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Foundations of Integrative Health

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Foundations of Integrative Healing Manual
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Foundations of Integrative Healing Manual
PART 1:

Philosophy

There are 8.7 million species of animals on the planet, and only one of them is confused about their health. 

Imagine a herd of whitetail deer grazing an open prairie in Illinois, talking about what they should be eating. It’s sort of crazy to think about. And you don’t see deer suffering from diabetes or chronic fatigue. In fact, if you look at nature, vitality is pervasive; it’s the natural condition. Birds, bees, rodents, wolves, lizards, ants, monkeys, deer, and fish all live with rather impressive displays of vital energy. Deer are not an aberration, we are.

Meanwhile, the United States spends more money per capita on healthcare than any country on earth yet ranks near the bottom in just about every category of well-being*. 60% of American adults have a preventable chronic disease. 40% of U.S. adults are obese. Chronic diseases might be the largest form of human suffering on earth, accounting for 70% of all deaths.

You might be thinking, haven’t humans always had health issues? Yes, but the catastrophic rise in chronic conditions in the last century is without precedent. In the early 1900s, chronic diseases were quite rare. They didn’t even breach the list of the top 10 causes of death. In 1990, chronic diseases caused 40% of deaths worldwide, and in 2021, that number rose to nearly 70%.

And it’s not just a small set of chronic conditions. Diabetes, cardiovascular, obesity, digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, hormone imbalances, chronic pain, anxiety & depression are all rising at staggering levels. 

It’s interesting to consider that we live in a time with more health information, pharmacological advances, and breakthrough technology than ever. And yet, we live simultaneously amongst the sickest population in the earth’s history. What’s going on here? It’s clear our approach to health needs to be transformed at a fundamental level. 

How did we get here? How do we pull ourselves out of this atrocious system and rebuild our health in an unsupportive world? The answer to these questions will reveal themselves as you go through this book. While the stats are alarming, you don’t need to be one of them. You have the information, tools, and support you need to take back your health. In fact, from a different perspective, we also live with more access to health products, services, and protocols than at any time in history, enough to transform your city into your own personal wellness resort. Only kings and queens of the past would have such access to today’s diverse wellness services.

The Illusion of Technological Advances

If you read through a medical magazine today, you might believe humanity was on the precipice of a new golden age of health. Modern detox programs can expel all the harmful toxins from your body in just a few days, making you practically immune from disease. Harmless surgeries can remove all your unwanted body fat in just a few hours. Scientists are unlocking the secrets of aging. The cure for cancer is imminent. There’s only one problem with this idealistic picture – it’s totally false. 

None of these promises are even close to materializing. The truth is in 2022; we are profoundly sick. Chronic diseases are likely the largest source of collective human suffering. They are the largest cause of death by far. In 2021, COVID 19 killed 350,000 people, and chronic diseases killed more than 1.6 million. Chronic diseases are responsible for seven out of every ten deaths in the U.S. and cost the healthcare system $3.7 Trillion a year, 19% of the total GDP.

Medications have made the world better, but not without side effects. According to the Journal of American Medical Association, “adverse effects of medications” kill 106,000 people per year, making it the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer. Prescription drugs kill more people than car accidents. 

These unmet technological advancements are masking the real, underlying problem. We rely on prescription medications or supplements to treat symptoms while ignoring the underlying causes. Natural medicine is not much different. Without addressing the root causes of disease, natural supplements, including herbal medicines, are still a band-aid on the real, underlying problem.

Fortunately, we have a far more effective, safer approach to treating diseases with only positive side effects. This approach addresses the underlying causes of diseases and prevents them from showing up in the first place.

Are Chronic Diseases Reversible?

It’s become popular to talk down on the conventional medicine system. This is something we decidedly never do. As a whole, conventional medicine has made the world better. 

However, we believe everyone, conventional doctors included, needs to address the reality that it’s not working for chronic conditions. The prevailing philosophy is that chronic diseases are inevitable and can perhaps be managed but not prevented or reversed. If there’s one thing you take away from this manual, it’s that chronic diseases are, in most cases – reversible

In 2005, the World Health Organization published a landmark collection of research that demonstrated that 80% of all chronic conditions are preventable or reversible. Wait, what? Yes, read that again. 80% of all chronic diseases, the leading cause of death, are preventable. Why isn’t this in the news!?

If you’ve been told by a healthcare practitioner that “there’s nothing you can do” for your disease, what that is really suggesting is, “there’s no medication available that can help you.” This says nothing about the vast universe of possibilities outside of pharmaceuticals. In their defense, doctors typically work in highly restrictive environments that allow them only to see you for 20 minutes every couple of months. In that situation, all they can offer is something to deal with your worst pain. 

But if chronic diseases can be prevented and even reversed, why don’t we know anything about this? Why doesn’t our healthcare system reorganize to help us treat chronic conditions? Why doesn’t this get the same media attention as new pharmaceuticals? 

Dr. T Colin Campbell explains it best: For a moment, let’s imagine a major pharmaceutical company announced a breakthrough drug with the following clinical outcomes:

  1. Prevents 95% of all cancers.
  2. Prevents nearly all heart attacks and strokes
  3. Prevents and reverses Type 2 diabetes so quickly, that after just 2 weeks, it’s not only unnecessary but dangerous to take insulin
  4. Improved immune function to provide more resilience to infectious disease 

What about the side effects?

  1. You lose weight in a healthy and sustainable fashion.
  2. Eliminates inflammatory conditions such as most migraines, acne, and chronic pain
  3. Optimizes digestive function
  4. Improves energy
  5. Extends health span with truly healthy years lived.
  6. Cures erectile dysfunction and boosts overall sex drive (if this is true).

These have been the clinical results of changing to a whole food diet free from processed foods and moderate physical activity for 40 minutes, five times a week. If this lifestyle intervention could be packaged into a pill, the inventor would be the wealthiest person on earth.

However, since it’s not a pill, there is no market to advocate for it. No mass media campaigns to promote it and no insurance coverage to pay for it. Since it isn’t a pill, nobody has figured out how to get hugely wealthy from it. Put simply, nobody gets rich by teaching you to eat natural food and live aligned with nature’s principles. 

If we’ve learned anything in the last few years reading the news, it’s that there’s a significant discrepancy between scientific truth and what is projected to us through the media. Chronic disease is no exception. It’s not that it’s a conspiracy to conceal it. Financial incentives prevent this life-saving information from getting to people who need it. This results in millions dying each year, not because there’s no cure for their disease, but because the forces at large are not financially incentivized to help.

Reversing a Chronic Disease Seems Too Good To Be True. How Does It Work?

Look, we know chronic diseases are hard. It’s scary to feel like you might need to live with something forever. Sometimes, it helps to understand a bit of the science to know how this works.

1. Reducing Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is part of the body’s natural immunity or defense system. When your body senses toxins or foreign invaders, your white blood cells and some special chemicals called cytokines flood through your system to subdue the threat. 

Short-term or acute inflammation is a necessary part of survival. Acute inflammation happens when you cut your hand; it rushes blood, cytokines, lymph, and other chemicals to the wound site to help it heal. However, when we constantly eat processed foods, we begin to absorb inflammatory chemicals in the small and large intestines, which flood into the blood. The immune system recognizes the foreign chemicals as a threat and starts attacking them. This is known as chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been implicated in every one of the major chronic diseases of aging — heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia, and more. It’s also an underlying cause of obesity. The sugar we eat, processed oils and seed oils, hidden food allergens, lack of exercise, chronic stress, and hidden infections all trigger chronic inflammation deep in your cells and tissues.

Changing your diet and lifestyle is the only clinically demonstrated method for reducing inflammation. It’s not only practical but works quickly. It’s possible to dramatically reduce inflammation markers in the body in as little as ten days. 

2. Rebuilding the Gut Biome

The gut microbiome is the new frontier of medicine, and its depth and influence is hard to fathom. We carry 39 trillion microorganisms in the gut, which outnumber human cells by about 10 to 1! While the human genome is made up of about 20,000 coded genes, the microbiome contains 3.3 million! The gut biome is truly an ecosystem, interconnected to almost every aspect of our health, just like soil quality dictates the health of plants that grow on our planet. 

Your gut biome is critically involved in digestive function. The trillions of microbes work to transform your food, allowing you to extract the vital nutrients you need. Your microbiome processes every single morsel of food you eat; the food you eat is also their food. Each microbe species eats a different type of food. Each dietary choice you make will empower a specific group of microbes, while others will diminish. They procreate so rapidly that the food you eat in a single day will alter the evolution of fifty generations of microbes. 

In a fascinating study, researchers analyzed the diapers of three hundred toddlers at three months of age. They discovered that changes in the gut bacteria early in life could predict which children would develop asthma later in life. Next, they did something even more interesting! They transplanted the toddler’s poop into the intestines of mice, dramatically changing their biome ecosystem. What happened? Every single mouse developed inflamed lungs. All of them!

As it turns out, the microbiome does so much more than just process our food. It is like an operating system, almost like a second, complimentary set of DNA. And we are just beginning to scratch the surface of its power. Emerging evidence suggests many health problems, not just digestive issues, have their roots in microbiome dysbiosis. This includes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, autoimmunity, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, cancers, and food intolerances.

