Unrealistic Expectations: Are You Standing In Your Own Way?

Generally, there is very little guesswork in staying healthy.  If you eat a healthy diet, get adequate exercise, manage your stress, minimize your toxic exposure, and maintain the health if your nervous system function by visiting your chiropractor regularly, you should significantly decrease your risk of disease.  Likewise, doing the same by changing your lifestyle from generally poor habits to excellent behaviors should reverse certain chronic illnesses that many people just assume are inevitable.  Essentially, so-so habits will give you so-so results.  Excellent habits, though, can change your life.

In most cases, you have the control over whether you are sick or not.  Unfortunately, many people believe or, rather, have been trained that disease is inevitable, an unstoppable force we are destined to collide with at some point during our lifetime.  The reality is, however, that the choices you make now will impact not only whether you will have a long life, but whether you have a quality life.  Less a matter of genetics, chronic illness is more impacted by the poor choices we make, neglect, and missed opportunities for health that we allow throughout our lifetime.

While the road to health is a journey, not a destination, one of the largest obstacles standing in a person’s path to true health is unrealistic expectations.  Now, I’ll be clear.  I don’t think it’s unrealistic to have full health as a goal even if you are suffering from chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes.  I’ve seen enough patients with everything from asthma to sleep apnea experience full resolution of their condition over the years to know with certainty that your body is an amazing healing machine capable of miracles.  What is unrealistic, though, are the artificial time frames, illogical conclusions, and nonsensical methodologies employed to accomplish those goals.

When looking at your health goals, there are several factors you must consider:

1.        Is your time frame realistic?

Many people, when expecting improvement for a chronic condition, are completely unrealistic with their time frames for improvement.   Much of the chronic illnesses that are rampant in older populations are the results of years of neglect.  Still, I work regularly with patients who expect to be well in a matter of days or weeks.  You cannot accumulate the effects of aging for decades and then expect immediate recovery.

Getting sick takes time, as does becoming well.  Your body is a self healing machine with incredible capacity as long as it’s given adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Unfortunately, unrealistic expectations cause too many people to give up on improving her health, often long before the beneficial effects of their lifestyle change begin to take effect.

2.       Is what I’m doing helping or harming?

You have to ask yourself whether the solutions you are relying on are helping you, making no difference, or may even be hurting you.   We live in an age of limitless options, where there seems to be an answer for everything.  The problem is that often the solutions you’re given are just empty promises.

For example, many people who drink soda with choose a ‘diet’ option because they perceive it to be a healthier alternative to sugar.  Besides the fact that soda has almost no nutritional value, the artificial sweetener they are consuming may be linked to cancer or is toxic to the nervous system.  This ‘healthier’ choice is probably worse than a regular soda.  The better alternative is to avoid consuming soda altogether.

And there are countless other shortcuts and changes that people make that they perceive are better for their health like margarine versus butter or pool exercises versus weight bearing exercises.  Even your medications that you take to control your symptoms come with a price.  Mark Twain once said to “be careful of health books, you may die of a misprint.”  It still rings true today.

3.       Is this a fix or a cover-up?

On the topic of medication, a common unrealistic expectation is that your pharmaceuticals are somehow making you healthier.   You have to understand that if you are taking medications to begin with, you are not healthy.  The medication only chemically alters normal bodily function to produce a desired effect, decreased symptoms and risk factors.  The problem is that you’re just as sick while taking them.  You just don’t feel it because your symptoms have been suppressed.

There is not a medication out there for chronic illness that reverses any type of disease.  Granted, they will help you feel better and may prolong your life, versus not taking them, but they are by no means a pathway to health.   The results of taking medication are also temporary.  Meaning, if you stop taking the medication, the symptoms of the disease return relatively rapidly.

In my experience, I would also argue that taking medication for your condition means you have a suppressed disease process that you may not be realistically and directly addressing in a more meaningful way.  Unless you take real action to improve your lifestyle and the causes of your illness, you will have a hard time truly being well.

4.       Have you corrected some of the bad habits and neglect that contributed to this condition in the first place?

Albert Einstein said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Chronic illness is not a matter of luck but a matter of choice.  The pains and illnesses a person develops as they age are the result of the decisions they’ve made.  Essentially, you become a picture of the good or bad choices you’ve made up to that point.  In order to maintain and improve your health, you have to move away from the bad habits and behaviors that keep a person sick.  You can’t expect to continue to eat poorly, get no exercise, and have high levels of stress but remain healthy.  In the case of a person with chronic illness, you have to begin incorporating healthy choices into your regimen while eliminating the bad.  To change your health, you have to change your lifestyle.

Are you willing to make the difficult changes necessary to improve your health?  If you are, maintaining realistic expectations in the face of disease may be a critical factor in whether you improve the way you should or not.  Often, a person may never realize their true health potential because their unrealistic vision of improvement prevents them from attaining their goal.  How?  Because the person who thinks recovery should be fast and easy is more likely to give up on trying all together when they realize recovery is long and hard.  They are also more likely to prematurely stop an effective intervention before realizing the pull potential of that change.  Does a difficult road mean that you should give up on health altogether?  Many do.  Unfortunately, the end result is an opinion that illness is inevitable and uncorrectable…an opinion based merely on unrealistic expectations.

To change your health, you have to become realistic with your expectations.  To change your life, you have to commit to the difficult path, that may seem hard at first, but is worth your commitment in the end.  You’ll be able to make sizable changes in your quality of life and may even extend your life.  The choice, however, is up to you and your ability to be realistic with your expectations.

Exercise: It’s In Your Genes

Having been in practice for about 15 years, one of the most difficult aspects of delivering patient care is getting them to become an active participant in their own recovery.  In my experience, most patients want health handed to them without having to do any work or make the difficult choices needed in order to become healthy and stay that way.   They also expect a speedy recovery despite the fact that it may have taken them years to get to their current health state.

Genetically, we’re designed as humans to live a “hunter-gatherer lifestyle.”  Meaning, we are genetically programmed to spend most of the day foraging for food and hunting for our dinner.   Think about how humans lived 10,000 years ago, when there were no televisions, computers, or cell phones.  People didn’t spend all day sitting on their butt knowing they can just swing through the drive-through on the way home for dinner.  They had to keep moving or die.

Nowadays, in this era of convenience, we expect life to be easy and, after all, exercising is inconvenient and requires work.  I even had one person tell me one time that they didn’t like to exercise because “they got hot and it made them sweat.”  It was no wonder that the patient has in generally poor health.

The most common excuse for not exercising that I hear on a daily basis is, “I’m too busy.”  I say ‘excuse’ because it’s never about time.  It’s about priorities.  We fill our days with countless tasks so that it seems as if we’re almost constantly busy.  However, when you actually sit down and evaluate your day, you’d be surprised how much time you waste or even how much time is spent on low priority tasks.  Those same patients who “don’t have time” will spend 2-3 hours a day watching television or are unwilling to get up an hour earlier to exercise early in the day.  Their television show is more important than exercise.  Getting that extra hour of sleep is also more important than investing in their health.

The American Medical Association recommends 30 minutes of exercise 3 times per week but when you realize how much exercise we are genetically programmed to get, about 12-16 hours per day, you can see how 90 minutes a week is a vastly inadequate amount of movement to stay healthy.

Look at tribal communities around the world.  Did you know that their instances of heart disease, diabetes, and chronic back problems is almost non-existent?  People living a tribal lifestyle, as we are built to, don’t suffer from heart attacks and sleep apnea, at least not like we do in industrialized countries.  They die from Ebola or injured in traumas.  So, living in a country like we do where the risk for severe infectious disease or being maimed by wild animals is rare, we really choose to experience the general declines in health that many suffer as they age.

Think about your average day.  The average person likely:

1.  Wakes up in the morning and gets ready for work then grabs a quick bite and heads out the door (limited standing and sitting).

