By guest author, Judith Olesen
Americans too often pay a high price for the ways in which conventional medicine is practiced. We pay a price not only financially, but also in terms of untold human suffering. Our bodies are treated somewhat akin to machines made up of disconnected parts. Medical treatment is compartmentalized and reactionary. Our well-intentioned, highly trained primary care physicians send us to gastroenterologists if we report digestive issues, to cardiologists if routine blood tests reveal elevated cholesterol, to dermatologists for skin disorders, and so on.
Our dysfunctional body parts are then treated with pharmaceuticals that mask symptoms and create side effects but do not heal the underlying causes of the symptoms — the body’s distress signals. Hurried and harried physicians overlook the fact that the symptoms of disease are often the human body’s intelligent response to being exposed to something that is unhealthy or inappropriate. Moreover, once they become apparent or concerning enough to report to our doctors, the symptoms have frequently been hiding underground for years, if not decades, and thus have become much less responsive to reversal.
Without question, the United States is a world leader in medical research, and scientific advances have led to the discovery of lifesaving therapies. However, is ingesting multiple drugs the optimal long-term solution for those who have chronic medical conditions? Should spending hundreds of dollars a month on treatments that do not truly cure diseases be the healthcare model in the 21st Century?
Sicker and Shorter
As a nation, we spend trillions of dollars on healthcare and are still growing sicker and our life expectancies are becoming shorter. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) tracks healthcare data for 38 high income countries. The United States consistently scores much lower than its peers:
- Healthcare spending, both per person and as a share of Gross Domestic Product, continues to be far higher in the United States than in other high-income countries.
- The U.S. has the lowest life expectancy at birth, the highest death rates for avoidable or treatable conditions, the highest maternal and infant mortality, and among the highest suicide rates.
- The U.S. has the highest rate of people with multiple chronic conditions and an obesity rate nearly twice the OECD average.
- Americans see physicians less often than people in most other countries and have among the lowest rate of practicing physicians and hospital beds per 1,000 population.
The prevailing medical paradigm is especially inadequate in addressing the chronic conditions that often accompany aging. The following statistics should be a wake-up call for all of us:
- Each year chronic conditions cause 70% of deaths in the U.S.
- Six in 10 adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease; four in 10 adults have two or more.
- Chronic diseases are a leading driver of the $4.1 trillion in U.S. healthcare costs.
- Obesity impacts more than 40% of American adults.
- More than six million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
- Only 3% of our healthcare dollars are spent on preventing diseases.
- Less than 1/8 of physical visits to a doctor include any nutrition counseling.
People who suffer from chronic diseases have many “symptoms” in common. They experience increased inflammation, metabolic disturbances, elevated autoimmune activity, energy deficits, and often have altered body composition as a result. Many of these health concerns are related to diet and nutrition. We are living in an era where over-consumption is ironically coupled with undernutrition due to foods devoid of nutrient content and diversity.
A fundamental change in how all of us — healthcare consumers and healthcare providers alike — understand disease and health is direly needed to usher in the healthcare system of the 21st Century. Who wants to live longer if those years are filled with chronic illness and ever decreasing quality of life?
Whole Person, Root Cause Medicine
In the decades ahead, medicine is predicted to undergo a radical transformation from pharmaceutical-based reactionary care to prevention and wellness care — from reactive medicine to proactive medicine. In the 21st Century, we need to place nutrition, lifestyle choices, and prevention on the front lines of healthcare, using data and real-life information as our guides. Our focus should be on extending healthspan, not just lifespan. In order to increase our healthspans to match our lifespans, we must address the root causes of illness and aging and intervene well before the damage accumulates into disease conditions.
To achieve truly successful healthcare, we need to emphasize the primacy of healing the whole person on a fundamental level. This will catalyze a paradigm shift in the way healthcare is provided and consumed. Instead of mechanistically focusing on fixing those parts of the body that are seen as diseased, healing the whole person means addressing the interplay of lifestyle choices and psychological and social factors that ultimately contribute to health or disease. An integrative medicine approach takes into account the mind-body-spirit connections, social and environmental influences, individuality of body constitution, and the therapeutic relationship.
