Health and Diet - Know your Options

Health is an important issue that is not fully dealt with in schools. A typical scenario is that a child gets headaches and goes to the school nurse and is given a painkiller. What a health education opportunity is missed here? What are the causes of the headache? Is it dietary? Nutrition? Stress? Allergy?

Health is an issue of daily life, and needs to be controlled by the individual concerned. The doctor is the expert and understands the medicinal needs of the patient but they cannot possibly know the patient as well as the patient themselves. The patient knows their lifestyles and knows what can contribute to a health issue. Students should also be aware that some diets and health approaches do not support the medicinal approach to health and claim that established medicine can be replaced by a healthy diet with or wothout supplements. This needs investiugating with the students, they should know their options.

Why has health become a disenfranchised issue? Why are our children pill-poppers? It is the influence of the pharmaceutical industry whose profits are maintained by having new generations of pill-poppers. Is taking a pill the best solution? It might be, it might not. Don't you think you should know? Isn't that the purpose of education?

What about vitamins? Do we know we get the necessary vitamins? Do I need the same vitamins as my friend? I recently had a rash brought about because I misused the washing machine and did not rinse the soap from my clothes enough. I went to the doctor who prescribed creams. These worked fine. But then I investigated the issue and determined that I was subjecting my skin to chemicals as a consequence of buying soaps that I actually chose because I thought they were healthy. The skin cream I was using to help with the sun also contained chemicals. I bought natural soap and used vitamin D (cod liver oil), and my skin a perennial problem due to stress is much better. I accept that such an uncostly solution is unlikely for all conditions but how much can an understanding of our health and nutrition help us?

The issue of stress has been covered before and will be covered again; it is part of every adult's daily life and to a lesser extent our children. What is the impact of stress on health? Shouldn't we know? The answers are not exact but we can educate about the choices. Let the students decide. Maybe when they do get a stress reaction, they will be equipped to deal with it - or at least have options.

Preventive medicine - healthy living It is recommended to do exercise. Are these discussed with the students? Exercise is usually dominated by competition and students get sucked into the sports at school. Is this the best way to exercise? As an old man I attend regular massage to cope with football injuries I picked up when young. And why did I play football? Because everyone else did and because of the lifestyle - and that wasn't healthy.

Are there other systems of exercise? In China I saw the whole school line up and do an exercise routine every day. Nothing too strenuous, but it helped. In China I also saw people going to the park or even grass verges by the river doing Tai Chi. Is this any good? Do you know? Do our students know? Isn't it a choice they should be given? What about yoga? Can students benefit from yoga? In western state schools there are the traditional sports because that is what the teachers are trained in. Are they the best things for the students?

I mentioned Tai Chi but there is a medical system associated with Tai Chi - acupuncture. Does that help? For me it does, I have been able to make that decision. Our students should as well. And with acupuncture it is very clear why it is not used more. In two schools it was part of my medical insurance so the medicine is respected in certain countries; there is documented success. However it is cheap, and is not dependent on expensive drugs and machines. There are many advantages to western medicine and drugs. They can cure many illnesses that cannot be cured by other forms of medicine, but and here is the crunch - vice versa and cheaper.

A lifestyle in which a student takes control of their own health and nutrition and in which they can be aware of cheaper alternative treatments can only be beneficial.

But being realistic football has to be there but as a recreation. And if students choose to develop in that direction that is their choice although huge competitive egos would not be encouraged and studies come first.

There is one final issue that needs to be addressed and that is drugs. In our schools there are drug awareness programmes but it has no impact; why? Because the excitement children get is not from learning. They are not motivated to stay away from drugs. I enjoy being healthy, and with a good health I can appreciate life and enjoy what Nature has to offer. I don't travel to a new country and head for the nearest bar, or get to a mountain view and roll out a spliff. This is because I am motivated to keep my faculties aware and enjoy life completely with those aware faculties. The issue is Natural motivation, things are better without drugs.

What about the scourge of Aids in Africa? Why don't they practice safe sex? Why do so many people not stick to one partner? Because they don't respect life after years of disease and disaster, health and welfare are not a high priority so short term fun risking Aids is better than long term health. It is attitudes like this that a Natural Path school could help to remove.

But there is a significant factor in health that schools can influence a great deal through practice - diet, and I want to discuss that more. I mentioned above that the pharmaceutical industry has created generations of pill-poppers, but the food industry has created a "sick" generation. Our children are sick. They consume vast amounts of sweets, are overweight, and are demonstrating behavioural problems that many are connecting with food additives and the like. Now there are many different diets around, and as part of the child's education they should be given the opportunity to hear about these diets.

But some children are already damaging themselves with the foods they eat. Here are some basic principles that should apply to any diet in natural schools:-

1. Avoiding pesticides

2. Avoiding processed foods

3. Avoiding addictive foods

1) The avowed use of pesticides is to destroy creatures that eat the foods when they are growing. How is this done? By poisoning the animals. How can that poison not damage the food and the land the food is grown on? Accept a lower yield with some damaged crops and eat organic. Whilst this will not completely resolve the problem as our environment is damaged by pesticide pollution as well as other forms of industrial pollution, it should give the natural protections in our bodies (the liver) a chance to work, a chance to remove the toxins.

2) The chemicals that are added to our foods to preserve them are damaging to our health, I don't know why but they are. Any foods that have been chemically preserved with E numbers should be avoided. The chemicals that are added as colourings and flavourings are not natural, why add them? Commercialisation. I place this in the coca-cola category where coca-cola originally contained cocaine in order to addict consumers to the product. This eschews canned and packaged goods leaving only natural foods.

Refined foods such as white bread and rice come into this category. These foods are damaging as nature's production line with its improved balance for digestion has been damaged. White foods require more of our body's energy and resources to process, and cause internal stresses.

3) Cakes and sweets with refined sugar are all damaging to our health. Fruit has natural sweetness, and can provide sugar energy. Why is there a need for refined sugar? Commercialisation. BigFood packages the refined sugar, and often chocolate in tempting forms, but the health consequences are dire. Why is it necessary to have such foods in our diet when we have fruit?

Other addictive foods such as tea and coffee should also be avoided and any of the products normally associated with addiction eg drugs and alcohol would not be allowed. Tea and coffee may also have content which impairs mental functioning. This could be investigated in the health programme.

That leaves grey areas. The first of these is meat. I don't eat meat, I very rarely have - only when it is difficult not to. Meat production has the same problem as any food-processing, the production itself is damaged when you consider many farming methods. Free range farming which might be considered "organic by nature" would produce better quality meat but I choose not to eat it. I believe the eating of meat make us more susceptible to animal urges, and I don't personally consider the killing of animals as necessary for me to be a part of. The issue of eating meat needs to be investigated in a health programme, and students should be given equivalent variety of vegetarian options at meal times.

As for dairy produce I recommend not eating them but in truth I don't know why not to eat them. It is however true that I am healthier for not eating them. Dairy production methods are more horrendous than animal production methods, it is the abattoirs that are horrendous. I have no confidence that dairy products are healthy in that sense. Eating of dairy products needs to be investigated in a health programme, as well as equivalent non-dairy diet options.

The health programme needs to be key to this, and many aspects of the health programme have already been mentioned. But students should also be aware of the quality of established diets. Speakers or advocates for macrobiotic diets, acid-alkaline diets, and other diets that accept the above stated principles need to have contact time with the students. Vegetarians and vegans. What about raw foods - advantages and disadvantages. There are plenty of options. Many diets advocate supplements, is this acceptable? Why can't we get what we need from the foods we eat/grow? Are supplements dietary money-making?

One of the key food principles is organic. A quality school should grow its own produce, and students should have a required hand-on contribution. Students should learn how to grow their own foods - perhaps a school could even have organic and non-organic sections, and labs that demonstrate the nutritional value of organic foods. If not the school should purchase organic foods, and budget accordingly - in the fees.

With this talk of diet there is a health danger. Students might not eat a healthy diet at home, and so when they eat healthy food the body begins to get rid of toxins. In a boarding school after a summer break students are very likely to exhibit such toxic evacuation, parents need ot be advised. Medical expertise needs to be on site to ensure that the issue is toxins and not something worse.

As for general health many diets such as macrobiotic and acid-alkaline make health claims such as cancer-reducing. Such claims need to be evaluated not simply from a laboratory "main-science" point of view, but also empirically. Science accepts qualitative and quantitative evidence when it chooses, there are significant case studies around that support the different health styles discussed above.

A good schools needs to teach students to be responsible for their own health beginning by showing concern for what they eat.