3. Preventing Oxidation: When you cut an apple, and it turns brown, you’re witnessing oxidation. Oxidation happens when atoms lose electrons as they contact other atoms and molecules; it’s one of the most basic chemical reactions in physics. Oxidation occurs within our bodies as well. Oxidation is what helps purge the body of potentially harmful toxic substances, rendering them water-soluble so they can be excreted from the body. However, excessive, uncontrolled oxidation is an enemy of health and longevity in humans. Oxidation produces free radicals, which we know are responsible for encouraging aging, cancer, heart disease, autoimmune, and digestive disorders.

The Good News… 

The good news is you don’t need medical breakthroughs or expensive genetic manipulation to restore vibrant health. A half-century of research has convinced us of a simple idea:

What you eat and how you live is far more influential to your health than your genetics. 

The foods you consume and the way you live can heal you faster and more profoundly from chronic diseases than the most advanced medical procedures, with only positive side effects. 

So, are chronic diseases reversible? 

Are you always a little skeptical of studies? Do you need to see the evidence right in front of you? Hear from our very own Nutritionist Sarah Ervin, who completed reversed Multiple Sclerosis, one of the most severe forms of autoimmune disease:

If you’re spending a lifetime eating processed, unnatural food, the result will inevitably be unhealthy cells. That might be obvious to us. Think about it this way. Everything in the universe is subject to the fundamental laws of cause and effect. When you plant the seed of an apple tree, an apple tree grows every time. An apple seed never produces a mango tree. Chronic diseases are no exception to this universal law. They are caused by chronic bad habits. However, when someone in our culture receives a chronic disease diagnosis, we say, “what bad luck!” Instead of chalking our state of health up to luck or genetics, we can take responsibility for our actions and correct our course to start achieving health. In doing so, we can create a more robust and resilient foundation of health, oftentimes reversing symptoms of chronic diseases.

The good news about all of this? Your health is entirely within your hands! Your health doesn’t require expensive technology or cutting-edge supplements (although those can help). When you understand that the path to healing is fundamentally about fortifying your foundation of health, you don’t need to get caught up in the ever-shifting science of the moment and focus on rebuilding your whole health.

Yes, getting sick and living with/experiencing a chronic condition is hard, but it’s also the catalyst for discovering a new life full of energy and possibility.

Journaling Exercise:

  • What is your vision of yourself in your most extraordinary health? 
  • What inspires you about this vision? 
  • What will become possible in your life when you’re in your greatest health?
  • What are the important choices that will support your optimal health? 
  • What are some ways our current healthcare system has affected your life? What about the lives of those around you?

 

What is health?

So, what is health? Is it those with the clearest skin, and brightest eyes? Is it those who live the longest? Is it the bodybuilders in the gym? The moment you begin contemplating this question, you might realize it’s embarrassing how little we know about this topic.

Many people consider health as a hobby. But hobbies, by definition, are elective. You can choose to play golf or not. By simply being alive, you need to eat, breathe, and sleep. You don’t get to decide whether or not you participate in health. What you do get to choose is how you participate. Are you making empowered choices that help you feel more energized, connected, and pleasant? Or are your daily choices working against you? Are you enjoying how you interact with your life, or is it a daily struggle of willpower and confusion? 

The dictionary defines health as “the absence of disease.” But wait, that’s sort of ridiculous, isn’t it? That’s like saying there’s no difference between not having debt and being a billionaire. Sure, getting out of debt is a significant step, but there’s a whole world to explore between not having disease and living a truly vibrant life.

Coming up with a workable definition for health is like trying to define life through an Instagram post. Some definitions bring new insight, but they can never quite capture it. As Zen monks say, it’s like trying to capture the ocean in your hand.

The truth is, health is any virtuous quality, anything that will make your life feel better. Anything that feels good and elicits and more pleasant, enjoyable life could fit under the definition of health. That includes feeling more energized, more at ease, more vibrant, more mobile, more expressive, more peaceful, more restful, more intelligent, more loving, and more compassionate. All of these can be aspects of what we consider health.

When you understand this, you see that health is an endlessly unfolding story with no end. The great news is that when you get on the right track every year, your life will start to feel better in new and unexpected ways. The work of conventional health is to get you back to baseline. Our job is to get you on the path to regular improvement, where new levels of health and harmony come to you every month. 

Journaling Exercise:

  • What health philosophies have you used to guide you throughout your life? How have they changed/adjusted throughout your life?
  • How would you rate your health knowledge on a scale of 1-100?

 

How To Learn About Health

As important as health is, it’s very challenging to study. Health is unique among all scientific fields because we all experience it every day. It’s natural for many people to think of themselves as health experts, regardless of their real education or embodied experience. 

