The problem with individual health care today is not that it is expensive, it’s that it is focused on treating diseases for the masses rather than preventing them one individual at a time. Let’s face it: Many diseases are caused by poor nutrition, improper exercise, and pathogenic behaviors such as smoking, heredity, or external factors. Oftentimes, they are caused by a combination of several different individual health factors. At the point where the stressors outweigh the body’s ability to maintain it’s normal balancing point, disease occurs. In the natural healing modalities it’s believed that the body is intelligent and has a blueprint for optimal health. It knows how to stay healthy and it strives to maintain health. It’s only when it is overloaded with stressors that disease occurs and by then, it’s much more difficult to heal a person then if the disease had been prevented in the first place. If we want to take back our individual health care, we are going to have to learn more about who we are, what our personal stressors are, and how to prevent disease within ourselves.
Diathesis-Stress Model For Individual Health
In psychology, the debate of nature versus nurture has finally met a new paradigm: the diathesis-stress model. This model hypothesizes that although one may have an inherited vulnerability for a specific psychological disorder this alone is not sufficient to mean that a person will inherent a psychological disorder. It is only with the addition of other environmental stressors that the disorder may be triggered into being. An example of the diathesis-stress model is with the case of alcoholics who may have inherited a tendency for the disease. If someone is never exposed to severe alcohol abuse in the form of campus parties or other social events, they may never develop alcoholism despite their genetic weakness.
A study done by Caspi et al. (2003) tracked a group of 847 individuals for over 20 years. In this study, a genetic profile was done to determine the presence of a set of long or short gene components called allele pairs. The particular genes they were studying were mapped for influencing the transmission of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter implicated in mood disorders, particularly depression. It was believed that people who had inherited two alleles of the long-type gene were better able to cope better with stress. And in fact, the study did substantiate that belief.
After tracking the major life events across two decades and recording the number of stressful events in each individual’s life, it was determined that the individuals who had inherited the short type of gene pair had double the risk of having a full major depressive episode after experiencing at least four stressful events as compared to the long-type individuals. If the stressful events occurred during childhood, it was further noted that the short-typed individuals who were maltreated as children doubled their risk of depression compared to other short-typed individuals who were not abused or maltreated. For long-typed individuals childhood maltreatment did not affect the incidence of depression in adulthood, which typically ran at 30% despite childhood stressors.
It can be seen from this and similar studies that although a person may inherit a genetic vulnerability to a particular disorder, its appearance is often predicated on other factors such as environmental stressors. What’s even more important is that a single occurrence of a particular stressor may not be enough to tip the balance to disease. In the previous aforementioned study, it took at least four stressful events to double the risk of a major depressive episode for the short-typed people. This clearly points to a cumulative effect of outside stressors in the final creation and appearance of a disease that may have never presented otherwise.
If we are to take this model and apply it to our own personal individual health care, we can assume that there are going to be individual stressors that may have no effect on others but can trigger disease in ourselves. Certainly, there are some that are generic but oftentimes there are just as many that are specific to our individual make-up. We cannot expect the family physician to know our biological make-up as well as we do ourselves. We must learn to pay attention to our own family history and understand how to modify our own behaviors to obtain optimal health.
Your Genetic Profile
Obviously, you can pay someone a lot of money to run a genetic profile on you. Sometimes this is advisable if your family has a history of disease that affects newborns like Down syndrome or Hemophilia. In that case, you may want to seek genetic counseling before conceiving. In addition, sometimes just belonging to a particular ethnic grouping may expose you to more risk as in the case of Tay-Sachs in Jewish Europeans, thalassemia in Asians and Mediterraneans, sickle cell anemia in African Americans, and cystic fibrosis in Caucasians. Hispanics are more susceptible to diabetes and asthma as well. However, simply knowing your family history and paying attention to it can determine much of this.
Begin by profiling your maternal and paternal grandparents. What illnesses surfaced during their lifetimes? Are they hereditary? Diseases like diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and other types of cancer all have genetic components. Knowing what your particular family vulnerabilities are can greatly enhance your chances of preventing a disease within yourself. Do not forget to include psychological disorders in your family genetic profile. Is there evidence of alcoholism? Eating disorders? These also have genetic components.
Once you have a thorough knowledge of your family history from grandparents to present day relatives, you will know what stressors affect your individual health more than others. You can start to maintain your own health by taking a two-pronged approach: increase the behaviors and habits that impact those diseases positively and decrease those habits or behaviors that impact the risk of contracting the disease.
