Your Body is Your Garden: We Must Cultivate Our Health

I spent this holiday weekend planting my vegetable garden. Yes its a late start, bu
t I’m actually right on time for a crop of fall vegetables: spinach, chard, peas, beans, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, parsley and cilantro. I’m a novice gardener so it’s a bit of Plant and Pray. I picked up a couple of vegetable gardening books, one of which, Dick Raymond’s Joy of Gardening has become my new vegetable growing bible. I’m realizing why I haven’t had auspicious success in my past efforts. Gardening is work. You don’t just put seeds in the ground and wait to pick. There are a many techniques and cultivation methods one must employ to achieve a bountiful harvest.

While remarking about this to a patient today, and it occurred to me that cultivating one’s health is a lot like gardening: You can’t just go through life living however you please and expect everything to turn out alright, healthwise. Like crops in the garden, health must be cultivated. In the garden, there are three basic fertilizers: nitrogen to grow green leaves, phosphorus to develops roots, important for root crops like beets and carrots, and potassium important for growth and development of the plant and fruiting. Likewise we must fertilize our bodies by eating well: watch the documentary film Super Size Me to see what a diet of fast food causes, including obesity, depression and hypercholesterolemia.

We can’t just eat whatever we want and expect to enjoy our health. Optimally a balanced diet of organic foods, mostly plants and avoiding greasy, fried, sugary and spicy foods. In Chinese dietary therapy we refer to the Qing Dai diet or Clear, Bland diet: a diet emphasizing litely streamed vegetables, free from rich sauces or heavy meals with gooey desserts.

In addition to the NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) the vegetables require other nutrients and trace minerals, including calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. Sound familiar? We need a wide variety of foods, including vegetables of all colors to provide all the vitamins and minerals we need.

Sea vegetables are loaded with trace minerals we don’t usually get from other sources. Many sea veggies, such as wakame, kombu, hijiki and arame are high in calcium, containing 800-1300g/100g. For comparison, spinach and cow’s milk have 93 & 118g/100g. The calcium in sea veggies are an easier form for your body to digest, and do not cause stone formation. In fact, in Chinese herbal medicine we use 2 sea veggies, hai zao and kombu to dissolve cysts, masses and tumors.

In addition, the gardener or farmer puts a great deal of effort into taking care of plants: covering to protect from frost or pests, planting the seeds at the proper time, trellising or hilling to provide support, building up the soil and so on.

Likewise we must take care of our bodies with proper lifestyle: making sure we get proper rest and don’t overwork, exercising regularly, practicing meditation, yoga, qi gong and other stress management techniques and living in harmony with our environment.

My point is that just as the gardener takes care of the crops, we must cultivate health with right living and preventative care. Regular acupuncture treatments keep the body functioning in optimal condition and helps to manage stress, just as one takes the car in regularly for oil changes and tune ups. This becomes more important as the body begins the aging process, after 40y. We need to give it extra support, as the gardener fertilizes the crops to encourage strength and healthy growth. KB


Photo: flickr ItzaFineDay Creative Commons 2.0