From Reuters: “One in three Americans with a chronic disease such as diabetes, arthritis or high blood pressure has difficulty paying for food, medications or both, according to a new study.”
It has become quite evident by now that the most heavily subsidized and advertised foods are responsible for the declining health of America’s citizens, offering little in the way of solutions.
Remember, as the popular phrase reminds us, that a problem cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created it. Relating this to the topic at hand: Even if all Americans with chronic diseases could afford food and medications, this would do very little to solve the overarching issue.
(Note: the chronic illnesses discussed in this article refer primarily to the ones caused by diet and lifestyle, and not the disorders of absolute genetic influence.)
What is the overarching issue? America is centered around a diet of domesticated, medicine-deficient foods. Not surprisingly, these same adulterated foods are associated with chronic diseases, like diabetes and hypertension.
Through the agricultural process of domestication, wild organisms have had most of their medicines bred out of them in exchange for improvements in taste, size, and yield. Today, medicinal compounds are sought after by pharmaceutical researchers, extracted and patented, and sold back to sick Americans at enormous profit margins.
We’re sold on the idea of an inferior diet. We’re sold the foods of an inferior diet. We get sick on an inferior diet, and expect these same foods to provide relief and aid ourselves back to health (with the help of synthetic drugs, of course).
If only we had let food by thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.
Sometimes, we confuse ourselves so much that even the obvious – what is literally in plain view – remains obscured. Food was, and also has been, free. For the majority of our time on this planet, we, Homo sapiens, consumed the wild foods that grew naturally in our ecosystems. Only with the development of large-scale agriculture did we start to see evidence of massive surpluses of food, necessitating individuals to reign over the food supply and ultimately assign monetary value to their agricultural commodities. And yet, the wild foods remained free.
I understand that our species, at least in the United States, has evolved quite a bit away from the natural processes of hunting and gathering (i.e. self-sufficient living), and it may not be feasible to expect the average American to reacquaint him or herself with these skills. But it seems to me that this idea – of becoming more self-sufficient in all areas of life – targets the root problem, and is not just another band-aid to superficially cover the wound.
Contrast my thoughts, about becoming more self-sufficient in all areas of life, with what Reuters has to say:
…the authors recommend looking into eligibility for food assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and WIC…
“The most important thing people can do is talk with their doctors about it,” said Berkowitz.
Yes, it is possible that the proposed solutions, at least in the short-run, will allow individuals to access food and medications during difficult times. But is the lack of access to food assistance programs the real issue here? Do all doctors teach self-reliance? Do they have the answers as to why more and more Americans are experiencing chronic diseases with no conventional relief?
True, particular individuals with chronic diseases may not be able to afford certain foods. But are the foods of the standard American diet really the ones best equipped to heal ourselves in times of distress?
A radical paradigm shift must be enacted, apparently, to understand that the most natural and healing foods for the human body are, and always have been, the wild foods of this planet.
And these foods are free.
I understand that this extreme transformation, from once relying on others (supermarkets, doctors, pharmacists) to now taking full responsibility for one’s health, may not be the feasible, overnight solution for which everyone is looking. It’s not meant to be a short-term fix. But if more and more individuals understood that true health could be gained and maintained by sustainably utilizing the natural resources of this planet, then perhaps we would finally see real change.
No, I’m not talking about the change that comes from recommending that men, ages 31 to 50, consume 2 cups of dark green vegetables, 6 cups of orange and red vegetables, 2 cups of beans and peas, 6 cups of starchy vegetables, and 5 cups of “other” vegetables weekly (1). Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong crowd here, but I have yet to meet anyone doing just that.
What we need to see, for any real progress to occur, is an emphasis on the kind of lifestyle that has been shown to be effective, for instance, in producing healthy children, with adequate bone and facial structures, generation after generation. Healthy indigenous populations, consuming a majority of their calories from wild foods, come to mind.
I suppose that in an ideal world, things would be different. We would have less food assistance programs, and more food education courses. We would have less food banks, and more wild food to harvest. Never again would we think of food as just a source of vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients. And never again would we think that “healthy” food costs too much. Instead, we would understand the food we consume to be the foundation of all nourishment, medicine, and health.
Ultimately, we would treat food less as a commodity, and more so as the sacred resource it always has been.