Sleep, exercise, diet, positive thoughts, and nervous system supply. These are the five areas of health that will be discussed in this book. You are most likely familiar with the first four concepts, but the importance of maintaining your nervous system may be a new idea for you. As a doctor of chiropractic, I have realized the importance of “the master system” that controls the body. More on that later!
The real purpose of this book is to demystify health information. There is so much out there with the new age of data. Articles fly across the internet at light speed, and often times one article will conflict with the other. Consumers are confused, and rightly so! Hopefully the information contained within these pages will help you look at each bit of information through a specific lens-the lens of physiological design!
What is physiological design? I believe that the human body was made to perform a particular way. Whether you believe in evolution or not makes no difference. Either through intentional creation or natural selection our bodies were made to function a certain way. We are made to eat certain foods, drink certain liquids, sleep, think, and move certain ways. The Western world is facing a crisis in healthcare, and it all stems from the fact that our daily habits have taken us too far from our intended design. This book will remind you to think about physiologic design when making choices about your health.
Does this seem too easy? After reviewing countless studies related to a wide variety of diseases, I have come to the conclusion that optimal health is really not difficult to achieve.
The first step in reclaiming your health is to realize you are your own best doctor. You know more about your body than any person on the outside ever will. Consider two important ideas: 1. Your health is your responsibility. 2. You understand your body better than anyone else on the planet. Once you accept responsibility for your health and realize that you are your own best doctor, the journey can begin!
Before I get into specifics, I would like to tell you a little bit about how I arrived in the field of health care. Hopefully this background information will help you understand why I have come to these conclusions about health and how you can use the tips in this book to start your journey towards optimal living.
Like most people, it took a negative event to begin my search for optimal health. When I was in my mid-twenties I was still teaching elementary school when I developed a pain in my left side. At first I thought it was just indigestion from the cafeteria food, but the pain not only persisted, it got worse. I went to my medical doctor, who was more holistic than the typical M.D. She asked me about my diet and when I described my typical meal, her eyes got as big as half-dollars! Back then I was a huge meat-eater who had two grills and used them almost every weekend. Generally half of my plate was either chicken, beef, or pork. She quickly diagnosed me with diverticulitis and advised me to cut down the amount of meat on my plate to less than 25%. I did and I immediately felt better! The pain went away after just a few days and I was amazed that I “cured” myself simply by changing my diet.
That started the health food craze that I have been on for over a decade, and I feel amazing! That pain in my side led to a cascade of events that has changed me forever. I didn’t stop at decreasing my meat intake to less than 25%; I continued to change my eating habits. The next step was to eat a salad for lunch every day. I quickly noticed that my body began to crave salads for lunch, even on the weekends. That was a key point in time for me, because I realized that the body becomes accustomed to whatever you are feeding it, so to make a change you simply have to “push through” a couple of weeks until your body adapts to the change.
Shortly after my salad addiction I decided to start growing my own vegetables. To this day I enjoy maintaining a garden and I can attest that there is no better feeling than eating a meal that you grew yourself. I became fascinated with the world of gardening. Composting, vermicomposting (keeping worms), soil mixtures, and the list goes on and on. I started a garden at the school as well as a recycling program. I was completely engrossed with trying to live healthy while making as little impact on the environment as possible.
Some days instead of eating with the other teachers in the lounge I would stay in my classroom and watch Ted Talk videos. On those days I just needed a few moments alone, and if you have ever been in a classroom with 25 little humans, you know what I’m talking about! On one faithful day I stumbled across a video by Graham Hill entitled: Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian. In the video he explained how abstaining from meat five days out of the week had the potential to make global changes if enough people started doing it. It was perfect timing! I was already a self-proclaimed salad addict, I was getting into gardening, and I was trying to set the example for the kids I was teaching so that they could live rich and healthy lives as well.
I instantly noticed positive changes in my body. I started waking up easier, with more energy. I didn’t “crash” after lunch the way I used to, and by the time I got home from school I still had the drive to go outside and play with my kids! Life was great, but I was still suffering from allergies seasonally. In fact, over the next few years and into my early thirties, my allergies began to spiral out of control.
I began to suffer from sinusitis. Starting around age 30 I would come down with a sinus infection in the fall and one in the spring. Within three years that number had more than doubled. I was coming down with a sinus infection 4-6 times a year, and most of the time had to rely on antibiotics to resolve the infection. Again I went to the medical doctor for answers. She gave me the usually nasal sprays and decongestants but nothing seemed to prevent the infections. So I was referred to an allergist.
