I sat in the stark white doctor’s office shivering in my flimsy paper gown. I was perched on the end of the examination table, legs and arms bare. The doctor sat below on a chair, clipboard in hand as she asked me questions.
“Are you under a lot of stress?” She asked, glancing up, glasses poised on the end of her nose.
“Well, I guess, but nothing more than before. I just don’t understand why so many things seem to be going wrong with my body.”
Looking down at her clipboard she stated without prelude, “Well you might want to give up dairy and meat.”
I looked at her incredulously as she went on. “All these issues show your body is inflamed and meat and dairy usually make things worse.”
I stared blankly at her. What in the world does this have to do with my issues? The expression on my face said it all, and she moved on to discuss possible prescriptions I could take.
Issues with My Body
I was in her office mainly for my recurring and painful ovarian cysts. Two times I had ended up in urgent care or the emergency room with unbearable shooting pain. I also had gained 20 pounds and had started experiencing stomach issues. There was even an entire month when I experienced pain every time I ate. If that wasn’t enough, I had a weird rash that kept appearing on my face that I couldn’t hide with makeup. and for which my dermatologist had no answers. Even my bloodwork wasn’t good and, for the first time in my life, it showed high cholesterol and other deficiencies.
After decades of good and unappreciated good health, I felt like my body had turned on me. What was worse was that no one could clearly tell me why it was happening and how I could fix it. Three years later, I feel like I now understand what I need to do to find healing and how the answers were all around me even then.
The Why Behind My Pain
It took time for me to be ready to address the why behind my issues. I wanted a quick fix at the time, and I didn’t see how my life choices were behind my ovarian cysts and skin issues. It was my foray into natural options like essential oils and supplements that started me on the path to understanding how connected everything is.
Inflammation is what happens when your body is dealing with too many kinds of stress. The stresses can be varied— genetic, environmental, and diet—but it happens at a cellular level causing our bodies to literally become inflamed. This inflammation leads to chronic health conditions that doctors struggle to handle such as autoimmune diseases, cancer, and other chronic conditions.Dr. Jessica Black author of The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Recipe Book compares this process to something poured into a cup. “Everybody has a Particular capacity to take things in…as we fill this cup…at some point, it’s going to overflow…because the body has a burden it just can’t handle.”
The Solution Is All Around
Like the problem itself, the solution to inflammation is all around me and within me. Dr. Black focuses on changing the diet in order to reduce inflammation. This means avoiding things that add to the problem, but it also means adding in foods rich with antioxidants. Food is just one piece of the puzzle though. The way we handle, or don’t handle, our stress has a big impact on inflammation.
The beautiful thing is that nature itself offers us huge stress-relieving properties. According to the Forest Service USDA, studies have shown that being outside in nature is associated with a “lower risk of depression and faster psychological stress recovery.” And it’s not just viewing nature that helps us, it’s walking around, especially barefoot. According to Science Direct
earthing (also known as grounding) refers to the discovery that bodily contact with the Earth’s natural electric charge stabilizes the physiology at the deepest levels, reduces inflammation, pain, and stress, improves blood flow, energy, and sleep, and generates greater well-being.
Just being in God’s creation brings healing and stress relief to our bodies hinting that God had this in mind all along.
Jesus Had a Ministry of Healing
It’s interesting to note that a majority of Jesus’s ministry was healing. Time after time, Jesus healed lepers, stopped abnormal blood flows, and even brought people back to life. I will admit that I previously glossed over these numerous accounts of healing, chalking it up to a demonstration of power to validate his claims and a precursor to his own resurrection. But what if there is more going on? What if God is trying to communicate how much he values our healing, even our physical healing? Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. This means that what Jesus focused on reveals God to us, and Jesus focused on healing. If Jesus thought it was a priority, perhaps we should as well.
We can even go back to the garden and creation to see that God had our health in mind. Not only did he provide all that we need in the nutrients found in nature, but there’s also a microscopic world that reveals how very detailed and connected all living things are. For thousands of years, we’ve had no idea they existed and yet they have been working in a symbiotic relationship with our bodies and with the earth helping us absorb nutrients and keeping us healthy.
In Awe of Plants
This connection has put me in awe of plants and their life-giving properties. In fact, my everyday routine is now saturated with their presence. When I first open my eyes each morning, I see light streaming through windows dappled by the trailing vines of my hanging plants. I breathe deeply of the air infused with essential oils from running a calming blend in my diffuser all night. When I sit up, I stretch and apply other oils to help me face the day ending with a spritz of rose spray. I get dressed and take my dog for a walk. I feel the sun warm my skin giving me valuable Vitamin D. My eyes rest on the landscape of trees and shrubs. I breathe deeply of the air, tinged with a bit of salt from the ocean.
When I get home, I cook rolled oats (which has brought my cholesterol down) mixed with sweet raspberries or plump blueberries. In addition, my day is always filled with my favorite plant–camellia sinensis. I drink black tea with half and half in the morning to wake me up. Green tea, rich in antioxidants, is taken with honey in the afternoon. I sip herbal tea with honey at night to help me rest.
Finding Healing in God’s Creation
At every point of my day, plants or their derivatives are working in my life to help me, heal me, and bring me joy. I cannot but be grateful for God’s purposeful design. God’s world is not the bland, sterile world of doctor’s offices and human answers. It is more like the garden: a rich, connected world of vibrant colors, various textures, rich aromas, and flavors. We are living more when we let ourselves experience it. I don’t feel bewildered and helpless like I used to because even if healthy living doesn’t solve all of my health concerns, I feel like I am truly living, and experiencing God in a new way.