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Whole Human Care

From the category archives: Understanding Illness

Descriptions and examples of how anthroposophic medicine understands health and disease

What is the Best Diet (for cancer)?

Diet can be an important part of working with a cancer.  There are six elements that add important holistic insight to choosing the right diet.

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The Therapeutic Value of "Maintenance" as a Life Process

We all need to devote energy to “maintenance.” No, this does not refer to some kind of human 30,000-mile check, like what you might do for your car (although healthcare would be much simpler if it only required a new water pump or brake pads at certain intervals). No, we are referring to a different kind of maintenance. What is being recommended is more along the lines oftaking the time to really work through what has been taken in, so that it can fully become one’s own. In anthroposophic medicine we work with the recognition of seven archetypal “life processes,” which are part of every process of true change or transformation. The words used to originally identify these stages refer quite closely to the way they work in our physiology: ...

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The Waterfall of Stress and High Blood Pressure

The holidays are behind us and now it is back to work, back to regular life.  And for a lot of people that means diving back into stress (of course the holidays are not necessarily free from busy schedules or lots of unusual demands, either!).  Stress is, however, a natural part of life, and there are aspects of our stress response that are very healthy, even life-saving in an emergency.  At the same time continued chronic stress can make us really sick.  There is a kind of “waterfall” effect that relates acute stress and physical illness.  Here is one perspective that has proven to be helpful in talking to many different people about stress.   Suppose you are driving to work and someone swerves into your lane.  What happens?  You have a stress reaction—you sweat, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up, adrenaline and cortisol are released.  Your circulation changes, prioritizing blood supply to your brain, hear ...

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External Treatments using Kitching Ingredients

Here are three simple ways to try to keep an illness process moving!  And they only involve ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen cabinets or pantry.   Sometimes our body just needs a little extra help so that a process doesn’t get stuck.   Chamomile steam for a badly congested nose and sinuses, or for an ear that won’t “pop” after air travel:   Boil several cups of water, and then pour them into a broad bowl.   Add several teaspoons of chamomile tea (loose tea works a little better, or break open the tea bags if all you have is packaged tea).  Stir in well and then with a towel or sheet make a little tent over your head and breathe in the chamomile steam.  It can get hot and humid, so be sure to take breathes of cool air so that you don’t become light-headed and fall over!  You can often even find chamomile teabags in a hotel, which is handy if your ear won’t pop after you have traveled far away from hom ...

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Don't Wash your Dishes so Well

What can you do when something bothers your digestion? This is an important question, as there are sure a lot of people with food allergies and sensitivities right now. One logical, initial step is to work to identify what it is that is bothering you (food diaries and allergy elimination diets work well for this). Then, when you have confirmed that something is a problem you should make sure that we are not eating it in excess. Sometimes it is even necessary to eliminate it from your diet completely. This gets to be a little bit of a complicated issue because, more and more, as we eliminate certain foods from the diet (like gluten) other foods tend to take a larger part of what we take in (like corn). Blood testing for antibodies, skin testing for reactions, and muscle testing are all important tools too. But then what do you do with the information? When we take something out of our diet, does that mean we can never eat it again? Or, if we cut it out of our diet for a while so that the gut can heal, what can ...

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Is it ever good to get sick?

This is a very challenging question, because even daring to ask the question can seem immoral, crass, or uncaring, especially when it arises out of medical work.  But at some point it becomes essential to ask this question when we strive to understand illness in the context of broader patterns of human growth and development.   The usual, reflexive answer to asking "is it ever good to get sick?" is "No."  We perceive illness as painful, dysfunctional, and representing a failure, a breaking down of the machine of the body.  Sometimes this failure comes through an invader (like a viral or bacterial infection), sometimes it comes from mistreatment (poor diet, alcohol, drugs), overuse of our body, or overexposure to toxic agents.  Sometimes it comes from an unknown failure in our own cellular or genetic machinery.  When all illness is characterized in this way--as a failure--we make lists of all possible failures and conclude that avoiding any and all such possible "failures" is go ...

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Avoiding Surgery for Big Tonsils, Gallstones or Fibroids

A New Feature Things you may not know Anthroposophic Treatments are good for: Avoiding Surgery for Big Tonsils, Gallstones or Fibroids   We get sick in stages: there is a waterfall relationship between the immediate impressions of a situation; to what with time becomes a more chronic, physiologic imbalance; to what eventually becomes a true pathological (illness causing) change.  An example: if I have an sudden shock or scare, then heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tone will naturally all go up, but they should all gradually relax and return to normal over the course of a few hours.  That would likely change if a shock or scare began to happen every day, then soon the body's steady state changes, it gets reset--perhaps to a place where there are persistent challenges with falling asleep, or painful tight muscles that become the norm.   And if my "reset" physiology stays imbalanced long enough we meet irreversibly illness, like a heart ...

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How do I find more Peace?--through the Life Sense. Living and Authentic Life, part 3.

            "How are you?"  That's a common greeting, which is usually answered more out of politeness than honesty.  Most of the time we answer casually, so that when someone does answer in a truthful way it is a little bit shocking--either because it is so negative ("Lousy!" which we probably would rather not know) or surprisingly good ("Fantastic!" which can seem a little Pollyanna, because nobody could really be walking around doing that well...).  But it is a good question to ask, especially of ourselves: "How am I?"  Maybe we don't routinely ask it because we already know that we are over-extended, or simply because there are so many things demanding our time and attention outside of ourselves so that there is little energy left for self-contemplation.  We get very good at training ourselves to ignore--actually override--any sense of how we are doing inwardly.  Instead, we use a little caffeine to rev us up when we are ...

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Artificial Sweeteners and What They Do to Our Humanity: Living an Authentic Life, Part 1

Are you living a life of deprivation?  Might seem like a strange question, as most people today are living in a world of such tremendous material abundance that it has no real historical precedent.  People have never lived such complicated lives with so much stuff.  There are, of course, scary times and hard situations when people do not have enough to eat or do not have a safe place to live, and unfortunately there are many places in the world right now where people are experiencing just this kind of desperation and loss.  If you think about their lives very much, it is overwhelming.  And sadly (but perhaps not so shockingly), it is very possible for most of us to go about daily life without giving it too much thought or too much worry.  It becomes something we are aware of as a factual aspect of the news – one additional piece of information.  It all becomes kind of abstract.  How does that happen, that we can be connected to so much of the world and disconnecte ...

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Does our body influence how we think? Getting unstuck, part 3

There is another aspect to getting unstuck, which relates directly to the connection between our physical/physiologic life and our emotional/spiritual life. It is actually a connection that goes both ways, meaning that our emotional and spiritual life impact how our body feels and how our body works, and vice versa. We all experience this. When we are stressed it affects our sleep, our energy, even our digestion, whereas when we are relaxed and contented many of the little aches and pains fall away. Going the other way (the functioning of our body up to emotional and spiritual well-being), imbalances in the body's physiology (like electrolyte levels, blood sugar and organ function) influence the way we feel and even lend an "imprint" into our thought life. Bodily function lends a continuous coloring to our experiences and perceptions, though this is usually fleeting and remains mostly unconscious. A bigger injury or imbalance--like falling and breaking your arm exaggerates that influence. The acute pain of th ...

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