In a previous post I mentioned how animals in captivity have shortened lifespans and a whole slew of other problems. Today we’re going to delve into the guiding principles of health, and why the oneswe’re currently using don’t work.
The human body is designed to respond and adapt to the stimuli with which you provide it. That stimulus can be either genetically congruent, or it can be genetically incongruent. Whether you believe in evolution, creation or any mix of the two, this guiding principle applies to you.
So what type of stimuli am I speaking of, that are causing you to adapt? The stimuli I’m speaking of includes everything from where you are, to what you do and think. To avoid chaos and bad science we need a guiding principle, to direct the stimuli you experience and to help us make intelligent choices with regard to those experiences. How about evolution for a guiding principle? If we use consider the things we do in life, are they consistent with the actions we have evolved to go? Genetics appears to be the new culprit for poor health, but do you think that over the millions of years of our evolution that poor genes that made us sick were more successful at being passed onto the next generation than healthy genes? Would it make any sense that your body was directed through tens of thousands of generations to sabotage you when you least expect it? This is what we’re being taught and exposed to all day everyday. Many drug companies claim that they are only indicated when other forms of treatment have not worked. Lately it appears that step has been skipped over, and we’ve all assumed it won’t work. Adusting your lifestyle is the ONLY thing that will make you healthier. Taking medications will change your symptoms or lab values and you and your MD can celebrate those values, but you aren’t any healthier, that’s for certain.
For just a moment, let’s pretend that you are the proud owner of the perfect genes. If you were consuming a diet high in processed carbohydrates, vegetable oils, and grain fed meats. You didn’t have any physical activity for the day, and you sleep poorly. Do you think that your perfect genetics are making a mistake when they decide to upregulate the genes that lead to increased LDL cholesterol, decreased HDL cholesterol, increased triglycerides and a down regulation of the proteins responsible for producing the insulin receptors on cells? Or is your DNA just responding to the stimulus that you’re providing it?
If you believe it isn’t a mistake, and that it happened for a reason – would it make any sense to you to take a drug that prevents your body from being able to react to the stimuli you provide it?
I’m willing to bet you said “no” to that question. But that’s what we’re doing with our current health and wellness model. High cholesterol? Who cares WHY it’s happening, continue to eat crap and take statins. Little to no midline stability? Forget correcting posture and how you move, do crunches until your face goes numb. Depressed? Don’t worry about changing your lifestyle, it has nothing to do with you, it’s serotonins fault!
We are stuck in the one cure for one ill model, and we’re slowly being convinced that any inadequacies in our lives have nothing to do with us! I’m sorry to tell you this, but you aren’t as unique as you think you are. As homo sapiens we have the same genes as our ancestors from 40,000 year ago. They’re all in there. What we do with our lives is what affects how they’re expressed. The diversity of people on the planet is a good example of the many different ways our genes can be expressed. Can you think of anyone that exercise is BAD for? That eating high quality, organic, free range food would be bad for some people and good for others? That getting adequate sleep would be bad for some people? That smiling and laughing is bad?
How can there be things that are good for EVERYONE? Because we’re all designed to be healthy, happy, successful humans. Full stop. Your body can’t help but express crap if you feed it with crap. It also can’t help but express excellence if you provide it with excellence. Too much sitting is just as toxic as too much gluten. Proper diet is just as important as getting exercise and sleeping well. We need to give up the “I have this problem that requires that solution”, and embrace the, “am I living in a way that will best allow my DNA to express health?”.
What are you providing your body? Are you feeding in crap and expecting excellence? Take stock in what you’re doing well for yourself and celebrate it. Acknowledge what you aren’t and plan a way to address it. There is always a better you out there, waiting to be experienced. Don’t get lost among the shiny promises of the one problem-one solution people!
The following post was written by Dr. Adam Blair. He is practicing chiropractic in Pickering, Ontario and his contact information is available at the end of this post. I highly recommend Dr. Blair and have had many of my occasional problems solved by his work. Onto the post!
