There is, in my opinion a disconnect between what we see and read in the research (and what we often do in clinical practice) and what patients actually need to receive as treatment for their conditions. It is a primary flaw with many our clinical decisions. I’d like to illustrate this through the plant analogy.
Let’s say you had a thriving house plant hanging in your kitchen. You know what plants need to be healthy right? Sunlight, clean water, clean (toxin-free) soil and some nutrients in the soil for “food.” On the most basic level, when a plant has this environment, it tends the thrive, grow and show the traits of a healthy plant.
Now let’s put that plant in a dark closet, stop watering it, stop feeding it and add a few toxins to the soil. In a few days, let alone a few weeks or months, how does that plant look? Probably turning brown instead of green, probably wilting and drying out too, right?
Ok, now we want to do a scientific experiment to see what the most important treatment would be to revive and heal this house plant.
We do not want to change too many variables as to be sure to know that the only thing changing is the one variable we are controlling for. We start with the obvious: 2 weeks of sunlight. We take the dry wilting plant out of the closet and we stick it in the hot sun for 2 weeks (no water, no nutrients, without cleaning the toxins from the soil). After 2 weeks of sunlight, how does the plant look? Probably worse, most likely even drier perhaps a little crispy.
The results of the experiment could read: After 2 weeks of sunlight, the plant continued to wilt and appeared to dry out further. Sunlight is not an ideal strategy for a plant’s recovery.
So, as a good researcher we put the plant back in the closet and move on to step number two, water. We add water every other day for 2 weeks in order to see the effect that water will have on the plant’s health and recovery.
After 2 weeks of watering, the soil seems to be much more moist and saturated, however the plant remains unchanged.
Results of experiment number two could read: 2 weeks of watering a dry and wilted plant makes no change on the plant’s recovery, therefore water is not necessary for plant recovery.
We then move on to steps three and four: 2 weeks of adding nutrients followed by 2 weeks of soil change and toxin removing. I’m sure you get the point here.
What we all know in this case is that the plant needed clean, toxin-free soil saturated with a full spectrum of nutrients, water and sunlight all at the same time and for a period of time in order to express its health potential. Doing these obvious “treatments” individually will not yield the desired result that doing them in combination will.
Well, the same is true for ourselves and our children. Too often we want to control the variables and make very precise changes one at a time to make sure if we get a response, good or bad, we will know which factor caused the change. In certain cases, testing the water so to speak just to make sure you can tolerate a certain treatment may be appropriate, though so often is the case we need multiple changes for prolonged periods of time to really find the right balance for us.
Most of us would easily agree that we cannot control all the toxins in our lives. From lead and other chemicals in our water, pesticides, herbicides and preservatives on our food, and God only knows what in the air we breathe, our exposure to toxicity is unfortunately high and frequent. As a result, we recommend periodic detox programs and cleanses as a way to keep some of those toxins from accumulating.
We would also probably easily agree that we do not eat a “perfectly balanced” diet every day. Therefore, supplementing certain nutrients as a way to try and get a more balanced nutrient profile is certainly worthwhile. The issue here is that we all eat differently and are in different phases of life and have different health challenges or concerns. As a result, the supplement profile and program would vary greatly from person to person. Therefore, working with someone who understands these differences, who can test for and properly analyze the results of those test and then can help manage a program of proper diet and supplements for your particular case is paramount if it is to be successful.
For animals (unlike plants), exercise is a nutrient. Our brains are relatively dormant without frequent and high amounts of input and stimulus from our environment. This includes all senses (sight, sound, smell, touch etc.) but it also includes movement. The single biggest input into our brains is frequent and full range of motion of our body. Our brains learn, respond, develop and grow based on the amount, type and intensity of our movement patterns.
Oxygen is also a nutrient. We can live for weeks without food, only a few days without water, but not even a few minutes without oxygen. As a result, being fully oxygenated all the time is necessary, not just for optimal health, but even just for getting through our day and going through the motions. Therefore, exposure to a source of “extra” oxygen either periodically or in the case of certain illnesses frequently provides our body with a larger source of a nutrient we all require for basic functions including detoxification, inflammation reduction, cellular healing, nervous system function and healing, energy production, and much more.
Light: Not something we typically think about, but light is also a nutrient. We use light differently than plants (we do not perform photosynthesis like plants); however, we absolutely use light within our cells to perform various functions and those functions cannot perform properly without that source of light. Sunlight exposes us to the entire full spectrum of light. Certain frequencies (colors) of light have different effects on us. UV (blue spectrum) light which many people deem to be dangerous is also responsible for our vitamin D production. But blue light at night (many of our fluorescent and LED bulbs and certainly our phones and tablets) inhibits our melatonin creating sleeping issues. On the opposite side of the spectrum from UV (ultra violet) is red and infrared light. Red light is known to help oxygen usage and delivery. It increases circulation, helps us build ATP (our body’s fuel/energy source) reduces inflammation and nitric oxide, and much more
Avoiding the sun to the level that many people now do, has resulted in a basic Vitamin D deficiency epidemic. We probably should not lather up in baby oil and sit on the roof with a reflector and burn ourselves, but at the same time hiding from the sun at all costs is certainly having negative effects on our health.
Long story short: Humans, like plants, have a recipe of ingredients we all require for being healthy. We live in a world now where we cannot just assume that our environment is totally clean, our food is as nourishing as we need it to be, or that we are getting enough daily movement in our lives. These days we need to think about these factors, create a plan to make sure we are consistently getting access to the things we need and avoid the toxins we do not want. We need to have a daily plan for working toward achieving higher levels of health.