Once upon a time… life was a lot simpler. On the heels of the Second World War, the 1950’s was a time of renewed hope and innocence. When men wore grey flannel suits and women wore dresses with pinched waists and high heels. Years ago, in most families mom stayed at home and dad went to work. “The Donna Reed” show played on black and white televisions. TV was first becoming a dominant mass media phenomenon and the UNIVAC computer, taking up 943 cubic feet of space became the first commercial computer to attract widespread public attention. It was at this time, in the middle of the twentieth century, that optimism was high for eradicating disease. The first antibiotics were developed in the 1950’s and the distribution of the polio vaccine began in 1955. The medical community felt that they had the tools to deal with infectious diseases. Serious bacterial infections could be handled by antibiotics such as penicillin, streptomycin and other new antibiotics on the frontier. Viral epidemics would be prevented by vaccinations. And the world would be safe from infectious disease.
In contrast, today’s society is more complex and so are our health issues. There were 40 million cars on the road in 1950, compared with over a billion cars worldwide last year with estimates that the number will double to close to 2 billion by 2035. That is an incredible increase in vehicles along with an equivalent increase in carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, and polycyclic hydrocarbons from the exhaust of these vehicles.
Our environment has changed drastically since the 1950’s. With the industrialization of the world, the amounts of toxic metals have increased markedly. In today’s society, levels of lead, mercury and cadmium are all found to be in far greater concentrations than what is recommended for optimal health and longevity. These heavy metals are contributing to the epidemic of degenerative disease we are seeing today in every country in all age groups.
“Heavy metals are present in our air, drinking water, food, and countless human-made chemicals and products. They are taken into the body via inhalation, ingestions, and skin absorption. If heavy metals enter and accumulate in body tissues faster than the body’s detoxification pathways can dispose of them, a gradual buildup of these toxins will occur. High-concentration exposure is not necessary to produce a state of toxicity in the body, as heavy metals accumulate in body tissues and, over time, can reach toxic concentration levels. Human exposure to heavy metals has risen dramatically in the last 50 years as a result of an exponential increase in the use of heavy metals in industrial processes and products. Today, chronic exposure comes from mercury-amalgam dental fillings, lead-based paint, tap water, chemical residues in processed foods, and personal care products-cosmetics, shampoo and other hair products, mouthwash, toothpaste and soap. In today’s industrial society, there is no escaping exposure to toxic chemicals and metals. In addition to the hazards both at home and outdoors, many occupations involve daily metal exposure. Over 50 professions entail exposure to mercury alone. These include physicians, pharmaceutical workers, any dental occupation, laboratory workers, hairdressers, painters, welders, metalworkers, battery makers, engravers, photographers, visual artists, and potters” (Pouls, M., Extreme Health, Univ. Michigan).
Toxic metals accumulate in our bodies over our lifetimes, beginning with the amounts we receive from our mothers during pregnancy; metals we are inoculated with during vaccination; and the metals we consume and breathe every day thereafter. It is clear to see that health approaches that were based on a society that existed in the 1950’s are outdated in terms of the needs of today’s environmental milieu.
Fifty years ago we did not have the stress of two working parents in almost every household. The divorce rate has doubled since the 1950s, with more of us living in single parent households. Serving the role of both mom and dad creates additional stress. We have fast food, fast cars, and a fast pace of life with all the stressors that go with it. And all of that was before September 11, 2001. Now we have fears of terrorism in our own backyards to compound these other tensions in our lives.
The mid twentieth century saw the advent of antibiotics. While these medical treatments were successful for acute bacterial illness, those methods are not well suited for the prevalent chronic inflammatory conditions we encounter in the twenty first century. However, for the most part, our approach to infectious agents has not changed drastically from that time. “Medicine’s molecular revolution is long overdue. By now, enthusiasts led us to believe, gene therapy and related treatments should have transformed clinical practice. Diseases, they told us, would be cured at their genetic roots, by repairing defective DNA or by disabling the genes of infectious microbes. But it has proved frustratingly difficult to make these methods work in the clinic, if you get sick, your doctor will probably still treat you with the pills and potions of old fashioned medicinal chemistry” (Check, E. Nature).
It has reached a point where it is not sufficient to merely take a drug for an illness. At one time it was enough to take an antibiotic to treat a bacterial infection. That is no longer the case. The entire picture with respect to disease is not as straightforward as it once was.
We can attempt to lower the stress in our lives. However, for many of us the stress in our lives is a given, not a variable. While we may be able to affect how we react to the stress, we are unable to lower the total burden of stress that we are under. We can try to reduce our personal toxin burden, and our exposure to infectious diseases. Yet, unless we become like the “boy in the bubble” and isolate ourselves from our environment this becomes virtually impossible. We can eat organic foods, use only natural materials in our homes, use cleansers without chemicals, and eat chemical free foods, and drink filtered water. All of this adds another layer of complication and stress to our already overburdened lives. We still need to go out and interact in the world where everyone else does not create a chemical free, toxin free, microbe free environment. We can however do our best in each of these categories. If we can make even a small difference in each category of these risk factors, then we can reduce the likelihood of having chronic health conditions.
Clearly, a number of factors contribute and interact to create the ultimate scenario of nonideal health. The more stressed your system and the greater your metal and toxic burden, the more likely you are to be harboring infectious organisms like bacteria, viruses and yeast. The number of infectious pathogens to which an individual has been exposed (infectious burden) has been correlated with a number of conditions, including coronary artery disease, gastric ulcers, and cervical cancer just to name a few. The proven and suspected roles of microbes is not limited to physical ailments; infections are increasingly being examined as associated causes of or possible contributors to a variety of serious, chronic neuropsychiatric disorders and to developmental problems, especially in children (Institute of Medicine Report, Natl. Academies Press).
“The problem with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and other common ailments is untangling the genetic factors from a person’s lifestyle and environment. What causes an individual’s diabetes, overeating or bad genes? Human habits make it more challenging. Genetics certainly isn’t the only factor in diseases. A hundred years ago, diabetes was much less of a problem, and in the last century human genes haven’t changed much. What has changed, however, are eating habits and physical activity” (Berger, E. Houston Chronicle).
An extension of these concepts is that most health conditions that we see today will in fact be multifactorial in nature. While we cannot change your genetic susceptibility, we can look at your genetic profile and use nutritional supplementation to help to bypass underlying genetic weaknesses to lower your genetic risk factors. This will help you to achieve optimal health when used in conjunction with a program to reduce some of the other risk factors such as environmental toxins and infectious agents.
Although the genetics we inherit may not have changed since the 1950’s the collective impact of the other risk factors for nonideal health have increased. By reducing the role of underlying predisposing genetics it can help to tip the scale back in the balance of better health. The goals of this protocol are to
- reduce the impact of underlying nutrigenomic mutations
- reduce the impact of compounds that overexcite your nerves
- and to improve the environment in your system in terms of microbes and toxins
While the concept of genetics, and toxins and viruses and bacteria may seem overwhelming, this is a program you can understand and master. A Roadmap, which is something we all understand, can be seen as an analogy to the pathways in our body. Visualizing the path to health as a road we traverse in life is a familiar and comfortable concept that allows you to conquer and have control over your own health.