Scripture says at eighty we will face “only toil and trouble. a decline in my pancreas to produce essential digestive enzymes, osteoarthritis in my knee, and other so called “autoimmune” diseases. Why?
Saint Porphyrios says,
“Thank God for granting me many illnesses, ‘My Christ, Your love knows no limits!’ How I am alive is a miracle.
This is difficult, but I am learning. There is more.
As we age, we begin to experience the limits of our physical existence and are continually humbled by each discovery. Why does God allow us to decay like this? According to Saint Porphyrios we are allowed these illnesses for our benefit. We must however “endure them without complaint and glorify God, asking for His mercy.” Why? He is preparing us for what is yet to come, eternal life in His Kingdom.
I have tried to be a good student and learn these lessons of life. Fortunately, through His grace I have been able to overcome most ailments thrown at me. I have learned that health is a joint effort. It requires effort on my part as well as the grace of God. In the church language we call this Synergia. I learned I have to take personal responsibility for my physical well being. I can’t just leave it up to the medical establishment or the drug companies fix us or comfort us. An annual physical exam and a few pills is not sufficient.
Here is what I have learned so far:
- Do not accept the diagnosis of aging. The body is renewable in many ways. Lifestyle maters.
- Do not rely only on the standard treatments offered by medical doctors who are trained to treat symptoms rather than causes. Alternatives exist.
- Do not accept the need to continually take any kind of drug. They all have side effects and often are geared to treat only symptoms. Again, there are alternatives.
- Seek medical advice from a medical doctor that is trained in integrative or functional medicine. Find one who understands the healing power of diet, exercise, and natural supplements and alternative treatments (such as acupuncture) and will provide support for lifestyle changes.
- Begin to take charge of your heath by the time you are fifty. Much of what you face at 80 will have begin in your fifties or earlier. Learning to be preemptive is a far easier strategy.
With one exception I have been able to overcome the challenges the Lord has put in front of me without reliance on pharmaceuticals. In addition to practicing a sound Orthodox way of life, I studied and sought for the causes of each ailment. I found an integrative medical doctor trained in functional medicine, learned about alternative medical treatments, healthy diets, and need for key supplements as we age.
My main advice if you are over 80 is to seek the cause of what ails you. Don’t accept the the explanation of “autoimmune” disease or simply aging, Seek alternative to treatment with drugs. Search the internet. Talk with other integrative health providers. Listen to elders who have overcome your condition. Be willing to make lifestyle changes.
Sleep: Get seven to eight hours regularly
Stress: Eliminate sources of stress in your life
Diet: Learn to eat what is good for your body instead of what you like. Let go of old likes and desires. Buy organic, buy whole foods instead of processed ones, eliminate those with high sugar content and refined carbohydrates.
Exercise: Strength building as well as aerobatic exercise such as walking.
Spiritual: Nurture your soul and to always strive to do His will: worship, pray daily, fast, participate regularly in the sacraments, read Scripture and the writings of the Church fathers, seek spiritual companionship, help others. Life is short and at 80 we become aware of the limits of our physical existence. We need to be ever mindful of our purpose. That is to become united with God in love.
Final word from Saint Porphyrios:
I do not pray to the Lord to make me well. I pray for Him to make me good.
The days of our life are seventy years,
or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.