If you were to ask one hundred people what their definition of health was, you would likely get one hundred different answers- which is likely the reason you will never see the question asked on Family Feud. Luckily, I’m here to provide you with a concrete foundation upon which you can begin to contemplate and construct your own definition of health. First I will dispel the myth that health is simply the absence of disease. If it were so simple, only two extreme possibilities could exist: you’re either healthy, or you’re sick. In reality, a person’s health exists along a much more complicated continuum. Let’s explore…
Everything you experience between the day you are born and the day you die, you experience through your nervous system. This being true, it is safe to say that you essentially live through your nervous system. Think about it. Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing – your five senses and each one is integrated and interpreted through your nervous system.
When you get sick, you do not need to consciously tell your immune system to wake up and get to work. In fact, your body is miles ahead of you. By the time you begin to experience even the slightest symptoms, your immune system has been activated and is working to eliminate any pathogens that have been introduced into your system. No conscious thought. No drugs. No surgery.
When you exercise, and the demand for blood to the muscles and oxygen to the blood increases you don’t sit down, get in touch with your cardiopulmonary system and politely ask it to provide you with some additional blood and oxygen. Again, your body is ahead of the game. It has already increased blood flow by increasing heart rate and decreasing resistance within the vessels and increased oxygen intake by increasing respiratory rate.
When you cut yourself and you cover that cut up with a Band-Aid, it’s the Band-Aid that is responsible for healing the cut….. right? False. Once again your body instinctively knows what needs to be done, and a set of complex biochemical events takes place in a closely orchestrated cascade to repair the damage.
So, we have discovered two distinct facts: one – that the nervous system controls everything and two -that your body is self-regulating and self-healing. We are also going to go so far as to suggest that if we can ensure that fact number one is working as efficiently as possible, fact number two will also occur at optimal efficiency. In other words, if the nervous system is free of stress (physical, chemical, and/or emotional) it is in an ideal state to ensure that everything in the body functions as it should. And this is the basis for our definition of health.
Our body’s are in a constant effort to achieve a state of balance. We want to find a level of homeostasis (really homeodynamics -but that is a discussion for another time) between the components of our autonomic nervous system. The idea in itself seems easy enough to accomplish. However, our typical lifestyles (which are filled with stress) tend to tip the scales and cause an overactivation of our sympathetic nervous system. This constant stressful state (your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the fight/flight response) makes it much more difficult for the body to respond efficiently to the outside stressors that it is subjected to on a daily basis. These stressors can be of the physical (sports, physical labour, etc), emotional (grief, relationships, work) and/or chemical (dietary, environmental, medications, smoking, etc) variety, and prolonged exposure without intervention can lead to the deterioration of a person’s health.
Stress is a cumulative event, and the body is capable of handling stressors when the nervous system is functioning as it is meant to. However, as the nervous system endures this constant bombardment from various stressors, the body begins to shift from a state of balance to a state of fatigue and guarding. This shift is a defensive reaction, and can manifest as alterations in muscle tone. It is logical to deduce that altered muscle function can (and will) lead to joint dysfunction. Joint dysfunction will lead to degeneration which will only add to the stress already placed upon the nervous system to function efficiently. The longer this dysfunction is allowed to continue without intervention, the more difficult it becomes to return the muscles, joints and nervous system to a state of balance.
The nervous system is intelligent to a fault. When the body becomes accustomed to performing certain movements and postures it begins to accept these as ‘natural’. Yet there is nothing natural about sitting in a chair in front of a computer or hauling skids off of a truck for 8 hours a day. We are simply not designed with these actions and postural tendencies in mind. The body adapts to these learned tendencies with alterations in structure (tighter, weaker muscles), while structure is undeniably related to (dys)function. Most people assume that if anything unpleasant was happening within their body that they would realize it via discomfort or pain. False again.
It is common for early joint dysfunction to exist without any significant pain or discomfort. In fact, only approximately 10% of nociception (the neural processes of encoding and processing noxious or unpleasant stimuli) is experienced as pain. Just because you don’t have pain doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing any structural or functional deficiencies. Waiting for pain to present actually leads to a longer path towards recovery, rehabilitation, rehabituation and restoration of health.
