What is a Health Culture?
Health is not a place, not a final destination. Our bodies are in constant flux, always responding to circumstances in the immediate environment and redirecting resources to deal with whatever new conditions arise. We are not the same moment to moment—our sleep, food, climate, amount of movement, hydration, contact with pathogens and toxins, and thought/mood are all constantly changing. And the cells and systems of our bodies are always in some state of repair, maintenance, detoxification, or protection.
So what are the determinants of health, what are the factors that contribute to a person’s current state of health? Biology and genetics, individual behavior/lifestyle, physical and social environment, and access health services. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of mental, physical, and social wellbeing, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” And wellness as, “an active process through which people become aware of and make choices toward a more successful existence.”
On Healthcare in the U.S.
Healthcare in this country should be called emergency care because it is not serving to keep people healthy or well. It is not taking care of the basic preventative wellness of Americans. Because of this our health care system is not serving the populations with chronic conditions and those lifestyle diseases are impacting employees performance and ability to show up at work and that is impacting U.S. businesses.
As much as our healthcare model likes to separate out systems in order to talk about how things work, the systems are connected and interdependent –no matter how far downstream, they are still part of the same watershed. For example, let’s look at just one man (we will call him Jim) in his 40s who wants to lose some weight. To do that safely and effectively Jim learns about eating more vegetables and reducing his alcohol intake and cutting out processed sugars and grains. He goes to see a practitioner and learns about high intensity interval training and incorporates that into his walking schedule 3 days a week. Then he also learns about healthy fats and switches out all the processed oils in his house for healthy fats and includes some targeted nutritional support. And the changes he makes are working. The weight starts to drop away. But that’s not all that happens. By changing out the high-glycemic and inflammatory foods from his old diet for nutrient-dense whole foods healthy insulin levels return, his heart and vascular system begin to strengthen, making him feel less sluggish and like he can take in more air when he breathes. In addition, by removing dietary sources of inflammation his digestive tract begins to stabilize, bloating after meals disappears, his bowel movements become regular, and his microbiome begins to get into balance. A healthier microbiome alone affects every cell in his body by: increasing nutrient absorption, modulating immune function, and increasing neurotransmitter and essential gut-centric nutrient production. Strain on his adrenals from insulin spikes and crashes and the chronic low-grade inflammation disappears and that improves the quality of his sleep. And getting more sleep and healing his gut has improved his mood during the late afternoon dip.
How Can We Create a Culture of Health
How does health spread? Health is contagious– through our environment and social interactions and our culture. A culture of health is a set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that promote health for the individuals. Because 70% of our chronic disease burden is lifestyle-driven via out choices, behaviors and social factors, we all have the power to improve our own health!
Why Try Dietary and Lifestyle Changes First
A large part of my work is empowering and inspiring people to embrace the essential lifestyle changes that can prevent or reverse chronic disease. Sustainable, long-term health is not something someone can “give” another person. It’s something we all have to create for ourselves. You and I know this in our heart of hearts. But the conventional western health model tells us that our bodies are conundrums, often working against us, and that only a doctor can “fix” whatever ails. The truth, of course, is more nuanced. We may need expert medical attention from time to time, especially in an emergency. But we all have to be stewards of our own health during all the minutes and days and weeks in between. It is in our day to day behaviors and habits that we are creating the environment within which our bodies will thrive or falter.
Luckily for us there is an ongoing and growing body of research and evidence showing that many of the things that allow a body to thrive are within our reach. These are the basic necessities of health.
Some questions . . .
What if I could prove to you that instead of, say, feeling tired every day, or having chronic pain, or taking medications for the rest of your life, you could make dramatic shifts to your health with foods you can access for pennies on the dollar—like cruciferous vegetables and healthy protein and food-derived herbal supplements with zero side effects?
