Why you should be your own health pioneer

In my first blog I spoke about integrating pioneering health insights. In this second blog I explore why you should be your own health pioneer.

The world we are living in today is in many ways very different from the one we experienced some thirty or forty years years ago. Our lifestyle has changed dramatically since the introduction of PCs, the internet and wireless communication. As have our diets, work-life-balance, movement and sleeping patterns.

Let's have a look at the implications and explore, why today every one of us should pioneer their own health.

You are what you eat and that what you ate has eaten.

Since the 50s we have substantially increased sugar and carbohydrate consumption while decreasing fat intake. We now also eat more processed foods than ever before, which come with problematic preservatives and additives.

There is a widespread use of growth hormones and antibiotics in livestock production that end up in our bodies after ingestion. Think about all the pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture today. They too make their way into our bodies through food, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the things we touch or apply to our skin.

But it's not only about chemicals. Unnatural and forced diets on livestock can also have a huge impact on our health. Whilst feeding soy and corn to animals is a cheap way to raise them in a short time, it also shifts their fat content to one that is omega 6 dominant. Grass pastured cattle have an omega 6:omega 3 ratio of about 1.7:1, in soy/corn fed animals this ratio shifts to 10:1. Why? Because soy and corn contain high levels of omega 6. You are what you eat. Buying organic in this case does not help. Certified organic meat from soy/corn fed animals still has the same unfavourable fat profile. Not only meat, but all animal products like milk, eggs, etc. will have the shifted omega 6:3 ratio. Farmed fish isn't any better.

Now, why this is important? Omega 6 is pro-inflammatory, while Omega 3 is anti-inflammatory. When we consume products from animals that were given omega 6 rich feed, inflammation in our body goes up.

Heavy use of pesticides and herbicides alongside intensified agriculture not only raises the toxic burden of our food, but also massively reduces beneficial bacteria as well as nutrients in the soil. According to the USDA, content of important minerals like magnesium and selenium in the soil are down by up to 90% in the last 100 years. The result is less nutrient dense produce. We now have to eat more vegetables and fruits to receive the same nutrient level our parents and grandparents ingested. At the same time, we need even more of these nutrients due to our stressful environment and life-style.

Think about GMO (genetically modified organisms), and you have another factor that was added to our ecosystem during the last decades. The consequences of the human GMO experiment are still not fully understood.

There is an ever increasing number of chemicals used in industrial processes and products which are subsequently released into our environment. They are everywhere - in the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, things we touch. From the clothes we wear to the furniture and goods we use, computers we work with, cleaning agents and cosmetics or fragrances we apply to our skin. Did you know, sometimes a third or more of the content of creams are microplastics (plastic particles with a diameter less than 0.005mm), some of which can stay in the body for long periods of time?

Toxicity of substances

In the past research has focused on toxicity levels of a single compound to find out symptoms of acute toxicity and counter measures for that particular substance. This is vastly different from the scenario we face today.

It is now known, that even small amounts of toxins can build up in the body over time and cause adverse long-term reactions. On top, combinations of toxins are sometimes far more potent than the single substances alone. Mercury for instance can block enzymes that are required for detoxification. Mercury thus prevents detoxification of other metals and substances, which leads to further build-up of toxins.

Every one of us inevitably has a cocktail of toxins in us. Autopsies of fat cells have shown, that a healthy adult today may well have around 20,000 different chemicals in the body. In people with chronic conditions the number of chemicals is often much higher, because they nearly always have reduced detoxification abilities.

Weight gain, weight loss, anxiety, depression, mood swings, decreased focus, reduced energy and fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, cramps, rashes, heart arrythmias, autoimmune disorders and more can all be signs of a toxin burden that is building up in the body.

While the level of every single toxin might be well below acute toxification levels, the combination and build up in the body - primarily in fat cells and bones - can interfere with hormones and mess up cell receptors.

Electromagnetic Fields (EMFs)

Technology and computers and wireless communication have changed our lives dramatically. Unlike 30 years ago, computers are everywhere in today's world. Working with computers we are exposed to electromagnetic fields (EMFs). The real culprit though is wireless data transmission. Cordless phones, cell phones, WiFi and wireless appliances are ubiquitous. We can't escape them.

Experiments conducted by Alan Frey on rats have shown, that the blood-brain-barrier gets leaky after only two hours of cell phone exposure. He injected a coloured contrast media to rats and exposed them to EMFs emitted by cell phones. Within two hours the contrast media coloured parts of the brain. Of course no colour showed up in the control group that had the media injected but was not exposed to the EMF. Frey concludes that EMFs can open the brain blood barrier and produce leaky brain. The experiment have been repeated in several labs around the world (e.g. by Prof. Salford) with identical results. Studies have also shown that EMFs decrease sperm count and possibly also damage eggs in the ovaries.

