Have We Always Had Chronic Disease?

Everyone I know feels sick. I used to be one of these people. We all have aches and pains. Many people have to deal with chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, auto-immune disorders, and much more. Heck, my wife Beth had cancer a few years ago at the age of 21. We’ve come to accept these various states of disease as commonplace, like there is nothing we could do about it. Most people are basically biding their time until they get sick.

At this point approximately 60% to 70% of deaths in the U.S are caused by chronic disease. Take a look at the statistics in the 1800’s and the numbers are quite different. Almost 50% of deaths were caused by infections, a problem which has now been remedied for the most part. Chronic disease made up a very small portion of deaths. This isn’t to suggest that these diseases didn’t happen, because they did. The key thing to realize is that while these diseases have been around forever, the rate at which they occur has skyrocketed in the last century. Why is this?

How Do We Get Chronic Disease?

Since the inception of our species we have had the genes necessary for the progression of chronic disease. The stimuli that turn these genes on are the same as they were 2 million years ago. It all boils down the concepts of homeostasis and allostasis. Our body is always making sure that every system is in balance, especially in the face of outside stressors. This is homeostasis. Hans Selye detailed a three step process in which these outside stressors contribute to chronic disease.

  • An outside stimuli is registered, and the parasympathetic nervous system is activated. This triggers a release of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These are the main stress hormones.
  • We then have the “stage of resistance” where our tissues respond to the release of the stress hormones and maintain homeostasis in the face of a stimuli.
  • Over time and exposure to a chronic stress response, our tissues lose the ability to maintain homeostasis, leading to the development of disease.

I mentioned allostasis before. This is the body ability to maintain stability (homeostasis) through adaptation. The combined effects of stress on our body is called an allostatic load. An example of markers of allostasis are our heart beat, blood sugar, and blood pressure. Chronic disease can develop when the allostatic load on our body makes markers like these spend the majority of their time in the extreme ranges of possibility. High blood sugar over times leads too diabetes. High blood pressure over time leads to hypertension. When we look at life through the lease of homeostasis and allostatic load, it is no wonder why the immense changes that modern life have brought in could be a factor in the diseases of our time.

The Stimuli We Surround Ourselves With Cause Chronic Disease

Look at the way we have set up our modern lives. Look at a city. Imagine our biological systems (homo sapiens have been around for two million years) in a city. The constant noise, crowds of people, towering building, and exposure to emissions from cars and building alike are all signals to our autonomic nervous system that we should be in fight or flight mode. We are exposed to these stimuli and release a cascade of stress hormones. If this goes on for years it can lead to the development of many states of disease.

Look at our current diets. In the last hundred years we have shifted farther away from our ancestral diet than any other time in our history. We have stopped consuming animals except for in a highly processed state (hotdogs, chicken nuggets, fried foods, eat), along with highly processed carbohydrates like fried starches and bread. Most of this food is cooked in highly refined vegetable oil that are also found in every packaged food you can find. We eat much more than we need (large calorie surpluses over time are their own type of stressor on the body) These foods do nothing but inflame our arteries, raise our blood sugar, and dis-regulate our guts. Over enough time this contributes to our body allostatic load in such a way that chronic diseases like obesity, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes start to form.

Many studies have been done on hunter gather tribes that have stuck to traditional diets and habits. What is profound is that in cultures around the world, even with their varied diets of local animals and plants, cultures that have not modernized do not have chronic disease. From tribes in the Amazon, Canadian Eskimos, Yanomamo, Kung, or Australian Aborigines, the cultures that live an ancestral focused life do not come down with chronic disease.

Our near constant exposure to EMF radiation and environmental toxins are another factor. These are entirely new stressors on our bodies. From household cleaners, to new clothes, to exhaust fumes, to chemicals in our water, to wi-fi routers and 4G phones, we are under an immense load even without factoring in diet and lifestyle. Your whole life needs to be looked at to maintain health, not just the food you eat.

No, Chronic Disease Is Not Normal

Our healthcare system has normalized being sick. Every other commercial is a pharmaceutical advertisement trying to sell you another drug to maintain your disease. The first step to health is realizing you don’t have to feel this way. You can control the inputs that trigger disease states. It is never too late to get your health on the right track. A few tips to get started.

  • Ditch the grains, sugar and vegetables oils. These provide zero nutrition and only contribute to inflammation, high blood sugar, and gut dysfunction.
  • Start moving every day. Our bodies crave it and we are designed for it. This is an example of a good stressor. Take a couple 10 minute walks every day. be able to do the basic bodyweight movements (plank, pushup, squat, pull-up). Lift some heavy things in the gym and sprint once in a while. The difference between no movement and a little is a LOT.
  • Drink clean water filtered to remove pharmaceuticals, chlorine, fluorine, and environmental toxins.
  • Get your stress in check. Practice mindful breathing or meditation. I talk about that over here.

Thats it folks. I know it is a lot to consider, but it is something you have to look at if you want to stay healthy. If you want a guided intro into some of these habits, sign on up for our 7 Day Primal Reset email course over here. In a daily email we send you a routine for stress reduction, nutrition, and movement.

Thats it for this week folks. Thanks so much for reading and leave any questions below. Sign up for our weekly newsletter on health, wellness, and personal development and get a free copy of our ebook, 3 Elements To Lifelong Health!

Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA.  He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed  practices.  This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits.  Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!

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