Don’t you owe it to yourself to take one, 30-day period, to discover how food is affecting your overall health? What if you uncovered truths about food and your body that changed the way you eat and live? What if, based on that new understanding, you could make choices that restore your own health and energy and remove symptoms? Wouldn’t that be worth 30 days of experimentation?
What if instead of believing you were “broken” and unfixable, I could show you that your body is a self-healing organism and that you and no one else can change and improve your health?
Links Between Diet and Lifestyle Changes and Disease: What the Research Shows
B12 deficiency is far more common than most healthcare practitioners and the general public realize. Data from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggest that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range—a range at which many experience neurological symptoms. (1)
According to the lower boundary of the U.S. lab range of 30 ng/mL, as many as 70 percent of Americans are considered Vitamin D deficient (2, 3).
One study of obese postmenopausal women found that a modified Paleo diet improved several metabolic markers, including weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and kidney function (4).
Low physical activity is correlated with cardiovascular disease, obesity, insulin resistance, and all-cause mortality (5, 6). Just one additional hour in a sedentary posture per day is associated with a 22 percent greater risk of type 2 diabetes and a 39 percent greater risk for metabolic syndrome (7).
A meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials including more than 1,000 patients found that low-carb diets improved CVD risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, blood glucose, BMI, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin, C-reactive protein, and HDL cholesterol (8).
The negative effects of sleep deprivation are serious: sleep durations that are consistently shorter than seven hours in a 24-hour period are associated with cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors, depression, automobile and workplace accidents, learning and memory problems, and an overall increase in mortality (9). Some may argue that poor sleep can even undo the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise routine (10, 11).
The gut microbiota plays a key role in the development, maturation, and function of the immune system. As such, gut microbes are key mediators of inflammatory signaling. A recent study pinpointed the microbiome as a key player in age-associated inflammation. This age-associated dysbiosis and the accompanying inflammation may in part explain the age-associated increase in the incidence of cardiovascular disease (12).
Chronic heart failure patients have also been shown to have reduced gut bacterial diversity and lower abundance of key bacterial genera (13) and increased intestinal permeability compared to healthy controls (14, 15)
Several studies have reported that probiotic-containing yogurts significantly reduce total serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and improve the LDL-to-HDL cholesterol ratio (16, 17, 18).
One study examined the specific differences in the bacterial make-up of the microbiome in patients with major depressive disorder in comparison with healthy individuals (19). Significant differences were identified between these two groups. Additionally, the severity of depressive symptoms was related to the amount of a specific bacterium. A lower relative abundance of Faecalibacterium was associated with more severe depression.
Dysbiosis is associated with a growing number of diseases such as Crohn’s disease (20), ulcerative colitis (21, 22), irritable bowel syndrome (23), and both type 1 and type 2 diabetes (24, 25).
A 2014 study found that individuals with hyperthyroidism had significantly lower numbers of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli and significant higher levels of Enterococcus species compared to healthy controls (26).
- 1: https://www.ars.usda.gov/news-events/news/research-news/2000/b12-deficiency-may-be-more-widespread-than-thought/
- 2: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/3/e362?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token
- 3: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19543765
- 4: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23414424
- 5: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4633039/
- 6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18502225
- 7: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26831300
- 8: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2012.01021.x/abstract
- 9: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2727237/
- 10: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951287/
- 11: https://www.verywell.com/sleep-deprivation-and-athletes-3119144
- 12: http://www.cell.com/cell-host-microbe/fulltext/S1931-3128(17)30112-9
- 13: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5542738/pdf/EHF2-4-282.pdf
- 14: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26682791
- 15: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17936155
- 16: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12209372
- 17: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12906063
- 18: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8968702
- 19: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25882912
- 20: http://gut.bmj.com/content/55/2/205.short
- 21: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ibd.22860/full
- 22: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016508511005208
- 23: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016508507007342
- 24: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2011.06340.x/full
- 25: http://clinchem.aaccjnls.org/content/59/4/617.short
- 26: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00284-014-0640-6