Here is another tricky question that a lot of people may think they know the answer to but when posed this question, fumble to provide a correct and clear answer! In order to begin to define health, we should ideally provide the definition of health that is used in modern medicine – health is absence of disease. But truth be told, this medical school lesson is not a correct definition for health. Because for medicine to be able to diagnose disease, it must be diagnosable. You are basically not sick or unwell until the day the doctor can diagnose that something is wrong with you. Also the matter of the fact is that modern medicine has no way of recognizing or diagnosing disease when your health starts to decline. Many a times when you are sick and have started to experience disturbing problems with your body your doctor may pronounce you as fit and fine. This is because medical professionals are not taught to notice or measure your declining health. People are considered to be sick only when the problem has become serious enough to fit into the medical disease categories dictionary. This notion of health is unhelpful, unproductive and self-defeating. According to us, health is much much more than the absence of illness.
A Better Definition of Health
Health is the state wherein all cells are functioning at optimum levels
When the cells in your body are functioning as they should be, then your body has a lot of capacity to thrive and flourish in our constantly changing world without any negative effects. When your cells are healthy, you develop resilience to a variety of stresses – physical, chemical, biological and emotional. When your cells are healthy your body develops the ability to make daily to make daily repairs to your cells and the ability to create new ones. Also ingrained is the ability for your body to efficiently expel all pathogenic microorganisms and toxins from your body. Most importantly for a young and healthy individual it imparts the ability to produce healthy children and thus prolong our race and progeny.
But do remember that all the cells in our bodies are never functioning perfectly. So the challenge is to keep cellular malfunction to a minimum. Even in the bodies of perfectly healthy people, cells are either constantly being damaged, are dying or being replaced by newer cells. Our bodies produce more than 10 million new cells every second as our bodies constantly keeps replacing tissues.
Who Falls Prey to Disease
Remember only sick people fall sick! Once your health is compromised, a number of sequential events follows. Once a large number of cells begin to malfunction, internal communications systems and self-regulation systems become compromised and destabilized. Any infection is indicative of cellular malfunction that has already begun to weaken your immune system. A cold or flu is basically an alarm that is screaming at you and telling you that all is not well because those who are healthy would have resisted infections in the first place. Remember:
You are already sick long before you come down with an infection.
Otherwise everyone who is exposed to the bug would fall sick which is not the case. Contrary to the general idea that we catch diseases, people become sick only after their general health has been placed at risk.
The Six Pathways to Health or Disease
Having read this far, has your perspective on health or disease changed? Take a long hard look at the various problems that you are facing – flu, cancer, diabetes, depression or something else and inevitably it is always cellular malfunction is always the essence of the problem. Depending on the choices that you make, your health will move in the direction of optimum health or in the direction of disease and ill health. This movement happens along the six pathways. The six pathways detailed below provides a framework through which well-informed, logical and health-enhancing choices can be made.
The 6 pathways are:
A truly holistic approach to health requires that equal attention be paid to all these pathways. If you move in the wrong direction in any of these pathways, then cellular malfunction leading to disease will occur. On the other hand, continuous movement in the right direction will lead to optimum health and performance. In a future article we will go into each pathway in further detail.
Neha Chandana is a Mumbai-based dietitian and nutritionist with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management, Certified Specialist in Performance Nutrition (ISSA) and fitness counseling. She consults Wellintra’s clients in the area of weight loss, weight gain, weight maintenance and also conducts corporate seminars for employees in the areas of nutrition, diet, pregnancy and bone health.