I have come to realize that medicine is about the tactical response to disease. The body undergoes insult daily. As an example, Cancer.
Imagine I am on the beach and the enemy is firing on me. I am surprised they are there. I am not prepared. I need help. This is what medicine is for. You go to the doctor when your symptoms tell you that something has gone wrong. Their job is to prevent the loss of the mission, i.e. your death. Therefore, they make moves they wouldn’t normally do. They prescribe serious drugs which do as much harm as good but the good is that they kill the enemy and sometimes some of the body too. They go in surgically and cut away, try to replace some seriously damaged parts with man-made fake parts that don’t work quite as well as the original equipment.
By the time you have symptoms your body has sustained damage. Your body sustains damage all the time. Everyday things damage our bodies. There is simply the normal wear and tear of operating this complex and energy consuming beast of our bodies. We also know that bugs are constantly attacking us. However, we aren’t consciously aware of these repairs or damage normally. It is only when the damage gets severe enough that we notice and then we go to the doctor. Of course, by then our body has sustained some serious damage possibly life threatening.
Damage occurs all the time and is unavoidable. There are many sources of damage to the body
Did you know that there are more “alien” bugs in you than the cells of your body? Because the bugs tend to be much smaller than the cells of your body they outnumber our bodies cells. The total is about a gallon of foreign cells in our bodies. It sounds pretty disgusting but the fact is our bodies actually depend on many of these creatures to perform well. Some probably are mooching on us, damaging us.
In addition, you do things, get into accidents, foods you eat contain some things that are good, but even good stuff contains some bad things too. The environment itself through air pollution, background radiation all contribute to the job of constant repair and fixing our bodies have to go through every day.
There is also damage that occurs in the natural functioning of the body. As you process chemicals and produce energy toxic byproducts are produced in cells, between cells. These things need to be taken away and disposed of or processed and reused. We have learned the body has amazing machinery for doing lots of these things. The body takes whole cells apart from invaders and reuses their chemicals. Each cell of your body frequently takes apart large sections of itself in the ER (Endoplamic Reticulum) which is where cells produce chemicals for use in the body. The cells for unknown reasons are constantly changing the chemicals produced from the ER. In doing this they take apart and destroy the chemicals and machines in the ER and reuse them. It is frankly astonishing the level of complexity and competence of the body.
Until about 25 years of age for most people the body is able to keep itself at near perfect state of repair. So, we KNOW the body can repair a lot of damage and keep you at a peak capability but for some reason at some point it is unable to keep up with the damage.
Our bodies have a program to do these repairs. It is called our DNA and the machines which carry out the repairs are the GENES.
We have 25,000 GENE machine blueprints. It is frankly astonishing that 25,000 GENE designs are able to manage the hundred thousand chemicals your body uses, all the different co-existent creatures, measure and keep your body in homeostasis (balance.)
When our body needs them it calls up the manufacture of one of these machines using the Gene DNA as blueprint. At first we thought DNA was all about the GENEs and all the programming was in the machines. We have since learned that the machines are only a small part of the whole story. The real story or “program” is not the GENEs.
Epigenetics is the 98% of the DNA that doesn’t make GENEs. This used to be called “junk DNA” but we have learned it contains the program for the human body. The “junk DNA” tells our bodies when to make GENEs and what to do. It tells how to make a human body and probably when to end it.
A large number of GENEs are responsible for all kinds of functions other than repair. For instance, 3000 of them assist us with taste and smell. A large number have to do with ordinary function of the body. So, a small number of GENEs repair us day to day. A lot of this is encoded in what we call epigenetics.
The body is an incredible efficient machine
The cell itself reuses chemicals and parts of itself over and over. We are just learning now more and more how the body economizes by taking apart parts of the cell for unused functions, waste products and reusing them to manufacture new parts.
The body is efficient considering the complexity of all this but it does an amazing job. For 25-30 years it keeps our bodies growing and operating (usually) in a near perfect state. Sometime around 25 for most people the body starts to show signs of degrading. Somehow the processes that built the body and keep it working in top shape stop working as well.
What does the body need to repair itself? We don’t know. There are some chemicals we’ve discovered that you will die if you don’t get them. We call these “Vitamins.” However, I said earlier the body uses 100,000 chemicals. There aren’t 100,000 vitamins.
