nosce te ipsum - know thyself
Food is incredibly important to the health of all kinds of people and Bears are no exceptions to this. The kind of food that people prefer is another fascinating reflection of their constitution and it is noticeable that the constitutionally cooler and damper Bear will often prefer foods that are denser and moister than dryer, airier, more raw alternatives. For example, many Bears will develop one or more favourite 'comfort-foods' made from grains or they can be especially fond of cheese or ice-cream! There is nothing wrong with following your nature and, so long as the Bear is in good health they should certainly follow their instincts and eat what they most enjoy. That said, it must be acknowledged that many Bear constitutions grow to develop problems in their health that they instinctively relate to their diet, in such cases it is vital to know where to start looking in order to make the right kind of changes
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Allergies & intolerances
If a Bear constitution has a history of eczema or asthma &/or if they show such classic signs as dark rings under the eyes, cracks in the corners of the mouth or a characteristic tendency to a bloated belly after eating then it may be of great value to look into the possibility of a food allergy or intolerance being a core issue. This area in health is rife with misinformation and dodgy methods of diagnosis so, if it needs exploring, carefully read the article on allergy & intolerance here.
Damp constitutions are the ones who most often need a period of cleansing, especially so the hot & damp Tiger but also often the cool & damp Bear. If there is a stuck, chronic health problem along with such characteristic signs as bad skin, an off-white coated tongue and a low or grumpy mood then it has often been seen how a few weeks of a thorough internal cleanse is nothing short of transformative. This is another area that needs a detailed understanding of what's involved as well as what to do about it. If you need to go into it further then start with the article called 'what is detoxification' here, and then read about the cleansing diet used alongside the process written up here.
Low blood sugars
Some constitutions can happily go without food for extended periods but not so Bears. They have to be very careful of getting low blood sugar levels because they may not even realise they are hungry but if a Bear goes too long without eating they get very low, irritable or out of sorts. Compensating with high-sugar foods only makes the imbalance worse in the long run whereas it can be seen that many Bears do much better with sustaining a more stable blood sugar during the day by having a good amount of protein at breakfast or during the morning in the form of things such as eggs, cheese, nuts or seeds. Further to all this, for anyone who wants a more detailed overview on the subject of healthy eating, there is an article called Excellent Nutrition found here.
Too much sugar
If a Bear constitution is having problems with their weight, especially around their abdomen in the 'apple' shape, or if they have one of the other classic signs such as raised cholesterol levels or blood pressure then there is a strong possibility that they have had too many carbohydrates for too long in their diet and are now showing signs of having the metabolic syndrome. Bears are especially prone to this and it can grow into a major problem without some dedicated effort to cure it; this subject written up in detail here.
Food pyramid for a Bear with the metabolic syndrome
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All people need to regularly move their bodies and activate their brains to keep or regain their health but different constitutions benefit more from different kinds of exercise. Bears definitely need both physical and mental exercise or they become sluggish and unhappy but, generally speaking, they get the best responses from bursts of intensity compared to easier but more drawn out methods.
The typical Bear has plenty of determination to stick at things if they so choose however, compared to other constitutions they do not get as much benefit from long, slow, distance exercises as they do from shorter bursts of high intensity training!
If a Bear person who already has a regimen with a sustained exercise such as swimming, cycling or walking, then I would encourage them to add some quick sprints to their swim or cycle or to stop somewhere on their walk to do some push-ups, squats etc. If they able to really get their heart rate up for a short while then they will rapidly see many benefits follow to their mood and metabolism. How you know if you have got your heart-rate up sufficiently is that you have to breathe hard and fast!
