How Healthy is Your Tree?

Giant banyan tree in Haleakala National Park
To me, health is like a tree. What you see on top is totally dependent on what you have underground. If you have roots that are shallow and starting to rot, the branches will not be strong and vibrant. If it gets too much water and not enough sunshine, you will see it in the branches. If the soil is nutrient-poor, the leaves will be yellow. But what happens to the tree if it only has one or two solid roots? Over the years, the other roots have been damaged and they are unable to support the tree any longer. The tree gets lopsided and starts to really lean, threatening to fall over. That one healthy root can no longer sustain the tree and it takes a tumble. It may take years for that to happen or if a big gust of wind comes, it could be quick. Just like us. We need to have a lot of healthy roots. But what are our roots? Well, optimally they are a healthy diet, supplements that provide nutrients our diet is lacking, exercise, clean water and periodic detox of environmental toxins, just to name a few. If we choose to make sure that just one of those roots is being maintained, the others are going to fall down on the job and we will be completely out of balance. Diseases will start to creep in, energy will decrease, stress will have a bigger effect on us and lots more. IMG_2127 Not seeing the tree thing? Here is another metaphor for the same thing. Think about a bike. Do you ever wonder about the importance of spokes? Do you even know what they do? Spokes are quiet and have a thankless job. You don’t really notice if they are working but as soon as they aren’t, you have a problem. They add strength to the rim. They transfer your leg power from the hub to the wheel. They support your weight on the wheel. So they are necessary for the bike to work well. And there are lots of spokes on a bike. If one goes out, it puts stress on the others and eventually, they collapse under pressure. They all need to be in good shape to do what they are designed to do. But what about genes? What part do they play in our health? Not as much as was once thought. “Genes load the gun; the environment pulls the trigger.” So is it possible to over-ride genes? In many cases, ABSOLUTELY!!! But on the flipside, a bad environment can overcome good genes. Genetics, lifestyle and environment. It’s a three-pronged fork. Sometimes, traditional medicine is so focused on the symptoms that the actual cause is never addressed. Functional medicine looks for the underlying problems. They look into all three of those areas in depth and detail and see how a person’s body is reacting to various stimuli and situations. Example- my husband and son have a predisposition to charred food whereas other people might not. They try to avoid it (sort of but not really), knowing that it could have a negative impact on their health. Or it could be mold. There are tons of sensitivities that some people have and others don’t. They only know this because of testing done with their functional doctor. Why a functional doctor and what exactly do they do? The difference in Functional medicine and traditional Western medicine is in the focus. It’s long-term care where the doctor finds the source of the problem and works to make sure it does not return versus alleviating the symptoms. Functional doctors definitely use medicines when necessary, however, it’s often short term and not the first line of defense. Traditional doctors often don’t have time in their daily schedule to look into your genetics and environment and lifestyle. And many haven't been trained to do so. Isn’t it worth it to have a doctor take the time to understand what is going on with you and working to make sure it doesn’t continue? There’s so much to a “one size doesn’t fit all” approach. Everyone has specific needs and just because two people have the same symptoms, it doesn't mean they need the same treatment. I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene several years ago. This gene predisposes me to breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Plus, I have a family history of both those cancers. After meeting with a genetics counselor and seeing the statistics on having surgery or not, I opted to have both a hysterectomy and double mastectomy. A few years out of that decision, and after having learned much more about the part genetics play, I do not think I would have made the same decision. I probably would have still opted for the hysterectomy since ovarian cancer is so difficult to catch early. However, the mastectomy now seems very over-zealous. I so wish that I had known to get a functional doctor involved who would have delved into far more than just the genetic marker. The opinions I got were very much a “one size fits all” approach. There are so many ways to "turn genes off" with diet, supplements and other environmental choices. It's a fascinating field called epigenetics. I saw this quote not long ago and unfortunately, do not have the source but I wanted to share it. “The vast majority of genes do not determine your health. The majority of genes do not control the outcome of activity in your cells. Gene expression is what counts. What makes a gene express and affect your biology is: the environment. SO how you think, feel, your diet and lifestyle on a daily basis are what affects your gene expression.” Pay attention to what you put into and on your body- skin care products, household cleaning products, GMOs, the water you drink, the quality of supplements you take, the quality of essential oils you use, the medicines you take. All these things will have side effects - either positive or negative. Make sure you are doing what you can every day to achieve the results you are after!

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