2.  Spends 30 minutes in a commute to work (sitting).

3.  Spends 8-10 hours sitting in front of a computer at work, sitting in meetings, or sitting on the phone.

4.  Spends 30-60 minutes commuting home (sitting).

5.  Prepares dinner then watches 2-3 hours of television, all the while taking care of their kids and other committments (mostly sitting).

6.  Finally, goes to bed (laying).

It literally seems like we’re resting ourselves to death.  No one ever became healthy by spending all day on their butt.

Now, say you do get the 90 minutes of exercise recommended by the AMA, is that enough to counteract the 166 remaining hours in the week that you are largely immobile?  I think the answer speaks for itself.

You need to exercise for series of reasons:

1.  It helps improve your health and circulation.  Your heart is a muscle and your need to work it out.  Studies consistently show a direct correlation between exercise and a decrease in heart disease.  Increasing your respiration also helps with oxygen delivery to your tissues to decrease fatigue.

2.  In helps improve immune function.  Exercise stimulates lymphatic flow and improves function of the lymph nodes.

3.  It helps improve digestion.  Movement helps contents move through the gut.

4.  In strengthens your muscles and maintains bone density.  Regular exercise helps boost your endurance, increases your energy, and decreases the degenerative effects of aging like arthritis.

5.  It will help you sleep at night.  Physically exhausting your body will encourage healthy sleep.

6.  It helps to keep your nervous system healthy.  Your nervous system is a sensory and motor processing machine that requires constant mental and physical input and output to stay at peak function.  Exercise has been linked to decreases in pain, depression, and degenerative neurological conditions.

The question becomes are you getting enough exercise to maintain minimal health?  Are you willing and able to make the sacrifices necessary to become healthy and stay that way?  Staying well is a journey, not a destination, that requires constant work and attention.  With unlimited potential but a vast minority of Americans who have a structured exercise regimen, are you, and your unwillingness to change, the only thing standing between you and being well?

Including Chiropractic: Don’t Skip the Most Important Step to a Healthier You

Why should you see a chiropractor?  After all you really don’t have any back pain, right?  As a chiropractic physician, one of the biggest misconceptions I see in our office on a near daily basis is the assumption that chiropractic care is just for back pain.  This erroneous myth is perpetuated by the amazing success that chiropractors have with caring for patients with back pain in our office.  It’s also the result of a reactive ‘disease management’ system that only treats people after they’re already sick.

To be honest, for a chiropractor, most cases of back pain are fairly straightforward.  Making a difference in the patient’s health and moving them away from ‘crisis management’ thinking is a lot more difficult.  Seeking chiropractic care for just back pain is like thinking about going to the dentist just for cavities.  There’s more to it than that.  The big difference is that you can replace your teeth but you only get one chance to take care of your spine and nervous system.  There’s no such thing as a spinal transplant.

Did you know that the first documented chiropractic adjustment was not for back pain at all?  It was for a case of hearing loss.  Unfortunately, this is a history lesson that is even lost on some of my own colleagues. In 1895, the founder of chiropractic care, D.D. Palmer performed a spinal mobilization on a deaf janitor named Harvey Lillard.  Mr. Lillard claimed to have been deaf for years and believed it began when he felt something shift in his upper back.  Reasoning that if a bone shifting out of place could lead to hearing loss then moving the bone back should restore it, Palmer mobilized the vertebra in Harvey Lillard’s upper back, ultimately restoring his hearing.

In the past 100 years, chiropractic care has established a reputation as an alternative option to traditional medicine.  Today, there are over 60,000 chiropractors in every state in the country.  Chiropractors are so intertwined with treating back pain because that condition produces such a rapid improvement with little residual as to be astounding in many cases.  If you read the research, though, you’ll find that chiropractic care has been shown to be effective for everything from headaches to digestive problems.  It’s even effective for pediatric conditions such as colic and asthma.

Most people regularly accept the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Few however, other than a chiropractor, really teach about the importance of maintaining healthy nervous system function to maintain health and ward off disease.  In fact, less than 10% of the population has even been to a chiropractor before.