Many Bears hate exercise simply because it's boring. For such a person I would suggest just doing two things each day for a week to see how big a difference they could make to their sense of well-being. The first is to do as many push-ups with as good a form as possible (watch one of the many good video clips out there on how to hold good form if you have not trained on this already) the second is skipping with a rope for as many jumps as you can. These two exercises alone will work-out the entire body and they literally take no more than a few minutes. As much as it is always hardest to get started on anything like this, it is remarkable how quickly people's feelings change once their exercise-induced, mood-lifting endorphins start entering the picture. In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in understanding of the value of high-intensity training (HIT) exercise so if you want to go further down this track, there are many video clips and articles now out there to strengthen and encourage your practice
I mentioned boredom earlier as a reason many Bears don't do exercise. In fact, boredom is the great enemy of the Bear and can cause them more unhappiness than just about anything! Show me a Bear who is not learning anything or engaging their brain in a way that thoroughly involves their full concentration and I will show you a person whose health is a problem waiting to happen!
I think that part of the answer for this for most Bears is regularly using what I call 'medicine for the mind' otherwise known as a good book! It doesn't matter what your taste in literature is or whether you prefer fact or fiction, what does matter is that whatever you are reading is interesting and engaging. You know you are reading the right book when you feel good about the prospect if picking it back up, you know you are reading the wrong book when the prospect of reading more of it leaves you flat - shut that one and open another!
Reading is a key one but there are many other forms of mental activation that can keep a Bear's brain happy and healthy well into old age. Some Bears will thrive on brain-exercises such as crosswords, puzzles or internet based programs such as Lumosity or Elevate, others do better with more structured learning in groups or with tutors. You know what works best for you, just whatever you don't mistake boredom for being busy. The simple way to know if your brain is in good health is to ask a) what am I learning about presently and b) what am I looking forwards to currently...
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Rest & Relaxation
Along with diet and exercise, one of the greatest determinants of health and happiness is how well people are able to rest, relax and sleep.
One of the most notable characteristics of the Bear person is how their energy levels go up and down in cycles. I talk about this more in the section on personality but how this translates to sleep is that most Bears have a pattern of needing less or more sleep for extended periods of time. The difference in how much sleep is needed can be as much as a couple of hours and the length of the shorter or longer cycle can go from just a few days to whole weeks at a time. There are occasions when the Bear gets too wired and the short cycle gets too short. Then we can really get some trouble brewing so, if this is an issue for you, I suggest that a) you make sure your head is in the right place in terms of being sure that you really do love sleep and that there is no better feeling than letting go into it and b) you carefully study the practical strategies in the article on insomnia help.
That said I see less Bears than other constitutions who have trouble sleeping, the bigger problem is that there are times when they would like to sleep longer but aren't able to because they are holding themselves to an expectation that is not always going to be fair or reasonable. There's no way to get around your own nature so if this is happening I suggest you catch up on the weekends with a clear conscience and/or go to bed earlier when you know you are in one of your long cycles!
Permission to relax
There are times when a Bear needs plenty of sleep and there are definitely also times when they need to drop their natural intensity and just let go and relax. How a person best relaxes is something that they usually already know quite well but it is a long-observed phenomenon of human nature that, when people are in stress, the last thing they even think about doing is relaxing, even though it can be what they need the most to get clear of their problems!
The biggest hurdle in this area is the mind-block that says 'I will relax when I have sorted out all my problems' which of course may never happen so long as you are alive! Whatever it is, reading, TV, baths, walks, friends, music etc. it doesn't matter what it is so long as you know exactly what you are doing and why. Giving oneself 'permission to relax' is the key first step, once a person does that, there is usually no stopping them...
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The Bear Personality
The personality of the typical Bear is much too complex to easily summarise but there are several qualities that come through over and again; two of the most obvious being their intensity and loyalty.
It is quite common that people get a wrong, or only partially correct, first impression when they first meet with a Bear. The coolness of a Bear is not a lack of heat or warmth; rather it is about how their energy tends to be held more inwardly. Bears may be very good at keeping a cool-seeming exterior whilst people on the outside have little to no idea of what they are experiencing underneath. Because the truth is that Bears are naturally intense creatures who bring that intensity into both their inner and outer world. The key Bear quality of 'intensity' will manifest in all kinds of different ways so, to illustrate it without using a specific example, if you who are reading this are a Bear, just now think of something you are 'into' and then compare yourself with other people who are into the same thing - it's more than a small difference, isn't it.
Bears typically make exceptionally loyal bonds with their friends and, at least some of, their family. Very few people would describe people from the Bear constitution as flippant creatures, far more likely they would talk about how they were dependable, reliable and trustworthy.
The quality of loyalty extends further than relationship and you will see many Bears sustaining a life-long connection to things that engage or interest them. Make friends with a Bear and you may have a friend for life...
Cave & Forest
The mixture of cool (introspective) and damp (socially oriented) creates a most interesting and challenging mix for the Bear. I have often used the analogy of the 'cave' and the 'forest' to give my patients a sense of what I mean.
The cave represents the body and the home. It is the inner space where you have the freedom to feel yourself and be yourself, where you do not have to be 'on' or 'up'. The forest is where you have to come out of yourself and be with others -- it is the outside, the place where you go to learn, earn or play.
A healthy Bear must move between these two worlds, not try to pick a side and stay in introspection; the cave, or in constant contact with others; the forest. This need to find peace in their cave as well as harmony in their forest is part of what makes Bears such interesting and diverse creatures.
In my practice I have often found myself exclaiming 'Bears and their brains!'. Bears are people who can be very headstrong and, whilst this can be a strength in many situations, it can also lead them to becoming terribly stuck because they find it hard to let go of a certain path, objective or idea once they get a firm hold of it.
If you are a Bear, then there will be many times in your life where it will be essential to cultivate flexibility and adaptability to get unstuck and back in the flow of life again.
Whilst naturally being thoughtful, mentally active and brain-centred people, it can be seen from the problems that come up the most to challenge them that many Bears are on a life-journey to become more heart-centred and it is also clear that the short physical distance between the head and heart can be one of the most circuitous and arduous journeys a person can undertake!
Good relationships are extremely important to Bears - it is not good for a Bear to be a loner for too long. On more than a few occasions, perhaps after one or two visits when the main physical problem they came in with is doing a lot better, I have had a frank conversation with one of my Bear patients about what else is troubling them the most in their lives and the subject has turned to their relationships. By nature, a Bear person always has strong feelings about the people the live or work with and when one or more of those relationships is not going well and the problem is not being dealt with then they can take it very personally.
We can all be guilty of blaming the other party when a relationship is going badly and of course each party must take a share of the responsibility but really all we can ever do to make any kind of real change is to start with ourselves and the biggest obstacle I see Bears having in this regard is simply not expressing themselves clearly and openly. Bears can be terrible brooders, good at stewing over things overlong and then suddenly coming down hard on the object of their heavy thoughts.
I encourage my Bear patients to practice blurting. I realise how 'against the grain' my advice about this seems because our society strongly disapproves of people getting expressive and emotional but I say it is better to lose your cool than it is to lose your health and happiness. A lot of social conditioning may have to be got through for a person to trust themselves to be open and honest with others but that's ok, change is a step by step process. For most of us, the hardest emotion to deal with is our frustration and anger so, If this has been an issue for you, I warmly recommend an article that goes into practical detail on this subject - found here.
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Problems & Solutions
This is a constitution that can truly be remarkably strong and resilient so, if you who are reading this are a Bear, then don't for a moment assume you are going to have to get all or even any of the following problems! I list them here because if you do get one of them then you will know that it is intrinsically linked to your constitution and therefore some kind of approach that helps with getting your inner fire burning and drying out some of your excess damp will do you far more good in the long run than just trying to make symptoms go away with drugs!
That said it must be acknowledged that an excess of coolness or dampness can cause problems deep in the core that slowly simmer instead of resolving and there will eventually be times in the life of most Bears when they will be perplexed by some quite troublesome and possibly rather lingering health conditions! This is the main reason I've had a great deal to do with Bear people over the years because such chronic health problems tend to be a weak area of conventional medicine which better comes into its own in the acute crisis of things like accidents and emergencies.
It's hard to make generalisations here about what those chronic problems typically are without missing out more than I can put in but a few common examples include conditions such as fatigue (more info here), low immune systems (info here) and chronic back pain (info here) or joint pain (more here)
Female bears can be particularly prone to endometriosis (info here), recurrent urinary tract infections (more here), menstrual pain (info here) and/or hormonal imbalances (info here) Bears of both sexes are so prone to a certain type of lower down digestive disturbance that IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome) could just about be called Irritable Bear syndrome with how often it appears in this constitutional type and I have a very detailed article on this potentially quite distressing condition here).
Another common causes of digestive disturbance in Bears are chronic infections in the digestive tract - known as dysbiosis (more info here). Equally a great many Bears have undiagnosed food intolerances causing health problems - this subject has much myth and misunderstanding so a detailed article on it here.
Despite their challenges I love working with Bears and have seen a tremendous amount of good results over the years. The vital thing for me is always to work out how Nature can help with the first step - fortunately there are a great many Bear remedies to help...
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Just as I said earlier that you should not for a moment think you will get all the possible health problems that can commonly afflict Bears nor should you imagine that you will ever have to take all the following Bear remedies! That said there will likely be one or two that could be quite literally life-changing if you were to make their acquaintance and then really learn how to use them...
Dampness in the body is heaven on earth for micro-organisms and a Bear who gets run down with infections or whose immune systems become over-sensitive and allergic can respond beautifully to good high doses of Echinacea (more here). Deep aches and pains in the body of a Bear can respond especially well to Turmeric (more here). The intense internal nature of the Bear means that they can develop a kind of physical nervous tension that echoes in their bodies in diverse discomforting ways. Perhaps the most potent of all relaxing herbs is the American Indian remedy Lobelia and in some cases I have seen it be especially and remarkably helpful to Bears (more on it here).
Some Bears can get a bad chest infection (e.g. bronchitis, pneumonia) and then find that they are subsequently left with a long-standing respiratory weakness. The herb Elecampane, if taken patiently, has been seen to be tremendously helpful in such cases (more about it here).
When you are reading the constitutional signs in the symptoms, the tongue, the pulse etc. you might see that the key problem for the Bear is that they have become too cool in their core. In such instances the herb Ginger can be exceptionally helpful (more here). For other Bears who have really become much too cold an even more potent circulatory stimulant can be called for and the very top of that list is the great Cayenne pepper! (more here). For another person it might become obvious that excessive dampness is a primary driver to the health imbalances they are struggling with. Some of the allies that can help here include such remedies as Nettles (info here) or the potent kidney tonic Juniper (info here), or perhaps one of the truly classic Bear remedies - Garlic (info here).
A Bear who has been sick for any great length of time is likely to have become run down and fatigued and a hugely important part of the healing process is to recognise the need to rest the organism and at the same time to give the great tonic herbs to help build back core strength for true self-healing to happen. For such a purpose herbs such as Withania (info here), Panax Ginseng (info here) and St John's wort (info here) are, without doubt, some of the best of all the tonic remedies in all of Nature.
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Cycle of healing
When a problem is not getting better by itself then it always means that some part of the cycle of healing has become stuck. There are four key phases in the cycle of healing and note that the one that can need the primary attention can be any of the four in any of the constitutions but, that said, it is a noticeable pattern in Bears that the 'relaxation' phase of the cycle is the one that most often needs the most care. For those who want to delve more deeply into this subject and learn more about what herbs may best help them with their health there is a chart that gives an overview of the healing cycle here and a supportive article that talks about the subject in more depth here.
~ Tigers: Hotter & Damper
~ Eagles: Hotter & Dryer
~ Elephant/Butterfly: Cooler & Dryer
~ Bears: Cooler & Damper
~ Back to Constitutional Medicine Introduction
~ Working our your Constitution
~ Origins & Adaptations of Constitutional Medicine
Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!
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