YHATC004 – Less Human, More Unhealthy (Part 2)

MainLogoSmall

Subscribe to the Your Health At The Crossroads podcast on iTunes.  New podcast episodes are released by Sunday or Monday (and will post on YourHealthAtTheCrossroads.com on Mondays).

This podcast is Part 2 of a series of podcasts I’ve titled, “Less Human, More Unhealthy.”  What we’re talking about is my feeling that we as a society suffer from many of the ills that we suffer from because of the fact that we continue to move further and further away from the essence of being human.

We eat in ways that are less human, we interact with the earth in ways that are less human, we interact with other humans in less than human ways, and we fail to be physically active as humans were created to be.  And because of all of this, we suffer.  We are dealing with ever-increasing rates of lifestyle-caused diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart Disease and Cancer…and a lot of this is because we are taking these human bodies of ours and using them in less than human ways.

Last podcast, we talked about how our relationship with food has become disconnected.  Instead of focusing on eating foods that are more natural…coming from the earth as we do, we consume large amounts of man-made foods, which just don’t work with our bodies the same way that natural, real foods do.  We have also failed to have any part in growing and raising our own food, which lends to us taking the availability of food for granted and misunderstanding what it means to eat healthily and how food “works,” so to speak.

In this podcast, I want to talk about our relationship with our earth, how we’ve reduced our level of interaction with it, how doing so is less than human, and how it is specifically hurting us.

How many of y’all know that Disney has some darn good movie songs?  Yes, I’m talking Disney songs right now, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I know that I am not the only grown somebody out there who has listened to some of those songs – especially the ones from the 90s when I was coming up – and hasn’t had to catch yourself because your eyes started watering and you got that throat lump.  Even as an adult.  Yeah, I said it.  I’m not ashamed, man.

Anyway, the main Disney song that gets me even now is “The Circle of Life” from the 1993 movie “The Lion King.”  Good gracious…When Rafiki lifts up Simba and that music picks up, that’s almost enough to make you shout!

Another reason I like that song, though, aside from the excellent production and what not, is because of the words.  “The Circle of Life” basically talks about how all of us on this planet – all of the life forms like plants, animals and humans, etc. – are connected on this great Earth.  All of our lives are interconnected; we all need each other.

And it’s true!  We do all need each other!  Plants give off oxygen in exchange for our carbon dioxide, and we give off carbon dioxide in exchange for their oxygen.  Humans and animals eat plants and other animals to live, and when any life form dies, it decomposes and feeds other forms of life such as plants and bacteria.  All of these connections are plain to see, and that’s not even the half of how interconnected literally everything on this earth is.

The earth is a closed-chain system.  What I mean is, the earth is essentially self-sustaining.  Everything contained under the atmosphere that surrounds this planet is necessary for something else that’s on the earth.  It’s crazy when you think about it.  There truly is a circle of life at play.

But you know what?  When I look at it, it seems like there is one cog in the system that is always messing up the whole system.  There’s one link in the chain with cracks in it.  There’s one life form that seems to want to essentially break out of the “circle of life,” and that is us.  Humans.

If you think about it, we are the ones who are always doing something that disconnects us from this earth that we live on.  We enclose ourselves in these buildings of ours with air conditioning and artificial lighting.  We’re constantly trying to shield ourselves from the cold, the hot, the light, the dark, the rain and the wind.  We partake of many foods that, while they come from the earth in some way, shape or form, have been so denatured by our own processes and procedures that, if you let them sit out for a long time, they won’t even rot like regular food would.  We are literally the only beings on this earth who separate ourselves from the earth like this.  Well, except for our pets, who follow along with our practices because they really have no choice.

These days, I am thoroughly convinced that our aversion to the earth that we live on is a great mistake and a huge contributor to our bad health.  I think it only makes sense when we are all only dust which comes from the earth, and which eventually returns to the earth.

