Health & Happiness (Fox & Raven Publishing): Interview with Dr Arien
Today we have a chat with Dr Arien van der Merwe, author of the best-selling Health & Happiness, now available as an ebook from yours truly. So let’s not waste any time, and get to it!
Tell us a bit about yourself – how did your journey on the road of Health start, and where has it taken you?
I am a medical doctor with more than 30 years’ experience and the author of various books on health and wellbeing. I am also a frequent contributor to high profile magazines, and a regular guest on TV and radio. During 1994 I became so despondent about only treating symptoms of disease that I nearly retired from practice to open a coffee shop! I then made the decision to broaden my horizons through further studies in natural medicine.
I have always been curious about the cause of illness. To simply treat the symptoms of an ailment, for instance colds and flu with antibiotics and decongestants, never made sense to me. Over 90% of cases are caused by viruses against which antibiotics are not even effective, and these same antibiotics also suppress the immune system – sheer madness when faced with an infection! As was recently highlighted in the media, antibiotics are no longer effective, due to its abuse over many years.
Twenty years ago, a whole new world opened up to me. I am very grateful for my medical training and background, but with natural and integrative medicine, I do not only take care of the body and its symptoms but also include the mind and emotions, where illnesses and diseases stem from. With many natural medicines available, it is easier to help and support patients to allow the body to do what it wants to do – to heal, find balance, and be in homeostasis.
There are a vast number of natural healing options to choose from that will provide the body with effective support to heal itself, instead of just alleviating symptoms – and in the process suppressing immunity. Illness is the messenger to show you that you are out of balance, over-worked, or subconsciously harbouring negative emotions that cause distress, and suppress the immune system.
All chronic illnesses, health challenges and ailments respond well to a natural healing approach to restore function: Heart dis-ease; high cholesterol; high blood pressure; osteoarthritis; colds and flu; stress, anxiety, insomnia, dysthymia or mild depression; diabetes mellitus, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome; and menopause, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), to name but a few.
I am a teacher, with my motto ‘we teach best what we most have to learn’. I know optimal health is possible through health coaching and wellness education, in promoting health, wellness, and a happy, quality lifestyle.
What was the inspiration behind writing Health & Happiness?
It was a natural, logical outflow after the years of studying and then teaching others about taking self-responsibility for one’s own health and wellbeing. To me, my book is an elaborate business card to spread the knowledge of our natural state – after all, our bodies want to be healthy and we have to support this state of homeostasis, or internal balance and harmony. The book is a guide to this understand and implement this process.
As a thought leader in the field, what would you say is the biggest health concern facing South Africans today?
Definitely metabolic syndrome (overweight or obesity, especially with fat deposits around the abdomen; high blood pressure; high blood sugar, insulin resistance or full blown diabetes mellitus; high triglycerides and bad LDL-cholesterol or ‘apolipoprotein a’ with low good HDL-cholesterol; and moderate to severe depression to top it off – whether chicken or egg is immaterial). It is actually a global epidemic of mammoth proportions. A few years ago the statistic for HIV/Aids positive people globally was 35 million. In 2010 the statistic for metabolic syndrome was 150 million, expected to increase to 300 million by 2020 – and that is only for the diagnosed cases which is estimated to be around 20% of actual cases! This is why much of my teaching endeavours are around the body-mind solutions to this important health challenge.
You have written many books during your illustrious career. Are you working on anything new at the moment?
Yes, I’m busy completing Journey into Healing, an integrative approach to the many tools available when implementing a natural approach to restore our inherent health – after all, ‘health and happiness is our birthright’! This book is a continuation of Health & Happiness, a volume 2 if you want to call it that.
My main focus remains, as always, on identifying the origin or source of dis-ease, ever looking for the deeper cause of physical ailments, supporting patients in searching deeply for the cause in trapped emotions, and then finding ways to release it through various techniques while gently supporting the physical body with natural remedies and lifestyle changes.
A big concern with readers is that books on health, medicine et al can get too complicated for the ordinary person. Talk us through why and how Health & Happiness is accessible to all readers.
I deliberately wrote it with the goal in mind that it has to be accessible for ordinary people to understand and use. I’ve had excellent feedback from readers over the years about its user friendliness as a practical guide. Some even say the book is always on their bedside table, right next to their bible!
