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What is healthy?

Excuse this minor rant.  A friend of mine is sick and asked for some advice on what to do.  Now.  She had stated earlier that she had basically a cold-like thing or the flu, although she didn’t reiterate that in her post asking for help (online).  It’s probably viral.  The first suggestion she got was “Go to a minute clinic and get some antibiotics.”  That is so shockingly irresponsible.  The person giving that advice didn’t know her symptoms and isn’t a doctor, first of all — and that’s medical advice.  Not to mention that she probably doesn’t have a bacterial infection and antibiotics wouldn’t do anything to help her.  Others suggested she take Tylenol to bring down her fever.  That’s not a good idea either because the body needs the fever to heal itself.  But, this is how many people think — when you are sick (regardless of what is wrong), you head immediately to a doctor and get some drugs to banish your symptoms.  That’s health…right?

Is “health” a lack of symptoms?  Is “health” feeling good most of the time?  Is “health” being able to generally function in life?  Or is there something else going on when we talk about what it truly means to be healthy?

Why Does It Matter?

When we’re talking about raising healthy kids, we need to know what our goal is.  These days, lots of parents say “My kids are pretty healthy!” But at the same time their kids seem to catch every cold, have ADHD and asthma, and so on.  Their kids can still function day-to-day and they do not require frequent hospital visits or other serious interventions.  That means they must be healthy…right?

To the mainstream, sadly, yes.

To the mainstream, you are “healthy” if:

  • Any “conditions” are not life-threatening (cancer = not healthy; asthma = healthy)
  • Any “conditions” can be easily managed and are under control using medication (diabetes = healthy)
  • A person is able to function day-to-day with only minor help from medication, but otherwise needs no accommodations
  • If any illnesses are “fairly” minor even if they occur several times a year (bronchitis is minor)
  • Weight is unrelated to health
  • Allergies, if under control, are not related to health
  • Antibiotics and other drugs are needed only a couple times a year
  • You generally “feel okay” most of the time

This is kind of sad, honestly.  Health boils down to not feeling too sick to get through day-to-day life.  Is that really health?!  If it is, wow, I want to just stop right now….

What is REAL Health?

When we first got married, almost 6 years ago, we considered ourselves healthy.  We were only slightly overweight, we had no chronic health conditions (that we realized).  We were able to function normally on a daily basis.  But the thing was, we’d eat dinner every night then just lay on the couch, exhausted and with upset stomachs.  Ben was sick everyday from food allergies but it didn’t interrupt his life.  We thought this was simply normal.  Because, sadly, it was.  We were healthier than many of those around us!

Only, we weren’t healthy.

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you may be familiar with Rebekah’s Story.  We discovered her food allergies at age 1.  Suddenly her months of terrible eczema, frequent diarrhea, night waking, red palms, red rash around her mouth, constant diaper rash, and etc. made sense.  It wasn’t normal, even though we’d been told it was.  It woke us up, and started us on a journey to eating healthier and getting healthier.  It brought us to where we are now.

She’s 4, and she hasn’t had any eczema in two years, nor does she have any other symptoms.  She was once speech delayed, but people are constantly asking if she’s 5 or older now because of her extensive vocabulary.  Her food allergies are gone because of GAPS.  She’s extremely energetic and intelligent, a very normal and truly healthy 4-year-old.

Because of her, and the journey she led us to take, we know the difference between how we felt six years ago, and how we feel now.  We aren’t overweight anymore (and don’t struggle with our weight at all).  We almost never feel sick.  In fact, we feel truly good and energetic much of the time!  If I eat at a restaurant and have something that’s not the best, I feel a little bit uneasy and “off,” but not actually sick.  That’s how I used to feel all the time.  Healthy means feeling truly good, not just “not bad.”

So what is optimal health, really?

  • Freedom from chronic conditions
  • No need for medications to control symptoms
  • Feeling truly good each day
  • Infrequent acute illnesses, which typically only require home treatment

Health is amazing.  Health lets us do anything!  To be healthy is excellent.

I am defining health so we know what to shoot for.  If we believe it is “normal” for children to have chronic conditions and eczema and allergies and this is “fine” and “healthy” then we will not realize that we can and should do things to improve our children’s health.  What’s typical around us isn’t necessarily the best!  It’s important to know what we’re aiming for.

Of course, that’s not the whole story.

Health with Illnesses

Some children (and adults) are already facing the reality of chronic illness.  Does that mean they can’t be healthy?  No.  They are not optimally healthy, they are not “perfect.”  But we all have something, and for some of us, it’s health-related.

