Dr Dale Peterson, Building Health by Design, medical research, health research, omega-3, aspirin

What's in a Name? Building Health by Design

What's in a Name? Building Health by Design

© 2011 Dr. Dale Peterson & drdalepeterson.com

There’s a common idiom that says, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” It means that surface appearances can be deceiving and that it is often necessary to dig deeper to find the true message or, in the case of a person, his or her true character. Nevertheless, a book’s cover has a great effect on the book’s sales. An attractive and interesting cover design will usually generate significantly more purchases than one that does not capture the attention and imagination of a potential purchaser.

A book’s title is of paramount importance. A well-chosen title should simultaneously convey the book’s primary message and stimulate curiosity, encouraging people to pick up the book and read it. Since many more people will see and read the title than will ever purchase and read the book itself, a carefully chosen title can carry the author’s message to a much wider audience than will ever be touched by the book’s content.

So it was that I gave much thought to the title of my recently published book. I settled upon Building Health by Design as the main title and Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life as the subtitle. I believe that the title does a good job of conveying the theme of the book, and I hope that the subtitle creates enough curiosity for people to purchase the book and read its contents.

In choosing the term Building Health I hoped to counter one of the most widely held medical myths in our society, which is the assumption that disease just happens. The average person goes through life paying little attention to their physical, emotional, or spiritual needs unless confronted by a personal crisis. Health is taken for granted, and when disease appears it is viewed as a matter of bad luck, of misfortune, or as the inevitable result of having been dealt a poor genetic hand in the game of life.

Disease doesn’t “just happen.” Disease is the result of the body’s inability to cope adequately with the challenges it is facing. This is often the result of a failure to properly protect the body and support its healing mechanisms.

Many people today are like homeowners who fail to maintain their houses. If loose or damaged shingles are not repaired or replaced, the roof will ultimately begin to leak. If a septic system is not periodically serviced sewage will eventually back up into the tub or shower. If chipped or peeling paint is not renewed, the siding will crack or rot.

Similarly, if the body’s antioxidant defense system is not supported oxidized LDL cholesterol will be drawn into artery walls and at some point a heart attack will occur. If chronic inflammation is ignored degenerative diseases will ultimately develop. If the body is not shielded from chaotic electromagnetic radiation, the nervous system will be damaged and memory challenges may appear. Unrepaired DNA damage will set the stage for cancer to appear.

No, disease doesn’t “just happen.” There is always an underlying cause, and in nearly every instance that cause could have been avoided if specific health building steps had been taken.

The phrase by Design confronts a second modern medical myth that states that non-drug approaches to health challenges are un-researched, poorly understood, haphazard, and potentially dangerous. Nothing could be further from the truth.

First, one must accept that there are many valid ways to conduct research and that there are many forms of legitimate evidence. Since medicine in the United States is dominated by the pharmaceutical industry, which funds what are called double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover studies (DB, PC, C), nearly all physicians and many people outside of the medical industry have come to view those studies as the only acceptable type of evidence that an intervention has merit. The fact is that such studies generally cannot be done outside of a drug setting. It is quite straightforward to supply placebo capsules with an appearance identical to those containing the active ingredient to a “control group” of test subjects. It is not possible to do placebo-controlled studies of most non-drug treatments, yet this limitation often causes physicians to dismiss valid interventions out of hand because they are “unproven.” For example, a 2005 Japanese study found that gargling with water three times daily reduced the incidence of colds by 40 %. The U.S. physician response was that the findings could not be trusted because the garglers knew when and with what fluid they were gargling while non-garglers knew that they weren’t gargling!

A great deal of research has been conducted on the mechanisms by which the body maintains, defends, and repairs itself. The mechanisms by which disease takes hold in the body have also been studied extensively. I use the term “mechanism” repeatedly, because when the mechanisms of aging and disease development are understood and the nutrients needed by the body to reverse those processes are known there is no need to conduct placebo-controlled studies to validate the effectiveness of providing those nutrients.

The very nature of the body’s nutritional needs speaks to the folly of conducting drug style studies of vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional supports. Double-blinded, placebo-controlled, crossover studies are designed to look at one or two specific variables. They may look at the outcome of administering a drug as opposed to not giving the drug. They may compare the effectiveness of drug A to drug B or drug C.

Research has determined that well over 100 micronutrients are required by the body to optimally perform daily maintenance and repair tasks. Studies that compare supplementation of one or two of those nutrients to non-supplementation are often worse than meaningless. A DB, PC, C study comparing comprehensive nutritional supplementation to no supplementation or partial supplementation has never, and will almost certainly never be done because there are simply too many variables to consider.