What would be your one most important health tip for the average South African?
Take responsibility and control of your own health and wellbeing. Don’t believe everything you hear, especially if it’s fear based, but read, explore, discover your own way to ‘health and happiness’!
In your book, you talk about treating causes instead of symptoms. Where do you think the medical industry went wrong in this regard?
Exactly because it treats symptoms and not causes! To treat symptoms might lead to short term alleviation of any disease or illness, but it never ever gets to the cause, the underlying root of why someone develops symptoms in the first place. Mainstream medicine has a very narrow arsenal of tools, namely drugs or surgery. Mainstream medicine is wonderful for acute disease or trauma (e.g. acute asthma, burst appendix, head trauma after an accident), but not so effective in gently supporting the body back to health, it’s natural state. This is what’s required in at least 95% of people who visit a primary health care facility. This is exactly what a natural, integrative approach to health actually does!
Health & Happiness explores the connection between stress and good health. Do you have a stress relief practice for our readers to practice at home, and improve their health while they’re at it?
Yes, this simple quick fix breathing exercise that is also on my relaxation CD Stress Solutions: Relax and Unwind:
Sit upright in a chair, feet flat on the floor, shoes removed; back straight, arms and hands relaxed in your lap. Become aware of your whole body, scan and relax your feet, then lower legs, knees, upper legs, buttocks, tummy, back, chest, shoulders, arms, hands. Move to your neck and relax all the muscles, then your head and face. Do a complete body scan and relax any remaining tension. Bring your attention to your breathing and make it deep and slow. Breathe in deeply, hold and sigh it out. Stress breathing is fast and shallow, relaxation breathing deep and slow. By doing this breathing, your body goes into relaxation mode within a minute or two. Do this breathing for about 3-5 minutes and then slowly bring your awareness back into your whole body, the chair, the room. You can do this anywhere, anytime when you’re feeling overwhelmed, or every morning upon waking, to ensure a peaceful day ahead.
Nutrition is very important when it comes to leading a healthy life. What are the danger foods at the moment, and what should we be eating?
As always, fast food and take-aways with too much fat, sugar and refined flour, and very little nutritional value. Best to eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, protein, healthy fats and oils; low GI, slow release, whole wheat carbohydrates in limited amounts, for sustained and readily available energy and fuel. Boils down to common sense and listening to what your body (not your left brain mind!) needs – it knows!
Tell us about the Healthy Living Space, and what you do there.
The Healthy Living Space is a Medical and Aesthetic Centre that promotes health and wellbeing using an integrative holistic approach. The Healthy Living Space also specialises in weight loss, especially fat loss, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance (Dr WGG Gauché’s well-known Weight Control Clinic Program, established in 1974), the removal of stubborn fat and cellulite using top class CoaxMED medical equipment, and treatments for normal as well as problem skin like acne, wrinkles, and ageing and dry skin. Only 100% natural skin and hair care products are used, containing NO petrochemical waste products such as parabens, liquid paraffin, petrolatum, petroleum, glycols and mineral oils. The Healthy Living Space also offers stress management courses, meditation and relaxation programs, and PlayFunFitness™ classes.
A logical next step for the Weight Control Clinic was to offer our highly successful program to those who are not able to visit our Space. The complete program (except, of course, for the natural and safe injections, weigh-ins and weekly support sessions) is now also available as an online order service.
Dr Arien van der Merwe MBChB (Pretoria) FRSPH (London) MISMA (UK) – saying ‘cheers to life!‘ in the photo – has been a medical doctor for 30 years, specialising in body-mind and integrative, natural medicine, workplace wellness and stress management since 1995. Arien is a well-known and experienced public speaker and trainer, internationally published author of 19 books and 12 training manuals on health and wellness, and medical specialist: health and wellbeing.
She is the Director of Health Stress Management Gauteng (Pty) Ltd, established in 2006, to disseminate health and wellness information to the workplace.
Dr Arien writes for, and consults regularly, to many magazines and newspapers in South Africa, and has appeared in countless national radio and TV shows as guest. She is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Public Health in the UK, for the work she does in South Africa to promote public health and wellness through education, training and communication. She is also a Member of the International Stress Management Association, UK branch.
You can find out more about Dr Arien and the Healthy Living Space by visiting her website.