Nutrition Support Blog: AWOL for Medicinal Reasons
July 30, 2013
If you have read any of my past blogs, it is probably obvious that I try to use the best available evidence to guide my clinical decisions. However, while searching PubMed for a particular systematic review recently, I came across a medical topic where my experiences have been so compelling that the lack of good data does not deter me from embracing this therapy,…and encourage others to use it as well.
The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku is reported to reduced stress, improve concentration, diminish pain, and enhance immunity! Without even knowing it, I have been practicing shinrin-yoku for years (1). Shinrin-yoku does not have anything to do with throwing stars (shuriken) or the wife of rock stars (Yoko Ono). Shinrin-yoku (Sanlimyok in Korean) is the practice of “forest bathing” or forest therapy, which involves being surrounded by a forest or natural area for the purpose of improving mental and physical health.
I was extremely fortunate to grow up at a time and place where not every minute of life was planned, and with a natural area containing cliffs, waterfalls, creeks and woods just a skip and jump away from my house. Even while we were busy exploring, swimming and having adventures of somewhat dubious safety, the joy that came from just being out in nature was evident. Certainly, it did not hurt that in the process we were inadvertently doing enough physical activity to put most “boot camp” exercise programs to shame. My experiences in graduate school as a semi-captive in a large city cemented my understanding that being away from the “Greenwood” for too long caused undue stress.
These days I have Appalachian foothills near my backyard and I try to balance my indoor work existence with a regular dose of shinrin-yoku. I have found that periodically I benefit from an even longer outdoor experience, but work seems to get in the way of how long I can be away. I have tried to advocate to my employers and insurance company for additional shinrin-yoku time, for medicinal reasons of course, but these requests are rejected because of some nonsense about a lack of adequate sized randomized, controlled trials. (Dang, hoisted by my own petard http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petard).
I offer this blog as my medical excuse for going so long between blog entries. I also encourage you to try shinrin-yoku, lack of evidence notwithstanding. I have returned from my walkabout with less stress, an even greater respect of nature, a renewed appreciation for hot showers and ready to dive back into the nutrition support literature.
1. Kamioka H, et al. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials on curative and health enhancement effects of forest therapy. Psychol Res Behav Manag. 2012;5:85-95
“Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once
in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods.
Wash your spirit clean.”
- John Muir
“I climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills”
- Landslide, Fleetwood Mac 1975