While U. S. physicians consider DB, PC, C studies published in mainstream medical journals the only acceptable evidence of a substance’s effectiveness, other forms of evidence exist. In the case of many herbs, for instance, centuries or even millennia of common use in the management of specific health challenges is far stronger evidence of effectiveness than the results a short-term DB, PC, C study involving a small number of individuals.

A great deal of health research is published outside of mainstream medical journals. Since the medical journals profit greatly from pharmaceutical advertising revenues they are not interested in publishing non-drug studies or articles. One is not likely to see an article about the effectiveness of digestive enzyme supplementation in eliminating heartburn symptoms in a journal that is accepting lucrative ads for acid-blocking drugs. It is even less likely that an article regarding the effectiveness of non-drug approaches to illness such as spinal manipulation, acupuncture, or therapeutic touch will be appear in a pharmaceutically subsidized medical journal. Studies demonstrating the effectiveness of many healing modalities exist, but they are found in journals that are almost totally ignored by medical doctors.

Secondly, non-pharmaceutical approaches to health maintenance and disease are well understood. In fact, most are better understood than drug treatments. Drugs are approved for use on the basis of short-term studies performed on groups of tightly screened individuals. Rarely, if ever, are the adverse consequences of administering a drug fully known prior to its approval for use in the treatment of a particular condition. The full impact of a drug is usually not appreciated for years after it has been widely prescribed. An excellent case in point is the drug propoxyphene, which was introduced to the U.S. market in 1957. Sold primarily under the brand names Darvon and Darvocet, the drug was widely used for relief of mild to moderate pain. The drug was withdrawn in 2010 due to the discovery that its use could adversely affect the electrical activity of the heart leading to potentially fatal arrhythmias.

The reason most non-pharmaceutical measures are better understood than drug treatments is because they are nearly always based upon knowledge of how the body operates and work by supporting the body’s ability to do what it is designed to do. Drugs on the other hand work by preventing the body from performing some activity. The consequences of interfering with the body’s normal activities often go unrecognized with disastrous results.

A simple example is the comparison between consuming an omega-3 fatty acid supplement and taking an aspirin-a-day. One of the ways the body regulates its internal environment is by manufacturing chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins perform many roles and under ideal circumstances keep things in balance. For example the body is capable of manufacturing either a prostaglandin that promotes inflammation or a different prostaglandin that reduces inflammation. A diet that is high in arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid, and low in omega-3 fatty acids, however, will make it difficult for the body to maintain balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Aspirin is a drug used to reduce inflammation in the body. It does so by blocking the body’s ability to manufacture inflammatory prostaglandins. Unfortunately, aspirin also blocks the production of prostaglandins that protect the lining of the stomach from acid causing ulcers to develop. Aspirin also poisons cell fragments called platelets so that they are unable to clump together to plug up leaky blood vessels as they are designed to do. For these reasons people who take an aspirin-a-day are at greater risk of developing bleeding stomach ulcers or experiencing brain bleeds called hemorrhagic strokes.

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish oil or flax oil, do not interfere with the body’s prostaglandin production. They simply support the body’s ability to manufacture the prostaglandin that is appropriate for the situation. When the body is capable of producing anti-inflammatory prostaglandins the outcome is the same as when the body is prevented from manufacturing inflammatory prostaglandins. Since the prostaglandins needed for protection of the stomach lining continue to be produced there is no risk of developing a bleeding ulcer. In addition, the omega-3 fatty acids allow the body to manufacture platelets in a manner in which they will not stick together when they shouldn’t, but they will still work perfectly when needed to stop bleeding.

Non-pharmaceutical treatments should not be haphazard in their use, but should be based upon a logical understanding of the supports needed to achieve the desired objective. Building health by design means that it is possible to approach the maintenance and restoration of health as deliberately as a building contractor constructs a home based upon carefully drawn architectural plans.

Finally, far from being dangerous, non-pharmaceutical approaches to illness are almost without exception significantly safer than “mainstream” medical treatments. Conservative estimates have determined that over 900,000 people die in the United States each year from complications of medical diagnostic and treatment procedures. That is equivalent to seven fully-loaded jumbo jets crashing with no survivors every day of the year. Aspirin-like drugs called NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) have been reported to cause over 16,500 deaths annually even when properly prescribed and utilized. Systemic enzymes, which are an effective alternative to NSAIDs, have been prescribed in Germany for decades. In 1992 the German Health Service reported that 1.4 million prescriptions for systemic enzymes had been given without a single adverse effect being reported.

I am not saying that every non-pharmaceutical modality is void of risk. I am saying that with proper guidance it is possible to build health by design far more safely by supporting the body’s mechanisms than by poisoning the body with drugs. When we build health by design, we truly can add life to our years and years to our lives.

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