Keep Out of the Health Care System: Stay Healthy

by Admin on July 9, 2010 · 1 comment

in Patients

Because the American health care system is so broken, I’ve been on a lifelong journey to avoid it. The obvious path is through disease prevention, an aspect of practice in which allopathic medicine is particularly wanting.

I have been long aware that there is a science of psychoneuroimmunology (interactions between the nervous system and the immune system, and the relationship between behavior and health), but today I had a chance to hear about some placebo-controlled, double-blind, gold standard (the kind MDs routinely demand) immunological studies that demonstrate the interconnection between the mind, the body, and the immune system beyond a shadow of a doubt.

When I entered the room, late to the beginning of the lecture, the speaker was telling the assembled group that the biggest single predictor of an early death is an external locus of control. In other words, if you are not perceiving yourself as in control of your own life, you will die sooner. In a related study, researchers found that attitude about aging predicts how long a person will live. A positive attitude–aging gracefully and accepting the aging process– extends life 7,5 years longer than gains made either by either lower BMI or smoking cessation.

At Stanford University, women with metastatic breast cancer who were given group therapy lived eighteen months longer, and with a better quality of life than their control group, left to deal with their disease without support. In another study, it was found that a mother’s optimism about her pregnancy and her own life lowered the incidence of pre-term births and low birth weight babies.

All of this is part of a larger recent emphasis by medicine on the importance of the immune system. Where previously scientists thought everything in the body began in the brain, which sent signals to the rest of the body, the new theory is that everything in the body starts with the immune system, which releases pro-inflammatory cytokines that alert the brain to illness and signal the brain to be tired and shut down other systems, leaving more energy to fight the invader.

So not only are you what you eat, apparently, but you are also what you think. Pessimism triggers the release of negative chemicals, which if released over and over again, shut down the brain. According to Candace Pert, PhD, the neuroscientist and pharmacologist who discovered the brain’s opiate receptors, there is even a physical place in the brain for belief.

Thus, the goal for a long healthy life is to keep positive, optimistic, and in control. But that’s easier said than done. Food — or rather nutrition — is a good starting point, as psychological states that present as depression or anxiety can actually be due to nutritional deficiency.

There’s a long list of nutrients that are known to lift depression. Three of the best-known are Folic acid, a B vitamin; tryptophan, the chemical in both turkey and milk that makes you fall asleep; and Omega-3 fatty acids, in fish like salmon. Complex carbohydrates (fruits,vegetables and whole grains) are known to lift serotonin levels that control whether you feel depressed.

All of this is a complicated way to say that fruits and vegetables prevent disease. Along with limiting the stressors in your live (or at least the way you respond to them), a good diet can actually prolong your life and keep you out of the doctor’s office

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