By John N. Moreno, ND PhD
The traditional medical model of health is treating symptoms. I once had a conversation with a physician whose brother suffered a stroke, then about six weeks later, suffered a heart attack. Still another six weeks later and he was diagnosed with cancer. The physician said to me, “John, my brother was healthy before he had his stroke. He played basketball with his son the night before he had his stroke.” I told him that his brother was not healthy, he just didn’t have any symptoms. I told him that cardiovascular disease and cancer do not happen overnight and that it takes months and sometimes years to develop. He looked at me and said, you think differently than we (physicians) do, but sometimes you make more sense.
Just as diseases don’t happen overnight, health and wellness don’t happen overnight, either. It is a journey – not a race. It takes planning, commitment, and action. First, let’s look at what causes illness.
In 1964, a young Canadian physician by the name of Hans Selye, MD, was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on stress. He did not win! His research can be broken down into three statements: 1. All symptoms (he didn’t say some or most – ALL symptoms) are caused by stress. 2. There are three types of stress – physical, nutritional, and emotional. 3. The body can not tell the difference in the stresses!
It sounds simple, but what does it really mean? Let’s start with stress – what is stress? Stress is the flight or fight reaction that our body goes through when confronted with certain situations. There are two major classifications of “situations”: acute traumatic and chronic. Acute traumatic includes situations like an automobile accident, death in the immediate family, especially if it was not expected, going through a tornado or hurricane, the announcement of a pending divorce, etc. These are not regular events, so our bodies react immediately to these events, and usually, they finalize in a short time. In the United States, we have the best-trained physicians and counselors to assist with these issues.
Chronic conditions are defined as any condition that the patient has had for six months or longer. Physicians are not trained well in chronic conditions. A few of the problems with diagnosing and treating chronic conditions are: blood work looks “normal,” multiple issues are usually present, and medications used to treat patients often mask the symptoms but do nothing to heal.
Now that we have identified the cause (stress) and the types of stress (physical, nutritional, and emotional), and the two major classifications (acute traumatic and chronic), let’s look at how we deal with both classifications. Acute traumatic stress is dealt with simply by seeing a trained medical doctor. The United States has the best-trained medical doctors for acute traumatic stress than anywhere else in the world. Let’s face it, people from all over the world come here for treatment. We don’t go to their country!
Chronic stress is different; by definition, you have had it for longer than six months. Your body has adjusted, so blood work will come back “normal.” This makes diagnosing extremely difficult for traditionally trained physicians. You know something is wrong, but your blood work says everything is ok. Sometimes the physician will prescribe drugs for the symptoms, but we are only putting a band-aid on the problem. Stop the drug, symptoms return. Oh, and we may need to add a drug or two to get the symptoms under “control” and/or for the side effects of one or more of the drugs previously prescribed. And the cycle goes on.
Without getting extremely technical (nor am I going to be all-inclusive), let’s see how chronic stress can hide so well from traditional medical doctors. Remember, stress is a “fight or flight” reaction of the body. One of the fight or flight automatic reactions is the adrenals producing several hormones, one of which is cortisol. Cortisol’s job is to rush to the pancreas and push the production of insulin (by the way, insulin is also a hormone). Insulin’s job is to bring glucose (sugar) from the blood to the cells for energy – energy to engage the fight or flight.
Now we have (in this simple example) two hormones being overproduced – insulin and cortisol. Since the body demands balance (we call it homeostasis), other hormones must now underproduce and/or overproduce, depending on what the other hormones are doing. Since each of us is bio-individual (no two are alike), this reaction is not the same in everyone, so there is not a “pattern” of how we respond. Are you seeing some of the problems faced in diagnosing chronic stress?
Simply stated, a diagnosis is the educated medical opinion of the physician based on lab results, examination, and observation. (Most patients don’t realize that observation is involved with the diagnosis.) Note that I didn’t say that the patient’s complaint is included in the diagnosis. The complaint suggests lab tests, examination, and observation. For instance: a patient arrives with a complaint that they thought they broke their arm. They are holding the arm, so it doesn’t move. That complaint suggests an x-ray. The exam would look for pain reactions when the arm is moved, and we would observe if the patient seems to be in pain during the movement of the arm. Bone injuries are fairly easy to diagnose as opposed to abdominal symptoms.
Since hormones are not normally run on blood tests, the imbalances are not noticed, and if the stress is not relieved/corrected, these imbalances continue to get worse. The symptoms worsen, the patient gets more drugs, and the cycle continues.
