When looking to overcome a specific health challenge, for most of us, the tendency is to look for a remedy - some pill, cream, or perhaps a liquid that we can drink - that will fix our problem right up.
The reality is that in most circumstances, your body knows best how to heal itself. It's not a stretch to state that your body is designed to do one thing, and that's to preserve its health.
This is why, when you cut yourself, your body immediately triggers a cascade of events that aim to reduce blood loss by coagulating your blood at the injured site. And without taking a break, your body then works to re-establish the layers of skin that have been injured.
Make no mistake about it: your body is constantly replenishing its cells. Every thirty days, you have brand new skin. You produce a new stomach lining every five days. It takes about ninety days for your body to turnover all of the molecules that make up your bones. And every second, several million red blood cells are removed and replaced from your circulatory system.
Ultimately, the vast majority of molecules that make up your body today did not exist about a year ago, which is to say that your body is constantly at work, repairing and replenishing itself.
If you are currently experiencing a health challenge, you may be wondering how all of the above can be true. If your body is constantly creating new tissues, then why haven't dysfunctional tissues been replaced with functional ones?
The answer is likely that you have not identified the root causes of your health challenges. Without identifying and addressing the root causes of your health challenges, your body's self-healing mechanisms are likely being outdone by the damage being caused by your daily choices.
Think of it in this way: If you replace the bricks of a house, but do so without any changes in equipment, building methods, and architectural plan, you'll end up re-building the same house.
In this same vein, if you want to build healthier tissues, you must provide your body with different building blocks than the ones that you used to create your health challenge. These building blocks include your food choices, lifestyle choices like how much rest, exercise, fresh air, and sunlight you get, and even the thoughts and emotions you regularly experience as a result of how you choose to spend your time and the people that you choose to spend your time with.
Even as you're reading these words, your body is doing its best to heal damaged areas. Your body works non-stop to repair, maintain, and replenish your tissues.
Just as your healing mechanisms go to work right away to heal a cut on your skin, they're always on alert and ready to do their best to protect against internal challenges like joint damage, blood vessels that are becoming clogged, and even rapidly dividing cancer cells.
One reason why your self-healing mechanisms have a greater chance of successfully healing a cut than they do of fully healing other health challenges like arthritis, atherosclerosis, and various malignancies is that with health challenges that are generated internally, it's impossible to see the effects of your choices in real time.
Let me explain.
It's obvious that sharp objects can cut through your skin. So you know to avoid contact with such objects i.e. you remove the cause of your health challenge and give your self-healing mechanisms a solid opportunity to successfully restore your health.
If you have chronic joint pain, clogged blood vessels, or intermittent headaches, you can't see in real time how acrylamides in potato chips, casein in pasteurized and homogenized dairy, and massive quantities of free radicals in cheap vegetable oils directly injure and/or aggravate your cells internally. Ditto for the effects of large quantities of sugar, aspartame, heterocyclic amines, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and the many other disease-causing compounds found in the standard first world nation diet.
Equally difficult to see in real time is how being mired in miserable relationships can elevate stress-related compounds throughout your body, accelerating wear and aging of all of your organs.
When you don't see how everyday occurrences like consumption of cheddar-flavored Pringles and feeling anxiety or hatred in your heart affect your cells, how can you possibly be motivated to limit your exposure to these and other disease-causing elements?
Will you wait until your health deteriorates to a point where one small mouthful of cheesecake causes your hip joint ache for a week? For the record, I've known many clients who live this reality.
Will you suffer a massive heart attack that nobody, even your doctor, sees coming?
Self health care requires that you understand how your body works, and make choices based on this knowledge. My experience has been that most people aren't sufficiently motivated to consistently make healthy choices until their discomfort is severe enough. And even at this point, there are some who prefer to continue with their harmful vices while numbing their discomfort with drugs or even surgical excision.
My feeling is that it takes two ingredients to consistently make healthy choices that support your self healing mechanisms. The first is an understanding of your body's self healing design. The second is a strong enough reason for wanting to be healthy for as long as possible. When you have both, it becomes almost natural to make daily choices that fully support your innate healing capacity.
I suppose that the take home message is that you can always be hopeful in knowing that if you make healthy choices, your body's self healing mechanisms will get their best possible chance to restore your health.
So when faced with a specific health challenge, please remember that your body isn't likely to overcome the problem at hand with the same choices that you made during its development. Put another way, to paraphrase Einstein, "your problems cannot be fixed with the same behaviors that were in place when you created them."
Dr. Ben Kim is a chiropractor and acupuncturist living and working in Barrie, Ontario, Canada. Visit his website at www.drbenkim.com