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Thursday, Jan. 10, 2008

Meat or Magic?

The Wellness Warriors

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Meat or magic? This question has been asked through the history of mankind. They summarize two opposing paradigms, with the pendulum of opinion swinging between them by different civilizations through time. Is your body equipped with an intelligence, an innate ability to self-regulate, adapt to changes in your surroundings, resist illness and heal itself after injury? Or are we glorified meat machines, at the mercy of our surroundings as we struggle helplessly through life, with only dumb luck and medical intervention to save us?

The basic differences in these outlooks summarize polarizing beliefs in our approach to health care. The “modern” American model is just the latest example of the mechanistic paradigm. From this viewpoint, your body is a complicated machine. All structures and functions are separated, then analyzed as though their connections to the rest of the system do not exist. Using synthetic compounds to mask symptoms or to get lab numbers within the “right” range is the goal. If this approach leads to interference and dysfunction in other parts of the body, the cycle is repeated. Problems are hidden with drugs, which lead to more problems, for which there are more prescriptions.



In contrast, the vitalistic paradigm contends that if you reduce a body to its components, then put them back together, you would have a corpse, not a living being. The sum of those parts does not equal the whole person, because a life force exists. It is true that the body can be treated like a machine. This approach works well in times of crisis. The urgent care in our nation is among the best in the world, and the emergency room can be miraculous. However, this approach to daily life neglects the mysterious power and creative intelligence that all living things possess. The goal should be to support the power of this inborn intelligence.



Consider the fever. When harmful bacteria are able to overgrow and challenge the immune system, the body recognizes that 98 degrees is the perfect temperature for bacterial replication, and it elevates its temperature to slow down the proliferation. A homeopathic approach, based on the vitalistic paradigm, would be to allow the body to raise its temperature, perhaps giving compounds to support this tactic. But today’s American is taught that the fever must be broken. The body is presumed to lack the intelligence to cope with this problem and will harm itself if we don’t intervene, probably with a pill. In our society, we consume 50% of the world’s prescription medication and are bombarded by a $30 billion—that’s billion with a “b”—a year marketing campaign that supports the instant gratification of masking symptoms.



Look at our current War on Germs, an example of the mechanistic viewpoint gone amok. The early successes in sanitation and vaccines were major factors in raising our standard of living to a modern level. But we’ve gone too far. Gross misuse of antibiotics in ourselves and in the animals in our factory food supply has led to decreased effectiveness when these tools are actually needed to treat a disease. Media scare tactics—about bird flu, allergy season, get-your-flu-shot-or-die season—are signs of a system out of balance.



The fact is that germs are all around us and within us, in a complex and constantly changing relationship that we are scarcely beginning to understand. Trying to eradicate “germs” by pasteurization and sanitation leaves us without the beneficial organisms that help to keep our internal environment stable. Destroying them is an excellent way to disrupt a synergy that has existed as long as life itself. When we destroy indiscriminately, a niche is created, which will be filled quickly. This will likely be left to those who survived the first wave of “treatment”—in other words, the ones with a strong resistance will reproduce and pass on this resistance to the next generation. “Super bug,” anyone?



As we go through life, we are faced with constant change. Our ability to adapt to change will determine whether we’ll express our true life potential. We all have choices to make about our health and life. Does our body exist in a chaotic, random universe, functioning as an educated piece of meat? Or is there an order to the universe, with universal laws and a piece of “magic” within us all?



The most modern of our technology can measure things at the subatomic level. The building blocks of our body are not the cells. We are made of the stuff of atoms, vibrating bits of energy that do not follow the comfortable rules of a mechanistic universe. The energy that made the body will heal it.



Ty Wade, D.C., received his doctorate from Palmer College of Chiropractic and has a private practice in Saukville that focuses on holistic family care. David Wade teaches clinical anatomy and physiology at Blue Sky School of therapeutic massage and manages an assisted living home in Sheboygan County.



Look for the next Wellness Warriors column in the Dec. 20 issue of the Shepherd.