Many of the chemicals apparently aren’t critical to sustain life today. However, they may be critical to keep life’s repair processes operating well. They may be needed in greater quantities than the body manufactures them. Whatever the processes our body uses to repair we should be able to agree and say definitively that providing the body with a variety of chemicals so it has what it needs must be helpful.
Any day your body doesn’t have the chemicals it needs it will fail to do some function. This function may not kill you but it will put off that repair or cleanup. Tomorrow when it gets the chemicals it will now have to do 2 days work. If you don’t feed your body consistently when it needs to do repairs it may find it just doesn’t have the resources and your body accumulates damage. Eventually accumulated damage leads to disease.
It’s simple really. We don’t understand the machinery or programming of the human body but we know it needs resources. A wide variety of resources.
This is where the prevention part comes in.
There are lots of things we can do to avoid damage but we can’t eliminate most of the damage. The vast amount of damage is simply a consequence of being alive, of being in this world eating and traveling and enjoying life. So, simply put the main strategy of prevention is to not “prevent” damage as much as possible but to enable the body to do the job it was designed to do and help it repair.
Sure preventing damage is useful but living an ascetic life, avoiding life is not possible or desirable for most of us. For me, the point of life is to live it.
I am not talking about smoking or excessive drinking or taking drugs or abuse in general. I’m talking about sustainable enjoyment of life. Not eating so much to become obese or other things with profound damaging consequences your body was never programmed to repair.
When you do get to the point which inevitably we must all succumb to (let me know if someone is able to avoid this) we will get damaged to the point of needing Medicine’s tactical fixes.
Using the battle on the beach of Normandy analogy I started this article with our goal is NOT to learn how to fight on the beach but to avoid the beach massacre scenario by giving our bodies every advantage it could have by having the chemicals it needs to repair. Our goal in military parlance is to fight strategically with knowledge and to prevent any significant losses as long as possible.
Proactive Choice is about making the choice to try
We don’t know if we can do anything to really lengthen our lives or make it better. We can’t follow two different life paths and see which one works out better. So, we have a choice.
- Do Nothing like most people and let the cards fall where they may
- Try and improve your outcome
I chose the latter. I call it the pro-active choice. I know my genes aren’t perfect. However, I am going to learn and do what I can to improve the outcome, lengthen my life and the quality of the life I live.
I am not going to extremes and betting the whole ranch on one thing or another. I am not going to give up living simply to live longer.
Prevention isn’t about preventing living life
Everybody talks about Prevention. Of course we would like to “Prevent” disease if we could. The problem is knowing what exactly will prevent disease.
If I don’t travel, don’t expose myself to as many toxins, to as many diseases, to stress and significant effort I am choking off my life. I am not purposely trying to damage myself but I want to see the world and to live and meet people and do things. The great joy of what is life is doing all this. I really don’t see the point of sitting around trying to protect myself from everything that could harm me.
As you’ve read it is my belief that the body is already under massive attack and repair everyday so what I’m talking about is doing prudent things based on the best information to give me a better chance of living a long and high quality life.
If you can keep your body filled with the right chemicals I believe you will see:
- Longevity, i.e. the lack of major disease causing death prematurely
- More youthful like appearance and activity level
- Consistent brain function
- lack of infectious diseases
- flexibility, energy, better senses
- better sex life and happier mood
I see these things in my life and I believe that systematic application of supplements has been a principal reason for this. I say this because I know what I was like before and I know how I have systematically tried over the last 20 years to learn my body and what works to keep it running better.
There is no one best pill
Your body needs a variety of chemicals. It is very difficult to control for all the variability of human to human. Studies show that humans react to different foods differently. For instance, some people may find radically different effects on blood sugar from the same food. I find pycnogenol helps my immune system but there are no studies on this. Others may not. They may find that Garlic is better.
Vitamin D is highly associated with reduced cancer rates and reduced recurrence. However, in any individual it is hard to prove Vitamin D prevented a disease you don’t get.
The real solution to help all of us achieve a Proactive stance and succeed is better data. More information.
I am on a crusade to talk about this need for people to help contribute their experience so we can learn better how the body works, how it responds to chemicals and foods, drinks. In this process we will help future humanity have a better quality of life.
I have called this the ProActive Choice. It is about making a conscious decision to try and make a difference in your life outcome. We don’t know for sure if it will work. However, I am not willing to just let chance and hope my genetic programming is enough.