Red Medicine or Blue Medicine?
Why do the most advanced countries in the world also have some of the worst health statistics?
You have probably heard of Blue Zones. If not, they are those places all over the world where people live VERY long lives and seem to avoid most of our modern chronic illness epidemic.
What are they doing differently?
How does it work?
What is Living in a Blue Zone like?
At present, the top five Blue Zones in the world are Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica.
Each of these Blue Zone communities has many of the same beneficial similarities. They all enjoy being physically active while eating a traditional, local and seasonal diet. These diets include abundant vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts, red wine, and goats milk. These diets are also very low in fried foods, sugar, vegetable oils, and many of the other toxic and processed foods of modern civilization. People living in Blue Zones also experience less stress, a tangible sense of purpose and meaning, a shared sense of Spirituality, stronger family connections, and plenty of sleep.
It is no surprise that many people have tried ‘Blue Zone’ diets for years, hoping that there is a magic cure for what ails them. Eating a healthier diet is always a great idea, it just may not repair decades of metabolic damage in a few months. Let me explain why.
My favorite example is a health fad called the Mediterranean Diet. This approach was loosely based on the diets of the Blue Zones in Greece and Italy (Sardinia). If you were to follow a Mediterranean diet, you would naturally eliminate most of the harmful foods that North Americans eat every day.
WAY TO GO!
Eating healthier is definitely step one. However, I have two concerns with this approach. The first is a question. ‘Is that what your Ancestors ate for the last few hundred years?’ It is better to eat real food than anything else, but if you want the results of many generations of consistent healthy eating, you would have to start eating this way as a child.
The statistics on Blue Zone residents in their 60’s and 70’s cannot be expected to relate to a 65-year-old with chronic health problems who just changed their diet a few months ago.
My second concern is based on the most recent research on ALL ASPECTS of Blue Zone living. After two decades of research and experimentation, the single most important factor in the health of the people living in these places is abundant and consistent human connection. Olives are YUMMY, but they do not have nearly the impact on your health as sitting down for a meal with your family and friends almost every single day of your life.
I am not saying that diet is irrelevant. Just that there is more to a long and healthy life than just what you eat.
Are You Living in a Red Zone?
A Red Zone is the statistical opposite of a Blue Zone. A shorter than expected life-span and a mid-life that is plagued with chronic illness.
At present, the two most dangerous Red Zones are places where there is not enough food and places where there is way too much food, and everything else we pretend to call food. When you look at the medical statistics in an ‘overfed’ Red Zone, the incidence of chronic illnesses are actually higher than the likelihood of being well for most of your life. One of the most unexpected truths of modern life is the more developed countries, especially the United States, have the worst Red Zone health statistics in the world.
If you live in a wealthy Red Zone, you have a higher chance of experiencing Obesity, Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Heart Disease, Chronic Autoimmune Disease, Insomnia, Depression, and/or Anxiety than you do of living a long, fit, and healthy life.
Red Zones need Red Medicine
Depending on your needs, you will either choose Red Medicine or Blue Medicine. If you need help in a hurry, you will need Red Alert care. If you look at the way modern medicine is practiced, it is based on triage care. That means treating the worst conditions first.
Don’t get me wrong. I am indescribably grateful for modern scientific medicine. They have saved my life at least three times. Although, I have never been given any advice on long-term prevention or any meaningful personal support. I am not complaining, just reflecting on a theme.
Most medical doctors will agree that they are not actually trained to understand or treat the complex physiology involved with something that is chronic, complex, autoimmune, and especially any condition that includes mood disorders.
As a society, we are very fortunate to have the level of front line (triage) medical care that we do.
We are also coming to realize that a short conversation and a pill is not the path to a more conscious and connected, or Blue Zone life.
Do you need some Blue Medicine?
When I think of Blue Medicine, I think of prevention and personal growth. The best tools for prevention are a Blue Zone diet and lifestyle and the most advanced lab testing in the world. When it comes to personal growth, which is an instinct, you are only limited by your imagination.
What, in your life, needs to change?
Do you have the support and mentoring to make those changes?
The biggest surprise from the latest research on the Blue Zones, which is not that surprising, is the most important factor for long-term health is abundant human connection.
If you are in need of some Blue Zone healing, then find a clinician who focuses on connection. If you have never seen a counselor, I highly recommend it. Get a massage, some acupuncture, or anything that helps you feel your body. Learn some Qi Gong, Breathwork, or Yoga – especially in a class.
Try and make your fitness time some friendship time.
Spirituality is a very personal subject, especially nowadays. Sharing this deeply meaningful aspect of life is one of the most beneficial forms of connection. If you are not a Spiritual person, find a meaningful way to support your community. Have you ever served food to the needy?
I truly hope this conversation encourages you to find the resources within yourself and within your family and community to make the most out of your life the most out of your health.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.