In a dystopian future, which I believe we've already entered, healthcare will be almost prohibitively expensive, as well as rationed. Only the wealthy, powerful, and privileged will have access to the best healthcare. The rest of us will have to settle for the "scraps" that heatlthcare corporations and the government allow us to have, when they allow us to have it. Don't expect those scraps to be quick, timely, or of the same high-quality the elites get.
One way to deal with this situation is to limit our need for the healthcare system. This means maximizing our health, and when we do get sick, trying to heal ourselves first, before throwing ourselves on the mercy of the system. And that is possible. The human body is meant to be a wonderful self-healing machine.
I am no doctor, and I cannot diagnose or treat anyone. But I do have experience of the medical system. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. My sister had MS before she succumbed to it a few years ago. I've dealt with my own health problems over the last five years - type 2 diabetes and severe diabetic retinopathy of my eyes. I've seen the healthcare system from the belly of the beast, and I've explored a variety of alternative options. In this article, I want to describe six hacks for supercharging our health and healing.
1- Stop digging a hole. What do you do if you've dug yourself into a hole? Stop digging and put down the shovel. This old joke is actually quite applicable to our health. The human body isn't meant to be sick. Although genetics can play a role in some diseases, even in those cases we have some control over our health. When we get sick, is tends to be because of years of bad habits (digging a hole) on our part. Some of the "shovels" we use are:
- Smoking and using tobacco products
- Abusing drugs or alcohol
- Consuming too much sugar
- Routinely not getting enough sleep
- Leading a high-stress lifestyle
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Overeating or binge eating
- Maintaining an unhealthy weight (high or low)
- Poor dental hygiene (poor brushing, not flossing)
- Living a couch-potato lifestyle
- Avoiding or putting of dealing with health issues
2- Sleep. Have you ever felt yourself getting sick, and thought "What I really need is a good night's sleep." You have no idea how accurate those words are. Sleep is important to health and healing. Your body's immune system, its ability to heal and repair itself, only operates at maximum efficiency when you are asleep. When you routinely fail to get enough sleep, you are not allowing your body time to heal. Adults really do need 8 hours of sleep each night. You might be able to "get by" on less, but from a health point of view, getting by is all you're doing. And just getting by will eventually catch up with you.
As a diabetic, I've spent almost five years closely monitoring my blood sugar levels. When I am having trouble getting enough sleep, it absolutely does show up in higher blood sugar levels (possibly due to higher levels of stress hormones, which are known to negatively impact blood sugar).
Getting enough sleep is one hack that will allow your body's natural healing to operate at maximum efficiency.
3- De-stress. The grinding, day-in and day-out, never-ending frustrations of dealing with traffic, long lines, stressful jobs, bad bosses, rude and toxic people, and a whole host of other things beyond our control, can cause many problems with our health. Stress can cause high blood pressure, increase stress hormones, lower testosterone, and negatively impact other hormone levels. In turn, each of those problems can contribute to additional health problems, in a cascading effect, similar to dominoes falling.
Learning to manage stress well is an important health hack to master. Some ideas to manage stress include:
- Prayer, Reading Scripture
- Meditation, Deep Breathing Exercises
- Quiet, calm hobbies you enjoy (reading, knitting, doing puzzles, arts & crafts, listening to music, etc.)
- Physical Exercise (walking, running, swimming, biking, hiking, golfing, yoga, tai chi, gardening, yard work, etc.
Finally, if the stress gets too much for you, or you simply can't get a handle on it, talk to someone - a spouse, family member, or friend. Sometimes, simply talking about an issue helps reduce the stress. Local clergy (pastors, priests, rabbis) often will be able to refer you to local programs, support groups, and counselors that can help. If your stress is causing anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, here are a couple of important resources:
- Anxiety and Depression Association of America Website: https://adaa.org/
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 Website: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
4- Physical activity. According to a study published in 2014, a lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases (source). Exercising on a regular basis has many health benefits, including:
- Reducing stress and decreasing stress hormones
- Decreasing feelings of depression and anxiety
- Increasing energy levels
- Lowering blood pressure
- Increasing insulin sensitivity
- Increasing cardiovascular fitness
- Raising testosterone levels
- Improving weight management
- Building and maintaining strong muscles and bones
Yes, this means that getting more physical activity on a consistent basis over time will help your body heal. Even if all you can do is to take a short walk around your neighborhood, doing so regularly will pay benefits to your ability to heal. Start slowly, and increase your activity over time.
5- Nourishment. Your body needs resources to heal and repair itself. Look to sound nutrition to provide those resources. Unfortunately, this is a complicated area with lots of conflicting information. Based on my experiences, I have found the best diet for me is one with lots of good fats (eggs, fatty fish, avocados, cheese, nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.), moderate in protein (non-fatty fish, chicken, turkey, beef, etc.), and healthy carbs (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, spinach, turnip greens, mustard greens, lettuce and salad greens, etc.), while avoiding all grains, white potatoes, and sugar as much as possible. And I drink plenty of water and unsweet teas (no fruit juice of any kind - way too much concentrated sugar).
I know this is the best diet for me because, for the past five years, I've carefully monitored my weight, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, triglycerides, blood pressure, iron levels (I was also diagnosed as mildly anemic when I found out I was diabetic), energy levels, sleep habits, diet, and exercise. Which brings up the final hack.
6- Keep track. Get a notebook and start chronicling your journey to good health. More than just a food diary, also keep close track of your physical activity, weight, sleep habits, and stress levels. Track the effect they have how on you feel and your energy levels, as well as blood pressure, blood sugar, and any other health metrics you monitor. Try changing your diet, sleep habits, exercise routines, and so forth. Over time, you will start to see trends emerge. You'll learn what foods are good for you, and what foods are bad for you. You'll learn how much sleep and how much exercise you actually need to feel at your best. Feel free to share this notebook, and your observations, with your doctor. It can help your doctor make better diagnoses and improve treatment recommendations.
Please Note: I am in no way discouraging you from seeking professional medical help. Early detection and treatment is extremely important for any disease, and the best way to achieve that is through regular medical checkups. This information is meant to supplement professional care.
Dr. Joseph Alton MD and nurse Amy Alton ARNP have written a couple of books that could be extremely useful in a dystopian world of expensive and rationed healthcare. Alton's Antibiotics and Infectious Disease, subtitled The Layman's Guide to Available Antibacterials in Austere Settings, is a simplified guide to using antibacterial and antifungal veterinary medications (such as fish antibiotics) in disaster, survival, and other austere settings where modern medicine is non-existent.
The Survival Medicine Handbook is THE essential guide for when medical help is NOT on the way. If you had to deal with an injury or illness in a disaster, and their was no doctor, nurse, or paramedic around, would you know what to do? This handbook is a 670 page detailed guide for those who want to be medically prepared for any disaster or austere setting where medical professionals are not available.
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