Not many people could argue against eating well and getting regular exercise as important to health, but my experience has shown me that most physicians will actually discourage chiropractic care unless the patient has a back pain symptom.  While this approach is in line with treating disease, this is not a ‘healthcare’ approach.  To treat back pain only after it occurs does nothing to prevent the condition in the first place, minimize the risk of back injury, or maintain healthy nervous system function.

To be truly healthy, you have to reject the ‘disease management’ model that is reactive when it comes to health.  To be truly well, you need to take proactive steps to prevent pain and illness from happening in the first place.  I would argue that chiropractic care is most effective when the patient has little to no pain, essentially when the body is not in acute distress and can accept the adjustment and hold it.

We are constantly bombarded by physical and mental stresses.  These stresses can be disastrous to the the body if left unchecked.  How many stresses do you endure on a daily basis that your body has to respond, adapt, and deal with?  Disease ensues when your body is no longer able to counter the stresses in a healthy way.  Chiropractic care helps improve your body’s ability to adapt to stress by decreasing the physical load on the body and removing pressure from the nervous system.

To be truly healthy, you must include all aspects of a healthy lifestyle.  That includes eating well, exercising, and maintaining your body’s nervous, muscular, and skeletal system.  If you want to be at your best, just like regular diet and exercise, you need spinal adjusting on a regular basis.

The Autism Conundrum

One of the things that has always struck me is how few people in the “healthcare” system are alarmed about the skyrocketing Autism rates.  Recent research shows that the risk for autism is now 1 in 88 kids!  In some states, the rate can be as high as 1 in 47!  The question remains, why?

The argument has been made that autism is due to childhood vaccination as the rates of autism seem correlated with the application of childhood vaccines.  While vaccines do demonstrate some questionable efficacy and their long term toxic effects remain an enigma, there does remain much debate as to whether or not vaccination directly contributes to autism or not.  Vaccination alone, however, also doesn’t explain how you can have multiple children from the same family with the same vaccine exposure but only one gets autism.  Many other sources will say they simply don’t know what’s causing the alarming autism numbers.

When it comes to autism, we invest a lot of time looking for a singular, simple solution to a complex problem.  Unfortunately, there is very little research on general toxic exposures and their effect on autism rates.  While study after study is done on the effects of vaccines we give our kids and their relation to autism, very little relative research has been done to evaluate our daily regular toxic exposure and its effect on our long term health and the health of our kids.

Your body is constantly bombarded by toxins from the cleaning products we use to the chemical medications we consume.  To complicate matters, everyone’s exposure may be different based on their level of lifestyle, awareness, steps taken to limit exposure, and knowledge about the toxic effects of chemicals on the body.  Too often, we just assume the chemicals we are exposed to are safe because there is not enough research done documenting the long term or lifelong effects of our exposure.

When you take a look, however, at the average American’s exposure, the question as to why Autism is on the rise becomes less of a mystery.  For example:

1.      Prior to getting pregnant, the average American female gets very little exercise and eats a relatively poor diet that includes all sorts of chemical food additives that affect her body both short and long term.  As a casual social consumer of alcohol, she may also be causing small amounts of toxic damage to her liver.  It may be even worse if she is a social smoker.  Oblivious to the toxic effects, she microwaves her food in plastic and has an array of chemical exposures during the day from car exhaust to perfumes to cleaners.  She has allergies and suffers from migraine headaches so takes allergy medication and ibuprofen, both of which have to be processed by her body.  She also consumes diet soda because that is “healthier” for her.  Her future children will, of course, depend on the health of their mother for their own healthy development inside her.

2.      She discovers she pregnant after missing her first menstrual cycle.  Of course, she immediately stops her active alcohol consumption.  The problem is, she’s been to 3 dinner parties since conception, in which she’s consumed alcohol and has been exposed to second hand smoke.  She continues to microwave her food in plastic containers, eat food full of chemical food additives, and drinks diet soda (artificial sweetener is toxic to your nervous system), unaware they all contain potential toxins.  She consults with her obstetrician about her pregnancy and is given medication for a some hives she developed.  Much of the chemicals she is ingesting will cross the placenta and affect the fetus in micro-doses in the uterus.

