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When one searches for information about alternative health, there are lists upon lists of ways for you to rework the many cross-sections of your life. Alternative health is a phrase that conjures many reactions and emotions ranging from one extreme to the other and everyone has an individual perspective about it. From breast-feeding to fermented cod liver oil ( FCLO) to chiropractic care to infinity and beyond… Here I will avoid conflict though and focus on understanding alternative health as a beginner. There is a thicket of information to comb through, but there are some very good tools that will help.
What is alternative health, anyway? Let’s break it down.
According to the student version of Merriam-Webster online, alternative means:1 : offering or expressing a choice <alternative plans>
2 : being one of the things between which a choice is to be made
The word that typifies alternative is choice. Buzzword here. Choice is voluntary and elective; it does not permit passivity. There is consciousness behind that choice.
Merriam-Webster also says health is:
1 a : the condition of being sound in body, mind, or spirit; especially : freedom from disease b :the overall condition of the body <in poor health>
2 : flourishing condition.
If we combine the two, health is soundly flourishing. It sounds nice, right? Alternative health is about making choices that allows you and your family to flourish. Once you “turn on” your consciousness, you realize how your choices reflect on all facets of your life.
There are market responses to the products you buy.
The purchasing power of the public is what drives business development. Recently, Johnson and Johnson announced they will eliminate such chemicals as formaldehyde from their products by 2015. If you notice when you are shopping (especially for baby products) companies are labeling their products as free from BPA, a hazardous chemical that is found in the lining of canned goods, receipt paper, and plastic goods. Unfortunately, there is a long list of harmful chemicals we encounter daily, but awareness is key and little by little you can make changes to eliminate them from your life (although I would argue 100% elimination is not realistic in our society.)
Eating real, whole food is a choice but access is often lacking.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)are perniciously available at the supermarket and are not labeled for easy distinction. Most of the corn and soy products in commercially processed (neither real nor whole) foods are GMO, but this is seen in local production as well…think about the corn tortillas made with vegetable oil (i.e. soy) from that awesome Mexican taqueria you love. Furthermore, cross-contamination of organic farms by GMO crops is a real concern as pollinating insects have no boundaries. As a consumer you must demand choice so that your health isn’t stymied by agro producers/companies and government alike. Check out your local community supported agriculture group for healthier options and try to avoid the most heavily pesticide-laden produce at the grocery store by following this shopper’s guide!
Politics and the economy are inherently intertwined with access to alternative health.
Whether it is access to midwives (in our homes, birthing centers or hospitals) rather than seeing an attending obstetrician for low-risk pregnancies or naturopathic care instead of visiting an allopathic physician, legislation is affected when we demand options and require those options to be available. If you weren’t aware, midwifery and naturopathy are not licensed in all 50 states and in some states it is even illegal. There are many people lobbying to make changes at the state level for these resources, but you have got to make your voice heard to your representatives.
There are many intelligent, thoughtful, and thorough people who are educating consumers through their research about the alternative choices we have with regards to our food, home, and health industries. Here is a list of good groups and information to start with.
- Environmental Working Group – This group does a phenomenal job of posting new research and lobbying consumers, businesses, and government to investigate environmental health. Here is a link to their 2012 shopper’s guide to avoid pesticides in produce.
- AANMC– Licensed naturopaths are accredited by their professional organization, the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. Here is a very good overlook about naturopathy by the National Institutes of Health on naturopathic care and its philosophy that emphasizes the healing power of nature.
- Citizens for Midwifery- a citizen-driven site to broaden access and information to midwifery.
- Modern Alternative Mama– a mother blog of many Modern Alternative______ ( pregnancy, health, and kitchen) filled with informative, collaborative work by women, not to mention, the many other blogs that are linked and referenced.
- – an incredibly informative and seriously awesome radio show on NPR station… it is definitely something you can geek out to if you find alternative health interesting. I like to stream them while I’m at work!
- The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics– a site dedicated to consumer awareness of chemicals in our everyday personal products.
- Gaia Health– an informative site about alternative health, consumer awareness, medical studies, and the current state of our health system.
- Local Harvest– a site that can direct you to your local community supported agriculture group (CSA).
I’m not saying these sites or any other (alternative) health site is 100% accurate. I would argue that for absolutely ANYTHING you read, including so-called legitimate health studies done by the allopathic research community. However, these introductory sites are meant to serve as a resource for you, to stimulate that thinking part of your brain, and to give you some options. Due diligence is required of the conscientious choice maker.
So what purposeful choices have you made that will help you and your family to flourish soundly? Do you have any favorite online resources that help guide your health decisions?
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