Internal Individual Health Stressors
Obviously, we’ve all heard about the case of the 89-year old who swears the secret of longevity is a good shot of whiskey and Cuban cigar each morning before breakfast. This individual was blessed with a lot of good genes. Your luck in that genetic lottery is probably not going to be as good as his! So, we need to take back our own health care.
Natural healing guru, Dr. Schulze, of the American Botanical Pharmacy, puts it this way: “Stop doing what makes you sick. Start doing what makes you healthy.” Dr. Richard Shulze was a man who was diagnosed with such severe heart disease that it was recommended he have open-heart surgery before the age of 20! Instead of taking their suggestions, he decided to take his own health care back and make himself better by eliminating those behaviors that made him sick and starting to do those things that made him healthy. He healed his own heart disease using herbal formulae, an organic diet, juicing, and understanding that his health was his own affair and the philosophy that to be sick or healthy was his choice. Thirty years later, his methods have worked for the many thousands that have come to him for help in his clinic. He has helped many to reclaim their individual health.
Elimination of bodily wastes and poisons are key to his program. The American diet is loaded with fats and other stressors that cause many digestive disorders and contribute to other more lethal diseases like heart disease and cancer. If it’s not being exposed to toxins in our food and our air, then sometimes the very quantity of animal fat can contribute to high cholesterol and cancer rates. Our foods are sometimes subjected to radiation, dyes, waxes, and other appearance enhancers all deemed safe by the Food and Drug Administration at low levels. The problem is that we do not know if these levels remain low in our bodies or if they accumulate the more we consume over time until that disease threshold is hit. According to wrongdiagnosis.com, a heath website, approximately, 4.4 million people experience constipation in America at any given time. Other countries, it appears don’t have such a high rate. If our cars starting chugging and choking on bad oil the way our bodies sometimes do, we’d no doubt take them in for an oil change. But, few people realize that there are natural ways to cleanse and flush the body of old wastes leaving it in a much better position to fight off new threats.
Lifestyle Individual Health Stressors
America is the land of the automobile. Sidewalks are sometimes not visible for miles in some states. With this vehicular lifestyle comes the additional stressor of a sedentary lifestyle. To overcompensate, gyms have sprung up in practically every strip mall trying to make up for the lack of genuine opportunities we have to exercise within our busy corporate world. The physical trainers will insist that you don’t start burning fat until after 20 minutes of aerobic exercise. This may be true, but if the point is simply to maintain your health oftentimes you don’t need strenuous exercise to cut fat. If you’re already at your optimal weight, simply walking for 20 minutes a day is enough to put some movement back in your life. How hard is that? However, if you are overweight, this can lead to a substantial stress on your system and should be taken into account. Achieving a normal weight for your height is one way to increase your longevity.
Other lifestyle stressors are alcohol and illegal substance abuse. In addition, even prescribed medications can have side effects on every major organ in your body, not to mention affecting your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Read the side effects that come with each of your prescriptions and decide: Is this prescription vital for my health or can I do without it? If we had taken this approach with antibiotics, we wouldn’t now be seeing strains of viruses that are immune to these supposed miracle drugs. For every prescribed drug there is often a natural alternative. Take a moment to research it and decide whether your health is worth a few minutes of your time. Many times the doctors and health care professionals are not familiar with the natural alternatives and would not think to mention them.
If your family has a history of diabetes, it’s important to start maintaining a good body weight early. Every pound of extra weight you carry increases your risk of contracting this disease, particularly if you already have a genetic predisposition to it. Maintain good blood sugar levels by eating many small meals during the day rather than the normal large meals three times a day. Perhaps, instead of sugar, one can use some of the natural alternatives like Stevia to promote one’s individual health, which is a food supplemnt believed to actually help the pancreas function better. By doing the things that keep you healthy and eliminating those habits that could potentially make you sick, you stand a much better chance of never needing treatment for a disease.
A family history of cancer will also make diet very important. The little known secret is that many cancers are diet-related. They may not be caused by diet, but diet was one of the stressors that made the hereditary vulnerability present itself. If your family has a history of mouth, liver, or breast cancer then your consumption of alcohol needs to be monitored and limited. It goes without saying, that if you drink, smoke, have a high fat and low fiber diet, you have just added multiple stressors to your potential creation of cancer. If you also have a hereditary vulnerability, you might want to lay odds with a Vegas bookie that you will get cancer in your lifetime. The American Cancer Society has a wonderful web page at their main site, cancer.org, on the effects of diet on cancer.
