Water is Medicine

Kenya - health education #1

Guest bloggers Mark Hogg and Wallace J. Nichols are jazzed about the Global Missions Health Conference from November 5 – 7. They each shared what they mean when they say, “Water is Medicine.

Mark Hogg
Founder & CEO of WaterStep
Because the human body is made mostly of water, it’s not difficult to imagine the importance of both the quantity and quality of water that is available to us on a daily basis. I had the honor of meeting Dr. J Nichols at the recent IF Water event a the Water Tower in Louisville, KY sponsored by WaterStep. J, as he prefers to be called, was our keynote speaker and in his latest book, Blue Mind, he dives deep, uncovering the latest research about water and defining its nurturing and healing power.
“Water is Medicine” may best be understood when living in a world where the risk of waterborne illness is a daily fear. When the water source is trusted it’s easy to underestimate the impact of a healthy dose of this life giving sustenance. Unfortunately, in many areas of the world, water sources are contaminated with bacteria, metals and chemicals that compromise human health. Over 660 million people around the world lack access to safe clean water.
As safe water access and quality are among the greatest concerns in the world, now is the time for action to address the global water crisis with innovation, ownership and compassion.
Dr. “J” Nichols travels the world to tell his Blue Mind story and the ability of water to heal, and make us healthier and happier. As a symbol of awareness, J hands out blue marbles as a reminder of the power of water and its healing properties. The blue marble is a symbol of awareness and gratitude for all of us to become more water-minded and engage in the power of life.
This week, Louisville is host to the Global Missions Health Conference at Southeast Christian Church. Waterstep is honored to be exhibiting at the conference to teach how providing safe, clean water can serve as medicine for an ailing world. Mission work around the world relies on access to clean, safe water and WaterStep provides the tools and training to achieve the work of missionaries.
So join us at WaterStep. Pick up your blue marble and pass on the message “Water Is Medicine”.
Wallace J. Nichols, PhD
Author and Researcher of Blue Mind
Jay“Pure water is the world’s first and foremost medicine.” ~ Slovakian Proverb
What if water could help boost creativity, reduce stress, and increase happiness? What if it soothed achy muscles, improved healing, lowered blood pressure and increased circulation? You might wonder if it was some kind of snake oil scam. The reality is that clean and wild waters in all forms offer medically proven health, healing and nurture more affordably and accessibly than any substance on our planet.
While water is no magic bullet or stand-alone cure to the maladies facing humanity, when water is used complementarily it can enhance other physical and mental health therapies and treatments, reduce pain and speed recovery.
On a recent visit to Louisville, Kentucky I was fortunate to spend time with Mark Hogg, founder and CEO of WaterStep. I toured their facility and learned about how their simple water technologies, procedures and health-hygiene education brings safe water to remote communities around the world. We discussed how hygiene and hydration are always first and foremost on the path to improved health. Without clean water for drinking, washing and cooking, there simply is no life. But our conversation went deeper, as always seems to be the case with Mark because he and the team at WaterStep believe Water Is Medicine.
Here is a brief summary of common human maladies and how water provides healing power:
Addiction – Our brains can become addicted to almost anything: drugs, alcohol, gambling, over-eating and technology to name a few. The good news is that we can also become addicted to activities that don’t cause our health and personal lives to unravel. A number of water-based sports such as sailing, surfing, paddling, swimming and fishing have been used as replacements for the bad stuff. More good news is that the side effects are few and the after-effect is pure stoke, a blissed out feeling also referred to as “blue mind.” Programs are popping up around the world that replace one dopamine-seeking activity with another, saving lives and families alike.
Anxiety – Disorders related to anxiety represent another category where water comes in handy. Van Curaza, a former pro surfer and addict, runs Operation Surf in Califormia, where his team works closely with veterans suffering from post traumatic stress to learn how to surf and relieve anxiety. Groups like Heroes on the Water employ kayak fishing to achieve the same ends. The results are encouraging for those who participate. Veterans report improved sleep, lower anxiety levels and a new purpose in life following water therapy. Another area where preliminary results are promising involves floatation in salt water as used in the treatment of both PTS and eating disorders. Author Emily Kate Noren tells her story of curing her eating disorders in “Unsinkable” and Neuroscientist Dr. Justin Feinstein at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma is leading a program that pairs state of the art brain scanning with floatation. Preliminary results are being processed and should be widely reported within the year.
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Ailments – Some sixty percent of modern ailments and illnesses are related to stress. This is partly because stress increases cortisol which promotes inflammation, slowing the healing process. Here’s a partial list, from head to toe of stress related infirmities:
