Holistic Health Practices
The term “alternative health care” is not really appropriate. What “alternative” practitioners do is address the health of the individual and not merely try to manipulate symptoms. They work to improve the health of the patient, enabling the body to heal itself.
Rather than thinking of disease as something that just randomly invades a healthy body, they think of disease as evolving when all of the components for good health are not present. For a body to be healthy there must be good genetics, good structural balance, good nutrition, biorhythmic integrity and good emotional health. When these base components are not present, it sets the stage for disease.
Traditional Western medicine deals with symptoms. It is a great approach when the symptoms are severe or dangerous. If you get hit by a car, you may want the trauma team to work on you rather than have someone give you calcium to help you bones to heal.
Chronic health problems respond well to holistic care. Gastric reflux, for example can be controlled with a drug—complete with side effects. The holistic practitioner will look at the problem as the digestive system telling you that something is wrong and try to come up with a therapy that addresses the cause of the problem. The holistic care will not have side effects and it will ultimately help more serious problems from developing.
Sometime both approaches are needed. An asthmatic, for instance, can die if the attack is severe enough. Drugs can save his or her life. At the same time, addressing nutritional and other core health issues can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Similarly, cancer patients can usually benefit from both approaches.
An Example of the Development of Poor Health
The issues that are at the core of good health include proper diet, proper structural alignment, emotional well-being, biorhythmic integrity and good genetics. If the core issues for good health are interfered with, a decline begins. For instance, if you eat a lot of refined white sugar and refined (white) noodles and bread, get exposed to chemicals, consume chemical additives, eat hydrogenated oil, or lead a sedentary lifestyle, a decline in health begins. Subluxations interfering with the nervous system can adversely affect health.
If the assault on health continues, the function of the enzymes are affected. The sugar and carbohydrate is a burden on the digestive system—often there is not enough enzyme production to fully digest the carbohydrates. The undigested food irritates the lining of the small intestine, further damaging digestion. This results in a reduction of absorption of vitamins and minerals, an overgrowth of yeast (that release toxins) and a burden to the pancreas and insulin production. Chemicals and hydrogenated oil can damage the integrity of individual cells, similary affecting performance of other enzymes throughout the body. Damage from free radicals, and lack of protection from not eating enough antioxidant nutrients can damage cells and harm enzymatic activity.
As this situation continues the adrenal glands are stressed and their function is adversely affected. Also, because the sugar consumption forces the body to make insulin—the body begins to become insensitive to its own insulin. Chemical toxins in the environment mimic estrogen, disrupting the endocrine system. Lack of essential fatty acids, perpetuated by the consumption of hydrogenated oils. Every person and every disease process is different.
As the impairment of adrenal, pancreas and other hormones function, loss of nutrients, and the toxicity from the yeast overgrowth, the liver being overworked and free radical damage continues, many aspects of the body’s biochemistry go into decline. Formation of neurotransmitters, production of cellular energy, efficiency of the cells of the immune system, and other aspects of the body’s biochemistry go into decline. Cholesterol and triglyceride production may be affected. There can be more damage from free radicals. Until now there have been no definite symtoms.
As the decline continues, physiologic performance is affected. The patient will not “feel right” but still nothing that can be diagnosed.
As the decline continues, signs and symptoms develop: fatigue, insomnia, depression, frequent colds, PMS, ADD, joint pains, muscle aches or other symptoms. There may also be adult onset diabetes, or even cancer. Every person and every disease process is different.
Treating the Patient, not the Disease
Working with the center of the circle, treating the patient and not the disease is valuable, whatever the disease process is. When the disease is life-threatening, you have to work on the outside of the circle. You need to directly treat the symptoms. Alternative health care is not an accurate term—no one wants to be “alternative” to medicine. Holistic care is a better term. Practitioners do not treat cancer—they treat patients who happen to have the disease. Anyone, no matter what the status of their health, can benefit from taking steps to improve health by working in the center of the circle.