Environmental Factors That Affect Your Individual Health
Environmental factors do play more and more of a role in our health as we experience global changes in our weather patterns. There are known increases in the rates of skin cancer and more asthma cases due to increased pollution and ozone depletion. Along with weather changes, we have numerous artificial materials and chemicals in existence today that were not around a couple of decades ago. Everyone’s heard the cancer horror stories from asbestos-lined schools and chemical-dumping corporations. These are proof positive that our environment is no longer as benign as it used to be. What can we do about it?
Simply being aware of where you live and who is in your neighborhood goes a long way to making sure you aren’t exposed to unnecessary toxins or carcinogens. The Environmental Protection Agency requires states to monitor sites it knows are harmful to the general public. These can be located in the state’s superfund category. Using a website called scorecard.org, one can locate the superfund sites in your neighborhood by simply typing your zip code into their database.
When you buy a home, some states require a lead inspection and others do not. Some states have more stringent rules on environmental hazards like lead, radon, underground heating oil tanks, and asbestos containing construction materials than others. Knowing your genetic predispositions, you may want to add additional environmental testing to the home to maintain your own individual health. Is the home you are buying close to areas where chemical spraying is prevalent? Again, consider whether this is a stressor in your health make-up and whether you wish to take on that risk.
Also, don’t forget that environmental factors aren’t just limited to chemicals. They can take the form of noise pollution from large airports, magnetic fields from high wire power transmission lines, and living in a high crime rate. These are all factors that can prove to be additionally stressful to your mental as well as physical health.
Finally, your occupation and home can be the sources of numerous environmental stressors. The typical cleaning cupboard in the house is home to multiple carcinogens. Many products used for cleanliness can also cause adverse reactions in people who have allergic reactions and asthma. Pets can also be a stressor if heredity points to allergies or asthma. If you work as a miner, obviously, you would not want a history of lung cancer in your family. The sad fact is that we will be exposed to a chemical soup of carcinogens and pathogens daily, but we can surely be more judicious about the levels and length of time we are in exposure of hazardous elements as well as the types of exposure we receive. Knowing what our hereditary weaknesses are goes a long way to preventing exposure that might have more of an effect on creating disease within our body versus someone else’s.
Your Individual Health Tune-Up
Along with eliminating stressors, there are behaviors that can increase anyone’s chance of defending against a disease. These are the health tune-ups that won’t hurt you and can certainly help you. They are the generic natural healing programs that are good for everyone.
1. Colon cleanses,
2. Nutritional supplementation,
4. At least 7 to 8 hours sleep a night,
5. Water daily (preferably filtered)
Dr. Schulze’s offers an herbal colon cleanse called Formula Number 1 and Number 2 as wonderful ways to cleanse the colon. The first formula loosens the stool and the second uses bentonite to suck all of the impurities out with the wastes. Bentonite is clay used in the environmental field to provide a barrier to keep contaminants from reaching pure groundwater zones. It has the ability to absorb heavy metals and multiple chemicals and toxins. It was also used by Native Americans as a digestive cleanser which when taken internally absorbed toxins in the body and then passes through the digestive system as waste.
This is just one way to cleanse wastes out of your system. Others prefer colonics, which is a form of cleansing done by irrigating the lower intestinal tract by a trained professional. Yet another way is an enema. At any rate, a colon cleanse when one’s energy is low is a good way to cleanse and flush the old wastes out of our bodies. This can be done yearly or quarterly, just like a car tune-up. Every 3 months think about doing a colon cleanse.
If your diet is a typical America diet, then you are not receiving sufficient nutrition. Nutrition in this case is not calories; it’s the essentials vitamins and minerals necessary to maintain optimal health. Taking vitamin supplements aren’t a cure-all either as solid forms of vitamins are hard to digest or often won’t make it totally into your bloodstream. Liquid forms are better. The best boost to nutrition is through juicing. Buy a juicer and begin to learn how standard vegetables and fruits can make delicious juices. Fresh-juiced carrot and pineapple juice is delicious! Adding beetroot to your fruit juices also adds a bit of depth to the drink and essential vitamins and minerals. Juicing is not only healthy; it’s fun and delicious.
