I am a true believer in natural health. I am currently on one of the strictest healing diets that has led me to eliminate refined sugar, grains, soy, corn, starchy vegetables, processed foods, additives, preservatives, and most dairy. I pretty much cook every single meal I eat. I make bone broths and ferment my own yogurt and kefir. I take probiotics and cod liver oil. I utilize acupuncture and massage therapy. Outside of the toilet bowl cleaner I’m not sure we have a single harmful chemical in our house. I believe these things matter. I believe we have the power to heal ourselves holistically and deeply.
And yet, I fundamentally disagree with one of the main premises of most of the natural health movement. That is, not only that the body can heal itself, but that it absolutely will heal itself. Advocates may say this is because “God doesn’t make a faulty product.” Or they claim that nature can’t make mistakes— only we can. In other words, as long as you’re eating right, sleeping right, etc., you shouldn’t have problems and if you do it’s essentially your (or your parents’) fault. Natural health advocates often indicate that there is always an alternative to modern medicine and always a way to change your lifestyle so that you’re not sick anymore.
And I understand why they say this. I’ve even caught myself saying it. So many of us who have turned to natural healing did so at the disappointment of modern medicine. We saw the countless contradictions. We took drugs that did more harm than good and we became frustrated with solutions that didn’t address the root of the problem. We had doctors who didn’t listen or weren’t open minded. And so we began the process of becoming our own physicians. We turned to natural health and we felt relief. We were amazed at how much we could change our own bodies, how much the earth provided its own medicine for us— and we wanted to share this treasured discovery. Natural health advocates advocate for the same reason everybody advocates— they want to save people— they want to save the world.
And often times, they do. They save the world one little lifestyle change at a time. I have benefitted in countless ways from the natural health movement. It has changed my life and my world for the better.
But here’s the thing— so have IV antibiotics. So have emergency surgeries. So have progesterone supplements. I’m pretty positive I wouldn’t be here today without the aid of modern medicine.
Now I know that the natural gurus could sift through each of my health issues and trace them all back to this or that virus or chemical or food or medicine. And many times they may be right. If everything in my environment and genes had lined up perfectly, perhaps I wouldn’t have any problems at all. But we know the truth— that is, that we can’t always control our environment and we definitely can’t control our genes. And so while, for some, switching to organic or going gluten free solves nearly everything, others are on a constant and long and difficult journey of trying many different things and often finding that nothing works at all. In the end, garlic just sometimes isn’t enough to kill a nasty infection. Sometimes a leg is so bad off it has to be amputated. Sometimes the body does fail no matter how healthy or perfect our lifestyles may be.
And that right there is what I think so many people don’t want to talk about. Yes, the body was made well. It was made to live and made to heal itself.
But the body was also designed to die.
In the end, for whatever reason, this world is one in which we have physical pain and hardship and eventually our bodies quit working. The natural health movement boasts these utopian-like fantasies where we have complete control over the body— where nature cannot fail us. And this fantasy may spur enthusiasm at first but it ultimately leads to frustration and unnecessary guilt when its falsehood is realized— when you’ve tried everything and you’re doing your best but nothing is fixing your broken body and you absolutely must turn to that evil chemical or that scary surgery or the simple acceptance that neither your body nor nature are perfect. The utopian dreams fail us because they glorify the material and the material will always be imperfect. The material will always fade away.
But there is an alternative to the utopian dreams. There is an alternative to glorifying the material.
We can glorify the spiritual.
In the end, outside of the forces of God and the Heavens there is nothing stronger than the human spirit. The human spirit can endure hours of slow progressing labor. The human spirit can endure hunger and thirst. The human spirit can endure long surgical recoveries and major accidents. The human spirit can endure cancer and autism and Alzheimer’s and arthritis and Crohn’s disease. The human spirit can endure Nazi concentration camps. The body is made to die, but the spirit— the spirit is made to live forever.
So, if you are suffering— if your body aches and you don’t know why and the doctors don’t know why and the herbalists don’t know why and the guy in the supplement section at Whole Foods doesn’t know why— but they’re all recommending their cures that don’t seem to do anything for you— don’t get discouraged. Don’t feel like a failure. We’re all just buying time with these bodies anyway and all you can do is try your best to take the best care of yourself as you can. So keep searching for ways to heal your body because you probably will find some– but remember that in the material world there will always be things outside of your control. The only thing you have total control over is your spirit. So when nothing is changing for you, when things stop working, when the body doesn’t respond like it should and when the body breaks down despite all your many efforts—take heart— and build up your spirit. Because the spirit can always get stronger. The spirit can always get better. The spirit can always heal.