Sustaining Our Health Care
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Written by Anneke Campbell   

LA Yoga Magazine: March 2010
LA Yoga Magazine: March 2010

Shifting The Healthcare Paradigm

When it comes to the current state of health care, there is agreement across allegiances and party lines that this country is currently facing a crisis. There is little consensus, though, either about viable solutions or even the exact nature of the problem. How do we begin to find the cure for this emergency when we can’t even seem to agree on the underlying diagnosis?

It’s true that too many people don’t have access to medical care, and for those who do, our system is so costly that it is expected to bankrupt the country as the baby boomers age. But the conversation related to fixing the system rarely addresses the fact that many of its conventional elements – hospitals, drugs, treatments and so on – are unsustainable, and not just in terms of cost. They are unsustainable in terms of their toxicity and their use of resources. And however much we hear the word “prevention” bandied about; our healthcare system is solidly based on treating disease rather than promoting wellness.

It’s no wonder that in the past thirty years, greater numbers of people are venturing outside this conventional system in search of alternative healing modalities and lifestyle practices, some of them ancient and tried; others new and experimental. The fact these alternatives are thriving can be viewed as one healthy response to the dysfunction of the healthcare system. This is good news because we can’t wait for the powers in Washington to do the right thing. Instead we need to be proactive and move forward in creating more resilient and sustainable health care right here in our own communities.

Why is our current health care system unsustainable?

It’s Toxic, and we’re not just talking about waste. Many of our favored medical practices counter the most basic principle of medicine, which is first, do no harm. The toxic practices, treatments and substances used in conventional medicine are harming our bodies and the environment. In a circular fashion, a sick environment produces sick bodies.

Medical Waste and our Toxic Load

Responsible disposal of the prolific waste material used in healthcare settings is a challenge that is only increasing. Some waste from medical testing equipment and cancer treatments is radioactive and difficult to dispose of properly. Hospitals incinerate over two million tons of medical waste annually and some of those products, like IV bags, are made from PVC, which emit toxic fumes when burnt. Moreover, single use, potentially infected syringes, scalpels and other instruments are thrown away without special precautions and have been washed up on public beaches, threatening public health as well as damaging the oceans.

This toxic waste, created in an effort to try to make us well is polluting the environment, impacting our bodies making it more difficult for us to stay well. As long as our environment is being treated like a garbage can, our healthcare system will be increasingly burdened by the effects of toxicity on our bodies.

We are seeing the buildup of toxic chemicals in our bodies. For example, 287 different chemicals have been identified in umbilical cord blood, including pesticides, stain removers, wood preservatives, mercury and flame retardants, many of which have been shown to be carcinogenic. These substances have become part of our bodies and interact with each other in ways for which we have no precedent. We may think that the fact that DDT has been banned takes care of the risk but we forget about the thousands of other chemical compounds which have become part of our environment. And as ecologist, author and cancer survivor Sarah Steingraber writes, “Of the eighty thousand synthetic chemicals allowed into the market, exactly five have been outlawed under the Toxics Substances Control Act since 1976. Our current environmental regulatory apparatus allows economic benefits to be balanced against human health risks.”

Not all chemicals fit into neat categories as there are chemicals which have been developed for medicinal purposes are now used in industry or for consumer products. It is important to note that just because something has a medical use doesn’t mean that it is automatically safe. We see this in the example of Bisphenol A (BPA), which was first synthesized to be a pharmaceutical version of estrogen. The chemical industry subsequently found new uses for it on a large scale in the lining of beverage and food cans and clear polycarbonate plastic because it lent these products toughness, adhesion and formability. Because of its ubiquity, we have all received estrogenic BPA in many forms, no matter our gender.The implications are significant: The higher a pregnant woman’s BPA levels are during her first 16 weeks of pregnancy, the more likely her child demonstrates atypical gender behaviors by the age of two. This is one example, but whether we’re talking about environmental contaminants in our healthcare system or the general effect of the environment on our health, our mainstream health care discussion in large measure still ignores the relationship between the two.

Preventative Medicine and the Precautionary Principle

The precautionary principle states that if an action has a suspected risk of causing harm to the public or to the environment, the burden of proof falls on those taking the action. In the law of the European Union, the precautionary principle is a general and compulsory principle.

This is not the case in the USA.

In the USA, we are still giving lip service to prevention rather than making it the law. Chemical manufacturers do not have to prove safety before use. Rather, the rest of us have to hire scientists to prove harm through a lengthy legal battle to stop the use of the chemical. This unwieldy and costly procedure must be undergone for every individual chemical when toxicity is suspected.

This is an example of how we as a society don’t favor precaution or prevention, which is also true of our basic approach towards health care. We treat people’s bodies primarily as malfunctioning machines, ignoring the mind-body-spirit connections and the impact of lifestyle, habits and the environmental milieu. Medical intake forms completely ignore the environmental causes of disease. As adoptee family members have discovered; if a family shows a cancer pattern it will be assumed to be genetic, rather than environmental. Environmental causes are either ignored or maybe worse, taken for granted. Asthma prevalence and severity are sharply increasing worldwide, often in epidemic proportions – and these rates spike in inner city areas with power plants and sewage plants and incinerators.

While our healthcare system proceeds as if ignorant of the basic tenets of ecology – the fact that our bodies and our environment are interconnected – it is beginning to acknowledge our lifestyles as part of the equation. Still, the bulk of our medical research dollars support developing treatments for chronic diseases that are a product of poor lifestyle, rather than investigating effective methods of preventing these diseases in the first place. Because of changing lifestyle and environmental factors, we are witnessing an altered disease landscape here in the USA and all over the planet. To name but a few: We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, an epidemic level of diabetes among adults, and high rates of hypertension and heart disease.

While preventative measures may be costly or challenging, treatment of disease once is has taken full hold of the body is more expensive. The old truism holds that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Those of us in the alternative medicine community approach medicine from a different paradigm. Of course we are happy pharmaceuticals such as insulin are available for those who need it, and most of us will take antibiotics for a bacterial infection when indicated, but if the infection repeats itself we may also ask: Why keep taking antibiotics rather than identifying and healing the underlying condition that lowers my resistance? We may ask: How are my diet and daily routine impacting my body’s ability to create insulin? We may ask: How do I strengthen my immune system so I don’t need to take another dose of drugs? In addition to the side effects on the label, will this pharmaceutical have side effects harmful to the ecology of my body and that of the watershed?

Our petroleum-based healthcare system begs the question: Will our current resource-intensive medicines always be available?

When you enter a hospital or take a good look at your home medicine cabinet, much of what you will see is petroleum-based; produced from oil and/or natural gas. Petrochemicals are used to manufacture most common pharmaceutical drugs, as well as radiological dyes and films, plastic tubing, oxygen masks and prostheses like heart valves.

Fossil fuels are used to heat and cool medical buildings and hospitals and transport medical supplies, equipment, patients and staff to and from medical workplaces. These petrochemicals have to be drilled from the Earth and transported globally, creating environmental damage and contributing to climate change.

The dependence on petrochemicals leaves our healthcare delivery systems vulnerable in the face of predicted ecological resource restraints. At this point many experts believe that we have either consumed over half of the available oil on the planet, or are near that point, a condition referred to as peak oil. Petroleum is, however, not the only important resource deserving of concern. The economic consequences of gas shortages are likely to be even more problematic than oil for Europeans and North Americans. Based on current projections of population and development, the availability of the world’s energy supply will likely begin to shrink within a few years regardless of efforts that are made to develop other energy sources.

If everyone were to use as many resources as Americans, two-and-a-half more Earths would be needed to support today’s population, so it’s unlikely that we will be able to continue our current lifestyle and medical system, even if it were great to start with. This may sound bleak, but we can look at our crisis and see the opportunity. Resource depletion specifically might be the catalyst we need to spur us into creating a healthcare system that is much more ecologically sustainable and serves everyone, not just those with money. Such a system would recognize it must be holistic, based on prevention of disease and promotion of health, rather than the current resource-intensive profit-based approach that treats disease only after it has manifested.

Sustainable Health Care

Sustainable Health Care is an umbrella term for all those approaches to the restoration and management of human health with an ecological base that are environmentally, economically and socially viable over the long term.

Some have coined the phrase Ecologically Sustainable Medicine, chosen by Joel Kreisberg at the Teleosis Institute. The first principle of ESM recognizes that the Earth and our bodies are interconnected, so human health and planetary well-being are synergistic. Health is defined, not merely as the absence of disease, but as the internal capacity for self-renewal or healing. This capacity can be strengthened or decreased by any number of factors. Clean soil, water and air are understood to be cornerstones of any sustainable system and ESM will increase our sense of connection with the web of life that sustains us.

Characteristics of Ecologically Sustainable Medicine

The methodology of ESM is safe, nontoxic (therefore non-polluting), resilient, adaptable and renewable, as its primary fuel is human energy. Humans do the work with their hearts, minds and hands and interact with the Earth’s energy to cultivate plants.

Through ESM, we’re describing a different paradigm of healthcare, which seeks to foster empowered patients in localized community health settings, with a focus on treating the whole person, body and mind, emotions and spirit. This paradigm has been part of many native systems of medicine. Today ESM recognizes the value of traditional systems and integrates their knowledge and combines them with contemporary knowledge, based on science, and our current understanding of human rights and responsibilities.

Such a system sees our environment and our relationship to it as essential to our well-being; it values community care over profit-making. It places more focus on self-empowerment, knowing the self, lifestyle information and sharing education and less on pharmaceuticals. Cost will no doubt always be a challenge but any system that values caring more than profit, that values our innate healing ability and self-responsibility rather than giving that responsibility to experts, is going to be less expensive in the big picture. ESM integrates conventional medical practice with complementary alternative modalities and therapies and seeks to expand our repertoire with the newly explored healing properties of animals, laughter, music, movement and color, among other modalities.

If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because this paradigm is already being manifested in fragments. It may not have infiltrated the overall healthcare system and the discussion in the mainstream media, but many of us in the LA Yoga community are already beginning to operate within the framework of this paradigm.

The Healing and Sustainable Power of Plants

“Plants created the biosphere of the Earth’s surface, and they regulate its functions. Plants are the ultimate source of all health and prosperity; they feed us, give us clothing and shelter, provide fuel, fiber, and countless other necessities. Every breath we breathe is the breath of plants, which supports all life. Plants are the origin of medicine.”

––David Crow, L.Ac., author of In the Garden of the Medicine Buddha and cofounder of the Learning Garden in Venice, California and one of co-owners of the essential oil company Floracopeia, that sources sustainably and ethically grown and harvested plant material.

In the microcosm, plants provide the biochemical and nutritional compounds that promote and strengthen the body’s internal ecology, innate homeostasis and equilibrium. Phytonutrients nourish organs, support tissues and enhance immunity, while the medicinal constituents of botanical species detoxify metabolic waste and harmful foreign substances. No synthetic pharmaceutical drug can perform these functions in the same way.

On the level of the macrocosm, Crow reminds us that while there is relatively little that people can do to reverse global warming, stabilize disturbed weather patterns or detoxify environmental contamination, plants do all of these. Plants help regulate the planet’s temperature and seasonal fluctuations, help regulate the seasons, recharge groundwater, restore soil fertility and halt erosion, regenerate the ozone layer, bind atmospheric carbon dioxide and purify planetary toxins.

Herbal, plant-based medicines are one part of the holistic model integral to ESM. Of course, it is important to remember that when using plants as medicine, no botanical is automatically “safe” just because it is “natural.” Compounds that are toxic to our bodies are found in nature as well as in man-made chemicals. From an Ayurvedic view, the same substance can be either toxic or therapeutic, depending on a variety of factors, including how it is used, in what dose, by whom, for whom, how it was harvested and in what time of year. In all herbal medicines, it is impertivie that herbalists are properly trained and cognizant of the properties and energies of the herbs.

The integration of knowledge is vital. Crow explains, “Holistic medicine addresses the causative factors of illness and works to eliminate them. The obvious solutions to widespread contamination of the Earth are to first stop manufacturing and using toxic substances (detoxifying the patient from addictions), converting to nontoxic plant-based alternatives (creating a healthy lifestyle) and enhancing phytoremediation capacities by restoring ecosystems to their original biodiversity (restoring systemic immunity and homeostasis).”