What we call healthcare in America is in reality “sickness care”. In other words, you ignore your health; you get sick; you go to the doctor to get better. The doctor takes care of your sickness. Treatments are designed to manage symptoms. Patients are given anti-inflammatory drugs for pain, antibiotics for infections, cholesterol lowering drugs for high cholesterol, Ritalin for ADD and so on. The primary concern is the symptoms; the cause is ignored.
Wellness care, on the other hand, focuses on staying well when you are healthy. If you are having health problems, wellness care focuses on finding and eliminating the cause of disease. While it is desirable to eliminate symptoms, in many cases it is more important to treat the cause.
It is necessary to focus on symptoms when they are life threatening. In acute appendicitis, for example, you would rather remove the appendix and prevent it from rupturing than to concern yourself with the cause of the appendicitis. Improving the diet may be a good follow-up after the surgeon treats the symptom and saves the patient’s life.
An anti-depressant drug may not address the cause of the depression, but if it keeps the patient from committing suicide, it is a useful therapy. A patient who is mildly depressed may do better with natural therapies that address the cause of the depression.
A Guide to Wellness Care
Look at your health in an organized manner. Find and eliminate the things that undermine your good health. You can approach your health in a systematic manner, eliminating the cause of any current health problems and preventing health problems later in life.
Chronic health problems like asthma, allergies, digestive problems, colitis, joint pain, muscle spasms, back pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, skin problems, obesity, headaches, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, gastric reflux, menstrual problems, menopausal symptoms, osteoporosis, immune system problems etc. often respond best to natural therapies. By focusing on the cause of health problems symptoms can often be eliminated permanently and without side effects. Even in some severe chronic conditions, symptoms can be reduced and health improved.
Triad of Health
Wellness care means treating the whole person. There are three major areas that have to be addressed when treating the whole person: Structure, chemical and mental (or spiritual). This is holistic health care. You don’t treat a headache; you treat the person who has the headaches and all aspects of his or her health. A person suffering from headaches may have a structural problem—vertebrae in the neck can out of place (subluxations) can create nerve irritation and headache pain. The headache may have a chemical component, nutrient deficiency, allergy and low blood sugar can all cause headaches. Your mental state, stress and worry for example, can also be a cause a headache. In any chronic condition, it is wise to treat the whole person and all three aspects of health, structural, chemical and mental.
Structure: Tight muscles, tight fascia, structural distortion and weakness can all affect general health. The nervous system is profoundly affected by the musculoskeletal system. There are examples of how structure can affect health. Tight muscles, for example, can cause fatigue. Your body doesn’t know the difference between a muscle that is working and one that is in spasm. Keeping a muscle tight requires energy. Keeping a proper balance in the spine, muscles and other structures of the body is important for good health.
There are a number of systems for balancing the body’s structure. They are not only good for treating pain, they can positively affect all aspects of health. Good structural balance is an integral part of wellness care.
Chemical: Drug therapies are medicine’s attempt to treat the body’s chemistry. A more natural way to balance the body’s chemistry is the use of nutrition and herbal remedies. Everything the body does involves a chemical reaction. Digestion, pain, movement of muscles, signals from the nervous system, production of energy and even thought all are chemical reactions. Food, vitamins and minerals provide the body with the raw materials for these chemical reactions. Poor nutrition, digestion and absorption of food can create chemical imbalances and even disease. Informed use of vitamins, minerals and other nutritional products can balance the body's chemistry restoring health and preventing disease.
Mental (or spiritual): Your mind can contribute to illness or to health. Mental stress creates hormonal changes, adversely affects the immune system, uses up vitamins and causes minerals to be excreted. Stress increases blood pressure, heart rate and increases blood clotting (implicated in athlerosclerosis). Mental state can affect healing. Studies have indicated that counseling, visualizing and positive thinking are all linked to healing. Survival rates of cancer patients have been doubled by counseling and support groups.