In the search of the root cause, Prof. Martin Pall theorizes, that EMFs interfere with "voltage gated calcium ion channels" (VGCCs) in the cell membranes. Human and animal cells all have four VGCCs. According to Prof. Pall, the forces applied to these channels by the use of cell phones are much stronger than the one needed to open and close them. Through the voltage sensitive channels, EMFs could alter the concentration of calcium-ions in the cell and mess up with a series of cell processes. If that is not enough, consider this: every plant cell has two VGCCs. So chances are high that plants are susceptible to EMFs too.

So what's the impact?

Let's have a look from a birds eye view at trends we can observe both in nature and health.

According to the WWF Living Planet 2016 report, the population of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. There are now 36% less birds and we face a staggering 76% reduction in freshwater animals. Have you noticed that there are fewer insects around? The report states, that their number went down by more than 70% in the same observation period.

Interestingly, human sperm count went down by 59% between 1974 and 2010. Studies have shown, that the tipping point for the extinction of a species is reached when sperm count is down by 72%. It's not hard to predict that reproductive medicine will become a booming sector in the years to come.

Figures by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC), Epidemic Answers and the World Health Organisation (WHO) show a huge increase of chronic disease.

  • Diagnosis of autism skyrockets: 1980 1 in 4000 kids, 2000 1 in 150, 2012: 1 in 68

  • ADHD now every 5th boy in the US

  • More than 50% of kids in primary school diagnosed with chronic symptoms (including food intolerances, etc.)

  • Every second living US citizen will develop cancer at some point in their life.

  • Alzheimer is now diagnosed at an ever younger age, impacting people was early as fifty.

  • A third of the US population has diabetes or pre-diabetes.

  • Burn-out, chronic fatigue and other chronic ailments are rapidly increasing.

  • WHO estimates, that the primary cause of deaths in 2050 will be due to toxification.

This is a wake-up call

When looking at the earlier mentioned driving factors of this epidemic development, it's becoming clear that it is not one thing that puts an overburden on the immune system but rather a combination of factors that together strain the immune system to a point where physical symptoms manifest.

Depending on our genetic make-up, psyche, environment, lifestyle and age we are more or less prone to reaching the health threshold at some point in time. But what the statistics show us is that the number of of people crossing from health to chronic ailments is increasing at a disturbingly increasing rate.

In general it seems fair to conclude, that the immune system has to work much harder than one or two generations ago.

Why we should be our own health pioneers

I'm sure you know or at least guessed it - there is no magic pill or supplement that we can swallow in order to build up an immunity to the rising load on our bodies. In fact, the only sustainable option we have is to adapt our lifestyle. The higher the burden on our personal immune system, the more we have to change our behaviours.

In this changed environment, we have to explore the factors that strain our own mind-body-system the most and identify ways to mitigate and change. The aim is to reduce the overall burden of the body to a level, that allows a healthy function.

This is personal and sometimes highly individual approach. Doctors are traditionally not trained to include lifestyle coaching in their treatment plans. Yet it will become a necessity to cope with the challenges that come with healing chronic conditions. It’s much more effective to work on the root cause that brought the symptom, than to try to add a medicine or supplement to fix an unhealthy lifestyle or diet.

Functional medicine, personalised medicine and health optimising medicine are recent developments that are heading in the right direction. In the future doctors will increasingly have to support their patients by teaching them how to live healthier. They have to go back to the roots of the name doctor – which comes from the Latin verb “docere” and means “to teach”.

But health practitioners and health coaches can only point you to measures that can help you to regain your health or optimise and maintain wellbeing. The leg work is on every one of us. What works for person A might not work for person B. We have to re-connect to our beings, listen to our bodies, find out what works for us. It’s an effort first to build up knowledge and awareness for issues relevant to our own health. It requires a pioneering attitude and an observing mind. But it gets easier as you figure out more and more about your own “personal health map”.

On a societal level, we have to be clear that we are living in a world where everything is interconnected. Everything has a systemic impact. It's not about looking at single substances and studying the impact of a particular compound on our environment and health. It's much more complex. While we don't know all impacts, there is only one viable strategy; We have to reduce the use and emission of problematic and potentially problematic substances wherever we can. In our industrial processes as well as in our everyday life. We are at the end of the food chain. In order to tackle the health crisis we are facing, we have to change our awareness and mindset and help heal our environment too, as we are also a part of nature.

We can't change much overnight, but we can take steps in the right direction. In my next posts, I will systematically look at steps we all can take on a personal level to improve our health and that of our environment.

Be well!