Pain has evolved as a messenger. Pain tells us to stop what we are doing. If it hurts, then change. If you were hitting nails and you kept hitting and hurting your thumb, you would change the way you hold the nails or the hammer to take more care. But you would change. Internal pain is just the same. It is telling you to change what you are doing.
While the messages our body gives us for chronic illness may be a lot subtler, they are nonetheless messages we need to heed.
Your body knows best. Disease is a warning. It is the body trying to repair, to fix what’s broken, but it can only do so much with what you have given it.
Your body is like a triage nurse at the emergency ward of a hospital.
It selects what is urgent and diverts all its resources to that. It chooses to keep you alive right now by diverting essential resources to the area in need at the expense of other areas that are important but can wait a little longer. It does this naturally and it does it all over the body and at all times.
When you get stressed, your body thinks it is being attacked (although this is generally just in your head) so it diverts all the resources of the body to the muscles to run away. To do this, it has to shut down most of the other major systems of the body, including the immune and digestive systems. There are not enough resources to all work at maximum level at the same time.
By shutting down the immune system, it makes you more prone to virus infections but gives you the energy to get away from the threat, even if it is theoretical. While a functional immune system is important, getting out of a life-threatening situation is urgent. Your body is constantly making these executive decisions without you even being aware of them.
Fighting a virus
Leading on from this, another simple example is a viral infection like the flu. It may be uncomfortable when you have the flu but it is telling you to stop and rest and all the extra energy of the body is flowing to the immune system to fight off the foreign invader. It raises the body’s temperature to literally burn out the virus and creates mucous to carry the dead viral part from the body and to act as a barrier to any new invaders. And all this time you are lying in bed feeling exhausted. Any wonder with all that work going on behind the scenes! Your body is selecting out what is urgent, to get rid of the virus over many other functions of the body. It is not interested in digestion and giving you the energy to get up and go. It wants to get rid of the virus so that it is not a threat to your life. How intelligent is that?
When your body gets sick, it does all it can to try to keep itself and definitely critical functions running, even if it has to shut down a few systems.
Unfortunately, there is no mechanical system that compares to our body to create an analogy, but imagine your car was made out of human parts. After years of neglect and all but the minimal servicing, the pipes carrying the petrol start to crack or go hard (hardening of the petrol arteries) so that not enough petrol gets to the engine. Instead of having to replace them because it’s expensive (tens of thousands of dollars) and very dangerous (your car may never run again), this new human model car pumps more fuel to the engine to compensate. It also sends little internal bandaids of oil-like substances (cholesterol) to stop it from cracking any further and to prevent a pipe exploding and ruining the car totally.
The Intelligent Body
You see, your body is incredibly intelligent - far more intelligent than any doctor or all the doctors and drug companies combined. Nature and evolution have not planned for us to fail.
Even the major forms of chronic illness are just messengers.
If you look at hypertension or high blood pressure through a different model, it is not the illness but a symptom.
Nature and evolution have not planned for us to fail.
Blood pressure is probably the body’s homeostatic mechanism to ensure the appropriate nutrients are getting to the brain and the kidneys and other organs in the body so they can work efficiently. The body doesn’t get it wrong. The brain cannot do without nutrients, including the antioxidants and oxygen, so it has to increase the blood pressure to overcome the rigid arteries or blockages. If the brain does not get the nutrients it needs, it begins to shut down. Interestingly, when blood pressure is lowered with drugs, one of the side effects is higher rates of dementia-related diseases. This is likely due to a lack of nutrients.
The body is so smart it increases blood pressure to get to the brain but we intervene. What we need to do is deal with what causes the elevated blood pressure, not the blood pressure itself, which is just a symptom.
Hypertension, high blood pressure, is just your body’s way of keeping you alive as long as it can.
Similarly, other organs like the kidneys rely on a particular pressure to be able to work effectively. So if there is not enough water in the system, the blood is too thick and then it also needs to up the pressure. Hypertension, high blood pressure, is just your body’s way of keeping you alive as long as it can. It sacrifices what it considers a minor function in the body to keep you alive in the hope that you will change your diet and lifestyle to reverse the condition. It keeps you alive years, maybe even decades, longer than if insufficient blood got through to your brain and other essential organs.
In stark contrast, the medical system sees it as your body gone wrong and gives you a drug to treat the blood pressure without trying to fix the underlying conditions which cause the problem. So the problem continues to get worse and more health problems occur and you have to take more drugs with their serious and often deadly side effects.
Cholesterol’s repair function
Similarly, when you have damaged arteries from a poor diet and lifestyle, your body sends out the repair bandaids to fill the gaps and keep the arteries functioning. These bandaids, known as cholesterol, are one of the most important biochemicals in the body. Without them your arteries would literally crack like a garden hose left in the sun and you would not get the necessary nutrients to your brain and heart. The damage done to the garden hose is through oxidation from the sunlight. The damage done to our arteries is also due to oxidation, as well as inflammation and acidosis. Cholesterol keeps you alive.
Because modern medicine can measure and control cholesterol with drugs and sees it at the areas where plaque is building up in the arteries, it makes it out to be public enemy number one. Modern medicine sees cholesterol as the disease and gives you drugs that have serious side effects. The statin drugs that doctors are willing to give everyone only have a small benefit and do not treat the underlying conditions. The doctor will even threaten you and tell you that if you don’t take these drugs you will die of a heart attack next week or next month. This is an outright lie. Elevated cholesterol is just a message to change something because we can put only so many bandaids there before real problems start.
Numerous studies have shown the real problem is inflammation in the arteries, not cholesterol.
Numerous studies have shown the real problem is inflammation in the arteries, not cholesterol. In my garden hose analogy, if we leave the garden hose in the sun longer it will only get worse even if I put a few bits of tape on it to block the holes. New ones will show up unless I take it out of the sun. That is, unless you do something different.
It is only your body telling you to change - not to go and take some drugs. All the major chronic illnesses are just our bodies telling us to make changes, whether the disease is cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer or MS. But we refuse to listen and instead trust a 50 year old pharmaceutical company with its focus on money rather than our billion year old evolution. The body knows best.
Diabetes a message to change
Diabetes is just a symptom of a diseased lifestyle.
It is probably our body’s mechanism to store food in times of food shortages (which we needed as hunter-gatherers when food shortage was a frequent occurrence). Now we have too much of the wrong food all of the time.
The signs and symptoms of diabetes, including thirst and fatigue, are just messages to tell us to change. If we don’t change then we develop insulin resistance, which just tells us that we already have too much food (energy) stored in the cell and to stop sending in the sugar. By this time we may have spent 10 or 20 years not listening to the body’s messages.
Under normal conditions, our cells take the sugar out of the blood to provide us with the energy they need to function. If the sugar remains in the bloodstream, it causes damage to the blood and cells in the blood. But when there is too much energy stored in the cells the cells stop taking the sugar in, because we just can’t use any more.
It’s time to listen to your body.
Dr Peter Dingle (PhD) has spent the past 30 years as a researcher, educator, author and advocate for a common sense approach to health and wellbeing. He has a PhD in the field of environmental toxicology and is not a medical doctor. He is Australia’s leading motivational health speaker and has 14 books in publication.