The six naturopathic principles are the guiding lights in practice. Prevention (Praevenire in Latin) is one that I have come to view a little differently over time. And certainly differently than described by most of conventional medicine. By living in harmony with Nature, by learning to listen to our bodies and their messages, we automatically can "prevent" many of the most common and chronic health issues that face us today.
Prevention implies an action taken to keep a particular event or outcome from happening. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, of course. But can we consider taking a broader view? When we take action for the sole purpose of preventing something, we set ourselves up for a fight. There is an enemy to be warded off or defeated. Our energy is focused on the foe and how we can protect ourselves from its undesired impact. We are ever vigilant about what we do and/or don't do to build our defense against it. On some level, our bodies can sense our resistance, our fear, around this enemy which can then trigger a counterproductive stress response. Additionally, when in the course of the reality of "life happens," we do encounter this negative event or we let down whatever defenses we'd erected, we feel defeated, disillusioned, angry, misled or some other emotion perceived as negative.
Imagine instead that we take actions to promote our highest level of wellbeing on all levels. Listen deeply to your reaction to these possibilities. #1 - I am going to walk one mile around the neighborhood 3 times each week because I don't want to end up 40 pounds overweight and having a heart attack at age 52 like Uncle Gary. #2 - I am going to walk one mile around the neighborhood 3 times each week because I feel energized and proud afterward, knowing I've contributed to my heart, muscle, bone, lung, lymphatic, brain, mental health and more. Which of these scenarios are you more likely to want to continue? It's exactly the same activity, but there is a subtle difference that your body will respond to.
Technically, we can never really know if we're preventing anything anyway! We all know people who were the model of health in diet, exercise, etc. who still had a heart attack or got cancer while the chain-smoking, martini drinker lives on with apparent ease. As we navigate this uncertain territory, the power of our mind and motivation becomes clear. There are no guarantees in life and health. But there are odds and opportunities for choice and growth.
So yes, prevention is an important part of naturopathic medicine. But the reason it is important, is because it comes as a natural by-product of the solid health promotion activity where naturopathic medicine shines. We can (and do) micromanage down to the individual phytonutrient in a particular food that is proven in studies to prevent Illness X. Sorry, but the lab studied miracle ingredient will never take the place of a varied, whole food diet. We can (and do) screen for a number of health problems. (In fact, this is what currently passes as preventive medicine in the mainstream.) Sorry again, but a screening prevents nothing! It merely identifies whether something is already there or not. And often adds to our stress level in preparation, administration and waiting for results!
You want prevention? Try promotion. Shift from defense to offense. Shift from fear to kindness. Shift from should to opportunity.
How do you approach your health-related habits? Leave a comment and let me know what you think!