Thursday, January 26, 2012

Are There Tigers Around Every Corner In Your Life?

I had a conversation with a patient yesterday that was interesting.  I would have loved to talk to him longer but other patients were waiting so I had to stop before I could get all the way through the topic.  It started by him talking about how he's been dealing with sinus symptoms (pressure around the eyes) etc. for a while, and stuffy feeling in his head.  He's had no fever, his MD says maybe he has a viral infection (I don't think so) etc.  He was bummed about why this was going on and the fact that he's not gotten over it yet.  It transitioned into a really good wellness conversation.

First we talked about his present lifestyle.  He is working out twice a week, but he's also getting married/planning a wedding that is happening this spring.  We talked about stress and he admitted that over the past few months he had more stress in his life than usual.  This led into the effects of stress in our body, particularly the fact that it reduces the immune response, and in general makes us more susceptible to illness because when we are under chronic stress, the body is constantly in a "fight or flight" mode.  This response (fight or flight) is important to have when a tiger jumps out at us and we need to fight or flee for our lives.  At that point we need more blood to our muscles and heart, we need higher blood pressure and a faster heart rate.  We don't need to worry about digestion or immunity or blood flow to some of our organs.  We need all hands on deck for immediate survival. So when the timing is appropriate, this is a good response.

The problem comes about when our body senses a tiger around every corner.  Then it tends to stay in a state of heightened alertness.  That is when it's NOT a good thing.  When we are surrounded by deadlines, extra things to do, problems, new challenges etc., our body continually stays in a fight or flight status.  Unfortunately, in our culture, we tend to turn immediately to medications for the anxiety, the higher blood pressure etc.  In this way we artificially change our body's physiology, with damaging side effects.  We never address the causes of this heightened state of alertness, and thus never address the cause of the adaptations that the body is undergoing (ie the blood pressure etc).  It goes back to the "for every ill there is a pill" mentality that we, and many of our allopathic (medical) health care providers have.

He (my patient) talked about how he couldn't take the meds he had been prescribed for his cholesterol issues because of side effects too.  This led to further conversation about what I just described as the body's physiology being changed, but not the root cause of the problem (higher cholesterol).  I hope we can have further conversations about dietary changes, because there was not time then, though we did speak about juicing and whole foods etc.  So many of the recommendations patients get when they have hypercholesterolemia is to avoid fatty foods, fried foods etc.  but there is no mention of processed foods, foods that can sit on your on your pantry shelves for months and years without changing (non-real food) and their effects on one's physiology (PS they cause stress on the body daily).  Our culture needs to get back to eating the basics; protein from good sources, lots of veggies (this is where juicing can be a real benefit), fruit, and avoiding breads, pastas, and all things processed as much as possible.

Yes, I do enjoy a good dessert from time to time (my daughter loves to bake tasty morsels).  But to live this way is the problem with our health in America.  We don't need more medications, more surgeries.  We need to get back to the basics of eating well, moving well, thinking well and resting well.  That would go a long way to solving our "health care crisis".

Until next time...Be Well!

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