I'd like to respectfully disagree with George Pettie. He's the one credited with the modern proverb - "What you don't know can't hurt you." Back in 1576, he said it a little differently:"So long as I know it not, it hurteth mee not."
I tend to agree more with Sir Francis Bacon's assertion that "Knowledge is power." — especially when it comes to our well-being!
There are so many factors that drive our well-being that are invisible to us! Just because we don't know about them, or can't see or feel them, doesn't mean that they are not at work, either for our benefit or detriment.
Our beliefs and assumptions, for example, drive our thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Some of them, when unexamined, may lead us to choices that aren't in our best interest.
Likewise, we aren't likely to notice the processes that are altering our blood pressure, blood sugar, or fats and cholesterol in our blood. If those processes go on undetected, they can lead to disease and eventually death.
So, yes - knowing what is going on within us is an important part of caring for ourselves. With all the unhealthy temptations in our modern lifestyle, we have to be very intentional about our choices if we are going to maintain optimal health.
When it comes to our health, there are at least four invisible processes that are interacting within our bodies - stealing our health, contributing to chronic disease, and speeding up the aging process. Here is more about them - and what we can do to counteract them.
1. Oxidative Stress
- What it is: Oxidative stress occurs when the "exhaust" (i.e. free radicals) from the energy-making process in our cells builds up. When they are young and healthy, our cells deal with these byproducts more efficiently through a clean-up system (antioxidant enzymes). But over time, that changes and the excess exhaust damages many parts of our cells, including the DNA and the energy-making engines themselves (the mitochondria).
- Why it is a problem: The cellular damage from oxidative stress has been linked to diseases in every organ system in the body.
- What you can do: A variety of lifestyle factors - like eating more fruits and vegetables, reducing exposure to toxins, and taking nutritional supplements - can reduce oxidative stress by reducing the production of free radicals and increasing the body's ability to neutralize them. For more specifics, see my blog - How to Deal with Radicals.
2. Chronic Inflammation
- What it is: Inflammation is the body's natural reaction against injury or toxic substances. When it is short-term (acute) it helps us to heal. When it is long-term (chronic) it causes scarring (fibrosis) and death (necrosis) of body tissue.
- Why it is a problem: The damage causes by chronic inflammation is linked to diseases in multiple body systems. Heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's, and cancer are just a few. Chronic inflammation also increases oxidative stress by causing cells to produce more "exhaust" (free radicals) and by reducing the cell's "exhaust clean-up system" (antioxidant enzymes).
- What you can do: A variety of lifestyle factors - like stress management, an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, and reducing environmental toxins - can reduce inflammation by removing its sources and calming the immune system. For more specifics, see my blog - Five Ways to Turn Down the Heat.
3. Immune Dysregulation
- What it is: Immune dysregulation happens when the body's defense system is either too active or too weak. Recent research has linked it to the microbiome.
- Why it is a problem: An overactive immune system can lead to problems like auto-immune disease and the diseases caused by chronic inflammation. An underactive immune system can lead to problems like cancer.
- What you can do: A variety of lifestyle factors - like avoiding antimicrobials, eating unprocessed foods, and increasing exposure to healthy bacteria - can enhance immune functioning by protecting the microbiome. For more specifics, see my blog - Five Ways to Mind Your Microbiome
4. Mitochondrial Dysfunction
- What it is: A number of factors such as oxidative stress, reduced mitochondrial production, genetics, and mitochondrial damage can cause the mitochondria not to function properly. Since mitochondria are the power-generating components of our cells and produce at least 90% of our energy, this results in less energy production and even more build-up of free radicals (oxidative stress).
- Why it is a problem: Our cells have to have energy to function, and they need to be able to deal with free radicals in order to stay healthy. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked to many chronic diseases. Psychiatric disorders, cancer and metabolic syndrome are a few.
- What you can do: A variety of lifestyle factors - like exercise, reducing toxins, and reducing oxidative stress - can improve mitochondrial dysfunction by reducing mitochondrial damage and improving production of new mitochondria in the cells. For more specifics, see my blog - Preserving Your Energy for the Long Haul.
I hope that you'll agree that learning more about the processes that affect our health and well-being is well worth our time. You may have noticed that many of these key processes are intimately linked. The good news is, we can have an impact on all of them, and many of the actions we can take affect more than one process.
What about you? How are you taking action against these invisible thieves? Please share your perspective in the comments below!
If you'd like support in making lifestyle changes that lead to better health, please check out my free wellness toolkit or schedule a complimentary clarity call to see if my wellness services would be a good fit for you.