Sunday, September 03, 2006

Take care of your body

"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live."
- Jim Rohn, motivational speaker

The 1970s mantra that "your body is a temple" really didn't hit home for most people. those I spoke to about it didn't really understand it. They were uncomfortable with the "temple" thing.

Now, "your body is the only place you have to live," that can mean something. It makes you feel a little like the turtle carrying its home on its back, but we can adjust to it.

What many of us 21st century folks find hard to believe is that until a century ago--not very long in the history of medical science--very little was known about how the human body operates. The physics we knew. The chemistry is still a mystery today.

Some of us see people abusing their bodies to the extreme, then living for decades more, as if to prove that our bodies will take any kind of abuse and still retain our health. Keith Richards comes to mind here, though I know several people who would fit into the category who are not well known.

The problem about health matters is: who can we listen to and feel confident that we are getting the best advice? You aren't going to like the answer.

In matters of health, as in political matters, everyone has a position and for every position that someone in the field takes there are ten who will call him a fool.

Then who should we believe? What can we do to set our bodies up to live healthy and well for as long as possible?

I apply a formula that I also use for other matters. I read a great deal about medical science and health studies and I also read articles by those who have ideas they believe are worthy but cannot be supported because studies have not been undertaken. The latter must be supported by excellent logical arguments that refer to things we already know about how our bodies operate.

Next I lop off my list opinions and studies in the extremes. These can sometimes be identified by inclusion of words like "always" and "never" or "caution" or "always seek your doctor's advice." These often (but not always) include studies that were made with full support of pharmaceutical companies with a vested interest in their results. Pharmaceutical companies pay well for results that show their products in a good light.

I also avoid in the extreme any offer of medication from my doctor if he says that "the first two months are free." That indicates that thereafter the patient will never get off the drugs.

I usually ignore any article that says that I can't accomplish whatever it is I want to do without taking drugs. The reason is that all healing is self-healing. All most drugs do is to tweak our body's systems (such as the immune system) to get to work doing what we want them to do. Despite what the articles say, I can do that myself. And have, many times.

That leaves a little bundle of recommendations from the middle of the list. I can usually make a choice from those feeling confident that I have not strayed far from what is best for me.

Look at the rides vitamins C and E have taken over the years. Some studies said they would extend your life and prevent all sorts of diseases. Other studies "proved" that these vitamins do nothing but soak up cash. Once the noise died down and the blood cleaned up, many new studies advise that regular consumption of supplements of these vitamins or of fruits and vegetables that provide sufficient quantities of them will indeed help to prevent problems. These include diseases and syndromes. But they must be taken over long periods of time.

The catch is that most important things in the body take a very long period of time to affect our daily lives. Today's football and basketball heroes are near-cripples 20 years later, for example. Smoking tobacco doesn't kill anyone quickly, as many studies showed in the past. Today we know that tobacco contributes to many different diseases.

Take the middle ground when it comes to health matters. Avoiding something because a pharmacuetical company's study advises against it may not be the wisest choice. Learn more.

Were our bodies built to withstand the intake of particulate matter (such as from smoke) continually, for years? Of course not. That doesn't make sense. Were they built to withstand extreme exercising for long periods? No, as our prehistoric ancestors didn't have to do these kinds of things to survive. Every health choice should make sense to you.

Ignorance will not do anything to improve your health. You have to learn a lot of stuff, then sort through it. Saying that it's all too much work to do that is like getting into bed with ignorance.

There's a great deal of stuff to sort through, but the result is worth it. If you are going to live to be 100, as many of us will, then it might be nice to have the health to be able to do something other than to park our wheelchairs in the hallway of our nursing homes and watch the nurses pass.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to get us all learning what we need to know to live long and healthy lives.
Learn more at

No comments: