If we live long enough, health issues catch up with us eventually.
As we get older, problems begin to cumulate. You know that you've got something “serious” when you find more than 10 “issues” in your body. Most things are minor, a little bump here, a minor wound there, a bit too much weight that just won't go away, an allergy or two, a respiration problem, a tooth that bothers you, tiredness, insomnia, a cranky stomach, a computer elbow, a stubbed toe, what have you, various aches and pains. If you go systematically through your body starting with the head and ask yourself about each of your internal organs, ending at the toes, you may discover so many minor or major issues that your 10 fingers will not suffice.
All along, you'll just barely take note, you'll adjust a bit, you'll take two aspirins or a strong coffee, and you'll do your best to forget it all.
Except that every so often, the issue in question doesn't simply disappear. Instead it becomes more insistent, to the point where it may wake you up in the middle of the night. Some mornings you may feel that everything has gone off the rails. But then you berate yourself for feeling so negative – and do your best to forget your unpleasant reminders, once more. Kick the can down the road.
Stop the spiral
If it gets worse, year after year, you may begin to ask: can we ever stop those nasty reminders?
If you'd asked me a decade ago, I wouldn't have known much more about these problems than the next guy. I only started to follow up on these issues when I was slammed to a ground by my “burn-out” (Chapter 3.1). It began with an incredible exhaustion and a total lack of drive. Some time after a hospital stay for a temporary vision problem, I limped off to retirement. At that point I still thought that a couple of weeks of sound sleep might cure the issue.
It didn't. Initially I needed two years to get halfway back onto my feet. Then, after an extensive naturopathic analysis (full-body kinesiological work-up, detailed blood tests, etc.), I was told that my body was in actual fact "full of physical issues", from head to toe: there were problems with the neural system, circulation, liver, gall bladder, intestines, and what have you more. My hair stood up straight. So I started researching each of these issues and read up on the whole field of ageing and health. I was amazed about what I hadn't been aware of. I went through hundreds, if not thousands of reports. I watched YouTube videos about health questions till deep into the night.
Here's an extreme distillation of what I discovered.
Start with microbes
Our key objective is to live healthy lives. Yet according to current statistics, we spend about a sixth of our lives in poor health, most often in old age. Much of medical research seeks to understand how this common and extensive human suffering can be reduced.
Several strands of research give us important information about the elements that contribute to good health. Among them are the study of microbes1, genetics/epigenetics, nutrition and psychology. By changing our perceptions and our habits in a number of ways, we can improve many aspects of our health and we can speed our recovery from illness.
I have already touched on quite a few psychological factors, and they are hugely important. A range of studies has shown that happy people live healthier and longer lives. Nutritional factors are also very important, as illustrated for example by the extensive "China Study"2. The genetics and epigenetics story will probably be hugely important in the long run, because the test results of animal studies suggest that influenceable epigenetic factors can promote health and also prolong life. We may be able to find effective pharmacological factors to lessen pain by regressing our genetic structure to a younger age. Finally, the study of microbes gives us an excellent entry point to the whole discussion, and this is where I will start this minuscule review.
The human being lives in direct interaction with microbes. Without them, we couldn't digest our food, i.e. we couldn't live without those microbes. At the same time, some other types of microbes make our lives very difficult. They accumulate in poorly irrigated areas (e.g. in the joints) and they end up digging niches into the tissue and the bones. From these protected places, they continue their evil purposes. They keep expanding their territory, they deprive us of nutrients and they fill our systems with their refuse. We take note of them only relatively late in the game, for example when suffering from arthritis, or when we have infections, or when they have begun to seriously interfere with the functions of an organ or two, etc.
Our immune system is responsible for separating beneficial from harmful microbes. In a healthy person fed properly, this highly complex police action is performed admirably well during our first 40-50 years of life. But microbes are insistent, the battle never stops, and gradually, the "bad guys" start to take over. They reinforce their territory, they occupy parts of the body, they mingle adroitly with the "good guys" to avoid being spotted, and they multiply at a staggering speed. Thus the sophisticated forces of our immune systems fall behind and are gradually overwhelmed. Of course, frequent infections, toxins that abound in our environment and our nutritionally impoverished diet do not help matters.
So our poor body begins to acknowledge the many wrongs, each year a little more. Depending on your "preferred weakness", the damage first shows up in your circulation system, the movement system, the nervous system, digestion, the elimination system, etc. After a while, these systems gradually begin to fail in their functions. When the faults accumulate sufficiently or when the body tries to fix the damage, there may be a sudden system failure (heart fibrillation, stroke from a blood clot, etc.), or more gradually through a domino effect of failing organs, as is typically seen in the terminal phases of cancer, advanced arthritis, etc. Indirect effects of microbial mischief also contribute to various progressive diseases.
Causes... and effects much later
What is crucial in this whole story is that the causes of the problem are often far removed from their consequences. The damage can even begin in fetal life and remain unnoticed until old age. Therefore, it would be best to begin supporting the functions of our immune system as early as possible.
And that we do very rarely. We usually wait till things have begun to seriously get out of hand, just as I did with my burn-out.
In general, when we receive "the first really bad news" from our doctor, the reaction is to resort to one of thousands of "cures" that promise quick or immediate solutions. This action will rarely have the desired effects, for the one logical reason: an ill that has settled into our body a long time ago will not just up and leave a few weeks or even a few months later. When you finally have begun to notice an attack, you are already in a strategic weak point. Microbes are directed by "social intelligence". They breed in different places in the body. If we hunt them down at one location, they tend to multiply in another. So for a long time, we must fight an intelligent uphill battle in various sites to rectify the balance against a very smart enemy that never sleeps. It often takes years to enable "the immune police" to get the upper hand in a given situation, so that our innate processes of recovery and tissue regeneration can really take care of the damage.
