Sunday, June 21, 2009

Popping Pills for Health

To me the whole concept of popping pills for health is a bizarre one, whether we're talking prescription pharmaceuticals or herbal remedies. Health doesn't come from a pill. Health comes from whole foods and the right lifestyle.

My biggest gripe, naturally, is with pharmaceuticals. The body wasn't designed to be assaulted with straight chemicals. It has an elegant system already in place to extract just what it needs from food, air, water and sunlight. Dump straight chemicals into that system and the whole thing gets thrown off-kilter. Dump multiple chemicals in there and you get bizarre interactions nobody could possibly anticipate.

According to, run by the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2007 the average American between the ages of 19 and 64 had 11.2 prescriptions filled. Children from birth through age 18 averaged 3.9 prescriptions and seniors aged 65 and older averaged a staggering 28.6 prescriptions. And those numbers slightly underestimate the facts because the data excludes the 6.9% of prescriptions filled via mail-order. Even more shocking is to view the state-by-state statistics, particularly if you check out the southern states.

Granted, most of these represent monthly refills so it might mean a person is taking two or three medications year-round, rather than 28.6 different medications. I would hope so. But even three chemicals assaulting your body on a daily basis is three chemicals too many, in my opinion. The problem is that the majority of these drugs only treat the symptoms and do nothing to address the underlying biological cause of disease and often create more problems than they solve. They can create a lifelong dependency and often require regular visits to the doctor for blood work and other tests, thus further lining the pockets of the medical establishment.

My problem with herbal remedies and other supplements is somewhat different. For one thing, the industry is unregulated and I just don't trust that what you're getting in a lot of cases is really what the label states you are getting. Now, I have great faith in herbal remedies, but if I'm going to take one, I'll take the straight herbs or I'll make the remedy myself. I guess I'm just not a very trusting person. A little gelatin capsule filled with unidentifiable powder has no appeal to me.

For another, holding the belief that popping pills of any sort leads to health probably leads me farther away from true health. To be healthy we need to dispel the notion that there is quick fix, a cheater's way to achieve well-being. It's the attitude that's the problem here. Health is as much mental as it is physical.

My approach to health involves eating my medicine, preventatively. My diet is my medicine. Each year I work to create better and better medicine for myself. When I read a few years ago that the Bushmen of the Kalahari regularly ate from 85 different plants while enjoying good health and relatively little disease, I began trying to incorporate a greater variety of foods into my diet.

My goal was to eat from at least thirty different types of plants per month and over the course of the year incorporate at least 85 different types of plants. I tried this for a few months and failed miserably. I think the best I did was about 22 plants. This was a few years ago. Now that I'm growing a garden again, I should start charting my diet again. I have over thirty types of things planted out there, so I should easily be able to reach thirty plants per month while the garden is in full swing at least. I don't know about the 85 plants per year, but it's something to aim for and when you include herbs, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains as well as fruits and vegetables how hard could it be?


  1. Tom Knight - colorfuluniverse.comApril 27, 2011 at 4:08 PM

    Dear Melanie Williams,

    Thank You! Thank You! It is so refreshing to read your thoughts. Food IS medicine. What an exciting time to "Be"....lets go for 88 plants and make them like the 88 keys on a keyboard....and play a symphony to health and vitality. May you become a virtuoso.

  2. Tom, I love your exuberance! I believe the adage "you are what you eat" is deeply true. The foods we consume shape our bodies and minds, helping us express our fullest human potential. When we eat healthy, whole foods (and a wide variety of those), we give our bodies what they need to allow us to become who we're meant to be. Imagine if every person on this planet was well nourished--what inspiration, beauty, and truth might be expressed through our species! (Now that would be a real novelty, wouldn't it?)

    Wishing you good health.

  3. Tom Knight - colorfuluniverse.comApril 28, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Dear Melanie Williams,

    Yes, a re-sounding yes to the path you follow....the thoughts you think. I recently opened a red bell pepper and counted the seeds. Guess how many? Over 300 bell much abundance. So much possibility overlooked by most folks. Overlooked because we don't take the time. I now have numerous seedlings to go in my garden...and some to give away. From one bell pepper there is so much possibility. With the seeds from one bell pepper we could feed the world.

    Wishing YOU good health!