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Getting Sick or Getting Well?

Let's talk about this for a bit.

We live in a culture where we fear germs, viruses are evil demons, and we try to avoid 'getting sick' at all costs. And to do that, we will bombard our bodies with any and every product on the market that claims to keep us healthy or get us back on our feet performing at our peak as quickly as possible.

It is quite a marketable concept. One that can be seen on every manufactured product with a label making claims to it's health benefits. And here's some interesting facts to diverge on already in this post. There are two regulating bodies in the United States that oversee our food and medicine, setting the guidelines on what producers can make claims to on their labels. The first being the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their job is to oversee and regulate the agricultural economy, or the farmers and producers of whole foods that come directly from the Earth or animal. This entity has a limited budget and very strict guidelines for what producers can make claims to. The other is the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Their role is to oversee the production that occurs once the product has left the farm or feed lot. This encompasses everything from processed foods, drugs, supplements, and cosmetics to processing equipment, medical devices, food additives and preservatives. They have essentially an unlimited budget and very loose guidelines for health claims. This is why you wont see any claims on a head of broccoli or a lamb chop but you can have "Heart-Healthy" GMO cheerios or "cholesterol lowering" processed petroleum by-products disguised as vegetable oils or "sugar-free" artificial sweeteners added soft drinks marketed as healthier options. We have this skewed idea that the more additives we put in our food, and the more the package says so, the more nutritious they will be. But we can see that in our current model of health, we have immense growth in chronic disease. It's not hard to see the connection if you look hard enough.

Which leads me back to the topic I want to discuss here. When we look at humans through the lens of disease, or being sick, we tend to loose sight of the bigger picture of what health looks like. I'd like to challenge that view and offer you a new set of bifocals and maybe you'll have a new perspective.

Let's imagine, if you will, that your body is an intelligent, well designed, neatly organized community of cells, tissues, organs, and systems all contained within a loosely knit structure. And within that structure are millions, no, billions, no, trillions of foreign organisms that live and work symbiotically with our own organism to maintain balance within our inner community as well as with the outside world.

Now, imagine that when that scale gets tipped, as is intended to do so, and we fall out of balance or an invader gets past our first defenders, our body, in cooperation with our alien allies within, responds in the most optimum and beneficial way possible. When this happens we experience what we call a symptom, which is simply our body communicating with itself about what is happening and sending signals to what processes are happening or need to happen next.

In our culture we tend to zoom in on these symptoms as the actual disease or sickness itself and have the idea that if we can get rid of these symptoms, we become healthy. Many times what is actually happening is when we relieve the symptom we are shutting down the intelligent response of our body, communicating back to it that those responses are wrong or not beneficial to our healing at this time. And so, by suppressing the natural response, we are prolonging or putting a band aid on the actual issue and it tends to last longer or return later as a chronic illness.

Let's now imagine that we all listened to the intelligence of our body, trusted the wisdom within, and surrendered to the path being laid out in front of us. I'll walk you through a few examples of how we might be able to do this.

The most common example to present here is a fever. We all, or most of us, know that when a fever is present, there is a sickness in attendance, in most cases anyway. We also know that during the time a fever is present is when the sickness is the most transmittable. And we can all remember the uncomfortableness that comes with the heat. So, we tend to make great attempts at getting rid of that fever right away. But, let's look at what's actually happening here and how we could use a different approach. A way that supports what our body knows to do.

I'll start by introducing the immune system. A system not associated with any particular organ but made up of many different molecules designed to recognize foreign bodies and to protect us from infection. It works in intricate relationship with our lymphatic system, which is responsible for clearing out the waste products after infection occurs. You could look at them like the warriors and the battlefield nurses. Upon injury or invasion, our body is alerted through chemical reactions to send immune cells to the area of concern. At the same time that the local blood vessels dilate so that more oxygen, white blood cells, and immune cells can get there faster, and a chemical response triggers the pores of the skin to close and raise the temperature of the body in order to cook out the pathogen. So, the troops are deployed immediately to the area, the borders are closed, and the heat turned up. Our body will experience 4 different phases in this process.

In the first phase, the hypothalamus (the regulatory center of the brain) raises the set point temperature of the body. Generally, around 98.6 degrees. In phase 1 of a fever it may raise to 100 to 103 degrees or more. At this point, the set point is high but the actual temperature in the body is still at 98.6 so we feel cold and our pores are closed so we look pale and we start shivering, a response to create friction and warm us up. We could support our natural response by soaking in a hot bath, curling up with a heating pad, or layering on the blankets to help raise our temperature quicker. And if we have some spicy, circulatory stimulant herbs like cayenne pepper or ginger in your cupboard, now would be the perfect time to sip on a warm beverage of those.