The produce that you buy can always be bought fresh instead of canned or frozen. This simple switch in lifestyle will boost the number of vitamins and minerals you receive in your diet. This is because the heating process in canning can kill up from 30% to 50% of the nutritional value of certain vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables. Nutrients also decrease the longer a food item is stored. If you start with a low vitamin and mineral content and reduce it more every month that can or bag of frozen veggies sits in your freezer, what do you have left? At least when you buy fresh, you are starting with the highest source of vitamins and minerals that food has to offer. The sensible thing to do is to buy your produce at a local farmer’s market and eat it quickly! If you make a conscious choice to go organic, you will also reduce the level of harmful pesticides and additives that are placed in the food chain by large marketers of produce.
If you don’t want to juice there are nutritional supplements like Dr. Shultz’s Superfood, which is a powdered form that can be mixed in store-bought organic juices. The powdered form of nutritional supplements is at least better than the solid form of standard vitamin tablets because the nutrients are more available to be digested and absorbed through the bloodstream.
Exercise doesn’t have to be like the gym marathons we see in “The Biggest Loser.” Exercise can be simply switching your habits to include more activity. Instead of parking near the front of the grocery store, park at the back and walk. That’s at least five more minutes of exercise you got in your day! Walk up the stairs, instead of taking the elevator and maybe you get another five minutes! If you stop at the mall, make it a point to go all the way around at least one floor. In fact, there are many mall-walkers out now that go to the mall prior to the stores opening just to have a place to walk away from traffic. Take the bus every now and then. Walk to your lunch appointment. Walk after your lunch appointment. Odds are if you aren’t willing to make these simple changes, you aren’t going to benefit from a gym membership anyway. It takes willpower to exercise and not just paying someone some bucks to join a gym. We know what our day is like. To maintain our individual health, we must seek ways to add exercise to our daily routines which are specific to our daily activities.
The evidence is in now: if you get too little sleep, your risk of becoming overweight increases! So, it’s not just about exercise. Columbia University ran a study where 18,000 individual’s sleep habits were monitored. The results were that those that got less than four hours of sleep a night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who got at least seven to nine hours of sleep.
Sleep deprivation can affect your mood. If depression is rampant in your family, you might want to think about getting a full night’s sleep. If you deprive people too long of sleep, they get hallucinations and can die. Sleep is very important to our health. It is as important as food and water.
Many people are so stressed they can’t sleep. They turn to sleeping aides like Ambien or Lunesta. The media has reported cases of people on Ambien who get up and while still sleeping begin to drive their cars. Other cases of sleep-sex are also being reported. These pills appear to have some severe side effects if used improperly. There is a natural sleeping aide supplement called Melatonin. Melatonin is the same hormone secreted by your pineal gland that regulates your sleep cycle. It’s very useful for people with jet lag and insomnia. It one must seek help to sleep, why not seek a natural alternative with few side effects?
The simplest way to fall asleep, obviously, is to learn how to relax. Our culture prizes the ability to cope with stress to such extremes that the thought of relaxing seems almost counter-culture. Take a tip from the East and learn how to meditate. It’s quite simple and doesn’t cost a penny.
It seems no one drinks eight glasses of water a day anymore. Eight glasses does seem a bit excessive. But, we have to realize that 80% of the human body is made up of water, and then it becomes clear that drinking this much can flush impurities from system daily. Liquid can be found in your juices as well as water. Anything that hydrates the body can be counted, except alcohol, which dehydrates the body. Some of us short people have trouble drinking eight glasses of liquid a day. It’s possible we don’t need as much to maintain our own individual health simply because we aren’t as tall and heavy as the average American. Most studies are done based on an average profile and many of them haven’t even included women as a gender subtype. Try starting with at least four glasses and work your way up. If you find yourself bloated, just decrease the number of glasses you are drinking. Your body knows what it needs. Your body is very intelligent. Listen to it. If it is thirsty, it needs water.
It’s important not to trust your water supply. Your water contains varying levels of chlorine and fluoride that aren’t necessary to ingest daily. Buying a tap filter is not such a bad investment. There are all kinds of water filters that can keep heavy metals and excessive chemicals from entering your body. They include charcoal, reverse osmosis, distiller, ionized, and ultraviolet water filters. Some require more space on your countertop than others. Or, you can simply buy purified water at your local health food store.
Natural Individual Health Summary
Natural Individual health does not have to be complicated. It isn’t about being a geneticist or a trained physician. It’s about taking back responsibility for our own health by understanding our own medical history and disease triggers. It’s about being willing to research natural alternatives and saying no to the latest pill that pops on the market if it is not right for you. It is about learning the simple daily and yearly tricks to take care of your body, so when the chips are down, your immune system takes care of you.