On Okinawa, finding a natural path to health
May 23, 2006
CHATAN, Okinawa — Bert Griffith firmly believes there’s more to being healthy than regular doctor visits. Good health is a lifestyle choice that takes work — especially if you’ve made decades of poor health choices.
Griffith, a retired Air Force officer and former Kadena Air Base Health and Wellness Center director, says that’s why about a year ago he opened the Okinawa Wellness Teaching Center, just off Highway 23 near Kadena’s Gate 5. It’s the only English-language wellness center in central Okinawa.
Griffith, also health promotions manager for Marine Corps Community Services on Okinawa, holds a doctorate in natural medicine.
Our bodies want us to be healthy, he says. But we often don’t pay attention to what our bodies say. He said his center, open to Americans and Okinawans alike, is dedicated to providing a holistic natural approach to health.
As a naturopath, he said, he focuses on treating the causes rather than the results of the disease process. Griffith said that after an hourlong consultation with a patient, he usually works up a treatment program emphasizing natural therapies, such as good nutrition, exercise, herbal medicine, vitamin and mineral supplements, lifestyle changes and stress management.
Integrating medicine with healthy livingThe Wellness Teaching Center has massage therapists to rub you the right way and a chiropractor to work out the more serious kinks. Griffith, author of three heath-education books on headaches and high blood pressure, offers consultation and counseling on health issues such as weight loss, arthritis, insomnia, prevention of osteoporosis and cancer and aging.
He also helps patients cope with conditions that can confound doctors and patients alike, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
“We don’t oppose conventional medicine,” Griffith said. “I embrace treatments that are necessary to help the body heal itself. What I do is to use my background in family medicine and integrate it into helping our patients find healthy lifestyles.
“During my career in the military I realized there was a huge need for practitioners who could supplement acute care with a holistic approach to health,” he said. "During my last four or five years in the service, I realized what I was basically doing is doling out meds and advice in quick 15-minute visits.
“That’s why initial consultations here last an hour,” he said. “We need to get to know the patient if we’re going to steer them onto better lifestyle choices. We’re not here to supplant the medical clinics but to add to them.”
They’re more than just a doctorThe naturopath is a teacher who helps patients take action to improve their health and quality of life, he said. “Naturopaths believe that if you support your body you will help to heal yourself.”
The approach attracted the Wellness Teaching Center’s most recent staff addition, Ken Holliday, an American chiropractor who has been practicing and teaching in Japan for seven years.
“Ken joining us really fills a big hole we had in the kinds of therapies we could offer,” Griffith said.
“I do not fix people,” Holliday said, joining the discussion. Instead, he said, he makes what are called “adjustments” to a patient’s spine, applying pressure to bones and “unlocking” them from improper positions.
“There’s a difference between disease and dis-ease,” Holliday said. “Disease needs to be managed but dis-ease, where the body is no longer at ease with itself, can be corrected.”
Holliday said he has experience in treating some of the most puzzling fatigue disorders, such as fibromyalgia. Patients with the rheumatic autoimmune disorder typically feel pain all over, sleep poorly and are chronically tired and depressed.
Holliday said many fibromyalgia sufferers have found that simple chiropractic adjustments to the neck, spine and the painful spots can significantly reduce their pain.
Besides chiropractic care, the center also offers other forms of massage therapy, reflexology and herbal and nutritional supplements. Griffith also organizes free monthly workshops on various health issues.
“Most Americans live too short and die too long,” Griffith said. “It is not how long you live but how well you live that is important.”
For more information about the Okinawa Wellness Teaching Center, call 931-0910 or visit the center’s Web site at: www.owtc.info/blog/.
Ten commandments of healthy living
CHATAN, Okinawa — Bert Griffith, the founder and director of the Okinawa Wellness Teaching Center, says his passion for teaching wellness is fueled by these ten commandments:
I. Thou shalt adhere to a low-fat/low-calorie diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and drink plenty of water.
II. Thou shalt exercise five times weekly, at least 30 minutes each session.
III. Thou shalt get plenty of rest.
IV. Thou shalt maintain thy ideal body weight.
V. Thou shalt not use tobacco products, and use alcohol in moderation.
VI. Thou shalt manage thy stress.
VII. Thou shalt wear sunscreen.
VIII. Thou shalt perform one random act of kindness each day.
IX. Thou shalt cultivate enduring relationships with a few friends and relatives.
X. Thou shalt count thy blessings; rarely is the grass greener on the other side of the fence.