Genetics

What are ‘green prescriptions,’ the new remedy for lifestyle, genetic and chronic diseases?

Spend time in the wilderness. Walk the hills. Try forest bathing. Raft in calming waters. Try your hand at therapeutic horticulture … All this sounds like friendly advice from a friend concerned about your health but is actually what a standard prescription from a doctor in the future could look like.

In some parts of the world, it is already a reality. In India too, physicians are waking up to the merits of ‘green prescriptions,’ as a remedy for several lifestyle, genetic and chronic diseases.

Nature nature

Medicines alone cannot do the job of restoring health. Green prescriptions are here to assist. It is a health management protocol wherein, in addition to medication, one is encouraged to make the most of the healing facets of nature. Doctors are writing these for various ailments, including long COVID-19. According to a recent Lancet study, long COVID can impact the quality of life for two years after infection.

Spending time in nature can offer curative perks. The World Health Organization (WHO) seconds this. It describes nature as ‘our greatest source of health and well-being.’ The Finns have been one of the first to acknowledge this. In Finland, five hours a month in nature is considered the minimum dose to recover from the aftermath of the pandemic. If you do not have the luxury of a forest, a walk in the park will do.

Clinicians from New Zealand, the UK and Japan are leading us to ‘greener pastures.’ Canada recently joined the bandwagon. Doctors in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario are actively prescribing ‘nature healing’ as a remedy for lung diseases, diabetes, blood pressure, mood and sleep disorders, and anxiety. Some are even issuing passes to the country’s national parks, marine conservation areas and historic sites as part of their treatment plan.

“There is good reason for this,” says Meerut-based Internal Medicine specialist Dr Suresh Sahai, who recently started giving out green prescriptions to his patients. “For one, being close to nature is associated with better endocrinological function. It lowers the risk of diabetes, thyroid diseases, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, infertility, and more. It also helps in immunoregulation, an increasing matter of concern. ”

Biodiversity loss is at the center of this. Over 90 percent of the area under the biodiversity hotspots in India has been lost, according to a 2021 report by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE). “It is a grave matter for scientists and environmental researchers as this loss could make the human species sick. Environmental microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria and fungi that make up the microbial biodiversity, are instrumental in maintaining a robust ecosystem. “It is necessary for humans to be exposed to a variety of these microbes to build immunity. “If one is closed off from it or if microbes from the environments fade, the immune system will never know how to build a defense response against these invaders, thus increasing susceptibility to infections,” says Sahai.

The immune system was brought down to the battleground during Covid and tested it all ways possible. It has shown just how important its role will be even in the future. “But unfortunately, many cities are seeing a biodiversity loss. Changes in this ecosystem increase the risk of infectious diseases both in humans and in animals. It also puts nations at the risk of zoonotic outbreaks, ”says Sahai, who believes that the many national parks in India (close to 63) should be leveraged as well-being hotspots.

“Even if a tiny part of these massive sanctuaries are developed for safe access, humans could benefit
enormously like it is already happening in some countries. ” In the United States, the Park Rx America platform lets doctors give access to state parks to patients. In South Korea, forest bathing is encouraged. It is a Japanese practice of inducing calmness in oneself by spending time in the verdant surroundings
of a forest.

Green prescriptions are not limited to spending time in nature alone. It extends to social connections, getting enough sunlight, exercise, and clean eating. “For instance, urban Indians just do not get enough sun. Exposure to it is necessary for the production of a chemical in the brain called serotonin that regulates the mood, digestion, sleep, and libido, among more. It is fundamental to how you feel and operate, ”says Delhi-based life coach Mridula Raman.

Fostering positive social connections is one of the most important suggestions on Raman’s green prescriptions. “Strong, fulfilling connections increases life span by 50 percent. In fact, research has shown that the genes of lonely people work differently. Their white blood cells are prone to overactivity, increasing the chance of an inflammation. Loneliness can lower viral defense and exacerbate heart conditions. Social connectedness, on the other hand, helps recover from disease faster and may even get you off anti-depressants, ”she says.

How much is good enough?

Your doctor will tell you how much of a certain natural remedy you need. The important thing to understand is that there are no rigid rules around this form of natural treatment. “Also, green prescriptions are offered as supplemental support and not as a substitute for medications. For some, a daily 10-minute walk in the park or a stroll by a lake (being close to water triggers positive neurochemicals) is all one needs. For others, it could be spending a few months away from their overly-stimulated life, ”says Raman.

You can also do something as simple as planting trees. Researchers in Canada have found that adding a few trees to a block improved perceived health and well-being as much as increasing people’s income by $ 10,000 or making them seven years younger. Ready to heal with green energy?

What a green prescription could read like:

✥ Reconnecting with nature by taking walks, watching sunsets / sunrises, forest bathing, spending time by a water body, camping, boating, planting trees and flower beds, and walking barefoot on the grass, among other things.

Oster Fostering social connections by making new friends, acquainting yourself with neighbors and colleagues who you do not know much about, joining social groups, and spending more time with family, and pets.

✥ Prioritizing eating clean and exercising.

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