Last week at the Farmer’s Market, two women approached me seeking help for an autoimmune disease. This is not an abnormal occurrence. Most people who reach out to me are struggling with some form of chronic disease.
In modern societies, chronic diseases such as heart disease, autoimmune disease, and cancer are the most common health conditions and the leading cause of mortality.
Infectious diseases are diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Many of these tiny critters live within or on our bodies, normally in a symbiotic relationship with us. But a change in the body’s ecology can shift the inner balance between our body and its friendly flora and fauna, inviting foreign organisms that cause disease into the body.
With the discovery of the first vaccination in the 18th century by Dr. Edward Jenner and then antibiotics in the 1920s by British scientist Alexander Fleming it was assumed that we could now heal all diseases, and for a while, it looked like we succeeded; some deadly diseases disappeared from at least the western world and others became easy to heal.
But at the same time, a new type of disease surged up in modern countries; chronic diseases became so prevalent that the CDC reported that in 2022 60% of Americans lived with a chronic illness.
Seeking Wellness – How to Prevent Chronic Diseases?
To prevent chronic diseases, you need to look at what changed in the past two hundred years and how these changes impacted our well-being.
A person born in the 18th century was most likely growing up in a multigenerational household supported by the community. A person born today will spend many hours of his days away from his family members. The thread creating the fabric of communities becomes undone and with it our mental and physical well being.
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States, writes about the epidemic of loneliness:
“The lack of social connection poses a significant risk for individual health and longevity. Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk for premature death by 26% and 29%, respectively. More broadly, lacking social connection can increase the risk for premature death as much as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.”
What to do?
For us today, being connected is something we consciously need to work for.
Some ways to create and sustain meaningful face-to-face connections:
- Join a club or a society and share your hobby with like-minded people.
- Volunteer. Share your gifts with your community.
- Join a continuing education program, Sharpen your mind, and share your interests with others.
It was only in 1845 that New York City got its first sewage system. Until then, people lived on the second floor with their animals on the bottom floor, and waste of animals and humans ran down the street.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against hygiene, but could it be that in our quest to conquer all infectious diseases, we swung the pendulum to the other extreme?
” The richer the country you call home-or in some cases, the higher your social class within a country-the more likely you are to have asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis.”
In his book “The Epidemic of Absence,” Moises Velasquez-Manoff explains how the immune system developed in association with bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When the immune system doesn’t encounter this type of environment, it falls out of whack hence autoimmune disease.
What to do?
My teacher Thomas Easley describes this mysterious wild place that people, especially children, used to play and work in – The backyard.
- Spend time in your backyard, dig your hands in the dirt, and grow your own food.
- Avoid, if possible, antibiotics and hand sanitizers. Wash your hands with water and soap.
- Feed your microbiome: Eat fiber-rich foods and resistant starch.
The traditional human diet consisted of plants and animals local to the area where people lived. Food was dried, cured, and salted to preserve it for the winter.
Commercial production of sugar in America began in the 18th century in the slave plantation of Louisiana. Today, 272 years later, we are slaves to sugar.
Research that looked at the outbreak of obesity and heart disease in Native American attributed the increase in chronic diseases to a fast shift from the traditional diet to the Western diet.
What to do?
- Avoid processed and fast food.
- Reduce sugar intake dramatically.
- Increase the variety and amounts of vegetables on your plate.
Chronic disease is NOT your predestination. You have the power to improve your health by reducing toxin exposure, increasing nutrients in your foods, and connecting to nature and to other humans.