Biology is seemingly infinitely complex. Here's a definition of the biological sciences: "Biological sciences encompasses all the divisions of natural sciences examining various aspects of vital processes. The concept includes anatomy, physiology, cell biology, biochemistry and biophysics, and covers all organisms from microorganisms, animals to plants."
We've been on a quest to discover and understand all of the interactive mechanisms that play individual and coordinated roles in life function, and an almost unimaginable amount of data has been compiled. Just think of the data that has been compiled in the process of discovery and mapping of the human genome alone.
Why do we do this? Well part of the answer is simple - we are a species possessed of insatiable curiosity. But why? And the answer to that question is the topic of this blog - we want to achieve higher and higher levels of functioning.
To see examples of "the genetics solution", take a quick glance at this NIH (National Institute of Health) site for the National Human Genome Research Institute:
Two of the bullet points that stand out:
- Genetics and genomics both play roles in health and disease.
- Why are genetics and genomics important to my health?
After many years of discovery and research we've mapped the human genome with the overarching purpose of understanding and controlling disease processes. And not a moment too soon, health in the developed world has been getting worse for quite some time. So we've mounted great effort and resources to understand exactly, down to microscopic minutiae level, how to control our health for the better. Underlying all this effort was the belief that the answers lay in what is not yet known.
Newer and better drugs will be developed to that end. They will be expensive, probably very expensive, but no doubt worth every penny.
You may have noticed my tongue in cheek just there. There are subcultures among us that regularly achieve very high levels of health from birth to death, and longer happier lives in the process, with relative ease and at almost no cost. How is this possible? The answer is they have focused almost exclusively on the cause of health. Or, one might say, the energy input-output question.
I've been writing in this blog about this since discovering the importance of this question, which was finally made completely clear to me by my primary health educator Dr. Doug Graham. It's basically quite simple, but there are some puzzle pieces that have to come together for understanding. And there is a general thrust in this direction by other health educators and other similar schools of thought. Integrative medicine is one such, and the paleo movement is another.
I've looked carefully at the variations and have found the school of thought that goes under the broader name of "no oil whole food plant based" to be of the highest quality to the "input" side of the equation, and so the more efficient approach. The word vegan doesn't describe this approach sufficiently, but a particular approach to veganism can.
You may have guessed by now what the energy input-output question is referring to. It is simply this: the quality of the inputs (to the body) equals energy out. The computing phrase "garbage in garbage out" works. It is basically that simple.
The psycho-cultural problem we run into is that it is very difficult bringing ourselves to see the "normal" ways we've been eating and living our lives is garbage in garbage out. There are complexities here but the primary problem is the things we've learned in the formative years are very "sticky"... in other words we have come to unconsciously associate these things with our very survival. And survival is of course the prerequisite to health. So, ironically, we have come to unconsciously associate "garbage in" as health producing. And we've come to think of all sorts of toxic substances as "healthy" to "protect" these unconscious associations. But the problem of course is these toxic inputs are killing us en masse way too early. It is, as they say, one hell of a hoary conundrum.
Paleo and integrative medicine take steps toward resolving this conundrum by retaining as much of the old way as possible, while being considerably better than the old way. We get to keep our "anchor" comfort foods while improving the foods around the anchors, and improving lifestyle habits also.
But there is a revolution going on in the young that I believe will eventually overtake the less efficient ways, it is the vegan revolution. I don't consider this an idealistic fantasy, I'm well aware there will always be those who know full well that "smoking is bad for you" and smoke anyway. There is a curious relationship between what we may perceive as near term pleasure and long term pain. But that is a different issue for another time perhaps.
The scientific evidence for the more energy efficient inputs is being established as we speak, and in fact many consider "the weight of the evidence" to have landed already, and I agree with that view. But cultural change can happen slowly.
Meanwhile, we don't have to wait. But we first need convincing. The book that really convinced me in the early stage of my health education was a fast easy read about the foundational work in reversing heart disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. This work resulted in published studies, and was followed by "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease", the popular book referred to above.
The energy input-output question, properly addressed, fixes way more than heart disease, but heart disease is the leading cause of all death in the developed world, so Esselstyn chose it as the best thing to study.
What percentage of cardiologists still do not recommend this approach as the only known way to reverse heart disease? And instead prescribe comparatively ineffective drugs and surgery? These doctors either reject it out of hand, or "go along to get along" with "the standard of care". To be fair, it's not their job to teach health education, their job is to do the best they can under the circumstances. But it's not good enough, in fact it's not good at all. I question that it even reaches the level of "triage medicine".
But you better believe cardiologists have all heard about Dr. Esselstyn's work by now, it's a threat to their way of practicing medicine. Think about it...a proven way to reverse heart disease. An inconvenient truth for the medical system as it currently exists, and an incredibly convenient truth for the rest of us. It's completely free, easy to understand, and the only side effect is radiant health. Sound too good to be true? It's not. There are 10's of thousands of "anecdotal proofs" walking around now. Folks that would have been long dead following the standard of care. I know this because I'm one of them.
So I will heartily and happily recommend this book as an excellent starting place on a journey toward the highest levels of health. For a quick introduction to Dr. Esselstyn and his work, have a look at this recent talk he delivered to a Sentara Healthcare audience.
The revolution is growing.