Chronic Illness & Inflammation Explored

Dr. Zach Bush sums up the approach of Western medicine on Episode 353 of the Rich Roll Podcast by stating, “in the public and medical world we have come to almost embrace in our lexicon in how we say ‘this is chronic disease management.’ That is exactly what Western medicine is. It’s trying to manage a disease versus induce health.” If you do not know who Dr. Zach Bush is, it’s okay. I’ll introduce you to this brilliant doctor and researcher.

Dr. Zach Bush is one of the few triple board-certified physicians in the country, with expertise in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Metabolism, and Hospice/Palliative care. He has been a physician and biomedical researcher for 17 years, devised chemotherapy treatments and through his research uncovered fascinating findings. I’ll share a few highlights here and you can explore more through the linked resources.

What’s interesting about the research Dr. Bush has conducted is how he looked at what was occurring in the environment while chronic illness sky rocketed in the Western world. To share a few startling statistics and what intrigued him to study more was how Autism in the U.S. went from 1 in 5000 children in 1975 to 1 in 36 today. He also indicates how the rate has been doubling since 2012 every 2-3 years and if the rate continues, 1 in 3 children will be diagnosed with Autism by 2035.

Since the 1990s, the spike in chronic illnesses have taken off. The odds of dying of cancer is now 1 in 2 people and that does not include skin cancer. These are just a couple of examples and copy/paste to other chronic illnesses and you will find similar results.

What Dr. Bush found as the root cause for these chronic illnesses was chronic inflammation. Since focusing on getting myself healthy a few years ago I consistently have come across research pointing to inflammation causing all types of health issues. One of the first explanations of this I heard was from Dr. Michael Greger in his year-end review titled, Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death.

The example he shared was simple to understand and eye opening. Dr. Greger explained every time a person consumed animal products they caused inflammation to their system as they are digesting food. This takes the body roughly 4-5 hours to recover from. He goes on to explain if you consume animal products every meal your body is in constant inflammation, assuming your meals are 4-5 hours apart. No wonder I felt terrible all the time…

Dr. Bush goes on to explain in detail what this can do to us and ultimately enhances the likelihood to become a statistic tied to one of these chronic illnesses.

So what’s going on here with the chronic inflammation. Dr. Bush explains inflammation as the body’s normal biological response to an injury. The immune system lies throughout our body but 60% of the volume and 80% of the work done is in our gut lining. The gut lining which is a membrane is the largest surface exposed to the outside world. It can cover two tennis courts in area. He compares that versus the 1.8 meters our skin covers and describes the thickness of the gut lining as half the width of a human hair. That is what is protecting us from damaging our immune system and leading to chronic illness?!?!?

This podcast is so dense in information I have listened to it several times since its release and have picked up something new every time. I mention this as even this summary could become a book. I will highlight a few more things here and will devote future blogs to some of these topics, allowing me to go a bit deeper.

Dr. Bush continues to elaborate on how chemicals are destroying our land, soil, water, etc. These toxins then are being consumed by us through food and water. He cites several historic events tied to chemicals, pesticides, and pharmaceutical proliferation that parallels the spike in chronic illness in the Western world. Consider the example of crops being covered with pesticides, animals consuming these crops and being injected with numerous antibiotics and hormones and then passing it on for people to consume. Add in the saturated fat bonus and we could be in trouble. Edit – change the ‘could be in trouble’ to ‘we are in trouble.’

I also learned the formal definition of ‘range free or free roaming’ animals. All a farm has to prove to be labeled as ‘range free or free roaming’ as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture is quite shocking – “Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” If you search the web, you can find several examples of this as simply a factory farm having a door that shows the outside. What a shame…

The Standard American Diet (SAD) certainly has led us to become one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Only the U.S. and New Zealand can advertise pharmaceuticals direct to consumers. If you wonder why healthcare costs are what they are in the U.S…..

Sadly I uncovered this information after my mom and dad passed away. Both from chronic illnesses…prostate cancer, auto-immune, heart and lung breakdowns, and more….

Geez, this can be depressing. This is why I started The Healthy Giraffe and what I noted in my Purpose. In a nutshell I want to share information and resources to help us live a healthy life. We cannot be perfect but can always strive to do something to improve our health, one step and day at a time. As the president of the American College of Cardiology, Dr. Kim Williams stated, “I don’t mind dying, I just don’t want it to be my fault.” I’ll add to that – as I age I want to be active in my later years and not dependent on pharmacy to keep me alive. I want to get to the 80+ age group for triathlon…I love seeing those athletes at races!!!

Here are a few things I do you may find helpful:

  • Eat as many plant-based whole foods you can; foods without labels…they are what they are (fruits, veggies,etc.)
  • Avoid/limit processed foods (boxed, center aisles at the grocery store); most of these foods are stripped of nutrients and calorie dense
  • Avoid animal products (meat, dairy, eggs)
  • Limit sugar, oils and salt; SOS rule – when you do you will begin to taste the food…it does take some a small amount of time adapt but wow, wait till that happens and then you realize most of the things that you have tasted previously are tied to salt, sugar and oils – taste adaptation
    • Sugar – 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon…check labels and the visual of 5 teaspoons when you pick up a box that states 20 grams of sugar in a serving is powerful
    • Oils – general rule of thumb are oils consist of 120 calories per 1 tablespoon…1 tablespoon! I replaced oils with vegetable stock/broth and found amazing results
  • Buy organic!!! This I heard from the start of my healthy quest but it really didn’t hit home till I began uncovering research like what I shared here from Dr. Bush and found the Environmental World Guide’s (EWG) annual list (Dirty Dozen and Clean 15) of produce that contains the most and least pesticides. The EWG’s analysis of tests by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that nearly 70 percent of samples of conventionally grown produce were contaminated with pesticide residues. There are some foods that are more toxic than others so you have to prioritize what you can buy organic, this resource is helpful and at the top of the list that I have been warned is by all means do not eat strawberries and spinach that are not organic.
  • Identify how toxic and what toxins are in your water. The EWG produces a database of how many pollutants are in our tap water. You simply type in your zip code and see what’s in it…not a good result. Then determine what you can do to access healthy water.

– Add Health to Your Life

(Pictured and starring above – organic spinach and strawberries)

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