One of the significant challenges in health is discerning who and what to listen to. We live in a time with more access to health information than ever, which is both a blessing and a curse. The curse is the amount of conflicting information. Even a simple question like “Should I eat meat?” is a cause for fierce debate.

The way through this challenge of conflicting information is to educate yourself deeply, learn about our underlying health systems, and get in touch with the body’s wisdom conveyed through feelings, intuition, and symptoms. Wait, did you say learning from our symptoms? Yes, we’ll come back to that later. Unlike most health programs, we’re not going to tell you what to think. Instead, we’re going to be showing you how to think about health so you can make decisions for yourself.

Trusting your direct experience:

The entire point of health is for you to feel better. We experience the world entirely through feeling. You know you’re sick when you feel bad. You know you’re healthy when you feel great. Feeling is all that’s happening. It’s happening all the time, even when reading and interpreting data. It’s interesting to observe that medicine doesn’t treat your feelings as a valid source of information. If it doesn’t show up on the tests, it doesn’t exist!

One of the essential habits in healing is reactivating our trust in our feelings. We’ll spend a lot of time in this course studying feelings. And by feeling, we’re not talking about just “sad, happy, upset, inspired” and the other common emotions. We’re talking about studying the nuances of feeling and understanding what different organs feel like. For example, when bile is released from your gallbladder (feels like a release in the upper stomach region), or having an adequately hydrated small intestine (feels like the ease and flow happening in the lower abdomen), or feeling oxygenated (feels like bright, clean energy). These are the feelings we want to sensitize ourselves to so we know through our direct experience what’s going on in our bodies. In the health world, we refer to this as “Somatics,” which is training yourself to feel your own experience more deeply.

It’s easy to go into downward spirals when we get attached to the idea of something being healthy for us rather than trusting our direct feelings. Sometimes this can come from a recommendation from someone knowledgeable. Other times this can be something that’s worked for us in the past that’s no longer serving us. 

To truly discover health is to begin connecting with an innate feeling of health in each moment. We must relearn to tune into each choice, asking, “Is this something that will make me feel better and raise my vitality right now?” 

This can be challenging because raising our vitality looks different at different times. Yes, sometimes raising our vitality involves feeling more energized, lighter, and more active. But other times, it seems exactly the opposite; feeling more nourished, calm, and grounded.

It’s empowering to realize your feelings will naturally supersede your knowledge, regardless of where the knowledge came from. When you feel something, you don’t need any knowledge to validate it. For example, if you have pain in your stomach, you don’t need to know, “my proton pumps are overactive because of the meal I ate, and that’s causing stomach acid, causing my pain.” You feel the pain, and that’s valid.

When you understand that feeling will always be your first and most trusted guide, you know you can trust it as your compass and your true north. However, if you understand something without feeling it, it’s tough to retain it as true. You might read a study on the health benefits of rhubarb, but if rhubarb makes you feel sick, it’s not going to be something you retrain as true. 

How we learn about raising our vitality:

We learn lessons about health in two distinct ways:

  1. Harmony

Feelings of general harmony in our body are nature’s way of giving us positive feedback and reinforcement. We often feel harmony when we finish a yoga class, after eating a fresh, healthy meal, or when we process a deep emotional block. Harmony can come in the form of feeling more energy, mental clarity, cathartic release, or a feeling of deep nourishment and alignment, just to name a few. This feeling of inner harmony is nature’s way of signaling that we are doing something right and that it wants us to do more of that. You might say feelings of inner harmony are like nature’s breadcrumbs that lead us back to our sense of optimal health and vitality.

  1. Contrast:

Contrast is another equally important source of learning that most people ignore. It shows up in the form of pain or discomfort. 

When you touch a candle flame, the nervous system creates a pain sensation to signal that this is not in your best interest. It’s not pleasant, but you might take for granted that the pain is helping you survive. If we didn’t have pain receptors in our fingers, we might burn our bodies without realizing it. It’s nature’s way of negatively reinforcing harmful behaviors. Painful symptoms are the same form of contrast. They are a negative reinforcement, nature’s mechanism of signaling to us something is “off” and reminding us to change behavior. 

The interesting thing about this is the realization that both harmony and contrast are working to help us become healthier. Pain and discomfort are also natural mechanisms to guide us back into harmony if we listen to them. When we understand pain is helping us just as much as harmony, it becomes a friend and ally in our healing process. This natural process only stops working when we ignore the feelings and symptoms that surface in our experience. 

 

Journaling Exercise:

  • What are examples you can recall from your life when you have felt in harmony?
  • Where in your life do you currently experience contrast (feelings of pain/discomfort)? 
  • What do you think these areas of contrast are trying to tell you?
  • What are some areas of your life you feel you need to trust yourself more with?