Healthy Living in Ecuador:
A Country Where It’s Hard Not to Feel Great

by Linda McFarlin

Healthy living in Ecuador is the norm, not the exception. The lifestyle in Ecuador naturally encourages better mental, physical and spiritual health. 

Whether it’s fresh sea breezes or crisp mountain air, bright sunshine or misty cloud cover, soothing green vistas or dramatic peaks, the laid-back attitude of the people, the lilt of Ecuadorian flutes or the zest of Ecuadorian foodgood health caresses you wherever you go in Ecuador.

One of the things about Cotacachi living we really enjoy is the availability of aged raw cheese and raw milkWhen we need milk, we simply call the milk woman in the morning before 8:30. In a short time, she is in front of our house in her pick-up to sell me all the fresh raw milk I want at $.50 per liter!

Recently a couple from North Carolina who’ve been living in Ecuador for 6 weeks excitedly told us they’d lost about 16 pounds each since coming here.  They exercise their two large dogs daily, walk just about everywhere they go, and climb a set of stairs to their second floor apartment.  The increased physical activity is paying off as the pounds effortlessly disappear.

The added benefits of more natural sunshine and thus more vitamin D shows in the glow of their skin.  There is a bounce in their walk that belies their age.

We often hear health reports from enthusiastic travelers or residents who are experiencing an increase in energy levels, mood, vitality and overall well being.  Two friends who are moving to Ecuador permanently comment that every time they come they quickly lose several unwanted pounds, just by walking to the market and into town. 

Because there is such good public transportation in Ecuador, there is seldom any need for a car.  So instead of driving to the grocery store or the bank or to pick up the laundry, people walk much more.

I walk up four flights of stairs many times a day and can now practically run up them.  In the beginning the exertion left me red-faced, gasping for air, and certain that death was imminent, but my body and lungs have adjusted and now it’s quite easy. 

The Great Natural Beauty Here Encourages Healthy Living in Ecuador

The abundance of natural beauty in Ecuador draws me outdoors like a bee to a flower. I notice that taking a break from work to walk around town or a few blocks into the countryside, not only gives my body a workout, but also fills my soul with meaning and connectedness to life.  Even watching cows grazing in a field of yellow flowers or kids playing soccer in the schoolyard never fails to lift my spirits.

For whatever reason people come to Ecuador, an increased connection to nature and the great outdoors seems to be part of the equation of healthy living.  Hikers climb the volcanoes or walk around lakes, hills and country paths.

Cobbled roads practically beg to be explored by foot, bike or horseback.  Prancing paso finos, an elegant Spanish breed of horses, whinny from paddocks and fields.  Cotacachi shops can fulfill your riding fantasies immediately, offering high-end saddles, boots and riding equipment at low-end prices.

The list of outdoor activities is mind-boggling just here in the highlands—paragliding, biking, riding, rafting, fishing, sailing, boating, swimming, walking, hiking, mountain climbing or my personal favorite—meandering. Healthy living becomes an easy way of life here.

A different range of activities is possible in Ecuador’s other bio-regions, like surfing, swimming, snorkeling, diving, deep-sea fishing and sea kayaking on the coast or boating and whitewater rafting on the rivers flowing down to the jungle.

Pamper Your Way to Good Health in Ecuador

And then there are the non-physical health attractions—hot springs and hot pools for soaking away aches and toxins, health spas for massage and energy work, native healers and shamans who prescribe herbal remedies, natural medicines, flower essences and essential oils.  And if you’re really adventurous, try a cuy or egg treatment. Linda had a natural treatment for a blood shot eye from our indigenous friend, Blanca. Check out the video here,Tadpole tails. It will amaze you.

Ecuador is the source of many exotic and powerfully healing medicinal plants such as dulcamara, dragon’s blood, which heals wounds, chuchuhuaso (a stimulant and anti-inflammatory) and cascarilla (a source of quinine to fight malaria). There is so much available that healthy living becomes easy.

Dulcamara is used to make BIRM, Biological Immune Response Modifier,which boosts the immune system and slows progression of the AIDS virus.  It is currently produced only in Ecuador.  Dulcamara is made into wonderful creams, shampoos and soaps. We have two plants in our kitchen.  We trim the leave a bit every morning and include them in our breakfast.  

Aloe vera is a phenomenal plant, chock full of incredible nutrients for optimum health.  Right here in Cotacachi, the sabila man (sabila is the Spanish word for aloe vera) sells a warm, spicy aloe vera drink that he will customize for your health needs by adding other natural ingredients. There's also a great video of Wilmar, the sabila man, as he prepares his healthy drink.

And then there is Ecuadorian food. . . Fabulous fruits ranging from the ordinary to exotics such as cherimoya, guanabana and tree tomatoes, (excellent for lowering cholesterol).  Pure organic chocolate and quinoa, one of the world’s healthiest grains is readily available.  And if you must drink coffee, we recommend organic coffee beans from a region known as the Intag.  It’s the best we have ever tasted! 

Ecuador markets are stocked to overflowing with a wide assortment of picked-that-day fresh produce bursting with color and vitality.  The food in the picture above was purchased for $14.   Not all of it is organic, but there are vendors who can provide you with organic fruits, berries and vegetables.  It’s a thrill to be able to buy organic wild mountain blueberries nine months of the year for only $1 a pint!

You might like to try some of our healthy living recipes. Some are strictly for dishes that originate in Ecuador and some are hybrid recipes that incorporate Ecuadorian ingredients in dishes from other countries.

Ecuador is a gardener's delight since there is no winter. Gardening in Ecuador is easy and you'll have plenty of help in the form of inexpensive labor. You'll be able to grow monster cabbages and an unbelievable array of produce and herbsGrow your own medicinal herbs right outside your kitchen door just as the locals do.

Health Care

Travelers from other countries, especially the United States and Canada where medical and dental care have become so expensive, are discovering that they can vacation in Ecuador and receive excellent health care for far less than comparable care in their home countries. A root canal with a zirconium cap costs about $400 and teeth whitening is $125. Click here for more information about dentistry in Ecuador.   

Many readers are concerned about being able to get good health insurance coverage in Ecuador. Here's a health insurance article explaining benefits and coverage.

Experience Ecuador’s Healing Lifestyle for Yourself

As the world becomes increasingly crowded, it's vital that each of us find our own places of beauty and peace where we can go to cleanse, to nourish and to rejuvenate---not only our bodies, but also our minds and our souls. Ecuador is a land extremely rich in these intrinsic nourishments. Come and play with us in the healing and magical paradise that is Ecuador. Enjoy the healthy living that Ecuador has to offer.

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