Part 5 : Supplement series
The time may come in which proper diet sufficient for adequate health is the rule. But even then, adequate health does not mean optimal health. When a doctor tells a patient at an annual checkup that he or she is in perfect health, what this usually means is that, based upon routine evaluation including history, physical examination, urine and blood tests there is no evidence of any identifiable disease. But as information about health and medicine has been made increasingly available, the lay public has become more knowledgeable about issues such as aging, wellness, and fitness which are not addressed during routine medical evaluation. For a growing group of Americans, expectations are changing and the conception of health as the absence of identifiable disease has become antiquated and inadequate. An ever-increasingly educated and sophisticated patient population is demanding that health care shift from an almost exclusive focus on diagnosis and treatment of disease to a model which includes wellness and prevention.
As we better understand how the body works, it is becoming clear that most diseases are not sudden events. Rather, they are the result of a gradual progression toward disease which takes place at the cellular level over a long period of time. Even seemingly sudden, catastrophic events like strokes and heart attacks are actually merely the final stages of incremental change, the product of progressively escalating inflammation and progressively diminishing circulation throughout the body. These conditions may exist for years before a diagnosis of disease can be made.
Sedentary lifestyles, a steady bombardment of dietary toxins in the form of chemicals, acids, excessive sugars and starches in our food, emotional stress, weight gain, inadequate sleep, and other factors combine to create a condition of inflammation in our bodies. This inflammatory state causes blood vessels to constrict and tiny cracks and fissures to form along their inner linings, called the endothelium. The body produces cholesterol in response to these inflammatory changes which it uses to patch-over the cracks and fissures along the endothelium. These patch jobs, known as plaques, then reduce the area through which blood can flow, like the formation of rusty clogs inside pipes. This is known as atherosclerosis. As inflammation increases, circulation decreases through the development of atherosclerosis and this is how our vital body tissues become deprived of the nutrients necessary for proper function and good health. This is the basis of most disease: inflammation causing sclerosis and sclerosis leading to diminished circulation of essential nutrients to our cells.
One might say that the function and health of our cells diminishes in direct relation to increasing inflammation and decreasing circulation, and also, inversely, that function and health improves in direct relation to lowering inflammation and improving circulation. As such, our health can be understood better not in terms of a static picture of the body in which we are either simply healthy or sick, but rather as a dynamic progression along a continuum, either in a positive direction toward optimal function and health, or in a negative direction, toward lesser function and disease.
And within this paradigm of health as a Continuum, nutritional supplementation plays a unique role which extends beyond nutrition into the realm of therapy. Research over the last two decades has begun to bring into focus the vital importance of certain substances whose actions are essential for healing and restoration of endothelium and for reversing the common progression along the Continuum once thought to be simply an inevitable part of aging.
Continue reading the next post in our supplement series:
Putting it All Together; The Three Roles of Supplementation