Nature is a relationship. These words, spoken by Leah Hollon, ND, MPH capture the true impact nature has on our health. From the Japanese-inspired preventive healthcare measure known as shinrin yoku (which means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest atmosphere”) to the contaminants such as lead found in our drinking water, there is little doubt of the enormous role our natural setting plays in our well-being. We talked with several naturopathic doctors and environmental medicine specialists to learn more about the good (and not so good) ways in which nature impacts our health.

 

Connecting with Nature in the Big Apple

“It’s impossible and most often detrimental to understand optimal health without considering how each patient interacts with nature in their daily lives. While we’re working on ways to better understand genetics in a clinically relevant way, changing the person’s environment is our most important tool. It is very important to make sure that people fit a relationship with nature into their regular schedule. Working in New York City often makes that more difficult than when I’m seeing patients in Connecticut. However, even getting my patients to walk home from work instead of taking the subway (extra points for walking through Central Park!) has been a positive incremental change.”

Robert Kachko, ND, LAc

Inner Source Health

Contributing to Chronic Illness

“More and more medical science is showing us that chemicals and metals we accumulate from our environment – air, food, water – can be major contributors to chronic illness, be it cardiovascular, neurologic, immune, hormonal, renal, and so on. I teach the Environmental Medicine competencies and supervise Bastyr University‘s specialty clinics for patients with these problems, and I’m excited to report that most of our patients benefit tremendously from this care, and that the most effective treatments for patients with chemical or metal-related illness are the most natural ones – diet, exercise, and sweating – because the body really does know how to heal itself!”

John Hibbs, ND

Bastyr University

Use Nature to Meditate

“Have you ever been driving on the highway, only to miss your exit? Not even sure you saw it pass? Nature and our surroundings can give us the opportunity to be mindful and go inside to our most insightful of places if we let it. Watching waves roll in and out, clouds move across the sky or a gentle wind through trees can inspire us to be mindful and slow down enough to make a place for deeper thoughts and consciousness.”

JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE

AANMC

The Nature Cure

“Until very recently in human history we have had an intimate, direct and almost-constant relationship with the natural environment. This has lead most people to have an inherent affinity with nature, and is the reason walking on the beach, hiking in the mountains, or digging in the garden are so enjoyable. Within the last few decades, research has demonstrated that the beneficial effects of nature-exposure can be quite substantial and has positive impacts beyond just “feeling good.” Evidence from fields such as stress physiology, environmental psychology, and psychoneuroimmunology show that contact with nature can lower blood pressure, improve brain function, and increase immune system response. This has led some doctors and experts, such as those mentioned here to prescribe time in nature as a way to reduce conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and depression.”

Kurt Beil, ND, LAc, MPH

Hudson Valley Natural Health

Nature Reminds Us That We’re Not Alone

“Nature reminds us that we are not alone, that there is a pulse, and reliability that exists in each day and within the seasons regardless of what is going on in our internal world. Why is it that nature serves as such a reset button? Part of this is evolutionary due to the fact that humans are supposed to be part of nature. I believe this is also supposed to be a symbiotic relationship. Science shows us that there are atoms released from the earth called negative ions that serve to supercharge our systems. These negative ions can assist with depression, anxiety, and even assist with the immune system. Even going for a walk in a dense forest can increase the function of our immune system by activating our natural killer cells. The take home is that nature is our playground of healing.”

Leah Hollon, ND, MPH

Richmond Natural Health

Decompress in Nature

“Pumpkin vines encircle my fire pit. Immersing myself in the process, hands in the dirt, weeding, watering, nurturing, part of the circle, from flower to fruit, is an excellent way to decompress.”

Heidi Weinhold, ND

Doctor Heidi's Naturopathic Clinic

Nature is Curious

“Nature is curious, and I believe more curious of us humans than we are of it. Curious, since as a population we seem to ignore nature, or in the very least, take it quite for granted, and the perpetuation of such sentiment, to me, appears to be the reason for the chronicity and magnitude of illness in America. Adoption of a more nature-centric approach, embracing the healing power of nature, the precepts of naturopathic medicine, usually lead to a more profitable movement towards health.”

Dan Rubin, ND, FABNO

Naturopathic Specialists, LLC

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