Over the course of human history and particularly in the last half century, we’ve achieved the most staggering advances in medicine, science and technology. Our understanding of how the human body works has exploded – and continues to expand at a phenomenal rate. We’ve mapped the entire human genome. We’ve synthesised hormones. We’ve implanted embryos and we’ve transplanted hearts.
So how is it that we’re getting sicker, fatter and more miserable by the day? And we’re getting sicker at a younger and younger age.
It’s an absurd paradox that in this age of technological enlightenment, we’re experiencing an explosion in non-communicable diseases i.e. diseases that are not due to infections that spread from person to person.
Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, asthma, autism, allergies, arthritis, cancer, food intolerances, dementia, chronic fatigue, the list goes on. They’re all increasing by the minute. Literally by the minute. It isn’t just one type of illness that’s on the rise. We’re not just seeing more cancer. Or more diabetes. Or more food allergies. Or more depression. We’re seeing more of everything.
Because there’s one thing that ties all these conditions together.
What is the one underlying, unifying root cause of our physical, psychological, emotional and even planetary ill-health?
- Conflict with our basic bodily needs for rest, good nutrition, movement, fresh air and sunshine.
- Conflict with our psychological needs for purpose and authentic self-expression.
- Conflict with our emotional needs for meaningful connection and contribution to our fellow humans.
- Conflict with the ecological needs of our planet.
This conflict is reflected in our language as well as in the way we live our lives. We are constantly battling something – be it traffic, cancer, demons or the bulge. We want to fight infection, defeat disease and wage war on obesity. We’ve turned our bodies, as well as our planet, into a battlefield.
This conflict is making us sick.
Everything is interconnected
During my medical career, I had the privilege of studying the healing philosophy of the Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people – the traditional owners of Mparntwe, otherwise known as Alice Springs.
Traditional Aboriginal medicine is preventive and holistic in the broadest sense.
At its core are two tenets:
- everything is interconnected
- spirit comes first, mind follows and body belongs.
What this means is that all the different facets of our lives are interwoven. Health and body weight are not isolated, separate parts of our existence. They are in constant dynamic interplay with the physical, psychological, emotional, social, cultural and environmental aspects of our daily lives. Mind, brain and body do not function independently. Our health is the outward expression of the combined effect of sleep, stress, work, relationships, food, movement, self talk, scenery and sunshine. Or lack thereof. This seems obvious but modern medicine approaches illness as though it existed in a vacuum. How we feel about our work and our relationships is rarely taken into account in disease management. This glaring omission thwarts our efforts to heal.
The fact that everything is interconnected also means that you cannot heal one part of the body if your actions are damaging to another part of the body. If a treatment has negative side effects, an indigenous person will not regarded it as conducive to healing. There will be negative repercussions to the whole.
Restoring our gut
Modern medicine is slowly starting to realise that negative side effects are not just side effects – they are serious effects. One example is our overuse of antibiotics which has degraded the ecosystem that lives inside us – the trillions of bacteria that call our body home. And I emphasise the word OVERuse. I am not denying that antibiotics save lives. However we need to use them sparingly so that we don’t wipe out the bacteria that assist in keeping us healthy.
We need our micro-organisms (also known as our gut flora or microbiota) to train and maintain our immune system, to help digest our food and to take part in a myriad of metabolic, biochemical, hormonal and neural processes. Our microbiota also play a role in our mood and energy levels. We need to restore our gut to regain our health and re-inspire our life.
Restoring our gut – cultivating the regrowth of diverse, healthy microorganisms that will help to repair our damaged intestinal walls and mend our malfunctioning immune system – is one door to healing. There are many more. Everything is interconnected. And one door leads to another.
My goal is to provide you with knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to walk through whichever doorways have presented themselves in your life. This is not to say I have all the answers. YOU have the answers when it comes to you. I’m here to offer pointers about where and how you might find those answers . Every illness, crisis, food intolerance, bout of depression, relationship break-up and disappointment is a potential doorway to healing and deeper life fulfilment.
My vision is that we begin to regard disease as a beacon to pause, feel, and listen to our inner guidance. A signal to re-connect with our deepest needs, with each other and with the natural world. We are all unique and there isn’t one path, one diet or one way of living that suits us all. And that’s the exhilaration of it!