Chronic Illnesses and Diet part 1
Chronic illnesses are frequently the result of a web of interrelated factors. Your body may be reacting to a germ, an allergen or a toxin or you may be deficient in a vital nutrient. And the whole situation may be complicated by insulin resistance. It’s unrealistic to think that finding and treating just one piece of the puzzle will be sufficient to remedy the problem. Restoring balance is a more realistic approach.
Balance and Health
Balance is a key concept in most alternative medical approaches to health, such as traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, homeopathy and Ayurveda. One of the problems that mainstream medicine has with these alternative medical systems is that the practitioners appear to offer the same remedy for all sorts of illnesses. This doesn’t seem right to doctors trained to think that there are a certain number of discrete diseases that exist in nature. Physicians have also been taught that for each disease there is a distinct treatment. We know, for example, that if you have a strep throat or pneumonia a particular antibiotic is the right treatment, while another antibiotic is appropriate for your urinary tract infection because a different germ is involved. If you burn your finger or you break your arm, the treatment is again going to be designed for the specific problem that you have.
There is certainly some truth to the idea that specific illnesses or conditions need precise, individualized treatments. But there is another valid argument to be made as we move away from acute ailments to focus on the increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses. Sometimes the symptoms of a chronic illness can be suppressed with drugs, but since the cause of the disease is unknown, an individualized remedy to cure the person is out of the question. When an alternative medical practitioner recommends a generalized strategy that is not necessarily aimed at the distinct disease but is more directed at correcting imbalance, these approaches are designed to get to the underlying causes rather than the individual symptoms.
If you are in pain, it’s hard to believe in a treatment unless it works right away. Dietary changes and other generalized strategies, like the Body Clock Prescription, usually do not produce instant relief. These measures do sometimes take effect quickly, but it’s frequently a slower process. I think you will be more motivated if you understand what lies behind much chronic illness.
Rhythmic Disturbances May Underlie Many Chronic Illness
As researchers continue to elucidate the mysteries of the scientific basis of disease, we realize more and more that similar fundamental mechanisms underlie much chronic illness. These include abnormalities of cell membranes and their capacity to send and receive messages, the backfiring of chemistry designed for cellular defense (autoimmunity and inflammation) and ‘sparks’ from your own metabolic fire, environmental radiation and chemical pollutants (oxidative damage). This is why a generalized strategy to treat chronic illness is beneficial.
To this list I would add dyschronism or the failure to keep the various cadences of the body’s biochemical activities in harmony. Disharmony is the direct cause of jet lag, symptoms related to shift work and some sleep disturbances. But having your body in disharmony is also likely to bring out the worst in you more readily than if your body is well tuned. Poor tuning contributes indirectly to the expression of other illnesses, as indicated by the tendency for many ailments to have their own characteristic time peak of maximum intensity. There is evidence to support the idea that there is a rhythmic component in a number of diseases; among the most significant findings related to dyschronism are the following:
Seasonal affective disorder is a form of depression directly linked to the shorter daylight hours of winter.
Sudden cardiac death and nonfatal heart attacks occur most frequently between 7:00 and 11:00 a.m.
Strokes occur more frequently between 6:00 a.m. and noon.
Asthma sufferers experience their worst symptoms in the early morning hours.
The growth of breast cancer cells may be inhibited by melatonin. (When a 1995 study showed that Finnish flight attendants had an increased risk of breast cancer, the principal investigator hypothesized that frequently crossing time zones was part of the problem, since jet lag interferes with the normal production of melatonin. Although his theory has not yet been proven, other studies have shown that melatonin inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells.)
Circadian rhythms have been substantiated in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (least pain and stiffness around 5 p.m.) and allergic rhinitis (peak of worst symptoms between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m.).