Do you recognize the difference between surviving and thriving? Half of the people on earth live at or near poverty level. They survive. They do not thrive. Similarly, there are biochemical levels of nutrients in the body that allow us to thrive rather than just survive.
Humans have survived car crashes at 200 miles per hour, falling out of jet planes without a parachute from five miles up, being fired out of cannons, inhumane treatment in prisoner of war camps, multiple gun shot wounds and a metal shaft fired cleanly through the head.
While some people can survive a half century of smoking, no one thrives on it. Alcoholics can tolerate a suicidal lifestyle for decades. But their body and mind suffer and age rapidly in the process. None of these feats are good for the human body. Yet our tenacity is oftentimes our undoing. We assume that a diet that doesn’t immediately kill us must be good for us. Not so.
The statistical picture of the average 1st world population is indicative of a tenacious survivor: overweight; 6 colds per year; chronic mild depression, constipation, and lethargy; dentures by age 45, chronic illness by age 60 with 6 different daily drugs needed; and death in the 70s from heart disease or cancer. None of this would be considered thriving–nor is our lifestyle “optimal”.
We need to pursue optimal health and “thriving” before our many ailments will go away. There appears to be a “dose-dependent” response curve with the health benefits of many nutrients.
Think of the benefits of increasing daily intake of folate:
-Most people can live on 100 micrograms (mcg)
-Wound healing and overall health are improved at 400 mcg
-The risk for pregnant women having babies with neural tubes defect can be lowered dramatically at 1000 mcg
-Pre-cancerous conditions of the cervix and lungs can be reversed with 20,000 mcg.
Most people can survive for decades on 10 international units (iu) of vitamin E. Yet, 100 iu of E will improve lung resistance to air pollutants and lower the risk for heart disease, while 800 iu has been shown to measurably elevate immune functions. Humans can survive on 10 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C for decades. Yet, many experts recommend 400 mg as a healthier RDA, and 10,000 mg helps to fight AIDS, cancer and the flu. In a study reported by UCLA researchers, 300 mg of supplemental vitamin C daily lengthened lifespan in men by 6 years.[i] Clearly, survival levels of nutrient intake are not enough for the person who wants to thrive. Intake of whole foods helps to elevate us beyond surviving into thriving.
Simple solutions for complex problems.
Most medical therapies have been serious disappointments in treating degenerative diseases, including heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and more. After decades of work from brilliants scientists, there is always another unexpected obstacle around the bend that leads to toxic side effects and reduced therapeutic value from most medications or surgical procedures.
The reason for these frustrating results is our arrogance. We assume that we fully understand the interdependent and complex machinery of the human body. Yet we have only a vague grasp of how to optimally support the mind and body. We dump billions of pounds of known lethal poisons in our air, food and water supply; then subject ourselves to unprecedented levels of psychological distress; then fill our stomachs with nutritionally bankrupt food.
When our health fails, we cut off the defective part or try some dramatic, invasive, expensive therapy that will combat the disease. Somehow, we ignore the obvious and easy answers. The solution to many health problems revolves around nourishing our own internal healing ability–the “life forces” within.
The treatment of degenerative disease must deal with the cause.
The same lifestyle factors which prevent heart disease–stress reduction (meditation), walking and a low fat plant-based diet–can also reverse heart disease, as demonstrated by Dr. Dean Ornish. If your headache is caused by your teenager’s drums, then no amount of aspirin, antacid, or tranquilizers will actually cure the problem until you stop the noise.
Drugs and surgery can provide temporary relief from symptoms, but cannot reverse the underlying mechanisms that brought about the disease.
If a long term zinc deficiency blunted the immune system, which led to cancer; then only zinc supplements can reverse the condition. If a painful divorce caused depression which blunted the immune system, then resolution of the psychological stress is the only long term cure. If low thyroid output is the problem that led to cancer, then normalizing thyroid is the answer. For most Americans, disease is a result of many combined negative forces. Pure and simple: reverse the cause and you have a much better chance for a cure.
Biochemical individuality–we are all different.
Stroll through a big city zoo if you want to truly appreciate the diversity of life on earth. There are creatures that eat mostly meat, like cats, who would die on a vegetarian diet. There are creatures, like elephants and rabbits, that are strict vegetarians and would die on a carnivorous diet. There are many shades of gray in between these two extremes, like omnivorous humans.
The five billion people on the planet earth comprise an incredible tapestry of biochemical and physical diversity. Eskimos eat a diet primarily composed of high fat fish, with almost no fruit, vegetables, or fiber to speak of. Yet they are an incredibly hardy group of people, nearly devoid of heart disease, cancer or diabetes. They are eating their “factory specification” diet to which they have adapted.
Our ancestors of 5000 years ago were mostly hunters and gathers. In colder climates, such as northern Europe, plant food was only available throughout the summer and fall. Lean wild game and fish provided the bulk of food intake throughout winter.
In warmer climates, like central Africa and India, the inhabitants relied on a year round diet of mostly fresh plant food. There are many shades of dietary needs in between these extremes. The take home lesson here is: “eat what you are supposed to eat from your ancient heritage.” As ethnic groups blend in marriage, this “ancestral diet” becomes a more complex issue with our mixed racial backgrounds.
[i] . Enstrom, J., Epidemiology, vol.3, p.194, May 1992