For people who do live with chronic illness, striving towards keeping a disease managed, or feeling good most of the time, or working on a special diet or other health protocol to overcome the illness might be the goal at this time.  And that’s okay.  That’s reality.

There may even be times where symptoms (or “illness”) are a part of the health picture.

Those who are undergoing detox, or diets which may cause it like GAPS, may be “worse” before they are better.  It’s part of the journey and not an indication that a person is unhealthy.

Many of those who are very healthy do get acute illnesses a few times a year.  These can be a method for the body to “draw out” toxins and stored up junk and refresh and renew itself.  This often happens with the changing of the seasons (and it happened more than usual this year for many — perhaps because of the rapidly shifting weather?).  The body “breaks down” the old and clears it out — which may mean a few days of fever, vomiting, diarrhea, mucus, and other “not so fun” stuff — and this process ultimately makes the body stronger.

It is a myth that the healthiest people never get sick.

However, these illnesses should be minor, and last a short time.  They should not get serious enough to require a doctor’s care or drugs.  They should not drag on for weeks.  They should not occur seemingly “all the time” (i.e. as soon as you get over one thing, you come down with something else).

When these minor illnesses occur, support the body.  Drink plenty of water and bone broth.  Consume fresh fruit and vegetables.  Hold off on eating meat, cheese, milk, and other “heavier” foods (for a few days).  Don’t use any drugs to artificially lower a fever or stop any of the symptoms!  Use herbs, if desired, to support the symptoms and help the body function more efficiently.  This helps the body through its natural detox cycles to improve health!

Healthy Is Amazing

Health is worth it.  Whatever your current circumstances, whatever you are dealing with — it is worth it to try to be as healthy as you can.  Eat an excellent diet (filled with fruits, vegetables, properly prepared whole grains, whole and raw dairy, pastured meats and eggs, fermented foods, clean water), take fermented cod liver oil (giveaway coming next week!), get exercise, get some sunlight for vitamin D, and enjoy life.

We’ll talk more about keeping kids healthy this week, including the big question: should kids be allowed to have junk food?  Look for that on Friday!

What does “healthy” mean to you?


This is the writings of:

Kate is wife to Ben and mommy to Bekah (5), Daniel (4), Jacob (2), and Nathan (born March 2013). She is passionate about God, health, and food. She has written 7 cookbooks and a book entitled A Practical Guide to Children's Health. When she's not blogging, she's in the kitchen, sewing, or homeschooling her children. You can also find her as a contributor at Keeper of the Home.

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6 Comments

  1. Very interesting Kate. :-) I love when you get on rants….they make me giggle. ;-)

    Reply

  2. This is something my husband and I are CONSTANTLY arguing about. He doses himself when he is sick – yet doesn’t eat right or consistently, I can’t really blame him with what he was brought up knowing about food. Though I wish he’d TAKE the time to get educated in a source other than me, cause let’s face it, sometimes we don’t listen to our spouse.
    He wants me to immediately give the kids fever reducer when they are sick, cause he is afraid it will “cook their brains” – which of course I don’t. Sadly my little nephew probably gets at least 3 different medicines a day and he is often sick and has tons of allergies and health problems. I have to hold my tongue and just pray for the little guy.

    Reply

  3. This is the first winter that I have not lived in (slight) paranoia of catching the flu or every little thing that comes around. We eat so much better now, and I discovered I was low in Vitamin D (asked to be tested) and we haven’t been sick this winter. Elderberry syrup is my new friend!

    On a somewhat related note. What do you think is causing the spike in milk allergies in babies, reflux, peanut allergies etc.

    Reply

  4. Love this Kate!!!! We eat very clean and I’m
    a fitness NUT and our family rarely gets sick except for those few “toxin washouts” a year, which we don’t mask with Motrin, Tylenol etc. I totally agree people are just surviving day in and out thinking they are healthy when we can actually THRIVE each day by being proactive with what we put in our bodies and exercising to make us into the awesome beings God intended us to be! Great post!

    Reply

  5. Joe,

    This isn’t medical advice. This is what we discovered worked for our family, and many like us. These are also very general guidelines. In no way have I said in this post or any other that I am a medical professional (I often state that I am NOT, in fact) nor have I ever said to anyone something like “This is definitely what you should do for your exact situation.” I might say, “I’d try ___ if it were me, but consult a professional if you need specific recommendations.” I say that all the time. Advising others on what has worked for my family is not the same as giving medical advice.

    Reply

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