Life-Giving Sunlight

Let’s take the sun, for example.  As a Georgian, I have been one to partake of the good ole Georgia “wet” heat that comes during the summers (and seemingly more in the springs and falls these days, too).  When the sun is at its hottest between about 10 and 4, that humid heat can be smothering. Nobody really wants to be outside around then.

But the sun, which we look at as merely a hot light to get away from, is so, so much more than that.  It’s incredibly crucial to our well-being, as well as to our moods and to the food that we survive off of.

On that note, we know that plants use a process called photosynthesis by which they take energy from the sun and convert it to energy that they use to survive.  We partake of this energy when we eat the plants.

And really, we have our own photosynthesis process, so to speak.  By now, you probably know that our skins use the sun to produce vitamin D.  Did you know that the sun is our primary source for the vitamin?  Food isn’t.  Matter of fact, foods are generally a comparatively poor source of vitamin D, which is why it’s mandated that various foods, such as milk, be enriched with vitamin D, I presume to make up for our lack of it due to us not being in the sun enough.

Another question:  Did you know that most of us walking around are vitamin D deficient?  Yep, it’s true.  Unless you have a job that keeps you outside most days, it’s highly likely that you have a deficiency in vitamin D.  I learned a few months ago myself that I was severely deficient in the vitamin.  Whereas the standard for optimal blood levels of vitamin D is around 50 ng/mL, mine was 15, man…which is categorized as being severely deficient.  And ultimately it didn’t surprise me because I work inside of a building for at least 8 hours a day, and then once I get home, I’m usually inside for most of the day then, too.  Tired, man.  It’s the skruggle.

And by the way, vitamin D is no trivial nutrient.  It is protective against many cancers, it keeps your bones strong, and also protects you from heart disease.  It is incredibly important for disease prevention, and yet, most of us are likely vitamin D deficient to some degree.  Especially if you are darker skinned.

Now, I am black, and I recall that we would often say to each other as kids after being outside for a while that we’d better get inside because we didn’t want to “get blacker.”  What a terrible thing to say, man.  For one, some of that probably stemmed from not being comfortable with one’s own race and skin color.  But also, our fixation on not getting darker could perhaps be one of the main reasons that darker skinned folks tend to suffer various diseases at higher proportions than lighter skinned individuals.  So if you are African American, Hispanic, Native American, Indian or another darker skinned race, you actually need to be in the sun more than lighter skinned individuals.  It’s true.  The more pigment your skin has, the more protected your skin is from the sun, but also the more exposure you require to assimilate vitamin D and whatever else the sun provides us.

Fresh air is another one of those things that’s incredibly important for us to get from the real world, but that we lack since we spend so much time inside.  When you’re inside, you are literally breathing in carpet lint, cleaning chemicals, air freshening chemicals, and perhaps even molds and other microbes that might be inside of a building.  In your car, you’re taking in the exhaust of the many vehicles in front of you and around you.  You might also breathe in second-hand cigarette smoke depending on your environment.  All of this stuff is terrible for your body and for your lungs in particular.  It’s why Lung Cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers even among non-smokers.

When you inhale, your body pulls air into air sacs in your lungs, and from there the oxygen is taken into your bloodstream and then throughout your body so that your body is fully oxygenated.  But what happens when you are constantly drawing in bad quality air from the indoors rather than from outside?  Your body is under-oxygenated, and it’s perhaps even poisoned to an extent when the various chemicals are inhaled and distributed throughout your body.  It might smell good in the building, and you might feel like the bathroom really needed that air freshener because somebody lit it up, but the truth is that even those ‘good’ smells aren’t good for you.

There are several other ways that us not being in direct contact with the earth is apparently harming our bodies that I’m not going to go in depth on, but I’ll mention them in brief:

Bacteria

You may or may not know that bacteria are literally everywhere around us.  They’re not just on rotten food or in yogurt.  I used to think that such a concept was pretty nasty, until I understood that part of the reason that we’re alive is because of bacteria.  Good bacteria, that is.

Supposedly, if you were to take all of the bacteria in your digestive system out and weigh it on a scale, it would weigh several pounds.  That’s crazy, man.  And all of those bacteria help you digest and pull nutrients out of your food.