Yoga is a Modality of Sustainable Healthcare

Yoga is a health-sustaining practice or discipline that affects all levels of the body-mind-spirit and heart if it is practiced with compassion and honoring the synergistic relationship between our selves and the Earth.

At the physical level, Yoga has numerous effects. The practice facilitates the ability of the tissues to release toxins by increasing circulation through the blood and lymph and allowing metabolic wastes such as lactic acid to be flushed from where they are lodged. Increased circulation helps oxygenates the tissues. Yoga is believed to facilitate the balance hormone levels through stimulation of the glands. It can increase well-being, allow for greater mobility in the joints, lessen pain and even slow aging. Many asanas have been used or modified by physical therapists to work with patients with serious injuries or chronic diseases to relieve pain and stiffness, to increase mobility and healing.

A primary focus of Yoga is on the breath, and breath, we know, is vital to good health. Breathing with awareness can be miraculous and can even support the activation of the parasympathetic system, the body’s relax, restore and repair mechanism. This allows it to be an antidote to chronic unrelenting stress, the underlying cause of much ill health. Through asana and breath, we can release physical, mental and emotional energy blocks Balancing this energy, or prana, in turn helps balance the emotions. And through the movement of prana, Yoga is a system of energy medicine. Yoga practices can teach us to be less reactive, through slowing down our thoughts, encouraging better concentration and reducing distraction.

Everyone can do some form of Yoga – even simple stretching and breath awareness. While some styles do make use of equipment and props, this is not strictly necessary. Yoga is totally portable and can also be practiced anywhere, including in bed, on a chair or even standing in line or walking in the park.

And by its very nature, Yoga is sustainable. Yoga creates no waste, no toxins – other than maybe the sweat in our (hopefully, for sustainability’s sake) environmentally-friendly Yoga mats. More than that, for many people, it decreases the need for drugs, which leads to reduced pollution of our waterways and landfills.

All that is needed to become a Yoga practitioner or even a teacher is another Yoga teacher, time and patience. When Yoga is taught based on the use of breath in the traditional way, as opposed to being a mere exercise, when Yoga is seen as a pathway to meditation, it allows us to open to our higher selves and the world around us, fostering respect for our selves, each other and the spirit within all of us, creatures and plants included. This reverence towards life is the basis of the Yogic teaching of ahimsa, or nonviolence, non-injury, and non-harming.

Within Yoga, there is an emergence of Green Yoga, a growing movement based on the source teachings which includes care for the environment as part of Yogic ethical practices, which commits to policies, products, and actions that minimize environmental harm and maximize environmental benefit.

Modalities of Sustainable Healthcare

Many disciplines and practices are similarly sustainable and abide by precautionary and prevention principles. Given that there is a vast and ever-growing array of healing modalities, what follows gives an incomplete overview, with a cursory look at sustainability. Any of the modalities listed below can be prescriptive and allopathic (treating the disease condition) as well as addressing the underlying imbalance.

When considering the sustainability; much depends on the manner in which it is practiced; there are nuances within each modality to consider. For example, eco-friendly raw food would seem like a slam dunk in terms of its sustainability rating but if the produce is grown far away and requires air transportation, expensive equipment and electricity, then its sustainability could be questioned. Contamination by toxins, energy-intensive inputs, oil use or other factors could render even earth-friendlier methods unhealthy for people and planet. Our love for herbal and natural solutions has meant that many herbs have been harvested to near-extinction in the quest for botanical medicines and pursuit of profit. Unfortunately any system can be exploited.

––Chiropractic and Osteopathy include physical manipulation with the hands to restore tissue function and vitality in the energy of the patient as well as the practitioner. The body is seen as a physical expression of inner spiritual reality – the treatment restores the balance of ‘vital’ healing energy within the person. While there may be implements used, such as electrical massagers and stimulators, the primary tool is the practitioner’s hands. When energetic forms of healing are performed correctly, energy is recycled rather than used up or depleted.

