VIBRANT HEALTH on a TIGHTWAD BUDGET
by Carol Tashel (part one)
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
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.
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
* 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...
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