But what we’re used to these days are highly sanitized environments, where everything is “Lysol-ed” and bleached to make sure all bacteria around us are dead.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s good that we do this to some extent because there are some bacteria, like E. Coli and Salmonella, that you don’t want around because they can make you really sick.  But on the other hand, being exposed to the various bacteria around us actually develops our immune systems and makes us more healthy.  In some ways, living in our ultra-sanitized environments is harmful to us.

I heard on NPR just a week or so ago that superbugs – bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics – are a very significant threat today.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that.  And one of the main reasons that there is such a superbug threat is because we use antibiotics too much in our society.  They’re prescribed every time we have a little sniffle, even if we’re not dealing with a bacterial infection.  They’re used in our food as well, when the cows, chickens and so on that we consume are fed antibiotics to protect them from infection in the unnatural, crowded environments that they live in.

There’s also evidence that babies born in ultra-sterilized environments or exposed to antibiotics early in live are at a higher risk of developing food allergies and autoimmune disorders.  Apparently gut bacteria help keep your immune system from becoming over-reactive as it does with those kind of health issues.  Look it up sometime.

Grounding

There’s this concept called grounding that I don’t know a lot about from the health standpoint but which a lot of folks swear by.  I understand the general concept because I have to wear grounding straps a lot on my engineering job so that I don’t zap electronics when I handle them, but that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

Anyway though, the general concept of grounding for health is that you regularly practice going barefoot and walking on the ground.  Doing so helps you get rid of extra electrons that can build up on your body during the day, and which can be damaging to your health apparently.  Again, I don’t know much about this so do your own research, but part of me feels like that connection of bare skin to the earth that we come from has to enhance health somehow.

Circadian Rhythm

You know how your phone, tablet or PC sets its clock via the internet?  Well, all living organisms have an internal clock that sets itself off of the earth’s natural rhythms with the sun and moon.  We actually sync with the earth’s rhythms if we allow ourselves to.

But when we constantly keep ourselves up past dark, spending time in artificial light when we should be sleep, this knocks us off the clock.  This can apparently be quite detrimental because when our rhythm is off, our sleep rhythms are disrupted as well, and because your body repairs itself during certain cycles of sleep, you can perhaps wear your body out faster by not abiding by these rhythms.  I can’t say that I abide by this perfectly myself, but Lord knows that I’m working towards it.

Next time you get a chance, pay attention to birds at dusk.  They don’t play, man.  If you watch them, you’ll see them flying home as fast as they can.  They don’t stay up to watch late shows.  They don’t worry about trying to eat late at night or whatever.  If they didn’t finish doing something, they don’t care, because when it’s time to roost, it’s time to roost.  As I prepare this, my wife and I are on a mini-vacation staying on a property that actually has a chicken coop on it.  I noticed that at dusk, even though there was still a little light outside, most of the chickens had gone up high inside of the coop to roost.  They didn’t care if it was still a little bright.  It was time to go to sleep.  You gotta admire them for not being hard-headed like us, always staying up like we won’t have time to get stuff done tomorrow.

In summary, what is your relationship with this earth from which we all come?  Do you tend to shield yourself from it as much as possible?  If so, I challenge you to embrace it.  Let’s do something new this week to get ourselves outside more.  Take a walk at a certain time every day to make yourself catch some of those life-giving sun rays.  Make yourself go to bed when it goes dark at least one day this week and see how you feel.  Like I said before, we’re the only organisms out here who try to avoid the earth, but if we change our attitudes, we might actually be able to enjoy better quality of health.  I think this makes perfect sense.


Have a question you want answered on the Your Health At The Crossroads show?  Tweet your question to @ShawnB2BFitness, put it on the YHATC Facebook page, or call (478)216-8536 and leave a voicemail.  You can also send your question via e-mail  to shawn@yourhealthatthecrossroads.com.

Start a Discussion...

%d bloggers like this: