Vibrant Health On A Tightwad Budget Part one
by Carol Tashel
Vibrant health is not something you achieve, once and for all; it's a lively, personal dance with a constantly changing external environment. Making smart daily choices can result in feeling great, so here are some commonsense, practical options that cost little, as well as some wise choices that are well worth the price.
OPTIONS THAT COST ALMOST NOTHING:
MIND/EMOTIONS: In Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra tells us, "The mind exerts the deepest influence on the body... [A] state of balanced awareness, more than any kind of physical immunity, creates a higher state of health." Good attitudes are indeed powerful medicine, and they're free, so cultivate gratitude and love. Make sure you're not harboring a boatload of emotional baggage. (Twelve-step programs might be an appropriate no-cost way to heal.) Please do find an excuse to laugh, connect to the beautiful earth, and contact the peaceful, deep space within your self.
NOURISH YOUR COMMUNITY ROOTS: In Native American tradition, an individual's first responsibility is to her community, then her family, and finally herself. Gee, I guess most Americans have that one backward! I recall a study about a small Italian neighborhood in Chicago, which sought to discover why the residents lived so long and so well; it was partly because they were sewn so securely into their community.
SELF-MASSAGE: Your body is in constant communication with itself through nerve/hormone reflexes. Touch yourself, and you can hook into this circuitry and trigger beneficial effects at distant points. Occasionally, before getting out of bed in the morning, I slowly massage every single place I can reach. I use a deep pressure, shiatsu-like touch (without oil). It takes about an hour and feels wonderful.
Don't have an hour? A satisfying foot massage sets you back only 10 minutes. Just find the sore points and go after them. Look up "reflexology" on the Internet, and you'll find charts of points on your feet (and hands) that correspond to areas on or in your body. I've purchased a small, illustrated card of the reflexology points for a couple of dollars from a local bodywork supply store. Sure enough, when my neck hurts, the corresponding spot on my foot is sore; if I massage that point, my neck pain is reduced.
REST/SLEEP: Give yourself the gift of a short rest or nap each day. Try to get to sleep before midnight, because beginning at 11:00 pm, your adrenal glands (and other systems) begin to rebuild and restore themselves. Your adrenals help you adapt well to stress, an important sign of robust health.
EXUBERANT MOVEMENT: Vigorous exercise (even just 20 minutes a day) revs up your metabolism, reverses the harmful effects of stress, evokes a yummy relaxation response, reduces levels of inflammatory compounds, and strengthens the bones and heart. (It can also have overtly medical effects, like reducing menstrual cramps and constipation as well as increasing "good" cholesterol levels.)
Sunshine is truly a required nutrient, so exercise outside. I still think walking is the easiest and the best. When the weather is horrible, I put on my favorite music and dance in the living room. Don't forget about yoga, either.
Humans are made mostly of water, and that water must flow! Movement is the only thing that can milk your lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic system functions like your personal wetland, bathing and cleansing your tissues. If exercise is a daunting concept for you, try only one activity for just five minutes; increase at your own pace.
WATER: Internally and externally, pure water is a healer. Investing in a filter is sensible, but if that's not affordable, refill your own jug at one of the health food stores. (Liquid minerals may be added to reverse osmosis water to make it more complete.) If you drink tap water, let it sit overnight to evaporate chlorine, which is particularly harmful. Cultivate a keen awareness of thirst, and always satisfy that need. Creative use of your bathtub is another free health tool. There are refreshing salt and soda baths and relaxing herbal baths. A bath doesn't just feel good, it influences red and white blood cell activity, increases circulation and tonifies the nerves.
GROW YOUR OWN VEGETABLES: This can amount to significant savings, what with organic spinach and other greens costing up to $2.50 a bunch. You can do it in the winter, too. On December 31 last year, I harvested kale, collards, spinach and Swiss chard--they set the standard for cold-hardy vegetables, having survived a five degree night last winter. I grow winter greens in inexpensive "cold frames" covered in special cloth (and I use shade cloth for summer gardening). You can save your own seeds, score free manure at many stables, and receive free compost ingredients from the market.
