Sometime about 50 years ago a new era began. An era when we started to figure things out. A span of a couple decades where science began studying health and the human body more in depth soon led to a bunch of health discoveries, revelations and recommendations that we still live by today. The 1960s, 70s and 80s quickly became the most formative time in our health history: The Age of Health Enlightenment.
Think of how many health related guidelines or concepts we live by today or have recently lived by that took off over this time period. From low fat diets to running, antibiotics to sunscreen, cholesterol fears to salt restriction, GMOs to food products and beyond, the mindsets, behaviors and beliefs encouraged and indoctrinated during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s has literally shaped the health landscape we navigate today.
Carried through into the 90’s and beyond, I see that time period as the time where we became enlightened about health, or at least started to think that we were.
Fast forward a couple decades and here we are in late 2014 watching our health knowledge get challenged and restructured almost on a weekly basis. All the guidelines and advice we had lived by and truths we had held to are being rethought or simply discarded. Why? For two main reasons.
1. They simply aren’t working. We are sicker, fatter, more depressed and challenged than ever before and many people are blaming these enlightened health truths from that time period.
2. Newer observation, science and thought has revealed how limited or jaded our conclusions and assumptions were. We wanted answers so badly that we failed to take the time to see if our hypotheses were in fact true and not just guesses. We took theories and made them truths without really knowing if they were or not.
Now we are left almost back at the beginning, trying to adjust, improvise or simply step back and reassess literally everything we thought we knew about health and the human body.
It got me thinking:
What did we know before we figured it all out? How much did we know about health before this Age of Health Enlightenment came and changed everything?
History is literally saturated with stories of practices of and wisdom about health by people from all over the world and throughout time. Were there things we were wrong about? Absolutely. But how much of the health platforms we are discovering now were already known, practiced and lived long before we got too wrapped up in our science and thought that we could figure it all out?
What’s Old Is New Again
Just like fashion styles that coming back in after years being banished, old fashioned approaches to health are coming back in style.
Now one of the biggest areas of study is the digestive system and bacteria…
All disease begins in the gut. ~Hippocrates
We are finding out how important nutrition is in human health…
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. ~Hippocrates
The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition. ~Thomas Edison
He who takes medicine and neglects to diet wastes the skill of his doctors. ~Chinese Proverb
Eat to live, not live to eat. ~Socrates (469-399 BC)
Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can cure the patient with food. Hippocrates, 420 BC
We need to be our own health advocates…
A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools. ~Spanish Proverb
To keep the body in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of wisdom, and keep our mind strong and clear. Water surrounds the lotus flower, but does not wet its petals. ~Buddha
Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body. ~Cicero
Before healing others, heal yourself. ~Gambian (on health and wellness)
We need to address the whole person…
The part can never be well unless the whole is well. ~Plato
If you would live long, open your heart. ~Bulgarian (on health and wellness)
When the heart is at ease, the body is healthy. ~Chinese (on health and wellness)
Simplicity is key…
A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book. ~Irish Proverb
Water, air and cleanliness are the chief articles in my pharmacopoeia. ~Napoleon I
Treating symptoms doesn’t work…
Adapt the remedy to the disease. ~Chinese Proverb
Sometimes the remedy is worse than the disease. ~Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Doctors give drugs of which they know little, into bodies, of which they know less, for diseases of which they know nothing at all. ~Voltaire
Activity needs to be part of life…
After dinner rest a while; after supper walk a mile. ~T. Cogan (1584)
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Examples abound throughout history of how much we had a good handle on. For many more ancient health wisdom quotes, check out this article:
History of Health & Medicine
What We Knew
Before science started breaking down food and over examining everything about the human body, we had a lot figured out.
– People knew that whole, unprocessed food that was a mix of plants and animals and balanced in nutrients would keep you healthy.
– People knew that exercise was key.
– Sleep was important.
– Being outside was important.
– Living in harmony with the earth and it’s creatures is vital.
– Having time with family and friends is important.
– Nobody cared about cholesterol or blood pressure, fat or carbs, sodium or the latest drugs.
– Nobody exercised despite pain and boredom.
– People didn’t assume they could live well without sleep, sunlight or personal connections.
– We lived by basic principles passed down from our ancestors and trusted their knowledge.
– We knew that everything was connected, in our bodies and the world.
– We very rarely made life or health more complicated than it needed to be.
Let’s look at Jack LaLanne’s 10 Point Plan/health recommendations from 1950:
Now one of the tag lines in nutrition is “don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”
Why did we think that we knew (and know) better?
Just a thought- maybe we didn’t know before and don’t now. I think, as Matthew McConaughey would say, sometimes you gotta go back and take a look at what we knew before the Age of Health Enlightenment fooled us into thinking we had it all figured out. If we are willing to give our generations of accumulated human health wisdom some consideration for it just might help us moving forward with our own health journeys.
Thanks for reading, have a great day!
P.S. As far as I know I just made up “The Age of Health Enlightenment” as I was writing the post on icing but the more I thought about it the more it struck me as pretty true.