––Homeopathy evaluates the condition of a person based on their physical body along with their emotional and psychological state, offering treatment with heavily diluted preparations made from substances that produce effects similar to the symptoms presented. Homeopathy is based on the precept that “like treats like,” and the carefully prepared remedies from the “like” substances offer targeted treatments. Since such small amounts of the actual herbs are used, this is not only ecologically sustainable but perfect for our time because when they do use herbs that have been overharvested or are endangered, the method of making homeopathic remedies means that a tiny amount of the original substance can make enough ‘medicine’ for the whole planet. Flower essences are a subset of this.

––Ayurveda sees illness as an imbalance of nature’s elements in the microcosm of the human body. This science of life, as the name translates, shares many of the same philosophies and views of the body as Yoga. Within Ayurveda, reverence for the Earth and understanding that our relationship with the natural world is a vital components of our health and well-being are cornerstones of the practice. Rejuvenation is one of the branches of this indigenous medical system, and rejuvenation is seen as something not separate from the Earth and the natural world, but in fact integral to it. Ayurvedic practitioners use a variety of assessment techniques, including reading the pulse, face, tongue, nails, hair, skin, voice, the use of palpations and investigative questioning to determine the root cause of an imbalance.

From the point of view of Ayurveda, everything has the potential to be therapeutic, from our environment, the configuration of our bedrooms, the clothing we wear, food we eat, liquid we drink and the list goes on. Treatments include dietary suggestions, lifestyle and routine, herbal medicines, minerals, aromatherapy, homeopathy, massage, Yoga and other movement practices, meditation and breathwork and even surgery and other more invasive techniques when necessary. Ayurveda honors a person’s individual nature in the choice of treatment strategies to encourage balance.

––Acupuncture is one component of the practice of Chinese Medicine, the full component of which also includes the use of herbal medicine, dietary suggestions and other lifestyle recommendations, which are often employed in concert with acupuncture. Techniques such as cupping and acupressure can affect the patient without negatively impacting the health of the environment. Acupuncture is orientated towards balancing meridians (vital energy pathways) with the application of needles. The patient’s own healing energy does the work. From a sustainability standpoint, needles could be sterilized and reused, although in California under the current licensing practice, the needles must be discarded. The use of pulse reading, poetic and accurate (depending on the skill of the practitioner) is far less invasive and expensive than many of the test procedures used today.

––Dietary therapies which include such philosophical schools of thought as macrobiotics and the raw food movement emphasize the importance of the food we eat and its direct relationship with the health of our body, mind and spirit. The emphasis on seasonal and local foods is an important component of the sustainability quotient of macrobiotics. This is an area where contemporary science is learning more and more about nutrition, diet and allergies as causative components of health and disease.

Vitamins and other supplements could be considered to be dietary therapies. The sustainability factor of supplements varies widely based on the ethics, practices, harvesting, processing and educational methodologies employed by the company producing the supplement. There are companies in the marketplace who are exemplary examples of sustainability while others could be members of a sustainability hall of shame.

There is also a great deal of conflicting information and sometimes it can be challenging to sift through the information. For example, Omega 3 fatty acids are touted for the health-promoting properties, and rightfully so as they are vital nutrients (why is why they are known as essential fatty acids). Many people assume that fish oils are the only source, as a result of marketing. While there are conscious companies involved in fish oils, many vegetarian sources are rich in the nutrient, but may be less well-known than those extracted from fish which can be unacceptable to vegetarians or vegans, overharvested or may be contaminated with mercury.

––Bodywork encompasses a wide range of modalities both hands-on and off, including massage, shiatsu, acupressure, lomi lomi, tuina, craniosacral work and Rolfing as well as energy healing practices such as Reiki, Reconnective healing, deeksha and polarity therapy. These affect the person’s body, mind, spirit and heart through physical manipulation and/or movement of energy combining with the individual’s innate inner healing.

––Supportive care including midwifery, natural childbirth, home birth, doulas and hospice. With proper attention, many of us need limited interventions such as powerful pharmaceuticals or surgery for these crucial transitions in life. What we need most is comfort and love. In fact, studies are beginning to confirm another commonsense understanding: when we are with people we love, when we feel connected and cared for, our pain levels decrease, we need less medication and we heal more effectively.

