Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Healthiness: Sensing and reacting, Stressing - relaxing, Growing and Healing

The Hierarchy of Healthiness contains the components of healthiness, from genetics, through nutrients, cells, tissues, organs, body, mind, spirit and community.  Any of the components might be deficient or excessive - not in optimal health - and possibly leading to illness. The hierarchy of health defined the primary physical elements of health and thus the primary disciplines of the study of healthiness. Combining each of the primary disciplines in pairs created a comprehensive list of the secondary disciplines of healthiness.

Of course healthiness is not just about components.  Our bodies are moving, breathing, living things.  Many processes and functions are under-way at any single instant.  Some of those are slow moving - and some very rapid.

Sensing, feeling and reacting; growth and healing; and stressing and relaxing are all aspects of healthiness.  Each can be enhanced or repressed through personal choice.  Each can result in illness when deficiencies or excesses are present.

In the blog post What is PAIN?, I discussed the concept that pain is required for health, and that a deficiency of pain is as much an illness as an excess of pain. Pain is a process enabled by the nervous tissues, the nervous system, which can be repressed or enhanced by the body or the mind, in reaction to external, or sometimes internal stimuli.

We need to explore the Hierarchy of Healthiness to find many more aspects of healthy processes and the illnesses associated with their deficiencies or excesses. Some examples:

Genetics: The main processes of genetics in a person come from the activation, repression and modulation of genes and the reproduction of new cells.  As each new cell is created, the processes attempt to create the appropriate cell type for the environment - new heart muscle, new gum tissue cells, or new liver cells. Deficiencies in the genetic processes of cell reproduction result in faulty, damaged cells that do not function or reproduce.  Sometimes it can result in cells that are cancerous and reproduce in excess, out of control and without healthy function. Growth and healing are the result of our genetic processes in action and both can become deficient or excessive. 

Cells: Our bodies contain over 200 of different cell types, each with different purposes and processes. Red blood cells take oxygen from the air and distribute it throughout the body.  Anaemia can be a deficiency in the ability of these cells to carry oxygen - or a deficiency in the quantity of cells.  White blood cells carry out the functions of the immune system attacking foreign cells.  This process can become excessive when the cells attack your own cells instead. With over 200 different types of cells, many involved in multiple processes, we start to see how rich and complex the balances of healthiness are. 

Tissues: Each tissue serves many functions and processes that are part of our healthiness. Nervous tissues are essential to our sensations, from feeling through seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, balancing, to pain and thinking and intuition. Deficiencies in nervous tissues can result in deficiencies in each of the senses, deficiencies in our abilities to sense pain - to deficiencies in functions of the mind.  Excesses of nervous tissue can result in over-sensitivity, excessive pain, hyper-awareness or worse.  Each tissue type is involved in many healthy processes that can be deficient or excessive. 

Organs: Most organs serve multiple purposes or functions.  Each process can be deficient or excessive.  The heartbeat alone can be deficient, excessive, erratic, in many different ways.  In most cases, these imbalances are not serious enough to be diagnosed as an illness - they are simply deviations from optimal healthiness. Our hearing might be deficient, healthy or excessive - distracting us from irrelevant or non-existent noises. Each healthy process can be deficient or excessive to create an illness. 

Systems: the digestive system is probably our most complex system, due to the number of foreign organisms involved and the process balances involved can change from hour to hour, day to day and over long periods of time.  Our nervous system gives rise to the complexities of all senses as well as our mind.  Our immune system is a complex interaction of many body components and processes. It can be difficult to tell if your immune system is mildly deficient. AIDS was not initially diagnosed as an immune system illness. Over-active immune systems, for example in reaction to peanut allergy - can cause  rapid death. 

Body: our bodies require stress and exercise to keep healthy, and to encourage and enable growth and healing.  We also require relaxation and sleep to allow rebuilding and re-balancing. Move it or lose it applies to all aspects of health - when it stops moving, it's near death. The healthiness challenge is to know what types of movement are best for your health - and to be certain you don't overdo it.  With many healthiness processes - the perfect balance is not a mid-point, but a combination of alternating stresses and de-stresses. 

Mind: as with the body - the mind operates with a use it or lose it principle.  Exercising your mental processes creates and improves healthiness.  Rest is also required to facilitate consolidation and rejuvenation. Many of our mental processes can become illnesses in deficiency or in excess.  Thinking is good, but not too much.  Not thinking can be fatal. 

Spirit: a healthy spirit is a balanced spirit. It adjusts your attitude when problems arise - and gives you support.  It keeps you stable in unstable situations. An unbalanced spirit can result in depression, or manic states. 

Community: a healthy community supports you when you can't support yourself.  And if your community is healthy - you support it as well.  Communities also provide ability for people to accomplish things that could not be accomplished by any single person.  We each belong to many communities - with many different functions and processes.  In our communities - we have an opportunity to create goals, functions and processes that provide healthiness for all. However, communities can also be about rules, which may be deficient or excessive - resulting in unhealthy communities. We all rebel against rules sometimes - we need to understand, support and develop communities that enhance our healthiness and to recognize communities that detract from it.

 In the post The concepts of Illness and Disease we noted that an illness is "a condition of the living animal or plant or one of its part that impairs normal functioning".  The key is that illness 'impairs normal functioning' - the body has many variations in cells, tissues, organs, etc. that are in the normal range.  An illness exists when functioning is impaired. 
An unhealthiness begins as you move from the perfectly healthy state towards the excess or deficiency state.  Symptoms may appear anywhere along the range.  In general, symptoms indicate unhealthiness. However, a single symptom does not indicate a medical condition. By the time a medical condition is reached - many symptoms appear.

A doctor will not diagnose an illness unless specific criteria are met, eg. the illness must cross a well defined line between healthiness and illness.  

All of the functions and processes in our bodies, minds and communities, in the entire hierarchy of our healthiness can move from healthy to unhealthy and back again - without a diagnosable illness. 

If we are to move towards optimal healthiness - we need to better understand unhealthiness, and work to keep each health factor in the healthy range, if possible in the optimal range. However, as we can see now, our list of health balances has grown so tall and so detailed that we will need computers to provide useful analysis. The role of doctors - in the field of healhtiness, might be to interpret the results from computer analysis.

Our medical systems currently attempt to provide solutions by understanding illness. In many cases - and when illness clearly exits - this can be a very effective approach.  

However, this approach, studying illness, fails when it encounters unhealthiness that does not meet the criteria for illness.  And it fails badly when it encounters complex unhealthinesses that present many, gradually worsening symptoms as the patient slides down from healthy to unhealthy.  Some 'chronic illnesses' are actually complex unhealthinesses.  However, we don't study unhealthiness with the rigour that we study illness - so we cannot understand those illnesses. 

When we learn to study healthiness and unhealthiness more effectively - some illnesses that cannot be understood by the medical approach will become clear. 

As we learn more about our healthy processes, how they interact, and what choices we have in their regard - we will move more towards health freedom and the attainment of optimal health.

yours in health, tracy
Tracy is the author of two book about healthicine: