My answer to letter from Jean S.

I’ve talked a lot recently about the idea of moderation in all things. And a few weeks ago, I published a Daily Dispatch called Wealthy, but not healthy nor wise. In the article, I pointed out that the French drink more wine and eat more higher-fat foods than Americans do. Yet they live longer. And have lower rates of heart disease.

The article prompted thoughtful responses from quite a few readers of the Daily Dispatch.

And today, I’d like to share one with you from Jean S. Here’s what she wrote:
I agree with you that people need to reduce stress but I don’t agree with advising people to drink alcohol to relieve stress. I know an elderly woman who is an alcoholic because, according to her, her doctor told her to have a drink before dinner when she was going through a time of stress. She just kept drinking.

One time, years ago, my doctor at the time told me that I was under such stress that I should do anything to relieve it. He said to drink and smoke, because the drinking and smoking would not be as bad for me as the stress I was under. I understood what he meant but I also knew that I cannot drink or smoke because I am sensitive to alcohol and my father was an asthmatic and his doctor said his children should not smoke (and a doctor told me that I am borderline asthmatic).

Instead of drinking to relieve stress, I signed up for an evening class in drawing and painting, and met a funny friend I could visit with and laugh with. That was the best medicine. Another time, years later, when a doctor put me on medication I reacted to, I stopped taking it but joined a T’ai Chi group and that helped to relieve stress by exercise and meeting new friends.

There are many things people can do rather than drinking to reduce stress, even if they think the drinking is in moderation.

And it is well known, as you know, that meat contains harmful things these days and some have related that to cancer.

People get into habits of behavior that begin with small steps, then a bit more and a bit more, until a few drinks become many, and a bit of meat eating becomes habit.

I believe it is better to accumulate habits that are healthy. We can find healthy things to drink and eat that we truly enjoy, and enjoyable healthy activities that reduce stress. I used to be with a group of friends who got together once a month for a potluck healthy meal. We like our vegetables and fruit desserts with herbal tea. We can study nutrition and learn how to have balanced meals without meat. I still eat a bit of hard cheese such as gouda or edam because I learned it has vitamin K and it’s good to take that with cod liver oil.

The French may drink wine and smoke, but surely there are many alternative activities for an enjoyable and healthy life. There are so many things people can do the choices are almost limitless.

This is a lot of food (and drink) for thought, Jean.

But it is a slippery slope argument…that a little bit of something leads to bigger problems for everyone.

We get into trouble when we make recommendations, rules, and policies to “protect” a potentially susceptible individual at the expense of everyone else. We should treat each person as an individual.

“Collectivist” solutions that impose restrictions on everyone, just because a few can’t handle the freedom to make their own choices, put us further down another treacherous “slippery slope.” To the loss of freedom of choice.

The government at all levels is busy taking away freedom from all citizens. It uses the argument that it needs to protect some individuals in society. The government can ultimately make us all safe from everything–except from them.

But everyone is an individual. Just as we say, “physician heal thyself,” so too, “patient know thyself.”

Yes, some people cannot and should not drink.

But many, many other people–and entire cultures and societies–can drink responsibly. In moderation. Moderation does not mean prohibition or abolition.

Also, true alcoholics unfortunately almost never tell the truth. Even to themselves. So perhaps your friend’s doctor story is just another convenient excuse?

Be wary of people who can’t control their alcohol. And of government policies designed to “protect” everyone else.

Asthmatics should not smoke. Or inhale smoke. Acupuncture is a wonderful but ignored asthma treatment, as you can learn in the May issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter.

Also, people with a genetic deficiency of an enzyme called “alpha-one antitrypsin” should not smoke. They will develop emphysema. And they may develop emphysema even if they don’t smoke.

But when does the government ever tell us that about smoking?

I have always said, heavy-to-moderate smokers should cut back.

Depending upon the individual, the physician can suggest trying to cut back to half-a-pack per day or less. Instead of going “cold turkey.” Or taking a dangerous drug like Chantix.

It’s a medical fact that nicotine can help you maintain a healthy weight. It can also help with Parkinson’s Disease, for example.

If moderation is helpful, and abuse is harmful, that does not equate to forbidding even moderation.

If we did not live under such constant stress, my guess is that moderate drinking would not show a health benefit.

Fortunately, there are other ways of relieving stress, as you suggest.

I understand your concern about meat. As I have written about before, more than 95 percent of meat sources today are from poor, abused animals. They’re overweight, with excess fat. And they’re pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.

These are the fatty meats that USDA actually considers higher grade!

But the fact remains that organic meats remain nature’s best sources of many nutrients, especially bioavailable minerals. These nutrients can be hard to get otherwise.

And don’t forget the high-quality protein in meat. We need this to maintain muscle mass as we get older. Recent studies show that the government’s recommended daily meat intake is too paltry by half for maintaining healthy muscle in aging men.

In principal, I agree with Jean. Some of us need a little help to transition to a fully natural, healthful lifestyle. And the circumstances under which we eat, drink and live can be just as important as what we actually put into our mouths.