3.      Ultimately, after 9 months of variable exposure, she has a baby girl who uses  a plastic pacifier, drinks out of a plastic bottle and is smothered in chemicals from diaper rash lotions to the medication she is taking for her reflux.  She also gets her typical round of childhood vaccinations that are a chemical soup of everything from mercury (a neurtoxin) to formaldehyde (a carcinogen) injected directly into the blood stream.  She eats processed baby foods and drinks baby formula (which is not food by the way).

4.      Around a year later or so, her mother starts to realize that her daughter is not reaching the developmental milestones that she should be.  Ultimately she finds out her daughter is autistic.

Talking with patients in my office and the public at large during and at health screenings or events, I’ve found that that average American has absolutely no idea how bathed we are in toxins almost continuously.  That’s a big change from 100 years ago and an even bigger change from the environment that shaped our genetics.  Some research even suggests that our stresses and toxic exposures may be affecting our genetic code long term and permanently.

So, why do some kids develop autism while others do not?  Why do two children from the same family have different outcomes?  There may be many answers for this:

1.      Perhaps with the first child, the mother was younger and healthier, with less toxic exposure.

2.      Maybe one of the pregnancies was planned while the other was a surprise, so the mother prepared differently prior to the pregnancy and during that critical, initial first trimester.

3.      Perhaps alcohol consumption or smoking habits have changed between children.

4.       She may be taking more or less medication with a second child.

5.       Her lifestyle may have changed drastically in other ways between children.

6.       Maybe she’s grown smarter with a new pregnancy and limits her toxic exposure by educating herself.

7.       Perhaps she’s applied lessons from her first child to the second child, correcting mistakes and implementing better choices.

Autism is a complex problem with no simple solution.  The only plausible solution seems to be identifying and eliminating the potential chemical exposures the mother and child have early in development.  We also need to get serious about what health is and what it is not.  The good news is, for parents of autistic children, autistic kids in my office respond amazingly well to chiropractic care, in improving their sensory acclimation by removing obstruction to normal nervous system function.  It’s no cure by any means, but they should be getting adjusted.

Living Up To Your Potential

Are you living up to your health potential?  From a wellness perspective, are you really optimizing your innate ability to be well?  I mean, with the near limitless power of your body to heal, are you loving life of just living with it?

As humans we’re not built to be chronically ill.  In fact, Humans, in the their artificial environments, with artificial chemicals, living a life of convenience, are the only animals on the planet that seem to suffer from the chronic illnesses the way we do.  No other animal, save perhaps dogs and cats also living in an artificial human environment, lives with the chronic longstanding illnesses we do.

Why then, do we just assume that becoming decrepit and broken as we age is just normal?  We’re told “it’s normal for your age” or “it runs in our family” yet we forget how we’ve been trained.  We ignore that we are bombarded by fast food ads, spend hours a day sitting, and turned to chemical fixes to alleviate the symptoms of our accumulated diseases.

Is that how you picture your golden years?  Has your dream always been to start out the day with a handful of pills, get little to no exercise because you have too much pain, and then hook yourself up to tubes and machines just to be able to sleep at night.  For many, this is a reality they live with every day.

Unfortunately, many have had their hope taken from them.  They’ve been told that they cant heal.  They’ve been told to “just live with it.”  Well I say that’s unacceptable.  In dealing with patients for over 15 years in my chiropractic practice I’ve seen hundreds of patients who’ve basically just given up on ever being well. Why?  because they’ve been told it can’t be done.  They’ve had their hope taken from them.

You are an amazing being with limitless healing potential.  Occasionally, the body needs help to move back toward health but what it needs more is the removal of any obstruction to the healing process.  There really aren’t very many examples of diseases or conditions that don’t have a miraculous recovery.  Your body will heal as long as you’re given adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  The question is, what are you doing, or not doing to maximize your health potential?