or health problem that runs in your family. Having a banana with your morning coffee and hitting the basketball courts after work sometimes just isn’t enough.
TCM and Preventative Care
TCM practitioners have always believed that preventing disease was more effective than treating it when it shows up. In fact you can find this quote in one of the foundational books of TCM, the Huangdi Neijing (or The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine):
“The sages of antiquity did not treat those who were already sick, but those who were not sick. When a disease has already broken out and is only then treated, would that not be just as late as to wait for thirst before digging a well, or to wait to go into battle before casting weapons?”
But how can you prevent a disease that hasn’t even happened yet? Well, in TCM, there’s something called personalized medicine or body constitution. Every person has a unique body constitution that combines genetics, individuality, and lifestyle. A good TCM practitioner should be able to identify your body’s constitution and find out what health problems and diseases you are particularly susceptible to.
This TCM belief is so popular in China that Chinese doctors consider disease prevention, not treatment, as their main goal. And it’s catching on in the West, too. In fact, preventive medicine is even recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties! Most of these preventative specialists work with corporations, government agencies, and local organizations to help promote healthy living and avoid diseases in different communities.
At the end of the day, your body really is a temple, and how you take care of it now will determine its condition in a few years. That’s why we put together a list of a few ways you can take care of your body and mind to prevent diseases and illness–beyond just eating right and working out.
How To Practice Your Own Preventative Medicine
In TCM, a healthy person keeps their whole body in harmony. There’s a lot to maintain and keep in balance, like your organ systems, Qi levels, blood levels, and more. Disorders and illnesses are caused by things like excess heat or low Qi levels that throw things off balance. So one of the best ways you can prevent sickness is by keeping everything in harmony. That means you should avoid doing things in extremes, like eating, exercising, and sleeping, etc. Try to live a balanced life of moderation and you’ll see the health benefits.
The Mind-Body Connection
Keeping yourself healthy isn’t all about the body. The way you think can affect how you feel. For instance, studies have shown that positive thinking during illness can actually change your brain chemistry to help fight off sickness. And we also know that things like stress and worry can cause headaches, heartburn, muscle tightness, and other physical side effects.
That’s why keeping up with your mental health is key to preventing diseases and pain down the line. Mental self-care looks different for everybody–it could be talking with a therapist, doing meditation, or journaling. Whatever method you choose, make sure to check-in on your mental health regularly to stay healthy in the long run.
Got A Good Gut?
Unless it’s bothering you (hello, bloating), you probably don’t think about your gut very often. But keeping your digestive system healthy is key to maintaining your health and preventing diseases.
In TCM, the digestive system helps remove nutrients and energy from food in order to form Qi, Blood, and other important substances. So when your gut is out of whack, your whole body can suffer if it’s not getting the support and energy it needs. Here’s some ways to keep your gut healthy:
- Eat a varied diet. Here in the West, we often eat a non-diverse diet that’s rich in sugar and fat. But when we eat a varied, balanced diet with plenty of fresh foods, the healthy bacteria in our gut flourish!
- Ferment your food. Fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, and tempeh help lower the amount of bad bacteria that contributes to indigestion and chronic disease, while raising levels of good bacteria. A win-win situation!
- Skip the Splenda. Fake sweeteners might seem like a good way to cut down on sugar, but studies show they can actually be bad for you. Test subjects who were given artificial sweeteners gained weight and had raised blood sugar levels.
- Take Vitamin D3. Fatigue, bone loss, depression, influenza and hair loss are just some of the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. You’ll want to get to a level that gives you at least 50ng/ml.
Sometimes, early detection can save your life. That’s why, even if you’re all about TCM and eastern medicine, it’s still important to get regular health check-ups and health screenings for diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. The US Preventive Services Task Force has a list of screening recommendations for adult men and women, but you can also talk to your doctor about what tests could be right for you.
It can be hard or uncomfortable to make big lifestyle changes, even if you know they’re what’s best for your health in the long run. If you have to, take baby steps towards making these changes. But we promise that once you start taking care of yourself before a problem arises, you’ll feel the best you’ve ever felt.