So, at what point have we started eating, living and thinking in ways that are designed to avoid disease? I was just thinking the other day - there are so many “diet” books, and books on lifestyle interventions like exercise, stretching, meditation, etc. that are designed around preventing or treating a particular illness.
“The anti-cancer diet”
“The diabetes exercise solution”
“Meditate your fibromyalgia away!”
And so on and so forth…
What's the Problem?
The problem is that we need to pursue health, not avoid disease. There are too many diseases to avoid any one in particular. What happens if you get cancer while eating the heart disease diet? Then you just happened to choose the wrong diet to adhere to?
We love doing things, or taking things for a particular reason. When I recommend to patients that they take fish oil, vitamin D or probiotics, the most common follow up question I receive is, “ok, but what is it for?”
It’s for making you healthy. That may seem like a facetious answer, and to some degree it is, but the truth is that I may recommend vitamin D to someone with MS, someone with rheumatoid arthritis, someone with IBS symptoms, and someone with chronic colds. So then, how do I answer that question?
I’m asking you to take vitamin D because living in northern latitudes we simply cannot absorb any from the sun between the months of October and March. We need to supplement it during those months because vitamin D is an essential nutrient involved with too many reactions in your body than this post can justify OR that science has even elucidated. Fish oil and probiotics can be added to that list - as can exercise, good quality sleep, loving relationships, and a whole slew of other healthy activities.
What’s the solution?
We need to realize that we aren’t eating good food, exercising, and loving each other because some scientist somewhere has “discovered” that it is associated with a reduction in your chances for colon cancer. We do all these things because they’re all associated with being healthy, and healthy people have a far lesser chance of getting sick from all illnesses.
The solution is Wellness and Prevention; it’s using and adjusting our lifestyle to match what our DNA requires from us to build a healthy human being.
So while you might take fish oil “for your arthritis”, you’re also taking it for the health of your nervous system, your cardiovascular health and to improve your insulin sensitivity. You exercise because it makes your knee feel better, but also because it helps keep plaques out of your arteries, and improves your ability to learn. You spend time relaxing because it relieves your headache, but also because it lowers cortisol in your blood, improves sexual function, and improves your recovery from exercise. You avoid grains because it makes you feel less bloated, but also because it lowers inflammation, improves the quality of your gut lining and improves the amount of serotonin and dopamine available to your brain.
How to implement all these activities and behaviours in your life will be saved for another post. If you’ve read my previous posts you probably have a good idea where to start though. Thanks for reading everyone!
Dr. Adam Ball