Saturday, June 25, 2011

Amen to Aquinas's "Interior Principle"

One of the realizations that inspired me to start VitalObjectives is that the fundamental problem with mainstream health science and practice is not that people who take their flawed advice tend to fail in the pursuit of lifelong health. A failure that presents the "choice" between a too early death by something like a heart attack, or spending decades in diapers during what should be healthy, vibrant years at the final one third of the natural human lifespan.

These very common outcomes are tragic, and my goal is to avoid this fate myself and to help as many people as possible to do the same.

However, the root of the problem goes much deeper than any specific flawed belief, practice or habit that can be countered by the advocacy of a better diet (such as a species appropriate template like the paleo diet), a better way to exercise, or a better way to reduce stress.

The root of the problem with health today is about flawed philosophical beliefs about what the human body is; how it works; and how one should in principle approach the task of installing health.

13th Century philosopher Thomas Aquinas offered the following pearl of health wisdom, which is as relevant today as it was in the 13th Century:

Health, is caused in a sick man, sometimes by an exterior principle, namely, by the medical art; sometimes by an interior principle, as when a man is healed by the force of nature. . . . Just as nature heals a man by alteration, digestion, rejection of the matter that caused the sickness, so does [medical] art. . . . The exterior principle, art, acts not as a primary agent, but as helping the primary agent, which is the interior principle, and by furnishing it with instruments and assistance, of which the interior principle makes use in producing the effect.

Thus the physician strengthens nature, and employs food and medicine, of which nature makes use for the intended end.

Amen to that!

Helping the "interior principle"; in other words helping your body do its job, is precisely what a proper, practical, scientific, and highly effective approach to health is all about.

Furthermore, do not buy into the idea that your genes are defective, or that your body for some unfathomable reason is one that nature and evolution forgot to give the blueprint for vibrant health.

Aquinas believed that God made the body perfect; however no such faith is necessary.

If you have survived for so long as to be able to read this, your body, regardless of whatever health issues that you face today, can be assumed to be an excellent specimen with a strong capacity for life and health. Your body is innocent until proven guilty.

The basic error of most of what passes for health advice today is based on precisely the opposite idea — the idea that our bodies all come with inborn deficiencies: sleeping pill deficiencies, acne cream deficiencies, statin drug deficiencies, appetite control deficiencies, anti-inflammatory drug deficiencies, etc; and that staying healthy is all about fighting the human body's inherent flaws (flaws that somehow have multiplied over the past decades) and of suppressing the body's programmed responses.

[Editor's note: You may have noticed that most pharmaceutical drugs are described as "inhibitors" or "suppressors" — philosophically astute readers may want to call it the Augustinian approach to health, or the-hatred-of-the-body approach.]

I say, with Tomas Aquinas (although he may have phrased it differently): To hell with this tripe!

The proper path to health consists of working with your body, not against it.

The general principle for doing this is simple: Give your body the nourishment that it needs, and find and eliminate stressors that harm or hinder it.

You will be surprised by how practicing this principle across decades will build robust health from the ground up.

Disease and health can not occupy the same space at the same time. When you work alongside your body to install health, disease, dysfunction and premature aging simply have nowhere to go but away.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Repair your gut and lose belly fat.

Much can be said in favor of identifying a "leaky gut" (or "enhanced intestinal permeability" for those who need a scientific term) and addressing this common problem. For instance, fixing up a leaky gut is key to addressing auto-immune issues and other chronic conditions, as well as dealing with all sorts of skin problems. (I'll return to these matters in the future.)

A less commonly toted advantage to getting one's gut health in order is that it tends to help with fat loss.

In particular, ensuring gut integrity lets the body chew away on two types of belly fat: visceral fat tissue (the dangerous fat behind the abdominal musculature that's embedded around organs), and subcutaneous belly fat (if you are able to grab a skin fold around your navel, you know what I'm talking about).

One of the mechanisms by which getting one's gut in order helps with these pesky fat depots is the reduction of stress hormones.

When a person has a leaky gut, a meal may trigger an immune reaction which is perceived by the body as a stress to which it reacts through secreting the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.

The hormone cortisol contributes to elevated blood sugars and to insulin resistance which both lead to fat accumulation, particularly in visceral fat tissues.

Adrenaline is actually a hormone that helps with accessing fat for use as energy, however if one's adrenaline secretion is kept chronically high, the fat tissue seems to become deaf to the signal, and will not as readily release stored fat in response to adrenaline. (This is called "adrenaline resistance".)

