The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 61 million Americans are grappling with a disability that impacts major life activities. Of course not all of these afflictions are food related. There are numerous causes, and I’ll review some. I’ll also point out situations that could have been avoided by having a holistic approach to life and discuss if it’s ever too late to establish preventative measures. But first: one in four Americans is disabled.
The "2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System" study focused on six disability types:
● Mobility (serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs)
● Cognition (serious difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions)
● Independent living (difficulty doing errands alone)
● Hearing (serious difficulty hearing)
● Vision (serious difficulty seeing)
● Self-care (difficulty dressing or bathing)
There was three age groups: 18–44 years, 45–64 years, and ≥65 years. Cognitive disability was the most prevalent issue for young adults. Mobility disability was most prevalent for middle-aged and older adults. Generally, there were disproportionately more women, American Indians/Alaska Natives, adults with income below the federal poverty level, and southerners disabled than other groupings.
There are 28 million people under 65 and 33 million people 65 and over who are disabled. The latter number is 64.8% of all people 65 and over!
Fightchronicdisease.org states that more than 133 million Americans, or 45 percent of the population, have at least one serious chronic condition. These conditions include arthritis, asthma, cancer, heart disease, depression, and diabetes. Unfortunately that’s the short list of the many chronic illnesses (major and minor). If all chronic diseases were taken into account, nearly every citizen could be diagnosed with one or more chronic diseases.
Obviously there is considerable overlap in the disability and chronic disease numbers. That makes me wonder how much disability is caused by accident or fate, and how much could be avoided. I contend that maybe 80% could be avoided! This is where a holistic approach comes in. Optimal health and wellness doesn’t just happen. It comes from a mindset that focuses on mind, body, and spirit. For some fortunate ones it comes early in life. For some of us, it comes later. For some, never.
In my case I wasn’t the most careful person on the block. I was taught how to shoot a large caliber pistol at seven years of age. No hearing protection. Not good because today I do not hear high frequencies. In high school my right knee could dislocate when stressed. Today, my right knee is much weaker than my left. I badly sprained an ankle leaping down flights of stairs in college. If I eat something that is high glycemic, that ankle aches so much I can hardly walk on it. In spite of many other physical accidents over the years it’s a good thing that I was always physically active which kept me strong.
When I was younger I didn’t give my brain much thought except that I always wished I knew more. I’ve always been an optimist in spite of living a high stress lifestyle, like many in business and agriculture. I refused to let adversity get the best of me, a trait I got to practice a little too frequently for my liking. I believe in God, and although I wasn’t a church goer, I always felt honored to have worked so many years in His temple–the wild outdoors. Almost daily I’d thank Him for all my blessings and I believed he had a mission for me that would be rewarding. I always tried to do good for all. Yet I could get angry and be quite vocal about it. Sometimes I could feel the anger in my gut. But I thought that was natural.
Until 1999 my diet was not the best. I figured that no matter what I ate, my body could figure out how to deal with it. I drank too much at times. Stayed up too late. By 1990, in my mid forties, I was starting to lose control of my weight. I figured that was natural. Everyone was gaining weight. By 1995 I was thinking that maybe I should start getting annual checkups at the doctor. Prior to that I never went to a doctor unless it was an injury (an rarely even for that) or a required flight physical to maintain my pilot’s license. I’m glad I didn’t end up going back then because I would probably been prescribed drugs like most others I know.
It was in 1999 that I started learning more about human nutrition. In December of that year I started marketing grass-fed meats. My inspiration was Dr. Dick Diven, a feedlot consultant of all people! I read studies by Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, a world class nutritionist. I studied numerous meat reports about comparisons between grain-fed and grass-fed livestock. I soon met Doug Kaufmann of “Know the Cause” fame and started learning about fungal diseases and mycotoxins. Another mentor was Dr. David Holland, M.D., a triple-rated medical doctor with extensive medical knowledge bolstered with a strong background in fungal diseases and nutritional science. He taught me more about fungus, the immune system, and how little the medical community actually knew about what causes chronic diseases. And the progression of professional inputs accelerated as the years went by.