––Relationship/connection. According to information disseminated by Dr. Andrew Weil and the University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Clinic, researchers have found that being socially isolated can increase the risk of catching the common cold. A study of elderly people who had experienced a heart attack showed that those who lacked emotional support were three times more likely to die within six months of the incident than those with emotional support. Studies have found that women in satisfying marriages were less likely to develop the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Even people with unhealthy lifestyles yet who have close social connections live longer than those with poor social ties but healthier habits.

––Community Support programs such as 12-step meetings, group support and others rely on oral and written teachings that are shared as well as community and individual support for creating balance. Many of these groups include spiritual teachings and connection as a cornerstone for mental, emotional and physical health.

––Prayer, faith and indigenous shamanism. Growing bodies of data confirm that prayer can greatly affect the practice of medicine. In the New York Times bestseller, Healing Words, Dr. Larry Dossey cites a famous study which found that when people prayed for patients undergoing heart surgery whom they didn’t even know, people recovered faster and needed less pain relief afterwards surgery. Dr. Dossey asserts that prayer not only helps eradicate illness or increase longevity, but simultaneously reminds us of our essential nature.

––Movement Arts such as Yoga, tai chi, qigong, martial arts, Nia, Alexander Technique, Continuum movement and dance allow participants to become more conscious of their own bodies, move energy and promote their own well-being. Such therapies need no equipment and can be practiced daily.

––Gardening therapy. We intuitively and enthusiastically send flowers to people who are ill. Research studies affirm the power of our relationship with plants and the benefits of gardening on our health and well-being. Studies show that hospitalized patients’ wounds heal faster, and they require fewer pain killers and antidepressants when they are merely looking at a painting of a garden. This effect is intensified when their hospital room has a window with a view of a park.

When children with ADD and ADHD play outside and become involved with growing edible gardens and restoring wetlands, their ability to focus and the quality of their schoolwork improves. In The Last Child in the Woods Richard Louv, calls our disconnection with the environment “nature-deficit disorder” and describes the importance of spending time in nature for childhood development. Beyond the benefits received through access to fresh produce and medicinal herbs, growing even a few items of our own food may have profound benefits on our health and well-being. Out of necessity or opportunity, we utilize the advantages of our local climate and available resources, such as community members already gardening or the knowledge of our indigenous neighbors.

Sharing Knowledge and Reducing Costs

Cost and affordability is a factor in both the mainstream medical system as well as in the growing community of complementary, alternative, integrative and sustainable practices. Insurance companies often limit what costs they will cover and the financial burden is frequently borne by the individual. Fortunately as we move towards sustainability in medicine it will be the people rather than expensive equipment and pharmaceuticals providing the main energy. In communities, there are the opportunities for people to share resources, offer lower-cost alternatives (such as community Yoga classes or community acupuncture clinics) in a way that emulates Mother Nature herself, who freely gifts us life, water and nourishment and in return, asks that we be good caretakers. Increasing our own knowledge of herbs, nutrition, of how our thinking patterns and emotions affect our well-being and then sharing this knowledge with our family, friends, neighbors and strangers can be powerful ways to increase our community sustainability quotient.

Finding individuals from our amazing diversity of cultures as well as our older indigenous cultures and learning their unique health ways will broaden our community resilience. Sustainability requires diversity: of plants, of skills and many other things, most of all people. Every step we take right now to restore and maintain our own health and that of our immediate environment as well as to support local alternatives will help create a more resilient healthcare system for the future.

Based in Venice, California, Anneke Campbell is a writer, editor, and filmmaker, who in her earlier life practiced as a midwife, hospice nurse and a prenatal Yoga teacher.

On Saturday March 20, the transition initiative in Mar Vista and Venice is initiating a conversation among healthcare providers to discuss what we can do locally to create a more sustainable healthcare system in our community. For more information or to inquire about participating, visit: or contact: Vidya Chaitanya at the Sivananda Yoga Center LA at (310) 306 - 0246

Down The Drain: Pharmaceuticals In The Water System

Have you ever wondered about the instructions you receive throwing the rest of that prescription down the toilet or into the garbage?

