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What You Want To Know About Illness, And No One Has Told You! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Allen Lawrence, M.D.   
Tuesday, 04 October 2011 19:03

What You Want To Know About Illness, And No One Has Told You!


What really is illness? Is it something you catch or something you get or something that gets you? Is it a failure of your body to protect you or is it something else? Today, we will talk about what illness and some of the surprisingly simple ways you can prevent, reverse, and heal illness. We will talk about the roles diet, exercise, stress and medical care play and how they can help or hurt you.


Introduction


Nothing in our life is possibly more mysterious nor potentially dangerous to us than illness. We all know that it exists. We have lost loved ones to one or another illness. We have all experienced illness at some time in our life. Yet, we also know people who are rarely, if ever, ill. People who appear to be blessed with “good health!” Maybe even, “Excellent Health!” Yet, we and most physicians often have no idea why these differences occur or exist. Why one acquaintance, friend, family member, loved one is blessed with good health and another is ill, or worse, taken from us because of their bad health, because of an illness.


Possibly, however, the difference between poor health and good health, even excellent heath, is not really a mystery. Maybe is it simple, in fact, maybe we already know these differences.


What Then is Illness?

  

In our article on What is Illness we suggested that illness (also referred to as ill-health, being sick or sickness) is “a state of poor health.” One dictionary tells us:

 

    Illness is an impairment of normal physiological function affecting part or all of an organism.

    It suggest that it can affect us on a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual level

    That there can be acute or chronic, minor, severe, life-threatening or fatal illnesses.

    That we also commonly referred to illnesses as a "malady," "condition," "unhealthiness," or as simply as "health problems."


Other dictionaries use simplified definitions such as:


a) An unhealthy condition of body or mind

b) Poor health resulting from disease of body or mind; sickness, illness

c) Evil, wickedness

d) Affected with some ailment not in good health


Being Ill


To be ill there generally must be at least one of any three main subjective criteria: 1) the individual must feel ill, 2) they should look ill, 3) there must be some impairment of normal physiology, bodily or behavioral functions, or bodily processes which can affect all or part of the individual.


As an abnormal condition of the body or mind it often causes discomfort, pain, dysfunction, disability or distress to the person afflicted or those in contact with the person. We generally use the term “illness” broadly to also include injuries, disabilities, syndromes, infections, symptoms, deviant behaviors, or atypical variations of structure or functions.


In its most minimal state there may be no significant change or changes in the body hence physical examination, laboratory and diagnostic testing will show nothing. In its more significant state, often referred to as disease, or even chronic disease, pathologic changes occur hence there are now abnormal findings on a physical examination, diagnostic or laboratory testing. The individual may then demonstrate symptoms, signs and characteristic abnormalities that will likely determine the type of illness and the final diagnoses.


More Than the Sick Person Is Affected


One thing that soon becomes clear about illness is that it generally affects more than the person who is sick. It will often affect his or her family, job, co-workers, the family finances, and occasionally the entire community.


Illness can be expensive and may create hardships for the sick person and for their family. It may require legal actions such as sale of possessions and properties, even bankruptcy in some cases. Illness, especially severe illness, life-threatening illness, or chronic illness is often multi-dimensional affecting many aspects of the individuals life in varying degrees for varying periods of time and can lead to limitation and disabilities and even premature death. Long-standing illnesses, especially when there is some level of disability, is often referred to as chronic disease.

 

What Are The Causes of Illness?


The cause or causes of an illness are those factors, which alone or in combination, encourage, prepare, undermine, or predispose to the injury or malfunction of one or more tissues, organs or system where there has been previously normal and healthy bodily functions, hence creating what we have defined as illness or disease.


In our current Western medical culture there is a significant tendency to think of illnesses and diseases as having a singular or specific causes. For example, when an infection occurs the tendency is to blame the bacteria or virus as being the cause. When diabetes occurs it is often suggested that the cause is the individuals “genetics.”