The Importance of Wellness Care
Good health is more than just not being sick. Health is the optimal functioning of all organs and systems of the body. This is attained by balancing the body’s chemistry and structure and from good mental health. This program is designed to help you identify and improve all of the areas that affect your health. It is a way to systematically look at all of the areas of your health.
Structure: Muscle Balance Affects Health
Muscle imbalance can create poor posture and stresses the body and the nervous system. To simply say that poor posture stresses the spine doesn't really convey how much of a burden poor posture is on your health. The most obvious problem caused by poor posture is muscle tension. Muscle tension is merely the tip of the iceberg.
Muscle Tension and Fatigue
Your body doesn't know the difference between a muscle that is doing work and one that is in spasm. The body has to supply nutrients and oxygen to a muscle that is in spasm, and that muscle produces waste products. Muscle tension requires energy and is a major cause of chronic fatigue.
Muscle Tension Progresses to Other Problems
Poor posture creates tension in the small muscles in the spine, called multifidi. These muscles are an inch or two long and connect individual vertebrae. Chronically poor posture creates spasms in these muscles, which in turn cause distortions in the alignment of individual vertebra. These misalignments are called subluxations. Other areas of the spine may not be subluxed but do experience a lack of normal motion; these are called fixations.
Have You Ever Had Your Arm in a Cast?
Have you have ever had a cast on your arm, leg or other broken bone, and that cast kept a joint from moving? Remember how hard it was to move the joint when the cast was removed? The spine is dozens of joints and is meant to be highly mobile. Chronic subluxations and fixations create stiffness and lack of mobility similar to that of a joint that has been placed in a cast.
The Whole Nervous System is Affected
Virtually every nerve in the body passes through the spine. When the spine contains subluxations, fixations, and muscle spasm the nervous system is affected. The obvious manifestation of this is pain and discomfort. Pain and discomfort is caused by stimulation (or irritation) of the nerves that emerge from the spine.
Sometimes the pain is severe, sometimes it is merely annoying. Pain is what brings most people to chiropractors. Chiropractors adjust (manipulate) subluxations and fixations to relieve pain and discomfort. It works very well. Chiropractic, as we know it, has been around for a hundred years. Spinal manipulation, however, has been practiced since the time of the ancient Egyptians and has a pretty good track record of improving health and relieving pain.
The Spinal Nerves
The spinal nerves are responsible for feeling pain (and other sensations) and for the movement of muscles. They emerge from the spinal column and are responsible for feeling and movement throughout the body.
Pain, weakness and other symptoms caused by irritation of spinal nerves are what usually bring people to chiropractors. To most people, the value of chiropractic is its ability to relieve neck, back and other musculoskeletal pain. Even chronic distortions of the spine, while taking a little more time, can be relieved through chiropractic care.
The Autonomic Nervous System
While it is clear to many people that chiropractic is effective in treating neck, back and musculoskeletal pain, they may not fully realize that chiropractic helps the function of another part of the nervous system, the autonomic nervous system.
In the autonomic nervous system there are clusters of nerves, called along side of the spine. The ganglia handle automatic functions (they work autonomously). When you eat, you don't have to tell your stomach to produce acid for digestion. When you run, you don't have to tell your heart to beat faster to supply blood and oxygen to your legs. These functions happen automatically. Think of the brain as the president of the company. The president isn't involved with every detail of the running of that company. There are heads of various departments, marketing, accounting, sales etc. These department heads are like the ganglia of the autonomic nervous system.
Structure Affects the Nervous System
There are many approaches to balancing the body’s structure. Some practitioners work with fascia, like Rolfers. Many styles of massage help to fix muscle and other structural imbalance. Chiropractors work directly on the bones of the spine. If you take a rubber band and put it around your arm, your hand will become numb, tingle and then ache. You have interfered with the nerve and blood supply. Similarly, subluxations and fixations affect your body. Spinal nerves are affected, causing pain and weakness and the autonomic nervous system is affected causing dysfunction in various organs.
