The Sickness

I am, perhaps, genetically predisposed to distrusting the medical profession. If you shake my family tree more than one person will fall out of the paternal side who does and takes some “strange” things in the name of alternative medicine. So, it’s not a surprise that, as I grow older, I look at doctors more skeptically and look at my refrigerator more closely.

I try and steer clear of prescription medications unless I’ve got poison ivy in my eye, or am coming down with something a day before I leave for vacation. Then, today, as I was put off going out to the garden with a bag of kitchen scraps in the freezing cold, I decided to watch Food Matters.

Normally, I watch a movie like this assuming I’ll hear a bunch of stuff I already know and start nodding off about 1/3 of the way through. But today I was wrapping some Christmas presents while watching, and what interested me most about this movie was the stuff about multivitamins.

I used to take a multivitamin religiously. More recently, I’ve stopped and started taking individual supplements like green tea and garlic instead. Like everyone else, I hear the news reports about vitamins being a waste of money. But after watching Food Matters I’ll be heading out to get a new bottle of vitamins for myself–and perhaps my mother– because it seems like one of those “Why not?” situations. There is no good reason to not take vitamin supplements.

I try to eat right, because, like much of my family, I believe that the best thing you can do for yourself is to eat good food. I keep my meat intake to a minimum, and from about June through October about half of my food comes from the aforementioned garden out back. I drink tea like it’s my job, but have always liked it sweet, so I recently replaced the sugar in my tea with Agave nectar. But I have very little faith in myself to get 100% of all the nutrients I need every day. It’s hard enough just to drink enough water every day. And as I was listening to the information about cancer and vitamin deficiencies, I couldn’t stop thinking about an interview I heard on NPR the other day:

“The breast cancer genes only explain 5 to 10 percent of breast cancer cases today and those are ancient, stable abnormalities. They haven’t changed. But what has changed over the years … are changes in our outside environment and our body’s inside environment. So in terms of the inside environment, with obesity making extra inside hormones that can influence breast cell growth, it also triggers more insulin growth factor. More women are drinking alcohol. More women have not stopped smoking. They’ve started but they haven’t stopped as quickly as men have. We lead very stressful lives. We don’t sleep enough. We run ourselves ragged.”

You know, I look around me at the people I know who have survived cancer, and I think about those who haven’t. I think about the people I know pumping themselves full of drugs to combat depression, acne, and any number of other illnesses that, to my mind, are completely preventable with the right diet and exercise. I think about the ridiculous and disastrous healthcare debate in this country (where the sickest, most in-need people seem to be the most opposed to access to healthcare). I wonder if there is any way to get through to people. For so long, “progress” has meant making things easier: dishwashers, clothes dryers, TV dinners, and automobiles.

It seems to me that all of these things have just freed us up to work 10 hour days at stressful jobs so we can buy appliances that make life easier, and make us more sedentary and unhealthy. Progress has not been progress at all. Washing laundry on a board in a tub may suck, but so does paying $100 a month to go to a gym twice a week for resistance training. How do we convince these people that easier is almost never better?

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