In fact, few illnesses or diseases rely solely upon one single factor for their occurrence. In most cases there is a hierarchy of factors. For example, a simple infection may occur as a step wise process where the immune system is either over stimulated (hence impaired or even burned out), or undermined (hence unable to function adequately). Nutritional deficiencies can undermine our immune system by starving it of nutrients essential to its normal function. Trauma or injury to tissues may increase tissue vulnerability and predispose them to infection. Even negative beliefs may act to impair the immune system from functioning optimally. If the immune system is impaired or tissues are injured, if there are other reasons why the body can no longer optimally defend itself, then infection can take hold and flourish. Now, all that is needed, is for an errant bacteria to come along looking for a meal and a place to live. It then may find that the tissues upon which it lands are not able to protect themselves. Then infection can begin and take hold. If and when bodily tissues have been traumatized, where the immune system is functioning below normal, where bodily functions are below standard, this may then predispose us to allowing an infection to get started and take hold.


In the end, therefore it is this combination of events, the impairment of the immune system, the inability of the immune system to protect us, which then allows errant bacteria to take hold and not only to set up a temporary home, but to multiply and invade surrounding areas, that ultimately creates the resulting infection.


The Role of Diet In Illness


Similarly, a deficient or inadequate diet, too much sugar, or too much processed, refined or junk foods can lead to inadequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and other essential micronutrients, this then starves healthy tissues causing impairment of cell functioning, a sabotaging of the immune, healing and repair systems.


If an individual harbors a gene for diabetes, or some other genetic disorder, they may become nutritionally deficient and hence suffer diabetes or other nutritional deficiency syndromes.


When an individual is nutritionally deficient for whatever reason including poor food selection and choices, it enters into starvation. When this happen it sets into motion a series of circumstances which may cause the individual to overeat, gain weight and further “tip the scale” toward the activation of the tendency for developing diabetes or other nutritional or health problems. When this goes on for years, the individual’s inadequate nutrition will ultimately undermine the ability of their body to repair, heal and nourish the pancreas, to metabolize blood sugar and to make insulin and utilize sugar within the cells. This means that not only is the individual’s ability to make and use insulin is impaired, but also their ability to breakdown and use blood sugar, and the individual becomes a diabetic. A similar type of process may result in the creation of many other nutritional and metabolic disorders.


The Roll of Emotions and Beliefs in Creating Illness


We suggested above that the illness process might be triggered because of negative beliefs. It is my belief that the immune system while basically controlled by our genetics, the quality of our diet and environmental factors, is also to a significant degree affected by what we believe. This is where the stress mechanism comes into play. When we have positive beliefs, beliefs that leave us feeling good, secure, strong and healthy, our immune system is relaxed and while always ready, can regenerate and heal itself easily. When we think negatively or we are chronically stressed, our immune system may not be able to heal and regenerate itself or our body so easily. When we hold negative beliefs, we activate our stress, Fight or Flight, mechanism, and when we do not resolve these negative belief in a reasonably short period of time, we can undermine and even burn out our stress mechanism, and hence, the immune system. This happens because our stress mechanism and our immune system are really one-in-the same... even when we use separate terms to discuss them, they are still always the same mechanism only looked at from a different angle.


Negative beliefs create negative emotions, and negative emotions 1) signify unresolved conflicts and 2) because these unresolved conflicts are potential threats to our well-being, they trigger stress. When left unresolved these conflicts lead to chronic stress which then undermines, turns on or off, and eventually either burn out or undermines our immune system, predisposing us to illness, disease, infection, tissue injury and chronic disease.


Important Factors in Causing Illness


This means that our overall state of mind, what we think, our nutrition, level of exercise, exposures to toxic chemicals, our genetics, negative and positive environmental factors, can affect our ability to protect us or 1) predispose us, 2) lead us to, 3) and can create illness, disease and chronic disease.