The metabolites, or broken-down chemicals that are the end result of our bodies’ drug metabolism after we ingest them end up being literally flushed down the drain into the sewage system every time we visit the bathroom, just when we thought we were done with the drugs we take in. These pervasive chemicals contaminate the greater ecosystem for decades and they don’t go away, even after going through wastewater treatment systems. Our watersheds and water systems have become contaminated and we ingest these contaminants daily.

An investigation conducted and reported by the Associated Press in 2008 documented that a vast array of pharmaceuticals – including antibiotics, anticonvulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones – have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least twenty-four major metropolitan areas. The AP reported that even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t avoid exposure, because neither home systems nor bottling companies typically test for the presence of these pharmaceuticals. Nor are they removed from the water. Even worse, evidence suggests that many bottled waters are actually more contaminated than tap water.

In addition to the presence in the environment of the medications we do take, there is the issue of disposal of the medications we haven’t taken. When we try to dispose of them down the drain, they end up in our water supply. If we toss them in the trash, even in bags as we’re often instructed, they end up in landfills where they can still contaminate the soil or water around them. At this point, no matter what we do, we’re drugging our water.

The Teleosis Institute is a nonprofit organization focused on increasing the sustainability factor and decreasing the environmental impact of our healthcare system. They have implemented a Green Pharmacy Program with educational materials related to pharmaceutical use and disposal and have created a Green Pharmacy Toolkit, which is a guide to creating a methodology for collection and disposal of medications that does not create toxic waste in the environment, on our soil and water supplies. For more information, visit:

Community Acupuncture

Community Acupuncture Clinics are becoming more widespread as a means for people to receive healing acupuncture services at a lower cost. In a community clinic, people gather in one room, often in comfortable reclining chairs, where the practitioner or practitioners are apply to insert needles and observe multiple people in one session. Since the needles are left in for some time to allow the healing effect to take hold, those receiving the treatments have some time to relax while the practitioners rotate among the people in the room.

The community setting also allows for camaraderie, group support and can lessen feelings of isolation. Urban Remedy director and founder, Eric Baumgartner, says “A collective healing energy is created, enhancing the effects of each treatment and producing results that would otherwise seem miraculous.” Matt Pesendian, LAc, at Village Community Acupuncture in Sherman Oaks, describes the experience as “doing savasana [relaxation] in a group setting but people are receiving acupuncture.” According the Pesendian, this is how acupuncture is often practiced in China. Many community clinics still maintain private rooms for those who wish to receive individual sessions.


Urban Remedy
1509 B Abbot Kinney Bl. Venice, CA 90291
Community treatments $25 -50.

Village Community Acupuncture
with Steven D. Kanovitz and Matt Pesendian
14920 Burbank Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA. (818) 780 - 4300
Community treatments $30.

Santa Barbara Community Acupuncture Clinics
25 West Anapamu Street, Second Floor, Santa Barbara, CA. (805) 564 - 6057 x 118. $15 - 35.
11:00 A.M. - 1:30 P.M. Monday, Thursday, Friday and 10:00 A.M. - 1:30 P.M. Saturday.

Resources For Sustainable Health Care


The Teleosis Institute begun by Dr. Joel Kreisberg, DC, CCH provides resources, leadership programs and toolkits for the transformation of healthcare. The organization also publishes the quarterly journal Symbiosis: Journal of Ecologically Sustainable Medicine:

Bioneers is a nonprofit organization producing conferences, radio programs and other written material with expansive thinkers investigating our relationship with nature. The book, Ecological Medicine, is a collection of lectures from the Bioneers Conference:

Green Yoga Association seeks to reincorporate environmentally-inclusive values into the Yoga community, provides a forum for education for individuals, teachers, studios, events and conferences to become more environmentally responsible and to bring more yogic practices and ideas into the activist community to promote personal self-empowerment and self-sustaining behavior:

Center for Sustainable Medicine this website contains information compiled by Didi Pershouse, CCH, LAc, related to sustainability and healthcare. She is currently working on a book about this subject:

The American Holistic Nurses Association is including educational information about the relationship between the environment and health and healing at conferences and as part of the continuing education for holistic nurses:

Commonweal is a nonprofit health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, California. They conduct programs contributing to human and ecosystem health including the Commonweal Cancer Help Program and the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness. They support a wide array of support local, national and international initiatives that contribute to human health and a healthy environment:


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