The Chronic Illness Conundrum
The current state of affairs
What is the disease delusion? The world is facing the greatest healthcare crisis it has ever seen. Despite what the media and handpicked experts might like us to believe, this is not related to the current Covid-19 narrative. It is a pandemic of chronic illness and mostly preventable disease.
Chronic disease is shortening lifespan, destroying our quality of life, bankrupting governments and threatening the health of future generations.
Conventional (allopathic) medicine focuses on managing symptoms and a pill for every ill.
We are facing a tsunami of chronic diseases that is estimated will cost the global economy $47 trillion over the next 20 years. And kill twice as many people around the world as infectious disease.
At what cost?
As we spend more and more on healthcare, we seem to get less and less as an end result for the patient.
Huge advancements have been made in certain areas of medicine and ground breaking work happens in our health services. But people aren’t getting healthier, they are getting sicker.
While life expectancy is higher than it was 100 years ago, we are now living with decades of chronic illness.
The United States has one of the worse health-care outcomes and lower life expectancy than every other developed nation.
Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, autoimmune diseases, digestive disorders, dementia, allergies, asthma, arthritis, depression, attention deficit disorder, autism, Parkinson’s, hormonal imbalances, cause endless suffering and a drain on financial resources.
Chronic illness now affects 1 in 2 Americans and can account for 80% of health care costs.
Despite a host of new drugs and procedures the incidence of chronic illness continues to rise.
Not just in the USA, but around the globe where developing countries adopt the worst of the Western World’s cuisine and life style. In particular, refined vegetable oils, processed sugar and fast food.
What we are doing is not working. We need a new paradigm and a different model for diagnosing and treating this new epidemic of chronic disease.
We have to move from medicine by symptom, to medicine by cause, from medicine by disease to medicine by system, from medicine by organ to medicine by organism.
This is the essence of functional medicine and integrative health. If you have been told in the past about chronic illness and just having to live with and accept it is not helpful. It is possible to heal from chronic illness in the right conditions.
A jigsaw puzzle
All networks of our body intersect and interact in a dynamic and fluid process. When out of balance creates disease and chronic illness.
Integrative Health and Functional Medicine looks at all the component parts of science and puts them together like a complex jigsaw puzzle.
Disease as we think about it, is a false idol, and does not exist in the way we imagine.
The names and diagnosis attached to disease are useful for finding the right medication. But not for getting to the root cause or creating an environment where the body can begin to heal.
Imagine a person sees his GP because of feeling of hopelessness and sadness. With lacking interest in daily activities, food or sex for example. He may get a diagnosis of depression.
Depression is not the cause of the misery, it is just the name we give to a collective of symptoms. We then treat the symptoms with an antidepressant, which may elevate some symptoms but does not tackle underlying root cause.
A GP appointment lasts on average 15 minutes. You cannot possible discuss all factors which could impact positively in a patient’s life. It is much easier to write a prescription. The treatment for the depression itself may cause conditions where other chronic illness may occur.
The actual cause of depression may vary from person to person. A leaky gut caused by a gluten intolerance that activates the immune system to produce antibodies against the thyroid. Or a vitamin B12 deficiency resulting in long term use of acid blocking drugs used for reflux.
It may be a deficiency of Folate secondary to a gene called MTHFR or Vitamin D deficiency from inadequate sunlight. Or a mercury toxicity or Omega 3 deficiency.
Symptoms may arise in the brain chemistry brought on by life trauma or stress. Or even by alterations in the gut microbiome after antibiotics. Diet, environment, lifestyle can all cause imbalances which lead to symptoms of depression.
Knowing the name of the disease tells us nothing about its true cause. Nor does it lead us to the right treatment. This is what is known as the disease delusion and the chronic illness conundrum. Link to data on top worldwide causes of death.
As a nurse and now a integrative health practitioner I face the failure of our current medical model every day. I also bare witness to the changes people can make with a functional/ integrative approach. I strongly feel we are on the verge of a transformation in medicine and health care.
Functional medicine and integrative health are not simply about improving diet, getting more exercise, reducing exposure to environmental toxins. All of which are critical foundations for creating a healthy human. It is about providing balance in all areas, physically, psychologically and spiritually.
Above all, functional medicine is the science of creating health and as a side effect disease goes away. Functional medicine and Integrative Health Coaching is a personalised way of investigating the root of symptoms. Aiming to restore balance in the most natural and fluid way as possible.
A whole person approach
24 year old who had suffered on and off with flares of psoriasis, with weeping, red and raw skin. During her life she had been to many different specialists and prescribed treatments. She was given powerful immunosuppressants and steroids in an attempt to shut off inflammation.
The focus should be investigating root cause, not giving medication just designed to suppress symptoms. Nobody asked about diet, lifestyle factors or history of medications such as steroids and antibiotics. All of which may have affected his delicate gut flora, thus setting up conditions for inflammation.
The modern medicine default is what drugs can be used to treat or reduce pain caused by the inflammation? Attention would better directed towards what caused the inflammation in the first place. The causes of inflammation could be: microbes, allergens, toxins, poor diet and stress for example.
What would help the immune system in order to regain balance and reduce inflammation?
A trial period away from gluten maybe advised to see an underlying allergy or sensitivity exists (this could be due to gluten allergies. It can also be glyphosate used on wheat/crops causing a leaky gut or gliadin allergy/sensitivity.
Identify yeast/bacterial or mold overgrowth in the gut potentially caused by antibiotics and steroids use.
All the above, along with following a diet plan designed for the individual is a good place to start. No one diet fits all, in terms of lifestyle, beliefs and effect on health. What is good for one person might be good for another.
As a general rule though organic or bio produce, whole food, avoid processed carbohydrates and sugars. We all need fat in our diets, but not all fats are created equal. Avoid refined vegetable and trans fat which are pro inflammatory.
The Rain Barrel Effect
Imagine a rain barrel before that is connected at the bottom of a gutter to collect rainwater as it moves down the drain pipe. It begins to fill up more and more with every rainstorm.
The problem is that most people never check their rain barrel until it begins to overflow. When it does overflow is when you start to see a person’s lawn become saturated with water and the grass eventually dies due to over watering.
Our bodies are really no different and if you could think of your own (hormonal, digestive, detox, etc.) systems as a rain barrel many of us never really think about how our health is until we begin to see or feel symptoms of dis-ease or chronic illness.
It is at this point that our rain barrel has already overflowed…
For the first time we are now seeing the effects of the immune imbalance, bacteria, viruses, gut dysfunction, inflammation, or any number of things that have accumulated in our bodies that have worn us down. This in turn can lead to a whole myriad of chronic illness.
The rain barrel effect also explains why some people get so sick while others stay perfectly fine. Numerous factors such as lifestyle, environment, toxin exposure, genetics, and nutrition play a huge role and how quickly (or slowly) your rain barrel fills up.
The good news is that there is always an answer to your wellness, weight loss, or anti-aging issues. Once you discover how your rain barrel got filled up in the first place you can begin to Empty Your Rain Barrel™ and feel alive again!
In upcoming blog posts I will cover ways in which you can identify what is causing your rain barrel to overflow, how you can slow the flow down, re-balance and heal, in bit sized easy parts.