The Jump # 11 – Complexity – Why only you can take charge of your health

In this episode, we will explore the complexity of health.

Winston Churchill did all the wrong things. He drank too much. He smoked too much. He had odd sleep hours. He ate too much rich food. But, while he had heart problems, he lived until he was 90 and held the highest office in the UK in both his 60’s and 80’s. The answers to why he was healthy and active in spite of all the “bad” things he did, is why there can never be a simple answer to health. And why only we, and not an institution that only offers help in a simple product manner, can do the work to give us the best chance of being healthy.

Jump Episode 11

While diet is the key trigger factor in Chronic Illness, Churchill shows us that other factors are involved, principally stress. Stress that in humans, as in all social animals, is primarily caused not by real threats but by social threats and pressure. So, in our case, worrying about global warming, about what to wear tonight, your boss and so on, can drive high and persistent stress levels that diminish or destroy our immune system. This is the core of Chronic Illness. Chronic illness expresses itself in some kind of autoimmune response, where our immune system starts to attack us.

Here is how this process of constant stress works against us.

As Sapolsky and Marmot (see prior post) tells us, our position in the social hierarchy is key to this response. The further down we are, the less control we have and so the more stress. This has nothing to do with medicine and cannot be remediated by a doctor.

It appears that the modern diet, both agricultural and industrial is a factor in making our stress response worse.

The impact of the Industrial Diet also has a gradient of harm. Least affected, AT FIRST, are people from populations that have been well adapted to the western agricultural diet. Such as peoples from Northern Europe or the Middle East. Most affected are populations that have had the least exposure. Such as all Indigenous peoples.

But even those of us, who have some adaptation, lose that in our 40’s and 50’s.

If we continue to live our lives inside the pre-jump world where all the forces of the “shoulds” are the most intense and where we have the least control, then medicine cannot help us when confronted by the chronic illness epidemic.

Only if we step outside and begin to build a life based on how humans are designed to live and so be healthy, so we have a chance. In the next episode, we will look at what that might mean in practice.

Epilogue 1: Here is the full hour of Sapolsky’s thesis on stress and an excellent introduction to Marmot’s work on human hierarchy and stress and illness – The Whitehall Study

Epilogue 2: Here is Sir Michael Marmot talking more on the social determinants of health. He explains why it is that our social differences and situations determine our health and not access to the healthcare system. It is inequality not poverty that is the issue.

Here is a comparison of an artery from a low status monkey on the left compared to a high status monkey on the left. Look at the plaque build up on the low status animal. Both monkeys have the same diet. The issue is stress driven.

Here is Marmot going deeper into the issue of stress driven by rank and control – showing that there are not only radical health differences between nations but also inside them that have nothing to do with access to healthcare.

Below is a slide from this video that highlights these differences.

Marmot’s slide shows us all UK data. At the top, we see a ten year gradient in life expectancy between the best off and the least. All have access to the NHS. The health issue is not access but the hierarchy itself.

The graph at the bottom shows disability. Here the gradient is even steeper. The quality of life degrades all down the gradient. Here is where individuals and societies bear the most costs.

So when the call is for the NHS to be funded more or to have a national system of health in the US, all these calls ignore the reality that our health is not determined by access to a healthcare system.

I don’t think that any government will be able to act upon this insight. Surely, only each of as individuals can?

The Jump # 10 – Your Environment and Your Health

All disease, both infectious and chronic, is driven by factors in our environment. As we have seen with infection, changes to water systems, brought a vast reduction in waterborne diseases such as cholera. So, changes in how we live as individuals can help us avoid, or even cure, chronic illness. All who keep fish know this as a truth.

A healthy animal, or human, lives, by definition, as close as possible to its evolutionary ideal environment. We eat the foods that we have evolved to do well on. We have the right amount of sleep. We have an optimal social environment.

Any animal that satisfies these evolved conditions is generally healthy. Good health is the natural state for most of the population.

