The not-so-secret ways to a healthier and longer life



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Meeting the Swiss naturopath, Dr Alfred Vogel, changed pharmacist Jan de Vries’ life forever – and in turn has improved the health of more than 100,000 people.

As the youngest ever pharmacy graduate in his native Netherlands, he was “doomed to be swallowed up by the big (drug) companies”.

Instead, when he met Dr Vogel at a homeopathic conference in 1959 and made a disparaging remark about complementary medicine, the great man told him not to be so small-minded. This tiny response started him on a long, difficult, often impecunious, but ultimately hugely rewarding, road for Jan. Because of the lack of practitioners, he had to train all over the world and he lost many friends, and he says everybody thought “he’s going to be a quack doctor”.

This came on top of the dire wartime deprivations he suffered with the rest of the Dutch population. Aged 10 he weighed two stone and used to eat grass as he was so hungry.

When his emaciated father returned from the concentration camps he passed on the crucial advice that it wasn’t the physically strong that survived, but the mentally and spiritually strong.

With Dr Vogel, Jan set up the first naturopathic clinic in Holland, in 1960. Having married a girl from Edinburgh, Jan is now based in Scotland, where he set up a health farm, in 1970, as Dr Vogel suggested. Jan is one of Europe’s leading experts on the subject, with seven clinics in the UK and Holland, and will visit Liverpool next week.

“There’s been a tremendous growth of interest in the whole field of natural medicine and rightly so, because it was neglected for years in favor of what I call the more aggressive method. Natural methods may take a bit longer, but they’re better in the longer run,” he says.

He has treated thousands of smokers inexpensively by acupuncture, as he wants to clean up the environment. Acupuncture breaks the habit and breaks the desire. Earlobe studs can also fill the need. Acupuncture is also used as a slimming aid to stimulate particular acu-points to increase metabolism and burn up fat. Within his practice, acupuncture, osteopathy and homeopathy are the most frequent methods he uses.

The philosophy is not to treat disease, but patients’ immune systems. There has been a terrific decline in health worldwide, because of poor environment, food, drink and air pollution, he believes.

“They’re the reason for the huge rise in degenerative diseases. Conditions like asthma, bronchitis, heart-problems, migraine, arthritis and rheumatism are the main things we treat,” he says. To him, the huge rise in respiratory problems amount to an epidemic. The emotional body’s state is related to a lot of “modern” diseases like cancer and ME.

At the heart of his treatment is naturopathy, a multi-disciplinary approach to health care that recognizes the body’s innate power to heal itself. Often the body needs assistance to function properly and naturopaths are skilled in tailoring natural health programs to the individual’s requirements.

They use a variety of treatments which may include dietary advice, nutritional supplements, detoxification, hands-on work such as osteopathy and massage, exercise, herbs, homeopathic remedies and hydrotherapy.

Speaking from personal experience, I experienced terrible problems with kidney stones in my early 20s and a post-operative malaise which I couldn’t throw off.

After trying all sorts of mainstream drugs, it was a very gifted naturopath who turned my life around. I can’t believe the general resilience in life and health that I now enjoy, compared to my state 30 years ago.

Incidentally, as evidence of alternative medicine providing the best means of healthy living, Dr Vogel is now aged 95 and still ski-ing.

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