What is health? Is it how we feel? Is it how we function? Is it a combination of the two?
What determines if we are healthy? Is it the food? Is it exercise? Is it medication?
Is health a static point or is it a continuum? Do we reach health, or do we constantly strive to be more healthy?
Why in a world of individuality, are the current measurements we use to indicate health the same for everyone?
When it comes to the prevailing paradigm of health, more and more people seem to be less and less healthy. Why is this the case? It is because the average person is unlucky and genetically predisposed to disease? Or is it that the health-care system may not be all that we thought it was?
Any paradigm of science is only as good as its ability to prevent and explain anomalies (1). So, within our current health-care paradigm, why do we have so many anomalies? And why are they increasing? It could be said that the health-care system we are a part of may be incorrectly named – a disease-care system being a more suitable name. People are left under the false impression that if they feel fine, they are healthy, and it is not until they experience signs and symptoms of disease that it is time to do something about it. We live in a reactive health-care paradigm, rather than one that is pro-active.
What do we mean by disease? In simple terms, your body is not doing or has not been doing something it is supposed to do, but you may or may not have symptoms as a result. The result manifests as one of the 13,000+ currently recognised diseases.
As you read this, your body is carrying out thousands of functions completely automatically, without you even thinking about them. Is it just luck that some of our bodies are functioning to a better degree than others? Is it due to genetics? Is it the choices we have made and our actions up until this moment of time? Or is it a combination?
One important concept to consider when looking into this further is whether we tend to look at disease, rather than health, as an entity. Do we gain or acquire a disease, or do we lose our health? Similar examples to consider before deciding on this are light and dark, and hot and cold.
- Is darkness an entity, or is darkness the absence of light?
- Is cold an entity or is cold the absence of heat?
- Is disease an entity or is disease simply the absence of health?
The answer to this question will form the basis of a new paradigm.
One thing is for certain, our body is constantly under stress. That can be physical (sitting at work all day, lack of physical movement or a sudden impact), chemical (the air we breathe, and the foods we eat) or emotional stress (family issues, overworking etc). This is just to list but a few, but it is inevitable that some form of stress affects you. Contrary to popular belief, however, stress is not always a bad thing for the body. In fact, the right sort of stress is essential and of great benefit.
What is it that makes the stress beneficial or detrimental? This depends on if the stress falls inside or outside our body’s adaptable range, and that is different for everyone. If stress falls within out adaptable range, we call this eustress (from the Greek prefix eu – meaning good). But if stress falls outside of out adaptable range, we call this distress. Once the level of distress or demand on our body becomes too much, our body’s systems start to break down, we become more vulnerable to disease.
A simple analogy is to think of your health as a pan of water on the stove, and stress as water that is entering the pan. Eventually, if we add water to the pan at a faster rate than the water can evaporate, the pan starts to overflow. This overflow is the signs and symptoms that become apparent in your body – this is distress. If, in this example we add water at a rate that does not overflow, and the water evaporates at the same speed or quicker, this represents eustress. The evaporating water is your body’s innate healing capacity.
When thinking about this topic we have control of several factors, one being the amount of stress that we put on our body. Directly and indirectly related to that, is the size of our adaptive capacity.
The aim of this article is not to provide you with answers, but to ask questions for you to think about, so you can formulate your own answers.
- Rob Sinnott, Textbook of Human Adaptability