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Introduction to The Art of Health–Excerpt

What is health? Toward one extreme, health can conjure up thoughts of a sterile doctor’s office or hospital, scary medical words and labels, diagnoses such as diabetes and cancer that sound so final, surgery and open-in-the-back gowns, and strange-sounding pharmaceutical drugs. Visiting the other extreme of alternative health, we picture all things natural, tofu sandwiches, endless vitamins and supplements, yoga and spandex, hugging trees and being one with the earth, visiting a shamanic energy healer, and pouring out our feelings for catharsis. Do either of these camps sound like they describe real health to you?

We often turn to outside sources, both through health care systems and in the mainstream media, to have the ultimate say about our health. We figure that these sources know a whole lot more than we do about how to live a long and healthy life. Yet despite the recommendations, health doesn’t always improve like we hope it will. At some point, it’s helpful to ask who is the ultimate authority on your health.

Does a doctor know what health is simply because they are a doctor? Does the answer lie inside a bottle of medication or supplements? Perhaps a vegan diet regimen, CrossFit workout, or yoga philosophy? A health website, blog, or magazine? “The Dr. Oz Show,” or “The Biggest Loser”? Wait, don’t forget that 20/20 piece on health that gave you nightmares. Then there are all those research papers and self-help books out there!

Talk about dizzying amounts of information overload. In reality, health is simpler than that. It can be tempting to search for the answers to health outside yourself. Sure, the sources mentioned above can be useful tools if they’re relevant to your health and who you are. But what is the number one and greatest source for living a long and healthy life?

It’s YOU. That’s right—you have the #1 authority on your health by being the only person who lives in your body, is going through your life, and is facing your own unique challenges. Along the way, you may encounter useful tools in the form of a treatment plan offered by a trusted health care provider, a new diet and exercise routine, or a cool blog post that inspires you to pay more attention to your health. But even these tools will only be useful for the long-term if you develop a real connection with your health, your lifestyle, and what you’re going through.

Health is an art. Think about all the functions the body performs for us on a daily basis without us being consciously aware of them. The body works in a naturally sophisticated and artful way and if we support what it’s already doing for us, we can spark health that best fits who we are as individuals. Each person’s life is a unique expression of art too. The best way to practice the art of health is by staying true to who you are throughout it.

I’ve been practicing naturopathic medicine for eight years. In practice, I treat chronic difficult-to-treat conditions in large part by teaching the keys to artful health I talk about here in this book. Though I treat a variety of chronic complaints from insomnia to digestive issues, my specialties are women’s health, natural hormone balancing, dermatology, homeopathy, and autoimmune conditions.

Throughout appointments and when coming up with treatment plans, I try and help patients pay more attention to what they’re going through and encourage them to take more charge of their health. I know I’ve done my job when someone feels more confident in how they’re approaching health and how they take care of themselves. When a patient can make connections between their health and lifestyle and see the artfulness inherent in their health care, they have real tools they can use for the long-term.