Sunday, September 5, 2010

I get knocked down, but I get up again

I get knocked down, but I get up again.
I get knocked down, but I get up again.
(song: Tubthumpinb by CHUMBAWAMBA)

Is this how health works?  We are up.  Then we get knocked down.  Then we get up again. This happens over and over and over.  At some point, we get knocked down so hard that we cannot get up again - or we realize we need help.  So we visit a doctor.  The doctor prescribes some medicines, or surgery, or other intervention - and we get up again, but maybe not so tall.  Until we get knocked down and we can't get up again. And we die.

Sometimes we view our health status as 'ok', or 'sick'. eg. as 'Knocked down' or 'up again'.  This is a very simplistic and weak paradigm. 

How should we view health?  

Our health is a status measurement - a summary of many status measurements. How healthy are we on a scale of 0 to 10.  Dead, to perfectly healthy.  How healthy are our cells?  How healthy are our tissues, our organs, our bodily systems, our body, our mind, our communities and our spirit?  The sum, or summary, of these health status measurements is a powerful measure of our health.  We are not 'knocked down or up again'.  We are lying down, or kneeling, or crawling, or standing up, or walking or running.  Or we can walk, but not run.  Or we can run, but not very fast... A continuum of measurements provides a more useful health status. 

Health is also a balance measurement - the sum or summary of many balance measurements. Are our nutrients in balance - not to little, not too much.  Are our stresses in balance - not too little, not too much.  Our parasites are in balance, not to little, not too much. And so on. 

If a 60 year old goes to the doctor for his annual physical, and the doctor says "You're as healthy as a 50 year old person".  What does it mean? Does it mean anything? And next month, if the 60 year old is diagnosed with terminal cancer - does it mean he's as healthy as a 50 year old with terminal cancer? 

How does this happen?  It does happen.  Why is our current health system not able to measure health status, complete health status - and give a useful answer? 

The answer is very complex and very simple. 

There are 9 dimensions of health. Nutrients, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind, community and spirit.  How do we measure your nutrient health?  We don't, unless you are ill. Do we have an established method for measuring nutrient health of people.  No. How do we measure the health of your cells?  We don't, unless you are ill.  Do we have an established method for measuring the health of your tissues?  No.  And so on. 

Each of these 9 dimensions contains a list of components.  There are over 100 different nutrients essential to the maintenance of our health. Our medical system does not provide a definitive list, much less a definitive guideline for health.  Our body consists of over one hundred different types of cells.  Is it possible to measure the health status of each of them?  Is it necessary to determine health status completely?  Our bodies are comprised of many organs, systems and tissues.  How do we effectively measure the health status of each and all of them? 

There are 6 factors that can lead to illness, by deficiency or excess.  They are genetics, nutrients, parasites, toxins, stress and growth.  How do we measure the status of these health factors?  We don't bother, unless you are ill.  Do we have an established method for measuring deficiencies or excesses of nutrients?  Of stress?  Of growth?  No. Not unless you are sick to the point of a diagnosis. 

Of the over 100 essential nutrients, are you suffering from a deficiency or an excess of 1, or 10, of 30? Do you have sufficient healthy bacteria to maintain your health?  But not an excess, and not an excess of unhealthy bacteria?  Are you under-stressed?  Or overstressed? How can we tell the difference?  Are the symptoms similar? Are you lacking stress in one area, but suffering from too much stress in another?

I believe that, if we shift our paradigm from 'I get knocked down, but I get up again', to 'In some ways I am very healthy and in others, not so healthy - I'm working to learn about and improve in those areas', we will be closer to understanding and improving our health - and our health systems.  

What do we need to accomplish this?  We need to develop effective paradigms and tools to measure health status and illness status - far below the threshold of 'sickness' (I get knocked down).  We need more powerful tools than simple diagnostics that produce a 'yes/no' answer. 

We need to provide individuals with information about their health status, based on the measurements from these tools and technologies.  

We need to give individuals the responsibility and the power to take health actions on their own behalf.   To give them personal health information - and Personal Health Freedom.  
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: