Thoughts on health, happiness and sustainability

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Keep an eye on your canary

As a culture we tend to look at health problems as individual issues that have their own unique causes and therefore need their own unique cures. As a result it is common for people to take multiple treatments simultaneously to treat their multiple health complaints.

Yet when it comes down to it, the majority of health problems ranging from trivial niggles to life threatening illnesses all stem from the same root causes.

The human body, like all living creatures, is optimised to work perfectly and self-heal itself. A genuine malfunction due to a fault in the design of the human body is very rare and is limited to a small number of birth defects and limited genetic conditions. But for the body to work perfectly, it needs to operate under optimal working conditions – the conditions for which it has evolved.

As soon as you put the body into an environment for which it was not designed and expose it to unnatural conditions, it starts to lose its state of equilibrium and problems start to develop.

Where is the real cause of illness?

The point is we tend to look at our bodies and study the symptoms to identify a solution, but in fact we need to be looking at our environment to identify the true root cause in our sub-optimal living conditions.

I outline these factors in the Health Triangle and they fall into four main groups:

  • Good nutrition
  • Natural movement and rest
  • Mental stimulation and relaxation
  • Avoidance of toxins

If we are unwell then it means that something is wrong in at least one of these areas and often in more than one.

So what has this got to do with canaries?

In the past, miners would carry canaries down the coal mines with them because canaries have a lower tolerance to carbon monoxide than humans. Basically, if there was a carbon monoxide leak, the canary would die first, so it the bird falls off its perch then you know you are in danger and need to get out. It is the early warning system.

When you experience small, niggling health problems such as allergies, joint pains, indigestion, headaches, coughs & colds etc, they are often not serious in their own right but they are an early warning that your body is not able to operate correctly under the conditions imposed on it. These niggles are the canary in your coal mine, telling you that if you don’t take action to get out of the dangerous environment then you could be faced with much more serious dangers.

Pay attention to the warning signs

Serious illnesses don’t appear overnight. They take time to develop and time for your body to be worn down by its unhealthy environment. Take notice of the early warning signs and address the root causes and you’ll also be protecting yourself against much bigger issues later in life.

I took notice of my canary earlier this week having had an increasingly severe pain in my wisdom teeth that took me to see my dentist. To my relief, there was nothing fundamentally wrong with my teeth but the gums around the wisdom teeth are inflamed and infected. According to my lovely and insightful dentist, this is nearly always caused by excess stress and tiredness. I immediately realised that she was right. For weeks I having had far too much on my plate and struggling to get enough mental and physical rest. In fact I have told my wife several times that I am coping well considering the pressure I’m under, but that I need to be careful that I don’t overdo it and burn out. The pain in my teeth is the warning sign that I am pushing my limits too far and need to take it seriously before it leads to something more serious.

Keep an eye on your canary and make positive changes in your lifestyle as soon as any small issues crop up. You might simply need to eat better, exercise more, go to bed earlier or take life a bit more slowly. Whatever it is, you’ll thank yourself later.

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