The early healing systems that developed in the Ancient world are divided into three main groups; Greek, Chinese and Ayurvedic. These medical systems are really philosophies of health. They are in sharp contrast to Western medicine, which is the science of disease and its treatment.
Western medicine relies on sophisticated tools to diagnosis disease and a uniform treatment (drugs and surgery) to correct it. The Traditional approaches on the other hand, focuses their attention on the individuality of the patient and in preventing the disease from occurring in the first place. Thus the primary philosophical difference between the Traditional approach and the modern, scientific approach to healing is the latter’s emphasis on treatment and not prevention.
Pharmaceuticals are the treatment of choice of today’s physicians. This program hopes to assimilate the benefits of both schools.
The Traditional approach to health is based on the circulatory balance of entities. Their approach was specifically designed to fit the land and the environment it grew out of. Their approach invariably was the one best suited to their culture.
They each explained the physiologic, pathogenic and therapeutic processes in terms of contrasting pairs of understandable qualities (hot/cold, dry/wet, light/dark, and active/passive, strait/curved, yin/yang or even good/evil. The main thrust of ancient therapies was to return the body to a state of harmony by reversing stress.
Recent discoveries of the natural pathways in the body lend credence to herbal theories. Herbal cures have developed over the millennia and still being used by a majority of the earth’s population. Research is now being conducted on botanical products in order to validate Traditional medicine using the principals of medical science.
The Athlete’s Diet is based on the first Traditional medical principal. “Let food be thy medicine”, the other Hippocratic oath.
Traditional medicine denotes the health practices of Native peoples. This includes American Indians, Arabs, Amazonian and African tribes as well as the Ancient Greek, Indian and Chinese peoples.
Their medicine depended on the use of plants or botanicals to prevent and cure illness. The foods that were chosen contained colorful antioxidant or anti-inflammatory compounds and higher amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids. The library of compounds in plants provides built in balances to prevent side effects. Their effect on biological systems is thus safer and different from that displayed by pharmaceutical drugs.
Herbs used by native cultures contained either one of four classes of compounds. These compounds are classified as an antioxidant, an anti-inflammatory agent, a plant steroid (saponin or an alkaloid. Most plants contain a combination of compounds in varying proportions. These plant constituents are further explored in the chapter on plant biology.
The grouping of these molecules is based more on their mechanism of action than on their chemical composition. The compounds may either be a unique antioxidant, which protects vital structures by intercepting free radicals. Plant compounds are also highly specific anti-inflammatory agents. They function by interfering with arachidonic acid metabolism via the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways. Plants also contain less omega-6 fatty acids. Their foods provide a balanced ratio of omega-3 fats to omega-6 fats. The higher the proportion of omega-6 fatty acids the more arachidonic acid becomes available and converted to prostanoids, the chemical enablers of inflammation.