I went through the test where they stick you with 50 needles, each one dipped in a different substance to look for an allergic response. I only tested positive for one common allergen…dust mites. I immediately thought of my classroom at school, where a thin film of dust could develop in a matter of days. When you put 25 little humans in a room together, sloughing off skin all the day, dust formation is inevitable. The allergist said there were basically two options: prevention and allergy shots. I knew that prevention was basically impossible given my work environment; I was bound to encounter dust there. So I inquired as to the allergy shots. He informed me that it was a series of weekly shots that spanned over a year. Hmmm…I thought. That sounds like a lot of time and money. I asked what the success rate was. He told me it was about 50%. I raised an eyebrow, very skeptical at this point. Then he informed me that there was a risk associated with the shots, and that in fact 1/1000 people who undergo the treatment die. Come again?!? Did you say 1/1000 people DIE doc? He seemed surprised that I was so shocked. I politely declined the treatment and ran like hell.
Perhaps I overreacted, and I’m no statistician, but a 1/1000 chance of death with only a 50% success rate for the treatment sounds like a bum deal. I consider this event the next turning point in my personal journey towards health, because it was the experience that turned me towards “alternative medicine”.
I began to research on my own outside of the conventional medical model. At the same time I went a little bit crazy at home. I ripped all of the carpet out of my house, took down the curtains, and bought all new hypoallergenic everything. Bed sheets, pillows, mattress, etc. Nothing helped. So I switched tactics. Instead of going outside in, I began to focus on inside out. This is a very important concept and as I later discovered a central tenet of chiropractic philosophy. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was already beginning to think like a chiropractor.
I began to exercise. And I don’t mean twice a week, I am talking about a daily routine. I started a program at school three days a week where I opened up the gym an hour before classes started and led an exercise program for kids with ADHD. (As an aside, the results were amazing and I am currently conducting a research project associated with that program) After school I would go to the gym and lift, even on the days that I exercised in the morning. Some weeks I would get in 7-10 workouts before the weekend started. My professional life was great; as you can imagine the parents of the children were extremely grateful for my initiative. I was looking great too, but my allergies didn’t get better, in fact they got worse.
That summer I developed yet another sinus infection. I went to my M.D. and she prescribed antibiotics. I was working out seven days a week and started the P90X program, which was intense to say the least. I was drinking a gallon of water each day, eating fresh vegetables directly from my garden, and getting plenty of sleep. Yet the infection persisted…June, July, and into August. I went back to the doctor and she diagnosed me with chronic sinusitis. I was given a stronger antibiotic and sent home. I finished the antibiotics and I was still sick, you can imagine how upset I was. I started researching chronic sinusitis and discovered it is classified as a low-grade autoimmune disease. My body was attacking itself from the inside out. I felt like I was doing everything right but I just couldn’t kick this infection. I didn’t know where to turn next.
I had a good friend who had recently graduated from Parker University and was starting his practice as a doctor of chiropractic, so I decided to make him part of my healthcare team. This was the next turning point in my life, and in my opinion the most critical point of the journey. He explained the way the nervous system functioned and how it had the potential to affect every organ, tissue, and cell in the body. I had never heard anything like that before. He recommended that I go see a chiropractor close to me (he was in another city at the time), and to go often. The first few weeks he said I should go 2-3 times a week, and once I have a break through to start cutting back my visits until I was getting checked by the chiropractor once a week.
I took his advice, and it changed my life. All of the other pieces were in place, but apparently I had a compromised nervous system. A misalignment in my spinal column, which the chiropractor calls a subluxation, was interfering with my body’s ability to function properly. You can probably guess the rest of the story. After just one week of adjustments, my infection broke. The school year started and I finished my last year teaching. I spent that year enjoying the last portion of my first career and preparing for my next adventure-chiropractic school. The amazing transformation that I experienced was something I had to investigate further.
My hope is that this introduction has shed some light as to how I have arrived at where I am today. Now I will go through some of the specific details that I have come to recognize as key pieces in my own journey. We will be using the perspective of intended design to keep it simple, logical, and natural. If you can use any of this information to improve the quality of your life then my mission is accomplished!