Today many people call me a “nutritional fanatic.” Yes, I beat the food drum pretty hard. But I’ve also learned that a holistic approach is also required. Food can’t do it all. Many of my friends are over 70. Some are in their 90s. None of them practice a 100% all-around holistic approach for optimal heath and well-being. All are dealing with health issues. Some are disabled. For certain, all are losing mobility, general health, and/or mental abilities. I know my physical ability is diminishing. All the young turks on the ranch are stronger than I am these days. With all these signs, the holistic approach grows more important for me every day.
Roger Williams University has a web page that lists five main aspects of personal health. They are physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual. To be “well” one needs all five.
Physical: Maintaining mobility with exercise is good for the body. This doesn’t mean one needs to run marathons, but active walking, lifting weights, and light calisthenics can add years of productive life. Hearing loss usually can’t be reversed. That’s why protecting your eardrums is important. Losing sight to cataracts and even some other issues is often associated with the Omega-3 deficiency. All chronic diseases, some of which are debilitating, are associated with diet. They can rob you of your physical abilities which then accelerates the downward spiral.
Emotional: Controlling your emotions can be very difficult. Pixar’s animated film “Inside Out,” characterizes the emotional traits: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust. Here once again diet is important because the Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency plays a role in retarding brain function. Not only is the deficiency associated with dementia, but with all emotional traits including suicide. Setting a goal for being “Cool Hand Luke” is commendable. As my Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio has come down (it’s now 1.5:1) I’m far more mild mannered than in the past. A good thing.
Social: Interacting with family and friends is another trait that is associated with longer lives. This doesn’t mean communicating on Facebook or using text messages. It means actually getting together physically and having conversations, playing games, and eating together. Even a phone call is many times better than a text or email.
Spiritual: In “The Four Stages of Spiritual Growth” Chip Richards discusses “To Me,” “By Me,” “Through Me,” and “As Me.” Basically, what he says is that adversity doesn’t mean the world has it out for us. We must move beyond the victim mentality. We can’t live blaming others or events. We can try to be proactive, but we can’t control everything so we must learn trust and connect with forces beyond ourselves. We need to learn that we are instruments of life in a bigger sense. And then we connect with the universe as one. Therefore being spiritual goes beyond just attending religious services. It’s a mindset for a holistic life.
Quoting Chip Richards’ summaries of the four stages:
● Like a child new to the world, Stage 1 feels like life is happening “To Me.”
● In the “By Me” Stage, we take responsibility as active creators of our reality.
● We feel a sense of humility about being part of something greater than ourselves.
● The music, the ocean, the story are not only moving ‘Through Me’… they are the living expression of who I am.
Intellectual: Like muscles, the brain needs exercise. Watching television and following Facebook posts on your phone doesn’t work the brain. Learning relatively complex things, solving difficult problems, playing games like chess and bridge, playing musical instruments, singing, operating challenging machines, writing, and giving talks work the brain. Offsetting work is proper sleep. Sleeping purges toxins that accumulate in the brain while awake. So sleep is imperative. And again, diet has a huge impact on brain function. The Omega-3 deficiency is associated with lower IQs as well as emotional imbalances and dementia.
Is it too late to start a holistic lifestyle? Never. Even with disabilities and chronic diseases, some benefits can occur rather quickly with light exercise, sleep, social interaction, meditation, and a diet of whole foods that are low glycemic, nutrient dense and diverse, with balanced Omega-6 to Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.
The best foods for delivering in all three categories at once are grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, wild-caught seafood, lots of green vegetables, other selected vegetables, and some fruit in moderation. High Omega-6 foods such as nuts, grains, seeds, and oils must be a small fraction of the diet.
That’s my story. So, are you managing your life holistically? Or are you going to be another CDC statistic?
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don't miss these links for additional reading:
QuickFacts UNITED STATES from United States Census Bureau
The Growing Crisis of Chronic Disease in the United States from fightchronicdisease.org
What Is Holistic Medicine? From WebMD.com
Doug Kaufmann’s Know the Cause
Dimensions of Wellness from Roger Williams University
The Four Stages of Spiritual Growth by Chip Richards
Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Health and Disease and Growth and Development by Artemis Simopoulos M.D
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health a division of the NIH