After one has successfully addressed a leaky gut, the body's overall immune - and stress responses go down, and the fat may then be released from storage.

I just lost a slightly unbecoming bulge of fat on my tummy over a couple of weeks of doing a gut repair protocol. Overall, I lost a couple of percentage points of body fat, and my abs are saying "hello world"!

It's not only about vanity - I promise I feel truly great too! And this, of course, in turn will make for even less stress hormones - a virtuous spiral in place.

The foundations to repairing a leaky gut are:

  • Eliminating grains, legumes, and possibly dairy.
  • Eliminating foods that may cause an enhanced inflammatory response. (These tend to be the foods that you've eaten a lot of under stress.) An MRT test, which I can help you get access to, is a valuable tool for quickly identifying these foods. One could also simply eat entirely different foods from what one is used to, and rotate between them.
  • De-stressing and keeping cortisol down when it should be down. (I currently use phosphatidyl serine and magnesium in the evenings to keep my cortisol down.)

An advanced protocol would also consist of:
  • Supplements such as L-Glutamine and various botanical products. (I tailor these to each individual client depending on several factors, including current food sensitivities.)
  • Quality probiotics containing a number of different strains. (Again, types and sequence may differ depending on the person's issues.)
  • Getting rid of intestinal bacterial infections and parasites. In my case, I needed to kill an H Pylori infection. I did that through taking a blend of anti-bacterial herbs.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Vital Premises

I have done a lot of thinking over the past year about how to define a proper framework for understanding the human body and how to deal with it in health and disease. I have looked into the Hippocratic writings; I have read and listened to materials about subjects such as evolutionary medicine, and functional medicine. I have had the opportunity to listen in on what a wide range of practitioners who adhere to different modalities and philosophies have to say.

A strong conviction that has been reinforced through my studies is that it doesn't matter how much technology, money, time and effort that we throw on health care (or just trying to be healthy) if we don't have certain basic premises right.

Interestingly the debate about the basic premises of health and medicine go back thousands of years, and is coming to an important inflection point right now as evolutionary thinking is applied across all the domains of biology, including (100+ years after Darwin) human health.

Here are some of the basic defining premises that govern what we do at VitalObjectives:

1) The human body is perfect. That is, your body can be assumed to be perfectly able to heal itself and stay healthy when exposed to the right environment, including the correct types and levels of exposure to stressors and intakes of nutrients. (The burden of proof lies on those who propose that chronic disease, premature aging, physical- and mental suffering, and unhappiness, are normal states of the human condition - we don't believe that they are.)

2) All disease and dysfunction stem from the presence of external- or internal stressors and/or mal-nourishment which hinder the body in its perpetual strive for self-maintenance.

3) Health, function, beauty and longevity result from the body's successful strive for self-maintenance, which is enabled by the absence of pathogenic stressors, and the presence of appropriate nourishment.

3) VitalObjectives looks for root causes. Symptoms are merely clues to functional imbalances caused by external or internal stressors or the absence of appropriate nourishment. Symptoms generally represent the body's attempts at curing itself. (Many medicines and remedies that focus on symptoms attack the body's own curative actions while leaving root causes untouched - VitalObjectives opposes this approach on ethical and practical grounds.)

4) The person who wants to achieve and maintain health must find and eliminate external and internal stressors and provide appropriate nourishment to the body through protocols and regimen.

5) A protocol is an intensified nutritional program designed to safely restore normal function in the body as fast as possible. A protocol is attached to a time limit and objective criteria for evaluating success.

6) A regimen is one's daily practices that support the body in maintaining balance and health.

7) VitalObjectives helps clients find external and internal stressors, define and implement effective protocols to restore health as well as designing and implementing a personalized, and sustainable regimen that maintains health.

8) VitalObjectives works with clients who value their health as a highly prized possession and their bodies as works of art (albeit works in progress). Our job is to make the process practical, enjoyable, and affordable, yet with a stern eye at the objective reality revealed by the person's health complaints, health history and laboratory test results.

9) VitalObjectives doesn't pretend that achieving health requires little investment in effort, time, or money, or that health mustn't at times be made one's top priority. We lend our vocational skills, experience, and other lessons learned, to helping clients make the best possible choices in regard to health in the short term and in the long term.

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