Erica Matluck is a Naturopathic Doctor, Nurse Practitioner, and Holistic Coach. Her experience working in conventional and alternative medicine makes her have a clear lense on some of the significant obstacles to health. She is also the founder of Seven Senses, where she leads transformational wellness experiences through holistic practices.
Below is an excerpt from the compelling article she wrote on mindbodygreen, where she shares her insights on why health is fundamentally a cultural issue:
“We live in a culture that associates suffering with weakness, so there is a collective tendency to put on a smile, hold in our hardships, and selectively reveal them to professionals behind closed doors (often in fluorescent-lit, windowless, sterile environments). In my opinion as a naturopathic doctor and nurse practitioner, this system poses a significant obstacle to individual and collective well-being.
Our current health care system can be isolating—and that’s a problem.
When I began practicing integrative medicine, I found it concerning that my patients felt so alone and isolated by their health issues. I saw thousands of adults complaining about their digestion yet felt ill-equipped to control their diets because they ate their meals in a corporate cafeteria. I saw numerous young people prepared to go on antidepressants because they were unhappy in their relationships but felt pressure to ‘settle down.’ Some days I saw over a dozen patients who were chronically fatigued from the stress and burnout of working 80-hour weeks doing work they weren’t passionate about.
Every one of these patients was professionally and socially ‘successful’ but felt weak and inadequate because they were not able to achieve well-being under these conditions.
Each person was dealing with a significant conflict between the societal and cultural influences on their lifestyles and their health. Every one of these patients was professionally and socially ‘successful’ but felt weak and inadequate because they were not able to achieve well-being under these conditions.
When I suggested that their struggles had as much to do with culture as it did their health, my patients would ask why nobody else was having these problems. This feeling of being the only one who can’t handle the demands of modern living became an additional source of suffering. But from my perspective, EVERYONE was having these problems. They just weren’t sharing them with anyone but me.
Health is not simply an individual issue. Yes, genetics and personal lifestyle choices matter a lot. But health is largely a cultural issue. Collectively, we have agreed to ways of eating, living, working, sleeping, expressing ourselves, and engaging with technology and the environment that do not support health.