With the start of the new year, health becomes a priority and shifts to the forefront of our consciousness. It seems that every organization, employer and health care strategist recognizes the need to shift from disease management to prevention and wellness. Unfortunately, what constitutes "prevention" and "wellness" is debated and the health care industry has not found its footing in clearly outlining these boundaries for their patients.
In my medical practice, we are home to every type of patient and every disease you can imagine. While the patients are diverse and varied, they are all bound together in their desire to learn more about their health -- the why, what and how of a condition or the need to know what prevention and healing really means for them
Helping patients navigate the murky waters of prevention, wellness and healing has become my charge -- and in the pursuit of whole health -- learning and creating guidelines for prevention and wellness is now a priority. Although each patient needs an individual discussion of what prevention really means for them, I have outlined some key concepts that provide some direction on our journey to whole health.
As I work with patients and chart the course of their medical history,certain triggers emerge as contributors to disease and prevent complete healing. Identifying these concepts and looking at them at least yearly is a first step in understanding where we as individuals begin with prevention.
Probably the most important word to remember, inflammation appears to be the root of many different diseases that are a part of our health landscape. While most obviously implicated in autoimmune diseases -- rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, inflammatory bowel disease as a few examples -- inflammation is also involved in cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, diseases that are players in our escalating health care costs. Inflammation can present as symptoms: digestive issues, swollen joints, muscle pain and dry eyes or dry mouth. It can also be measured in lab work with blood markers that should be tracked on a patient yearly to find even a subtle change that can indicate potential problems. We routinely track homocysteine, sed rates, and c-reactive proteins in our patients as a few of the markers of inflammation. (1)
Keeping our oxygen levels primed all the way to the cellular level is a key concept of prevention. Poor oxygenation contributes to increased production of harmful free radicals, which in turn accelerates aging, worsens cardiovascular function, and may serve as a trigger for turning on the genes involved in cancer and cancer progression. We all talk and think about oxygenation when we think about exercise. Routine exercise does improve lung function and oxygen delivery to our cells. Foods high in antioxidants also contribute to improving cellular oxygenation. Plant based foods and juicing improve oxygenation -- furthering the concept of prevention.(2)
Detoxification has been a tenet of whole health for thousands of years with all older systems of medicine advocating some type of rhythmic detoxification. Detoxification may have been as simple as a fast or not eating meat for a few days. Detoxes have a come a long way since the early days of Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine. Juice detoxes, liver detoxes and medically-supervised detoxes are now the trend of a healthy lifestyle.
The key organs of detoxification are the liver, colon, kidney and skin. When these organs are not functioning well or are overburdened, they can no longer work to help us prevent disease. Chinese medicine pointed to a coated tongue, sallow complexion, or rashes as a sign of failing organs of detoxification. The genetics of detoxification are a hotbed of research, with the concepts of methylation and mitochondrial dysfunction merging into the importance that failed detoxification can have on the body.(3)
Micronutrient deficiencies have a powerful role in both prevention and disease management. The role of B vitamin and magnesium deficiencies are evident in the majority of my patients, since these two micronutrients influence high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, hormone balance, focus,mood and memory. Other mineral deficiencies, vitamin D deficiency and fat deficiencies are players in a variety of conditions. Finding these deficiencies early is paramount for prevention and one not yet universally recognized. (4)
Hormone Balance/Hormone Detoxification
For both men and women, the powerful role that hormones play on the body has to be tracked yearly. In the right amounts, hormones are our best friends, enabling us to have energy, children, libido and sleep. When hormones are too high or too low, hormones turn against us -- and are responsible for changes in our mental state, cancer, infertility and changes in our digestive systems.(5)
Tracking hormones yearly and watching how we break down and eliminate hormones are critical in the conversation surrounding prevention and maintaining wellness. Again, watching the trend in these levels for an individual yearly is the only way to catch a change for that person -- a change that could well be the signal that something in the body is shifting away from "healthy" and towards disease.
As the debate on what is prevention, wellness and healing continues, we must all continue on our own journey to whole health; we have to determine the boundaries of these concepts and understand that they are variable based on our personal and family history, Until we have everyone on the same page, these 5 concepts of prevention should at least be our common starting point. Use these concepts to find your whole health in 2015.