Currently viewing the tag: "disease"

When giving health talks I usually ask, “What is health?“  I am amazed at some of the answers that seem to come up again and again.  The most common is disease or symptom free.  This answer comes up so frequently that, obviously, it’s what most people think, if they think about it at all.  Unfortunately, this definition or belief is probably what guides these people in their health decisions, whether consciously or not; and approaching health from this angle won’t always lead to wise choices.

The truth is that symptoms actually are health.  Think of your common cold symptoms–runny nose, sneezing, coughing, congested sinuses, fever, and night sweats.  Each one of these has a role to play in fighting the infecting organism:

  • Runny nosemucous membranes in the nasal passages and nasopharynx (orifice connecting nasal passages to the throat) release a thick, sticky substance that carries away microorganisms which have tried to infiltrate this primary entrance to our internal environment.  Think of mucus as quicksand or mud in a mudslide–nothing will escape.
  • Sneeze–a powerful blast of air, saliva, lacrimal secretions (tears) and mucus taking out anything and everything in its path.  Microorganisms entering the mouth, nose or pharynx are sneeze-blasted the heck out of there.  Consider a sneeze your body’s internal tornado, just worse.
  • Cough–similar to a sneeze, just clearing out the lungs, bronchi and oropharynx, as well as the nose and mouth.  We’ll call the cough the body’s internal hurricane–not a dang thing left unshaken; and during a coughing fit–fuggedaboutitcategory 5 cyclone!
  • Congested sinuses–infections or any other irritants, including allergens, can lead to swelling of the mucous membranes; as membranes swell, they close off the nasal passages.  Essentially, sinus congestion is the Royal Guard–try getting in, go ahead…try.
  • Fever–heats the body to incinerator temperatures, much higher than in what microorganisms can survive.  Fever is Death Valley for germs.
  • Night sweats–heat and sweat flush the external barriers out, so the skin, scalp and orifices are like a hot, wet boiler room.  Consider night sweats a monsoon for microbes.

You can see that each one of these symptoms is the body’s way of protecting itself.  And every illness/disease has associated symptoms to return the body to homeostasis.*  So why associate symptoms with sickness?

It’s because historically–at least over the last 80 years or so–medical care has focused on relieving symptoms.  OK, that’s nothing new–we all know that.  However, it is the reason why so many people still see the presence or absence of symptoms as the definitions of illness and health.  But I assure you what most consider illness actually is health.  Any questions?

*Or in the case of the body being overloaded by disease (AIDS, let’s say), it’s the body’s attempt to return to homeostasis.  Whether or not the body can return to homeostasis is the true difference between illness and health.


So we have discussed the history of ADD, but how does a disease or disorder become established as an entity?  This is an important question because it determines the course of a disorder historically, sociopolitically and economically.  But most important, it determines how diseases/disorders become etched into the human psyche.  Think this doesn’t play a massive role in human health?  Think again.

The current health paradigm that predominates today is the medical model.  It would take more than just a few paragraphs to do the subject justice (if you are interested, I highly recommend my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health), but I can give a brief synopsis here:

Modern medicine views the human body mechanistically–like an intricate machine.  Just as a machine can be broken down into ever smaller parts, so, too, can the human body.  By studying and mastering the workings (physiology) of the parts (systemic anatomy), we can understand the operation of the whole.  Simple.  When the parts start to malfunction (pathology), we can address them…cure them…through medicines (pharmacology) and/or removal (surgery).  Fair enough.  I find it flawed, but…as far as strategies go, it’s not bad.

But wait, it gets better.  Because we are physical beings in a material existence, then all problems related to our physical bodies have to have a physical basis.  Yes, even mental ones.  Because at our core we are simply neurophysiological life forms.  And when we break down human beings to their most fundamental parts, we are just electrochemical processes doing their thing.  It’s all rather Maxwellian.  Simple physics.

Physical problems, then, should have physical solutions, and throughout much of medicine’s very short history (I know you thought it was long and illustrious) the victories have been quite awe-inspiring.  Mass infectious epidemics have been nearly conquered; emergency medicine now saves lives that would have be long lost even fifty years ago; human prosthetics are damn-near perfect; even our increased life span is often credited to the wonders of modern medicine.

So what?  What does this have to with ADD?  Well, medicine did something peculiar…it started targeting what it considered “normal” physiological processes gone awry–things like cholesterol levels, and impotence, and symptoms of the common cold; it even started in on normal mental states like depression and well, fidgeting.  Yes, anything that could be considered a deviation from the norm was fair game.  The inability to focus in a schoolroom setting, then, was ripe for medical intervention.

It is interesting how unwanted (and unappreciated) physical and mental states become established as disorders.  First, they are recognized and their symptoms recorded, and then a profile of the most commonly afflicted is noted.  The disorders are then given a name, but over time, more symptoms are added, some possibly subtracted, but then re-added again, and the parameters stretch outward inch by inch.  As the definition of the disorder expands, more and more people are labeled with it, and the growing numbers are then called an epidemic.  Epidemics demand solutions, and in our mechanistic medical model this usually means drugs or surgery (think swine flu and carpel tunnel syndrome respectively).

Once somebody is labeled with a disease or disorder, the inclination of the human mind is to identify with it.  The person becomes the disease:

Hi… I’m Nick and I’m an alcoholic (now a disease, too).  Hola, me llamo Jesus: yo tengo blue balls (it’s coming [figuratively speaking]…swear).  Greetings, my name is Fenster P. Finkleschitkid, and I’ve got AD…hey, that’s my toy!!!

And they are never short of support.  Medical science supports them, doctors and therapists support them, society and it’s numerous special interest organizations support them, and of course, their loving families support them, because well…it’s a disorder you see, and we…just…want them…to have…normal….lives (whatever the hell that is).

ADD is no different.  It’s just one of many, many diseases and disorders that gets big money to study (remember, it’s the “best studied disorder in medicine”) and support all the intricacies (the changing ones) tied up in the horrible scourge.  And, of course, when they get their own drug treatment, they hit the big time–it all becomes official.  The AMA then takes a position on it and it becomes etched into the consciousness for all time.  Hallelujah!  Praise Hippocrates, we did it again.  Thank you, thank you, thank you (pat on the back)…and on to the next one.

Next post I’ll offer a better solution.

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