Into the battle
When I finally understood what I was up against, I undertook a systematic battle. I decided that I would support my immune system as best as I could and that I would make life really hard for those harmful microbial agents.
First, I had to strongly prioritize my health issues. I radically changed my eating habits and now follow a balanced genotype diet3 which favours fresh salads and vegetables, genotype-appropriate nutrients and comparatively low levels of protein. One of the key objectives of a high vegetable – moderate protein diet is the maintenance of a pH-neutral interstitial fluid level which best supports immune functions. To favour high nutritional value, many vegetables remain uncooked. I eat to satisfaction, but not excessively. I leave about 8 hours between the evening snack and breakfast. Alcohol, coffee, sugar and sweets are generally off the list, as are fruit juices and pop sodas. I've been on this diet for about half a year, and it corresponds well to my needs. As the months have gone by, the cravings for “exceptions” has relented.
If I have any muscular or internal pains, I treat them conscientiously till the symptoms subside. Because there is still a great deal of residual damage from my pre-burn-out time, this takes some 30 minutes to 2 hours out of my day. I usually use that time to catch up with my reading or to watch instructional videos. I expect this time investment to diminish with time.
I see my complementary health professional once or twice a week. In my case, that's easy, because my partner Elena is the health professional in question. She also provides great moral support and additional factual information. In addition, I have developed audio recordings to help my sleep which I put on every night and during each nap. These help me reach 3 to 4 delta sleep periods every night. Deep delta sleep is associated with increased immune system support. Also, after sufficient delta sleep periods, I feel exceptionally fit and well rested. Finally, I do a meditation and I ask for health support every night before falling asleep.
I do all of this without prescription drugs. I take one or two vitamin C pills a day, and that's it.
In short, I have become a "regular health nut". This was the resolution of a long-term conflict between reason and easy habits. Reason has finally won out over convenience.
At this point I have finished two years of intensive treatment. Quietly the positive effects have taken over, especially in the last year. Small pains in the joints (computer elbow, carpal tunnel, knees, feet) are essentially gone. Tinnitus that has been with me for some 15 years has diminished, liver and gall bladder pains have stopped, neuromuscular disturbances from my burn-out have subsided, the intestinal system is quiet and does its job well. Sexually I relive sensations that I have not known for a long time.
Would I now venture and provide a recommendation to others? Not really because I only know my own case in detail, but here are some things to think about.
We should first start with a central question, which is, "what are your life plans"? Do you have a "mission to live for" during the next few decades? Do you aim to live a long time without aches and pains? Do you want to prioritize health the way I just described and go to all the lengths of reading up and following a rigorous programme?
After thinking this question over for some time, the vast majority of people simply say, "no, that seems too much trouble." OK, I understand. So do what is reasonable. Eat regularly, don't exaggerate, lead a good social life, and you'll do as well as most of your friends, or better. Average life expectancy in developed countries is now around 80 years of age4, that's what we can currently hope for. Don't step in front of a moving bus, be careful when going down stairs and don't worry excessively about your health. Perhaps the "epigenetic pill" will in any case change the whole picture some years from now.
What seems certain at the present is that without an absolute conviction translated into focused action, we cannot win the battle against the microbes. "Winning the battle" would here be defined as a permanent and decided reduction of symptoms which are due to the action of microbe populations. A "soft approach" to health problems, without full information and decided conviction, only leads to complaints about the diet plan and the frustrating time limits that your chosen approach imposes. I say to these people, "enjoy your life, eat what you like to eat, don't exaggerate, do the best you can and when it's your time, the body will simply have served its time. It will have done its job admirably well during these wonderful years that you have been able to offer to this world."
If however you have decided to pursue a certain mission in your remaining life, my suggestions would be different, regardless of your age.
At first, I would say that one needs to prioritize health issues. One should begin by obtaining as much information as possible about the issues that concern you, because no approach will ever succeed in the long term if we do not understand quite thoroughly why we adopt one or another health orientation. Once we understand the broad outlines of what we do, we have created the basis for a logical change which we can pursue easily and with conviction. This will motivate the changes in our habits with respect to food, sleep, exercise, breathing, meditations, care of physical weaknesses, etc.
Once you've made all the adjustments, maintain them with consistency. You will probably need several years to see their full effect. But eventually, you'll sense that you're winning the battle. You'll feel an immense sense of new energy in your body, the little pains will vanish and you'll feel much better.
It's your choice, and much depends on exactly what you wish to do with the precious years you still have with us.
I wish you well, whatever your choices may be.
1 "A microbe is any living organism that spends its life at a size too tiny to be seen with the naked eye. Microbes include bacteria and archaebacteria, protists, some fungi and even some very tiny animals that are too small to be seen without the aid of a microscope. The term microbe is short for microorganism, which means small organism. ... Microbes are extremely diverse and represent all the great kingdoms of life, including the animals, plants, fungi, protists and bacteria."
2 Thomas Campbell and T. Colin Campbell (2006). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health. Ben Bella Books.
3 Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo, http://www.dadamo.com/txt/index.pl?1039
Verification: “Melkiades, do you agree with this summary?” Yes, completely. “Can I put it on Internet?” Yes, now you can. (I needed to change some phrasing and add more nuances to a previous version.)
Written January 2016
Copyright @ 2016 Melkiades