DO YOU HAVE DISEASE AND HEALTH BACKWARDS?
by Dr. Jon Repole, DC, NC, HHP, CPT, CFMP
In the sciences, there are many ways to approach the subject of health and disease. Two strikingly varied approaches that lie on this continuum include: pathogenesis and salutogenesis. Pathogenesis is the general study on the ORIGIN OF DISEASE that we have all been taught. We start with a DISEASE or problem and work backwards until we achieve some level of health that ameliorates the DISEASE or problem. Salutogenesis, on the other hand, was coined by an Israeli American sociologist and described in his 1979 book, Health Stress and Coping. Its main concept deals with the study, origin and cause of HEALTH. The word has its root in the Latin ‘salus’ meaning health, and the Greek ‘genesis” meaning origin.
When comparing both approaches one will, in turn, come to very different conclusions and outcomes. Pathogenesis, in essence, is reactive and believes that health lies in the simple removal of the identified disease or “pathogen.” Whereas salutogenesis starts with an idealized aim of optimal human potential that is based on never-ending improvements and refinements. It sees health as a process not a destination. Salutogenesis postulates autonomy and encourages us to be pro-active and encourages us to, “cause ourselves to become healthy.” Pathogenesis, on the other hand, encourages us to give our autonomy to the M.D.”iety” pharmaceutical-complex. Health, they postulate, is found in the form of a potion or pill. It disempowers us from achieving or unlocking our highest Self and undermines the inherent wisdom of the body to heal and the true impact of dietary and lifestyle excellence.
In the most simplest of definitions salutogenesis requires us to study those attributes, actions, behaviors, foods, etc. that cause optimal health and to model our lives in accordance with those principles.
There are partial truths, of course, in all approaches and we must constantly find ways to include and transcend all previous models to help with our evolution and understanding of optimal health and well-being. The cliché notion is that if we were severely injured or had an infectious disease – we would, no doubt, want the best of what conventional medicine has to offer. For example, if my appendix was about to burst – I would pass on the “tofu salad and herbal remedies” as my means of cure and embrace conventional medicine to save my life! But for the vast majority of the diseases we see today – salutogenesis and NOT pathogenesis is the answer! This great shift in surrendering “needing to know the named disease” to seeking out those areas in our life we can immediately control – such as diet and lifestyle – should be the FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE and not the LAST.
In my practice, most of the lifestyle diseases I see – whether it is diabetes, autoimmunity, heart disease, anxiety, depression, weight gain, etc. – IMPROVE when we challenge patients (like they never have before) to dietary and lifestyle excellence. The limiting factor, of course, is always compliance. When we enter into “contract” with a patient that outlines their commitment to change their dietary and lifestyle practices over the next 2 months – the patients that succeed are the ones that have made a psychological shift in understanding that these novel changes are not forms of DEPRIVATION but rather changes that will be LIFE-GIVING, and LIFE-ENHANCING! In other words, if you view “giving up unhealthy foods” as a form of deprivation – more than likely you will fail. It’s a simple math equation of ADDITION NOT SUBTRACTION. What we focus on expands. Thus, we must concentrate on what we are adding rather than what we are subtracting.
So, stop waiting to GET or OBTAIN an answer to what ills you and begin to take autonomy and responsibility over those things which you can control! The leading cause of death in the United States is not heart disease, cancer, or diabetes – this is the SMOKE/SYMPTOM. Rather, it is unhealthy lifestyle – the FIRE/CAUSE. In a study by Matthew Reeves, a Michigan state university epidemiologist finds that only 3% of Americans maintain a healthy lifestyle. The research was published in the journal of Archives of Internal Medicine and found that, in fact, only 3% of Americans undertook what he defined as the four basic steps of a healthy lifestyle:
1. Not smoking
2. Maintaining a healthy weight
3. Eating right or a minimum of 5 fruits and vegetables a day
4. Exercising at least 5 times a week for 30 minutes
“The effect of a healthy lifestyle is huge. We could eliminate the vast majority of chronic disease by following a healthy lifestyle…The effect of following these lifestyles is greater than anything else medicine has to offer. I don't know anything a doctors' office can do that would reduce your risk of diabetes or cardiovascular disease by 80% to 90%,” says Dr. Reeves.
WOW! These are not some kind of elite athlete-like recommendations! I would include much more in the health equation but the point here is that we simply either UNDERESTIMATE or do not TRUST the impact consistent healthy dietary and lifestyle choices have on our health and well-being. Health comes from ABOVE-DOWN, INSIDE-OUT! It’s the miracle of life and our innate intelligence (ABOVE-DOWN) rather that a drug that we MUST come to rely on more and more on every day!