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The Line Between Health and Illness

Is the current health care model in America actually health care or is it sickness and illness care? 

You have heard the term preventative health care, but if you were asked the question, “give an example of preventative medicine”, I believe the answer most people would give would be a colonoscopy, mammogram or a prostate exam. But is this preventative or simply early detection? 

The current modern medical paradigm is based on treatment after health has declined. True prevention deals with avoiding illness. Both models (sick and wellness care) are required, but I contend that we need to put as much emphasis on prevention as we do on treatment after one has become sick. Besides the obvious financial strain that chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer exert, the numbers prove that we have a chronic illness crisis. 76% of Americans now take prescription drugs and chronic illness is now responsible for killing 80% of the industrial world. The current emphasis of our resources and research are directed toward the illness side of this equation. Understanding the line between health and illness, and addressing the prevention side of the equation, is the basis of the natural health model. 

I recently attended a lecture that was titled “The Wellness Paradigm” presented by Dr. James Chestnut, a leading authority in the field of wellness. This lecture contrasted the differences between the current Sickness and Treatment paradigm vs. the Wellness paradigm. Understanding the distinction between the two, and the way we take responsibility for our own health, determines if we are reacting to illness or proactive towards health. 

The contemporary belief is that much of chronic illness is determined by either good genes or bad genes. But is illness the result of faulty genetics? We are all born with a genetic blueprint. The environment our cells live in determines how these genes are expressed. Twins may start out with the same genetic blueprint but their life-style, exposure to toxins and deficiencies (caused by how they eat, move, think and their environment) affect how their genes are expressed. Just as two builders may start out with the same construction blueprint, the materials, labor and other variables will affect the end product. In other words, genes are not inherently faulty; rather the behavior or “expression” is secondary to either deficiency or toxicity of the environment within and outside of the cell. This is the current area of study termed epigenetics. 

Epigenetics is, at present, the primary research angle of cancer. We know that cancer is ultimately a disease of mutations in genes. Genes control and regulate cell growth. Cancer occurs when these growth-control genes are mutated resulting in dysregulated growth of the cell. Unfortunately, most research is concerned about treatment after this has occurred with the objective of creating medicine to treat. The wellness paradigm concerns itself with preventing the mutation (genetic switch) or expression prior to this process. Imagine if the National Institute of Health spent as much money on prevention and researching causes as they do on treatment. 

The bottom line is that we are no longer living and eating in a manner that is congruent with the genetic design of our bodies. Long hours sitting in traffic, or at a computer, chronic emotional stress, poor soil quality and processed food that our bodies no longer recognize, and therefore react to, have taken a major toll on our health. This recognition is what is behind the Paleolithic (Hunter-Gatherer) trend in natural health. 

My next three posts will deal with deficiencies, specifically three supplements that are essential for health. These supplements include vitamin D3, fish oil and probiotics.