Light, Water and Air: Improve their Balance to Enhance Health

Simple improvements can easily be made for those with allergies, asthma and developmental problems in how they partake of nature’s elements: light, water and air. When these are in balance, life flourishes; when balance is upset, so is development. Since ancient times, Eastern philosophy has viewed the healer as a gardener who facilitates nature in making the body days grow. This holistic approach is in marked contrast to that of western doctors who view the body as a machine and themselves as chemists and engineers who replace or repair faulty components. Just as a plant depends on light, water and air, so does the human body.

Both are dynamic, self-regulating systems that transform light and water into tissues. A healthy organism can be resilient against adversity. Plants can withstand drought, storms, and plagues; appropriately growing children can tolerate foods, pollution and animal dander.

Recently, a friend consulted me: “My son is bringing home his girlfriend, and she is allergic to our cat. What can I do?” She thought about offering to pay for a hotel but really didn’t like that idea, since it would mean that they would see less of each other. She had already bought an air purifier and found a homeopathic remedy for animal dander at the local health food store.

I congratulated her on her creative solutions and asked what the girlfriend was doing about her allergies. “Oh,” she said, “she hates the way she feels when she takes allergy medications, so she just stays away from cats,” I told her many techniques could build up her immune system, and that these steps would ameliorate her response to the allergy triggers in the home.

Improving the quality of our indoor air, the water we drink we and bathe or shower in, and the light we use to read or work by can have remarkable effects on our family’s health. Filter or purify the air in your home by using portable machines, cleaning out your ducts, or installing a new ventilation system. If family members have respiratory problems, they can also improve their condition through dietary changes, breathing exercises, herbs, nutritional supplements, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the martial arts.

Anyone who has read or seen “A Civil Action” knows that water contains innumerable toxins. Improving the quality of our H2O is a most important and easy change to make. We must purify or filter not only our drinking water, also that which comes into our shower or bathtub. Chlorine adds to the toxic load and must then be discharged from the body when it enters by mouth or through the skin.

We take light for granted, but if we lived inside the Arctic Circle, we would appreciate it more. Short winters sorely affect many children with behavior and learning problems. They need accessory lighting to simulate sunlight and to reduce visual stress. Sitting all day in schools with poor quality air and fluorescent lights could be enough to put them into a rage. Use a light box, full spectrum lights in a play room or skylights that let in sun. Light is the primary source of energy for the pituitary gland; it is necessary for the body to produce vitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin.” Full-spectrum light nourishes the body, as it contains all the wavelengths of natural sunlight. Fluorescent lights (and TV screens and computer monitors) vibrate and irritate the pituitary gland.

Chinese medicine associates each essential element with one or more organs. Imbalances in an element affect the energy going to those organs. In many children with developmental delays, water is out of balance, and water is associated with the kidneys. At a concrete level, this imbalance diminishes the mineral intake of the body and makes it inefficient at absorbing nutrients. At an energy level, the kidney is the source of intellect and creativity and that regulates growth. It preserves what is essential, the life force. Metal (associated with the lungs and large intestine) vitalizes water with minerals that enhance its life-giving properties. When we give children supplemental nutrients, balance their minerals.

The winter is an opportunity to review the quality of your family’s light, water and air. Making some changes will enhance the immune system of even the most allergic girlfriend. If you are interested in learning more about the Chinese approach to this subject, read Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine. It is very understandable and has chapters on cooking and using herbs, as well.

[New Developments: Executive Director’s Column, Winter 1998 – 1999]

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