Why am I always sick? Plus six healthy habits to live by
By Jennifer Simmons, MD
As a traditionally trained medical doctor, a board-certified general surgeon, and a fellowship-trained cancer surgeon, I believed for many years that I was making a significant contribution to the wellness of my patients. I would be their support through diagnosis, operate on them to remove their cancer, and advise them about the benefits of adjuvant therapies like chemotherapy and radiation. I told stories of hope and offered many options promising cure. Because I am a traditionally trained medical doctor, I was never taught about things like prevention, or how lifestyle may impact the core health of our society. My training focused on diagnosis and treatment leaving out the element of utmost importance, prevention of disease. I was made to believe that disease was inevitable and that there was nothing that could alter one’s destiny.
Over these many years that I’ve been practicing as an oncologic surgeon, I have watched my patients get sicker and sicker, coming to me with more and more conditions in addition to their cancer. While our advances in screening, early detection, and even drug therapy have undeniably improved, the health of our nation in general, and my patients in particular, continues to decline.
What causes cancer?
The exact biology of what causes cancer is not entirely understood. What we do know, however, is that the propagation of cancer is largely due to chronic inflammation that leads to a failure in the immune system. The same system that is supposed to protect us from cancer has become so busy fighting off toxins that we’re exposing it to through our diet and environment, it does not have the bandwidth to fight off cancers.
It is a little known fact that our gastrointestinal tract houses 70% of our immune system. We don’t think about our G.I. tract as a direct communication to the outside world but in fact it’s our largest communication to the outside world. If you laid out the square footage of our G.I. tract, it would fill a football field. That’s a lot of exposure. The intention is that we are supposed to fill our bodies with nutrient-dense food that will serve us. However, evolution has brought us to a place where, instead, the majority of what most of us consume are food-like substances. This has led to a myriad of diseases including but not limited to obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, ADHD, auto-immune diseases, gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, MS, and most importantly, CANCER.
What we eat—and how we feel—matters
The research demonstrating a dietary link to cancer is not new. The China Study in the 1950s showed that rats fed a diet of 20% casein, which is the protein found in milk, leads to cancer. If you take that diet down to 5% casein, the cancer regresses. Rats started on a diet of 5% casein do not develop cancer.
There are countless other studies linking animal products and processed foods to cancer. It largely comes down to two main issues.
First, the amino acids, or protein building blocks, that cancers use are found in animal products. Deprive them of animal products and it will inhibit their growth.
Second, factory farming has had a tremendous, negative impact on our food. We are not treating our livestock well. They live unnatural lives and are fed unnatural diets. Therefore, they develop an excess of inflammatory fats. When we consume these animals, we consume their inflammatory fat, and this results in more inflammation in our bodies, ultimately leading to cancer. And I am talking about all the livestock. Cows, chickens, pigs, even fish! In addition, our crops are tainted with pesticides. They are genetically modified to be more plentiful. All of this translates into a situation where we are slowly but surely poisoning ourselves.
And while our food is a big problem, it sadly isn’t the only problem.
We have become a society that lives in a state of chronic stress. While acute stress, or the fight or flight mechanism, is an essential function that serves us well in times when we have to escape immediate danger, it does not serve us well when we are facing deadlines, traffic, financial strife, difficult relationships or malignant bosses. The constant state of stress that most of us live under leads to the myriad of diseases listed above as it keeps us in a constant state of inflammation.
That was the bad news. Here is the good news.
The keys to the kingdom of wellness are in your hand!
The six habits of a healthy person
- Sleep 8 hours a night
- Exercise 30 minutes a day
- Develop a mindfulness practice like meditation to help manage stress
- Be an essential part of your community. Have meaningful connections in your life.
- Avoid environmental toxins
- Eat real food, mostly vegetables. If it grew as a plant, eat it! If it was made from a plant, leave it.
At Real Health MD, we take a whole-body approach to healthcare. We give you the time, attention and tools you need to take back your health. If you’re ready to experience your best life, we’re here for you.