Brain and nerves: Headaches, feelings of despair, lack of energy, sadness, nervousness, anger, irritability, trouble concentrating, memory problems, double sleeping, anxiety, depression.
Skin: Acne, psoriasis and other skin problems.
Muscles and joints: Muscle aches and pension (especially in the neck, shoulders and
back), increased risk of reduced bone density.
Heart: Faster heartbeat, rise in blood pressure, increased risk of high cholesterol and
heart attack.
Stomach: Nausea, stomach pain, heartburn, weight gain.
Intestines: Diarrhea, constipation and other digestive problems.
Reproductive system: For women, irregular or more painful periods, reduced sexual
desire; for men, impotence, lower sperm production, reduced sexual desire.
Immune system: Lowered ability to fight or recover from illness.
Studies show that proximity to water (rivers, streams, beaches, aquariums) can significantly increase relaxation. Treatments for virtually all of the ailments listed can be supported by water-based therapy. Exercise in water provides the support many rehab and aging patients need and is well documented as a leading form of prevention and recovery.
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At Risk Populations – Individuals, including youth, post-rehab patients and prisoners are often considered at risk or vulnerable for a variety of reasons. Spending extended periods of time on the water has proven an effective “last chance” therapy for teens on the verge of incarceration. Ocean Wilderness Therapy programs in Hawaii and projects like Soul River in Oregon reconnect young people to wild waters. Water-based therapies have proven effective as part of programs designed to help recovered addicts avoid relapses. “Blue rooms” are being experimented with in solitary confinement units in prisons, reducing injury to both inmates and staff. Used in conjunction with other time-proven approaches water-based therapies show strong promise.
Attention Deficit – The inability to focus and sustain attention leads to ADHD, memory issues, problem solving, critical thinking and can impede the creative process. The late neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote: “There is something about being in water and swimming which alters my mood, gets my thoughts going, as nothing else can ….. theories and stories would construct themselves in my mind as I swam to and fro, or round and round…sentences and paragraphs would write themselves in my mind, and at such times I would have to come to shore every so often to discharge them.” Dr. Sacks was a brilliant thinker and writer. For him to claim that some of his best ideas came to him while in water should grab your attention.
Musician Pharrell Williams said water is where he first discovered his love for music: “through the motion of water…my imagination ran wild.” Artists, musicians, scientists and people working out of all kinds of problems have turned to water to loosen the creative process. The next time you’re stuck, try walking or sitting near water, a dip or a swim, even a bath or shower, and see if it doesn’t move the gears and get new ideas flowing. Be warned, keep a notebook and pen handy.
Attitude – Many educational programs exist that take students on field trips to our many lakes, rivers and oceans. While there kids learn about animals, the water cycle and ecology. We can also teach them that these waterways can help them manage anger, increase self-esteem, develop leadership, deepen friendships, and boost creativity. Healthy, wild waterways can therefore help people stay in school, maintain healthy relationships, further their careers, and even stay out of jail.
Autism – At thirteen years old Naoki Higashida found that none of the books he had read about autism accurately described the experience from his perspective, so he wrote his own book. “The Reason I Jump” became a New York Times bestseller. In it he describes his relationship with water: “In the water it’s so quiet and I’m so free and happy there. Outside of the water there’s always too much stimulation for our eyes and our ears and it’s impossible for us to guess how long one second is or how long an hour takes. If only we could go back to that distant, distant watery past—then we’d be able to live as contentedly and as freely as you.” Water is not a cure for autism and not all people have the same experience as Naoki, but wherever I go I encounter similar stories. Water provides relief, joy, moments of peace, a break the cacophony for those across the rustic spectrum.
Access to Water – For water to work as medicine patients and care givers need access. Proximity, contamination and cultural perceptions can limit access to safe water. Organizations like WaterStep play a critical role in ensuring that people have access to clean, safe water. Water gives us hygiene and hydration and is the basis of a healthy economy but it also provides a medicine chest for healing. Water gives us life and healthy waterways make our lives worth living.
Add water to your teaching and parenting tool box, first aid kit and make it a central part of your personal health and well-being regime. Water truly is medicine.
“Blue Mind” by Wallace “J” Nichols, PhD at www.wallacejnichols.org
Heroes on the Water at www.heroesonthewater.org
Ocean Wilderness Therapy: Marimed.org
Operation Surf at www.amazingsurfadventures.org
Soul River Runs Deep at www.soulriverrundsdeep.com
Surfer’s Healing at www.surfershealing.org
“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida
“Unsinkable” by Emily Kate Noren at www.emilykatenoren.com

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