It would make sense at this point to delve a little further into chiropractic’s role in all of this. As chiropractors we have a massive variety of tools and techniques that we can use to provide the service that makes us unique – the adjustment. Some techniques work for some doctors and not others. Patients are the same in that one person may prefer one technique while another prefers an alternative. What most techniques have in common (including those that I utilize) is that they are gentle, safe, and comfortable for the patient. A common misconception is that every adjustment is accompanied by a ‘crack’ (which in actuality is no different that the hiss you hear when you open a bottle of pop for the first time – the sound is nothing more than gas being released from within the joint). In reality, there are numerous techniques that are even less invasive and utilize highly specific, low force methods rather than a hands-on approach. Really, there is something for everybody! Another commonality is that these techniques are used to correct mechanical joint dysfunction, reduce nerve interference and neural tension by restoring proper motion to joints and re-educating the nervous system to function efficiently. And we know from earlier that an efficient, stress-accomodating (balanced) nervous system is a healthy nervous system. And a healthy nervous system optimizes a person’s potential for health. As the nerves, muscles and joints begin to adapt and memorize the corrective changes being introduced via the adjustment, they begin to revert back to their truly natural state. Chiropractic’s role is to unwind existing patterns of mechanical dysfunction and nerve interference so that we can help you rebuild a healthier way of life. In this respect, chiropractic should not be viewed as a therapy, but rather as a lifestyle.
Now, since I only intended for this post to be a paragraph or three long, I’m going to step away from the laptop for now. However, if anyone has any questions regarding anything I have touched on please feel free to contact me. You can email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org . I am currently accepting new patients, and if you would like to come in for a complimentary consult you can make an appointment by calling 905-831-9696.
More importantly, why are you doing it?
Very frequently exercise discussions turn ugly and people get defensive, but this only seems to happen when people feel that the way they spend their time in the gym is being questioned. Before you get upset, do you question it yourself?
What I mean by this is, why do you do what you do, in the gym? Is your exercise supporting your goal? If your goal is to compete in an iron man triathlon, your time might be well spent practicing swimming, biking and running, in various lengths and environments. Training your 1 rep max deadlift or clean and jerk aren’t a terrible idea, but probably aren’t serving the ironman triathlete well in supporting their goal. On the other side of the coin, plugging in a 5k run everyday isn’t going to help someone increase their powerlifting or olympic total (or help with runs that are any length other than 5k). These are obviously only 2 simple examples.
When you tell me today is “chest and arms” day, unless you’re in a body building program, I don’t know what goal you’re working toward. Tell me what your goal is and we will evaluate whether or not you are effectively working towards achieving it. Simply spending time “doing the machines” or plugging away on the elliptical aren’t an efficient way to work toward your goals.
Always keep in mind the stimulus your training is putting on your body. Your body and its cells don’t know that you want to “get lean” any better than it knows that you want to “bulk up”. The only way to tell your body what you’re trying to do is to provide the appropriate stimulus and environment toward that goal.
As far as the exercise side of this equation goes, it isn’t a new idea that the good stuff of exercise is in the intensity. By intensity I mean YOUR intensity, because some very stupid workouts could be considered “intense”. I’m talking about the intensity directed at an appropriate stimulus. Whether it’s the intensity of a heavy squat, the intensity of the last 500 meters of a 10k trail run or the last round of Fran, it’s putting effort into something you know is going to be difficult. It’s that intense effort that tells your body “next time it’s going to be heavier/shorter/faster”. And in return, your body will respond to that stimulus and you improve.
So, you can’t get upset if you aren’t reaching your goals when the exercise you’re doing does not effectively direct you toward achieving them. Have a plan. Make sure it effectively supports your goal and then stick to it. I believe it is Dan John who said, “the plan is to keep the plan the plan”.
Simple? Yes. Easy? No. But anything worth having is worth working for.
Not in the wild, beast-like manner that you may be thinking, but you are most definitely an animal. And you are meant to live like a human being.
Ok. So now you may be thinking, “Adam is being weird, why do I even read this blog”. But my point is, we aren’t really free. If you take into consideration how we live, it’s very similar to animals in captivity. We spend most of our lives inside a box, whether it be a house, a cubicle, or even a car. This is not a good set up.
Let’s consider any animal in captivity. They get frustrated, they act out of the ordinary for their species, they don’t even want to mate with each other. When they do it actually makes headlines, “_________ animal has cute baby!”. Kind of ridiculous, however, does it remind you of anyone you know?
“I can’t seem to get to sleep at night anymore!