In the last 50 years an epidemic of chronic illness has swept the world. It began in Europe and the US, but now affects the entire world and it affects those populations that have been least exposed to the “modern diet” (as defined by agriculture) even worse than those that have farmed for millenia.

In less than a century, our bodies have changed. This process accelerated in the late 1970’s when the official view of what is a healthy diet changed and we adopted highly processed food. The institution of healthcare has been unable to make any progress here.

Concurrently in this period the internet as a force has grown from nothing to being pervasive. This has increased the tempo of life and has put us on high alert to social pressures. A result is that social stress has increased dramatically.

Never have we as a species moved so far away from our evolved ideal lifestyle.

In this podcast, I will go deeper and show how, by understanding these issues, we can take action and so prevent, or even cure, these chronic illnesses.

This image tells the story of the power of our social environment.

This slide is based on a study of the British Civil Service by Sir Michael Marmot. The Whitehall Study shows the rates of mortality of Heart Disease in the civil service by rank in the hierarchy. The “Administrative” group are the few at the top. The Other are the many at the bottom. You are 4 times more likely to die of CHD at the bottom of the hierarchy than at the top.

Your position in the social hierarchy and how much control you think you have is a critical aspect of your health.

I will talk more about the social environment and its effect on our health in the next episode.

The Jump #9 – The Myth of Medicine

There is no institution that we have greater faith in today than the medical establishment. As with the institution of school and the education of our children, we have given up all our power and responsibility to this institution for our health.

Does Healthcare, as an institution, deserve this faith? How did it get our faith?

Are we helpless and do we need to put our total faith and some much of our money into this institution?

This is the first of a series of talks that will explore these questions and then go onto the bigger question of under what circumstances can we safely take charge of our own health.

For the essence of the post-jump life is a life where each of us takes full responsibility for all parts of our lives.

Jump #8 – Death and Religion – How Humanity is evolving

Our greatest gift as humans is our consciousness. Our greatest burden is to know that we will all die.

In this episode, I will explore the nature of “consolation” religions and show how they emerged from the then new world of agriculture. We will see that the “Patriarchy” is real and was based on solving the problems of this shift in human culture.

We will see how different was the world-view of the networks of wandering tribal people who hunted and gathered for millions of years before agriculture. They inhabited an animated universe where everything was connected to everything. Where the cycles of life affected everyone as well as the rest of nature. The irony is this idea of an energetic and networked universe is now how science sees the universe as well.

I will explain how we might be going back to such a world-view and what that means in practice. For I believe that, just as each of us has an individual track for development, so we also have one as a species. And that, just as an old person re-develops early values such as wonder and play, so as we mature as a species, we seek many of the old values from humanity’s childhood as a species.

I lay out some of these old values in the hope that we can console ourselves by using them to guide us in having a good life and so a good death.

I close by illustrating how our lack of confidence in the old consolation is driving a new religion. That is the hope that medicine can conquer death.

In the next episode we talk about the institution of medicine.

Jump #2 – Leaving a Slave World

In this second episode, I will talk about what is the nature of the world that we live in.

Man is born free; and everywhere he is in chains. One thinks himself the master of others, and still remains a greater slave than they

Jean Jacques Rousseau

I will explain that, while you may think that you are free, most of your life is controlled by people and by forces over which you have no control. I make the comparison to your childhood at school where the school and the teacher sets all the rules and the rewards.

Jump Episode 2

I show how your life as a child at school is actually almost identical to your life in the modern workplace where where you work, when you work, what you do and how you are rewarded are all controlled by others. Where everything you value might be taken away arbitrarily.Where what you thought was security is not. Where what you thought was freedom was a form of slavery.

This is where the pain comes as you make the Jump. For you wake up to know this to be the real world.

This realization demands that you find another way of living where you have control. Where you are truly free.

At the end of this episode, I will expand on the key elements of your new free life. These are to do or offer things that are of true value to others in a direct way. This is the new contract. Where also the goal is not to maximize your earnings but to minimize your expenses.

Here is where freedom lives.