Everyone is looking for the ultimate cure or answer to whatever condition impacts their health or lifestyle, whether if that is for themselves, their pets or their horses. Is there an answer out there? A solution to what ails you? The answer is more complex than what you would like to hear, not necessarily a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but more or less in between.
The FDA guards against fraudulous claims from dietary supplement, food suppliers and even pharmaceutical companies. The reasoning for doing this is obvious and meant to protect the American population from being misled regarding health conditions. Often, we have research to back up the use of various herbs, foods and even pharmaceuticals in disease management, but claims cannot be made due to concerns over safety, overall efficacy and even dosing. These are all valid reasons, but in reality, even with substantial research, the concept of health and disease is much more complex than what we would like it to be, thus making the notion that one herb, food or even pharmaceutical could be the answer is almost insane. Even with research on a various remedy, often it does not work in all patients, which again brings up the issue of the complexity of disease and that no two people with the same health condition are the same, nor should they be treated the same.
Health is defined as the absence of disease. Disease is plainly, the absence of health. The Webster Dictionary defines disease “as an impairment of the normal state of the living animal or plant body or one of its parts that interrupts or modifies the performance of vital functions, is typically manifested by distinguising signs and symptoms, and is a response to environmental factors (as malnutrition, industrial hazards or climate), to specific infective agents (as worms, bacteria, or viruses), to inherent defects of the organism (as genetic anomalies), or to combination of these factors.”
Most health conditions, whether we are talking about cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma, neurological issues, allergies, cancer, metabolic issues and even various injuries are actually symptoms, reflective of a poor health status. It is a weakness that has developed in the body as a result of deficiency in health. This is true, as one disease often follows another if health is not reestablished. As an example, it is not uncommon for an overweight person to develop diabetes, then cardiovascular disease and even cancer if the situation is not curtailed.
So, looking at a disease as a ‘symptom’ more so than an entity in and of itself, it becomes obvious that no one pharmaceutical, herb or food can change that course completely. It is more complex than that, no different than expecting one person to conquer the war on terrorism. The problem is much deeper and a combined effort is needed on multiple levels.
One of the biggest points that we have to grasp is that a disease is a problem at a cellular level, often with multiple contributing causes. The cause can be genetic or environmentally induced, whether that is exposure to a toxin, bacteria, virus or even stress and the impact that follows. Something is happening at a cellular level and that cell is much like an engine, requiring various nutrients and cofactors to function correctly. If it is not functioning correctly, then we have to seek the reasoning as to why. In genetic problems, often there is a miscoding of genetic information, leading to lack of production of various enzymes, hormones or other cellular factors that negatively impact body function, immune response or create a weakness on other levels. In those cases, if we can replace the ‘missing’ factor through pharmaceuticals, then there is one possible answer, but all too often, as easy as it sounds, it is still not the complete answer we are seeking.
In today’s world, people are often impatient and more reactive than proactive, when it comes to health. As a veterinarian, I do believe in the power and ability of the body to heal and recover, from practically anything, but there are limitations to this and perfection is not always to be expected. The body is magnificent, reacting and responding to our environment, emotions and diet.
The goal, when faced with disease, is to see it for what it is, a symptom of poor health. The treatment then should be to restore or rebuild health, which then helps to eliminate disease by restoring balance and function at a cellular level. So, the focus should not necessarily be on that particular disease, but more so on the body as a whole and health as the end target. The treatment, if you will, should be on multiple levels in order to manage the problem from all perspectives.
We can look at research and see statistics that provide hope in regards to herbs and even pharmaceuticals. For instance, we may see that with daily low dose aspirin use, there may be a reduction in colorectal cancer or even bladder cancer by up to 30% or that use of curcumin in high doses results in a 40% increase in rate of cancer cell death or reduction in tumor burdens in laboratory animals. Those statistics are off the cuff, but they are real and just the tip of the iceberg in regards to research data, but we shouldn’t focus on any ‘one’ item of interest. Meaning, that a person with colorectal cancer shouldn’t just focus their efforts on low dose aspirin or even curcumin. They have a place in therapy, but by themselves are not always the answer. We have to look at them all as a whole, looking for synergism and other means of improving health alongside of their use including dietary, lifestyle and environmental changes in our lives.
Often we see studies that state that various nutrients may be beneficial in certain health conditions, but we need to look further, seeking dosing used in those clinical studies. This dosing is critical as it may make the difference between failure and success. As an example, magnesium has been found to be beneficial in regards to helping to manage stress, cardiovascular disease, neurological conditions and overall have a major impact on health at a cellular level. It has been recommended by most authorities that we, as humans, consume 250-500 mg once or even twice daily, dependent on our level of dietary deficiency. In reality, most news reports regarding the incredible findings often just mention the nutrient and the impact on disease, leaving dosage out there in the clouds. People hear the reports, then jump on a bandwagon, consuming magnesium supplements, not checking dose. Some dietary supplement providers use the researched dose, while others unfortunately provide a much lower dose, often seeking profits first, leaving the consumer still with a deficiency. The consumer then may report no positive health changes after a few months, discrediting the nutrient, when in fact they were not consuming the proper amount to begin with. The same applies with herbs such as curcumin or the consumption of green tea to help restore health. The research data is strong, but dosing is critical and will vary from one person to another, dependent on current health status.
Are these nutrients and herbs cures for disease? No, they are not. They are reestablishers of health, supporting normal cellular function and with normal cellular function, then disease or altered function is less likely to occur or if it does occur, less likely to impact that person’s life.
Cancer is a probably the biggest of all concerns with people, being the big ‘C” word, it is reflective of a grave prognosis in most people’s eyes. It is a complex topic, but on basic level, we have to understand how and why it occurs, being very much tied in with poor cellular function, accumulation of free radicals or hydroxyl radicals, cellular alterations and then uncontrolled cell growth.
Looking at a more basic level, one of the biggest problems in today’s society is gastrointestinal health. This is true not only for people, but for horses and pets alike. People deal with it on a basic level ranging from constipation to diarrhea, but in others it is more serious with conditions like IBD, Crohn’s and others. Colorectal cancer is also increasing in prevalence, often as a result. Most cancers are a result of cellular mutation due to contact to potential carcinogens, being tied into the inflammatory process. In the case of colorectal cancer, there are many ties with carcinogens in our diet, ranging from nitrosamines in cooked foods to preservatives, additives, colors and dyes added. In the ideal world, we should not expose ourselves to these potentially harmful substances, but truth is that they are hard to avoid. Repeated or prolonged exposure increases our risk due to cellular changes. If one has poor bowel function and is constipated or has slow bowel transit time, then the exposure to those chemicals is increased with an increased risk of cellular changes.
The same holds true for bladder cancer, of which I have personal experience. Many of these chemicals are also eliminated via the urine. Often, many of us are subclinically dehydrated which results in more concentrated urine, concentrating potential carcinogens in the kidneys and bladder, but also results in us producing less urine and feeling the need to actually urinate. The longer we hold or retain urine, then the more exposure the bladder wall receives when it comes to chemical carcinogens. In this instance, it is best to overconsume water and urinate 10-12 times per day and be slightly inconvenienced that it is to concentrate inevitable toxins.
The impact is often a result of our diet and lifestyle. A poor diet, high in meats and nitrosamines, low in fiber and low intake of fluids increases risk. Plain and simple. We may look at something as simple as fiber, read research about benefits of health, but do we understand how and why? Do we grasp the fact that increased bowel regularity decreases risk of colorectal cancer and why? Do we understand that increased water consumption leads to a lower risk of many types of cancer including bladder cancer? Now, that being said, the same results are not seen with increased consumption of energy drinks or carbonated sodas. In many of those cases, we are not increasing our water intake but more so, in some cases, adding more harmful substances to our body and creating more harm. Something as simple as vitamin C can potentially impact health on most levels through multiple mechanisms, of which most think immune function, which is correct. However, did you know that higher daily dose consumption of vitamin C actually increases bowel regularity due to an osmotic type of effect, which in and of itself can reduce the risk of some forms of cancer. It is also excreted in the urine and known to be able to detoxify certain carcinogens, thus may provide benefit in urinary health by decreasing exposure. Again, here just like with other nutrients, dosing is the key factor and can vary from person to person.
The bottom line is that most diseases and even injuries are very complex, not having one set solution as they have several origins. A person with a particular condition may have all good intentions by seeking a particular nutrient to aid in his or her health, but often is met with failure for not seeing the complete picture. The same holds true for pharmaceutical usage, people seeking complete resolution with one single pill or injection. We need to understand that changes are happening at a cellular level and must ask the question as to what those cells need to repair, survive and thrive in any situation.
This holds true ever so much in the equine industry, where many horse owners are seeking the one solution to a joint problem, tendon injury or other health condition impacting their equine athlete. They focus on joint supplements, tendon supplements and even medication injections that may provide relief for a short term, but often the patients fail to respond and yet, owners continue to supplement, losing ground in the long term as the problem is not being addressed completely.
We have actually more questions than we do answers at this time, but establishment of health should be top priority in all situations. The question is how do we do this effectively, knowing that each person and situation is different? We should never forget about the patient, as a whole and a surviving organism. When we do this, we will fail, which is often reflected in certain cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation. The ‘symptom’ is overly addressed, while health is often spared, resulting in a depleted individual that cannot survive repeated insults. The question we should raise is what the results would be if the patient was the point of focus instead of the symptom?
Health is about balance, often with synergy between supplements, diet and lifestyle changes. We can’t expect to change our poor metabolism by remaining sedentary, eating high fat processed foods, but yet take a dietary supplement placing all of our faith in it, then denouncing it when things do not improve. We can change and improve our lives and our health, but it is with multiple steps. The same holds true for our horses and pets, there is no one pill that will make it all better. We need to see the big picture and how everything plays its part.
Being more reactive by nature than proactive, we are often also faced with a chronic disease that has created long term damage within the body. Whether if that is a joint that has remodeled or an organ that has sustained tremendous damage contributing to poor function. Once we get to a certain point, there are steps we can take to improve the situation, but reversal is not likely. There is an old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, which could never be more true. If we take steps before problems arise, the long term outlook could be much better. You just have to make that life decision to take that approach, which may be perceived as odd by others. I, personally, choose to be ‘odd’!
At Nouvelle Research, our main goal is and has always been to ‘protect and rebuild health”.
All our best,
Tom Schell, D.V.M.
Nouvelle Research, Inc.