As an aside, I’d like to take you to an actual example of how stress works on the body. I had a patient come to see me after having a visit with his physician. My patient explained that as a requirement of his work, he have an annual physical, which he passed with flying colors 30 days ago. Two weeks after his exam, he became fatigued. He went back to his doctor and was diagnosed as a diabetic. He became upset and asked the doctor how he could miss the diagnosis two weeks before at his annual physical. The doctor told him that his diet had so much sugar in it that it just popped up! My patient was very upset, as he did not have a sugary diet. I asked him about his job, and he told me it was in the management of a major chemical manufacturing plant and was very stressful. I explained that stress produces cortisol, which pushes insulin, and he had “stress diabetes,” not diabetes, and was easily reversed. I showed him how to manage stress better, put him on a few products to balance blood sugar, and in two months, he was fine – no diabetes. Not a normal diagnosis because I didn’t look for acute problems – I looked for and found chronic problems, started on the correction, managed the condition while the correction took place, and the patient responded.
Now let’s get back to our wellness primer! Notice that the patient above was “put…on a few products”. Does that mean everyone must take something? No, it doesn’t! But most will. If we eat right (we will discuss this shortly), exercise, get proper sleep, have good relationships, and have the proper attitudes, we don’t need to supplement. I’d bet that 98% of the population of the United States doesn’t do all five every day. I know them and teach them, and I don’t do them all daily.
Once wellness/health is obtained, keeping it requires that you eat right, exercise, get proper sleep, have good relationships, and have the proper attitude. Eating right sounds simple, but it may be very complicated, but that’s for later. Your diet should be 80% raw, but most of us don’t eat that much raw. So, the second best is choosing what vegetables you will have and then deciding what “meat” will go with the vegetables. Again, most of us do just the opposite – choose the meat and then what vegetables. This usually means more meat and fewer vegetables. When choosing vegetables, choose colors. Each color provides different benefits. Cook lightly – don’t overcook. Choose more fish and poultry over beef and pork. I recommend the 80/20 rule – if you eat right 80% of the time, don’t worry about the other 20%.
When exercise is mentioned, many people will say I get enough exercise at work. Well, work is not exercise. Exercise is over and above what you do at work. Walking is a great form of exercise, AND it can assist in the good relationship, and proper attitudes category’s also! Multitask and take your spouse and children on the walks with you. That improves relationships and attitudes. Most towns have shopping centers or stores large enough to walk around, so weather should not be an excuse. Thirty minutes to an hour, three times a week, should be sufficient for most. If you have any physical problems, consult with your physician and consider a personal trainer to get you back in shape.
Remember that I said the body cannot tell the difference between physical, nutritional, or emotional stress. That’s where the relationship part of health/wellness comes into play. If you have issues with your spouse, children, or anyone, those issues are stressful to your body, and health/wellness will not be reached!! If you are walking with them, discuss your issues and find out what they think and, if you have to, compromise. But get it resolved. There are those who say that certain cancers are directly related to your emotional issues.
A proper attitude is essential in health/wellness. I hear many people tell me that what you think/say is what will happen. In other words, if you expect to have a bad day, you are going to have a bad day! If you expect to have a good day, you are most probably going to have a good day. What you expect is usually what you will find. A good example of that is in the book “The Greatest Salesman in the World” by Og Mandino. It is a great read, and I recommend it to you.
These are the main factors in maintaining good health/wellness. The most problematic factor is diet. Nutrition is not what you eat! It is what you eat, digest, absorb, and utilize. You can eat a perfect diet under stress and not be able to digest the food because stress down regulates the digestive system. If there are imbalances within the digestive system, digestion is compromised. If there is inflammation in the GI tract, digestion is compromised. Some researchers say 80% of illness/disease starts in the GI tract, AND 80% of the immune system is in the GI tract (for that exact reason). There are ways to identify what the issue(s) may be, and that will be the subject of other postings. For now, understand that keeping the GI tract healthy will have a great bearing on your overall health.
Finally, please don’t try to change your whole life overnight to these goals. Pick one, work toward it, and when you have one down, tackle number two, and so on. Trying to do it all at once could then become a stress to you, and that would be counterproductive. Start the journey and have fun!
Click here to read Neuropathy – A White Paper on Aging.
John N. Moreno, ND, PhD
ND NPI # 1366508616
NPI = National Provider Identification Number