Currently viewing the tag: "symptoms"

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.

A reader has asked me to explain that if I don’t believe ADD/ADHD is a disorder, then what do I believe it to be?  This is a complex question because it requires an understanding of history, politics and human dynamics.  I’m going to attempt a concise explanation here that, hopefully, will bring a new understanding to a controversial health issue that may never be solved due to its ubiquitous nature as a component of the human mind.

So I’ve set out to uncover ADD/ADHD piece by piece in this blog over the next two weeks.  I’ll discuss how the “disorder” got its start, the belief system that gives it life, some neurological facts, and discuss why ADD remains a controversial topic, despite “most health care providers accept ADHD as a genuine disorder.”  We’ll investigate a new way of approaching what people call the symptoms of ADD, and we’ll look deep into why the current medical treatment for ADD is counter-productive and harmful.

Before we begin, let’s define some terms.  Since ADD and ADHD are essentially the same thing with a hyperactivity component to the latter, I will refer to both together as ADD.  If a distinction needs to be made, then I will do so.

Let it be understood that I am in no way advocating people on ADD medications to stop taking them.  These pharmaceuticals are serious and must be discontinued under the supervision of a medical doctor.  These post are for informational purposes only.  They are not intended, nor are they to be relied upon, as a diagnostic tool, professional medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment, or a substitute for a professional medical diagnosis, opinion or suggested course of treatment by a qualified health care professional.  We assume no responsibility for what you do with the information contained.

Stay tuned.

Have you ever heard somebody say, “I never get sick?” Or the nonsensical equivalent, “I haven’t been sick in three years (five years, ten years, whatever).” Now is that really possible? I think those that say it have little or no understanding of human physiology.

The human immune system has evolved to distinguish self from non-self, normal and healthy metabolites from foreign invaders. When the immune system encounters a foreign substance, it goes through a cascade of responses that include humoral, cell-mediated, and non-specific immune processes. Our bodies essentially create symptoms (those things most people consider as being sick, but of which I’ll argue is really health) to fight various insults to the body, including microorganisms, toxins, and many cancers. Inflammation itself is a healing process.

To say one never gets sick in the layman’s term (and only a layman would say such a thing), means one never experiences symptoms. To say one never experiences symptoms would either mean the person never encounters a foreign substance (they must live in a plastic bubble), or she has zero healthy response to foreign invaders. Would this be healthy? Would this be possible?

Since I’ve never personally recorded a someone’s health/non-illness status who makes this claim, I have no idea if it really exists, although I’ve certainly explained why I doubt it. If it truly does exist, then I would say to that person, “Watch out–your body’s lack of healthful immune response means that it’s not doing the job it has evolved to.” It is virtually impossible for any human being to not encounter foreign pathogens. Sorry.

Interestingly, allergies are on the rise in developed countries including the U.S. One hypothesis, which I consider highly plausible, is that our drive to never encounter foreign substances (or in other words, our attempt at “never being sick”) through hyper-cleanliness and hyper-vaccination leads to an under-stimulated immune system. Preventing normal/natural exposure to dirt, germs or pathogens causes our immune system to get “bored.” As a result, the immune system begins to attack itself causing allergies (and other auto-immune disorders). This is called the hygiene hypothesis, and is merely one of many hypotheses trying to explain the increased incidence of allergies.

We have evolved an immune system for a reason–the world is filled with opportunistic organisms fighting to survive like every living thing. Our immune system is our natural defense that has allowed us to live in a dangerous world for millions of years. To suggest that one has transcended human evolution by taking supplements, exercising or any other reason people use to tell the world how healthy they are, is complete folly. It warrants a reminder: The expression of symptoms is health–therefore, no illness, no health.

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