When you place a rubber band around your arm, the effects are felt in a few minutes. Pressure from subluxations and fixations, when chronic, are usually more subtle and their effects are felt over time.
Structural balance can create a sense of well-being and improve health. People are commonly aware that such techniques are effective for relieving pain, but its real strength lies in its ability to improve the health of the nervous system and the rest of the body.
The Chemical Side of the Triangle
The Problem with the American Diet
If you look at what happens to people who are newly "civilized" and recently exposed to the modern Western diet, you can get an idea of the problems caused by eating a refined, processed diet. Two examples of the deterioration in general health caused by the Western diet are the Eskimos in North Central Canada and Pacific Islanders.
Consider Eskimos in Northern Canada, who, prior to the 1940s, had no exposure to Western civilization. Prior to 1940, these people were much healthier than they were after eating the type of diet we take for granted. Some women developed breast cancer, which was unheard of before 1940. Teenagers began to have acne, another condition which didn't exist before they began eating a more "civilized" diet. Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and gross obesity all became more common.
Pacific Islanders have been studied. People living on Pukapuka eat a traditional diet. Their diet averages about 1800 calories per day, which includes about 70 grams of fat and 9 grams of sugar. People living on Rarotonga eat a combination of Western and traditional diet. Their diet averages about 2100 calories per day, which includes abut 63 grams of fat and 35 grams of sugar. The Maori of New Zealand eat a completely modern diet. They average 2500 calories with125 grams of fat per day and 71 grams of sugar per day (the average American eats 150 grams of sugar per day).
In Raratonga, gross obesity is 5.2 times more common than it is on Pukapuka. The New Zealand Maori have 13 times more gross obesity than the people on Pukapuka. Diabetes is 3.1 times more prevalent on Raratonga than on Pukapuka. There is almost six times more diabetes in New Zealand than on Pukapuka. Heart disease is twice as common on Raratonga and 2 1/2 times more common in New Zealand than it is on Pukapuka. High blood pressure is seen in 10 times more people on Raratonga and in 8 1/2 more times more people in New Zealand than on Pukapuka.
As diet contains more refined and processed foods, disease increases, we begin to see more obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and even cancer. Eating a nutrient deficient diet causes other problems like fatigue, allergies, depression, chronic pain, skin problems and many other problems that affect the quality of our lives.
So what exactly is the modern American diet like?
A recent survey conducted by the National Cancer Institute asked Americans about their diet from the previous day. Only 9% of those asked consumed three or more servings of vegetables or two or more servings of fruit on the previous day. One in nine surveyed had no servings of fruits or vegetables on the previous day.
In the United States, 46% of every food dollar is spent on meals and snacks away from home. Convenience stores have increased by 50% in the last decade. The typical American consumes 48 pounds of high fructose corn syrup annually, usually in soft drinks. In 1990 Americans consumed their body weight in sweeteners and salt.. Four percent of the energy use in the United States goes to packing food, which is about the same amount as the energy used to grow food. This is almost as much energy as flows through the Alaska pipeline. The 36 million tons of food packaging used in 1990 equals about 290 pounds per person.
Americans drink more carbonated soft drinks than plain water. Soft drink output rose from 64 billion servings (12 ounces) in 1980, to 85 billion servings in 1990. In 1990 Americans spent $5 billion on potato chips and corn chips, $66 billion on fast food and $44 billion for soft drinks.
Even with a balanced diet it is possible to have nutritional deficiencies. Stress, pollution, poor dietary habits in the past and genetics may make it necessary to supplement a good diet. Unfortunately, most people are unsure about which supplements they need. A custom designed nutritional program ensures that the supplementation you take is appropriate to your needs.
Even with a balanced diet it is possible to have nutritional deficiencies. Stress, pollution, poor dietary habits in the past and genetics may make it necessary to supplement a good diet. Unfortunately, most people are unsure about which supplements they need. Your nutritional needs are unique to you. Call us for a consultation and we can help you with your nutritional needs.