“My libido isn’t what it used to be”
“We’ve been trying to have children for a year now”
“I keep gaining weight despite eating ‘well'”
I could continue forever. These complaints are usually accompanied with stuff like
“I’ve been working hard, putting in a lot of hours at the office”
“Man, I’m so stressed out about _______”
“Did you see the late, late show last night???”
These people aren’t being the human they were designed to be. Think about those animals again. When they are taken out of captivity and allowed to go back to their native environment, (excluding those who have been raised by captive animals with copious human intervention), they thrive! While my first sentence in this paragraph sounds almost philosophical, it is meant to be read more seriously. We need to move, eat, and think like we are designed to. We’re captive. No wonder we suffer from these common problems (infertility, obesity, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression). Your genetics are responsible for your problems just as much as they are for your successes. Live in a way that your genetics are designed to react optimally to.
We’ll dive into the “how”s and “why”s of this subject more at a later date. For now I want you to start thinking about the parallels between the problems that animals in captivity live with, and the common complaints you hear from people. After that, consider the ways in which you are being held “captive” and what you’d do different if you were “free”.
All the best everyone! Have a great Thanksgiving.
First off, I’d like to give a shout out to my friend Danielle, who is running the scotiabank marathon in Toronto today while I sit in a starbucks sipping a coffee with some heavy whipping cream and cinnamon. Strong work Dee, you’re awesome.
Now onto todays topic, organic foods. I checked out the Whole Foods in Oakville yesterday. It’s a pretty awesome spot, but like most “health” related situations it sparked my curious side. As an aside they’ve got some seriously awesome stuff at this place and if you’re mindful of what you buy, you can get some really quality food without breaking the bank. The problem I have with places like Whole Foods is that I think they trick people into making the same dietary mistakes, but with organic or exotic ingredients.
Organic, gluten free carrot cake tastes amazing, but it’s STILL cake. People seem to forget that.
There is a huge benefit to buying local, buying grass-fed/pastured and buying organic. But buying organic pasta to put organic spaghetti sauce and organic parmasan cheese on top of it is just gives you an expensive plate of sugar. It isn’t the lack of organic ingredients that is making you fat/inflammed/in pain, it’s the types of ingredients you’re eating in the first place.
Goji berries, while having a cool name, and packing some nutrients, are no better than blueberries. And we don’t have to go to Nepal to get wild, locally grown blueberries (that seems redundant doesn’t it?). If you’re shopping at health food stores to help the environment, purchasing exotic foods from across the world is not helping. Things like goji berries, acai berries or the like, involve someone picking them lots of miles away, and shipping them around the world so that you can feel cool eating a “superfood”. Don’t be that guy. Eat the berries, fruits and vegetables local to our area, that are picked fresh, and allowed to ripen properly. Concentrate on locally grown fruits and veggies. Kohlrabi, apples, figs, plums, peaches, beets, turnips, kale, brussel sprouts, the list goes on, are all good, locally grown, nutrient dense foods. Try to lean towards veggies, but fruit will satisfy a sweet tooth.
Organic cookies are still off limits people. Whole grain is not “ok”. Anything that resembles or seems like a grain is not ok. Get off the grains. these foods are still mostly sugar with some lectins, phytates and other wonderful ingredients mixed in. If you’re buying organic foods to be more “healthy”, you’re undermining yourself by eating these foods.
If you’re shopping at a health foods store to be cool, well, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons, and those of us who are doing it properly hope you enjoy your zumba/insanity/ab rocket workout and hope that it works out well.
Aside from the above recommendations, here are some more:
- Try to find a CSA (community sustained agriculture) in your area and support it, it’s worth it. You receive a good number of fruit and veggies. Get ready to eat some mystery vegetables.
- Look into contacting a farm for pastured meat. Many times you can request your cow be grass finished (I.e. It never gets fattened up with grain). You’ll pay more, but it’s worth it. Also, ask for the fat rendered from the beef, most people don’t, but you’re paying for it and it’s great for cooking. And, since you chose the grass finished beef, the fat profile is amazingly good FOR you.
- Go to a farmers market in your area. It’s the market of local stuff (fruit, veggies, meat, etc.). Prices will be a bit higher than the previous two options, but you’re paying for the convenience.
That’s all for now! If you have any ideas or suggestions I missed, post ‘em to comments!