GET TOP VALUE FROM YOUR FOOD DOLLAR
Usually, "top value" means saving money. But sometimes when you make wise choices that may cost more, the value comes later because you didn’t need to pay the doctor. Here are some suggestions.
* In America, meal portions are much larger than in Europe (kind of like comparing an SUV to a VW bug). Aside from saving you money, undereating (within reason) contributes to longevity. Rather than serving a hefty slab of expensive meat or fish, incorporate smaller portions of organic meats and poultry and wild fish into soups, stews, casseroles, stir-fries or fish cakes. Don't forget about liver... it's a low-cost nutrient bonanza, but you must buy organic. Chicken liver pâté, anyone?
* Skip the dry cereals--you’re paying for air, sugar, and not much nourishment. Much better: Soak oatmeal (along with a chopped dried fig or date) overnight. Cook in the morning with a pinch of salt. After it's cooked, add two tablespoons fresh or frozen blueberries, nuts and/or seeds, one to two tablespoons ground flax seed, a little chopped apple, and a couple of tablespoons of plain yogurt. I guarantee you won't need a sugary snack at 10:30 a.m.
* Store-bought salad dressings are pricey, and most contain questionable oils (safflower, canola, soy). Make your own with olive oil, lemon juice or vinegar (balsamic or apple cider), soy sauce or a pinch of sea salt and finely chopped herbs. For variety, add Dijon mustard, a couple of anchovies or a dollop of yogurt.
* Don't waste money on "empty foods"--chips, soft drinks, sugars and refined carbohydrates--they fill your stomach and cut hunger for other more wholesome foods. They can also cause great harm.
* Eating a small amount of an organic animal product (yogurt, meat, fish, poultry, cheese or butter) with each meal ensures better absorption of minerals. Fats slow down absorption, so you feel full longer, plus they provide a concentrated energy source. More expensive proteins seem to go a lot further with adequate, good quality dietary fat. (More about fats later.)
* To contribute to your health, the food you buy must actually make it into your tissues. This brings up topics that are beyond the scope of this article, like eating right for your metabolic type, and so on.
WHAT ABOUT ORGANIC?
Recently, I was behind a man in the checkout line who held up a packaged chicken and declared, "Look at this! two bucks a pound! This is the best buy in the market. This is what America is all about." Unfortunately, he was mistaken. That hapless, commercially-raised chicken had a miserable life. Its meat contained cancer-causing hormones and pesticides (which act like counterfeit hormones), antibiotics (which create problems with drug-resistant bacteria in chickens and people), and high levels of inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids because of its diet. It's the same story with feedlot beef and the dairy products from these animals. It is very important to buy organic meat, poultry and dairy.
Organic produce has advantages as well. It can contain up to 80% more nutrients than commercially-grown. Organically-grown food is not always more expensive, and requesting it at your regular supermarket helps stimulate this fast-growing sector. If organic vegetable prices are simply out of reach for you, remove pesticide residues with one of the vegetable wash products. And if you can't afford organic meat, ask the butcher for more naturally-raised bison. Please don't eat non-organic chicken skin--it’s where the hormones and antibiotics end up. Farmers' markets are good places to connect directly with organic ranchers and dairy farmers and take advantage of this better choice.
to be continued...
Carole Tashel, an avid student of the school of nature for over 25 years, is still moved by the beauty, effectiveness and revolutionary aspects of natural healing. She works with wild and cultivated plants as a clinical herbalist, teacher and gardener, and is co-founder of the “Pay What You Can” Wellness Clinic. Carole trained with Michael Moore at the Institute of Traditional Medicine and was a consultant for eight years in Santa Fe’s outstanding retail store, Herbs, Etc. She wrote Gardening the Southwest: How to care for your land while growing food, beauty and medicine (1999).