In phase 2, the set point is reached. 102 to 104 degrees is considered a healthy fever. A prolonged amount of time at the higher end could start to cause problems. Different pathogens die at different temperatures so it will vary. A dangerously high fever is above 104 but also consider that the pneumococcus and Lyme pathogens require 106 degrees to die. At this point we will feel hot, our skin will be flushed, red, but still dry. We're usually pretty agitated and uncomfortable by now. Our pulse will be high, and our digestion halted. We do not want to eat during a fever, as it will slow the immune process. With digestion on pause, our body must find the necessary supplies to keep fighting from the stores in the muscles. Hence, the aches and pains and musculoskeletal tension. At this point we would want to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Our body has been simmering for a while. This is where herbs that will promote relaxation come in handy so our pores can open up and release some of the steam. Lemon balm or elder flowers are great options here. Both mildly flavored and tolerable for the little ones. This will support us into the next phase.

In phase 3, the set point temperature is returned to normal, but the actual temperature is still very high. We've just engaged in an intense battle on the inner terrain. We're hot, frustrated, and angry at this point. Our head is pounding. This is the breaking point, literally. Our pores open, the sweat pours out, and our body starts to cool down. Relief, at last. We might feel hungry now, but try to avoid eating anything substantial, maybe just a nourishing cup of soup or bone broth. Make sure to keep hydrating. Now that we are able to function a bit, we could take a shower to get the sweat off or change our sheets or our clothes, it's amazing what a fresh pillow case can do.

Phase 4 is the recovery period. We might feel like we can get back to normal activity, but I assure you, the rest is crucial. During this time our body is scanning for any residual pathogens and might need to start the process all over again. While simultaneously the lymph cells are mopping up the mess that just occurred. Our body may start to expel fluids from any exit point. Nourish the body, hydrate well, take it easy and take a nap if possible.

If we went back to the beginning of phase 1 and we start to notice that we are getting sick, or something is changing in our body, we take a pill to shut down the pain response and fever. You can see how our natural defenses are turned off and how that allows the pathogens to run rampant inside our body and create more harm than it would have if we had dealt with the temporary discomfort of getting well.

Getting well. That's a different perspective.

You know how we call throwing up 'getting sick'? It would make more sense to call it 'getting well'? In the way that I explained the fever, can you see how important it is to attack and remove a pathogen as quickly and as thoroughly as possible? If that pathogen entered by way of our mouth and travelled into our stomach, the expulsatory response is pretty effective here. Or when we have a runny nose and cough to expel a pathogen from the respiratory tract before it gets down into our lungs. What if we looked at our symptoms as our body's intelligent decisions and supported them?

Another example I want to throw in here is our overwhelming fixation on high cholesterol as the culprit in heart disease. The correlation became causation at the creation of statin drugs. To sell a drug product, there must be a need for it, and it's very easy to inflate those needs. These drugs are so widely and aggressively prescribed that nearly 2/3 of our adult population are taking them now. It has been shown that there is definitely some correlation between high levels of cholesterol in the body and congestive heart failure.

So, what is cholesterol?

It is a fundamental element in a healthy body. It is essentially a cardiovascular band aid. When the inner lining of our vasculature gets damaged from chronic inflammation, our body creates LDL (light and fluffy) and HDL (heavier, smoothes the rough edges) cholesterol to patch it up. It fills in the cracks to prevent oxidation and keeps our vessels nice and elastic so that it can move blood optimally. It is our own internal anti-inflammatory medicine. Without it, our body cannot repair itself when needed. Statin drugs shut down the production of cholesterol altogether. It has been presented in research done by Dr. Peter Langsjohn (among others), cardiologist and physical chemist, that people having heart attacks, on average, had lower levels of cholesterol and that high cholesterol diets do not raise levels of cholesterol in the body. He also presents long studies that show after years of statin use, many people start to experience brain impairments, decreased mental function, a decrease in skeletal muscle mass, and lowered immune responses.

Why would we demonize the good guy? Well, when living in a chronic inflammatory state, like the majority of our population, we continuously produce more and more cholesterol, along with many other stress hormones like cortisol. It continues to build on itself which can reduce the size and flow of our vasculature. Enter hypertension, heart disease, congestive heart failure, blood toxicity, and liver congestion. Chronic inflammation is a response to chronic stress similar to the way that a fever was described. Stress occurs by way of our diets, lifestyle, work, relationships, family, bills, trauma, etc. So, we have chosen to point the finger at the guy trying to fix the problem instead of who's behind the curtain calling the shots. Maybe because we like to think that we can continue to live the way we do without consequences or maybe because we've created a multi-billion dollar industry of lowering cholesterol. The moral of the story is high cholesterol is not the sickness, it's our intelligent response to the sickness. Its not making us sick, its trying to make us well.

So, I've given you a new perspective on this. Next time you get a headache, or a rash, or diarrhea, maybe you listen to what your body is telling you. Maybe you appreciate those symptoms and re-name them body language. Maybe instead of saying you're getting sick, you acknowledge that you're actually getting well. Honor that. Honor you. You are more powerful than you know. Trust that your body is wise beyond your years.

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