The transformation of medicine from pharmaceutical-based reactionary care to proactive prevention and wellness is underway. Physicians across the United States continue to establish data-based, wellness-driven practices. Functional, integrative practitioners explore root causes. They investigate why you have high blood pressure rather than reflexively prescribing a drug to artificially lower it. Functional health care practitioners use advanced diagnostic testing to evaluate genetics, nutrient status, hormones, microbiome status, inflammation, etc. They use test results to develop individualized treatment plans for their patients that include tailored nutrition protocols, lifestyle changes, stress reduction practices, exercise recommendations, professional-grade supplements, and referrals to specialists where indicated.
The Deloitte Center for Health Solutions offers an optimistic outlook on the future of healthcare:
“Twenty years from now, cancer and diabetes could join polio as defeated diseases. We expect prevention and early diagnoses will be central to the future of health. The onset of disease, in some cases, could be delayed or eliminated altogether. Sophisticated tests and tools could mean most diagnoses (and care) take place at home.”
Eight Wellness Foundations
What is our role, as “consumers” and patients, in 21st Century wellness? For many of us, as we age, we wish we could return to a time when we felt better, had more energy, slept better, and looked better. And, for many, that prospect seems no more than wishful thinking. But scientific research now tells us that, given the proper nutrition and environment, the remarkable human body has incredible potential for regeneration. The accelerated decline that we associate with aging is not predestined by our genes, and it is neither normal nor inevitable. While once it was believed, for instance, that brain cells only decline with age, it is now known that we can create new ones, at all ages, via the process of neurogenesis. Elderly people may even generate a similar number of new brain cells as those in their youth.
We, not our DNA, have control over our health’s destiny. According to the evolving science of epigenetics, the vast majority of our genes are fluid and dynamic — and their expression is shaped by what we think and what we do. Each of us can influence our genes to create optimal health and longevity.
The evidence is compelling that the root causes of most chronic disorders that impact all ages lie within our daily lifestyle choices. From the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep, every single lifestyle decision we make either damages or benefits our health. We are the only ones who can choose to make informed decisions on how we care for and nourish the evolutionary miracle that is the human body. We each can take control of our health journey by addressing the following eight foundations of wellness:
- Relaxation / Engagement with Nature
- Clean Internal & External Environments
- Targeted Supplements
- Living with Purpose and Gratitude
The human body is designed to be a naturally self-healing organism. When we honor these eight wellness foundations with our daily decisions, we can dramatically increase our healthspans. Using food, healthy lifestyle strategies and choices, and appropriate, individually targeted supplements, we can actively engage the power of nature and support the body’s innate rejuvenating abilities for peak health and well-being throughout all life stages.
Judith Olesen is a ReCODE 2.0 Certified Health Coach and a Certified Nutrition Coach (Institute for Integrative Nutrition, New York City). She works independently with participants in conjunction with their primary care physicians to support them on the Bredesen Protocol through the PreCODE program.
Judith’s commitment to supporting others in their health journeys stems from her early 20s when she was assistant editor for a nonprofit magazine that published articles on nutrition. As the wife of an organic farmer in Colorado, she became even more passionate about the vital role of nutrition in sustaining health throughout life. She was motivated to earn a Nurse Aide certificate when her mother died in a hospital from an infection which progressed to sepsis that was only diagnosed following her death. As a Nurse Aide, she gained experience assisting families caring for loved ones with dementia in their homes. When her father developed Alzheimer’s and was cared for at home by family members until his death, her passion for helping people prevent cognitive decline deepened. She believes the Bredesen Protocol provides the very best tools and resources for helping people maintain healthy cognition all their lives. It truly offers realistic hope!
Working in conjunction with a physician, Judith will support you in implementing nutritional and lifestyle strategies to address the root causes of challenging conditions. Judith can assist with the KetoFLEX 12/3 food plan, recipes, meal planning, and shopping tips. She has experience supporting people with nutrition, exercise, microbiome issues, metabolic health (diabetes), vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, mold exposure, environmental toxins, tick-borne illnesses and sleep/oxygen evaluation.
Judith is available to work in person and via telemedicine with a ReCODE-trained practitioner or in conjunction with your own primary care physician, provided they are willing to support you on the protocol. She offers a 12-week course to learn the underlying causes of cognitive decline and the practical lifestyle steps to ensure optimal brain health at any age. You may contact Judith at email@example.com.