Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hierarchy of Health - Primary and Secondary Disciplines

Health is defined as: the combined state of physical, mental and social well being

Note: You can see more recent posts about Healthicine here: What is Healthicine and Hierarchy of Healthicine.

The primary disciplines of health can be derived in a hierarchical fashion from the foundations of life.

Genetics is the foundation of health. Health begins with genetics, as does life. There is no genetically perfect human - by design.  Genetics must vary the elements in development of life to guard against toxins, viruses, bacteria, and other real and potential stressors.

Nutrition is the next layer in the hierarchy of health. Genetics require appropriate nutrients to develop in the first place.  The continued development of life requires many nutrients. As life becomes more complex - human life is very complex - nutrition also becomes more complex.

Nutrition is the foundation of health freedom. We have little control over our genetics.  We have significant control over our nutrients. I believe we need significantly more control over our nutrients.

Cells are the next step in the development of life.  Cells are complex organisms made up of a variety of chemical (nutrient) components with a genetic core. The first cellular organisms were able to live on their own.  Gradually they developed cooperation with other types of cells. The human body contains over 100 different types of cells, many of which are living, growing, reproducing and dying at any time.  Healthy cells are a fundamental element of health. Cellular health is dependent on genetic and nutritional health.  Cellular health includes the non-human flora that is part of our bodies and our health.

Tissues are colonies of similar cells, working together for a common function.  Muscle tissue, connective tissue, nerve tissue, etc. Tissue health is the next fundamental element of health. Tissue health is dependent on genetic health, nutritional health and cellular health.

Organs are structures consisting of two or more types of cells cooperating for a higher purpose. Your heart, lungs, and skin are organs that contribute to your health.  Organ health is dependent on all prior layers of health.

Systems are composed of two or more organs, working together to provide a higher function. Your circulatory system is composed of your heart, blood vessels and blood. System health is a higher level of health that is also dependent on each of the preceding layers.

Body is the final physical component of health.  Your body consists of all of the genetics, nutrients, cells, organs and systems needed for life.  The health of your body is dependent on the health of each of those components.

Mind is a component of health that rises above the body. The mind is more than just a calculator, or just an awareness.  Or mind re-minds us to eat when we are hungry, to hunt when we have no food, and learns to store food and eventually to farm so that we can plan for food in the future. The mind is rich and varied - in animals, the mind of a predator is very different from the mind of a prey animal. People can be of many different minds.  A health mind is essential to overall health, and a health mind is dependent on all of the preceding elements.

Spirit rises above the simple calculations and planning of the mind. Although animals might not have spirituality, they definitely have spirit. The spirit and spirituality of humans is rich and complex.  A health spirit is essential to optimal health.

Community, people working together, helping each other.  At the simplest level, mothers raising children.  Human children are very dependent on their community and will die without support. As we grow and develop, so do our many communities.  Communities are a valuable component of health - not only that - healthy communities contribute to maintain and improve health through each of the elements, from genetics, nutrition, cells through to more healthy communities.

These are the fundamental elements of health: genetics, nutrients, cells, tissues, organs, systems, body, mind spirit and community.  In the study of health, this is where we start.

Although medical textbooks cover the basics of genetics, nutrition, cells, tissues, organs, systems, bodies, minds and communities, we seldom study them with a health optimization goal. Their goals tend towards  'if they are ill, we need to fix it', otherwise 'you are healthy and do not need medical assistance'. There are some attempts to improve health for high level athletic competition, but it is aimed at improving strength, endurance, etc. sometimes to the detriment of overall health.

I believe health must be measured, on a scale of 1 to 10, for example if statements about health are to be of any value.  Our current binary view of health - either healthy or sick - is a poor tool for health optimization.  Measuring health on a broader scale will increase our information about health and also contribute to our knowledge of illness.

Each of these elements has an effect on the others.  Combined effects can potentially be very, very complex. It is worthwhile to enumerate and study the secondary components of health that can be generated by simple combinations of the above.

This chart diagrams the primary disciplines of health, and the first level combinations, to create a graphic of the primary and secondary disciplines of health. Click this text to see a full size view. .

Again we see many familiar studies from medical research.  But not from health research. And some interesting items appear that maybe haven't been thought about before, in a comprehensive health view.  Spirit and Cells, for example. How might the health of your cells affect your spirituality?  How might your spirituality affect the health of your cells.  There is much more here than a first glance reveals.

Yours in health, and personal health freedom

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Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: