Chapter 1 of The Simple Seven book
Health Hasn’t Been Simple, But It Can Be
“The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.”
– Mark Twain
Eleven years ago I was trying hard to be healthy.
Following the guidelines of the day, I stopped eating red meat and eggs. I cut out salt and cooked with canola oil. I kept coffee to a minimum. Every other day, I went to the gym and did the requisite cardio and weight training. I was never a smoker or drug user. I drank alcohol occasionally.
All of this was paying off. At age 40, my cholesterol and blood pressure were normal. I wasn’t at risk for heart disease. My doctor gave me a clean bill of health.
Still, I was stressed out. Chronically. How could I avoid it? Work, family, relationships. A fast-paced lifestyle with little downtime. I wasn’t in touch with my feelings. Typical story. Under the surface, I was unhappy. I aspired to pursue creative work instead of the corporate jobs I’d had all my life. I had insomnia and was always fatigued. But I was doing everything right. Or so I thought.
Then one day I found a tiny lump in one of my breasts. It was cancer. I thought, How can that be? Cancer doesn’t run in my family … and I thought I was healthy.
Apparently, I was at risk. My doctor said it was partially because I was older and hadn’t had children.1Stress is a factor.2 I grew up around secondhand smoke.3 I’d been drinking a lot of soy milk in recent years.4 In the past, I’d overused antibiotics.5 I had eight silver tooth fillings.6 Early in my career, I’d been exposed to toxic polymers while writing test-lab software7 and maybe to x-rays while engineering a CAT scan machine. For the past five years, I’d breathed in New York City’s polluted air.8 And just prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite.9
With so many risks, you’d think my cancer would be inevitable, except for this: Scientists say it takes a lot for cancer to occur. A cell must mutate twice before becoming a cancer cell, a process that can take years.10 And white blood cells are programmed to seek out and destroy a cancer cell before it replicates into a tumor – in a strong immune system.11 Apparently, my immune system was compromised by at least one factor, probably many.
The bottom line is this: I wasn’t healthy.
Later, when I began to research, I discovered the reasons why. Many of the “healthy” things I’d been doing were actually unhealthy. But, most critical, I hadn’t been doing the basics. The Simple Seven I propose in this book. I had overlooked the cornerstones of good health.
It finally became clear to me that I really didn’t understand how to be healthy.
Ultimately, having cancer would transform my life for the better, but I didn’t see it that way at first. I was terrified. I began conventional treatment without question, but my fears escalated after a few medical missteps. I felt I had no choice but to step in and take charge of my health. I was fighting for my life.
I began to research and ask a lot of questions. It was stressful, deciding whether to undergo chemotherapy. Though my tumor was tiny and stage 1, cancer had already invaded my blood and lymphatic vessels. Had the cancer spread to other parts of my body? Looking for a prognosis, I found a study on a physician’s medical website, but one of my doctors confirmed a flaw in it.
I asked the pathologists from two leading cancer hospitals to put my biopsy slides under their microscopes and explain my report. Each doctor had a different opinion about my case, but I decided to begin chemotherapy because one of them said it was a cure.
But the chemo would put me at risk for other cancers. And I later learned that the predicted survival rate would only be five years. Though the chemo would target my cancer cells, it would also touch every one of my body’s other cells, trillions of them, and all but destroy my liver. I would take a long time to recover – or would I? And if I did, would my body ever be the same? Was all this worth reducing my chance of recurrence by only 3 percent?
I began to research and learn how the body heals itself. I read accounts of cancer survivors: an Oxford professor with a few months’ prognosis living for many years after changing his diet and practicing Chinese breathing exercises;12 the raw, vegan Gerson diet that survivors had used to reduce and eradicate their tumors altogether;13 a PhD researcher who helped cancer patients heal through guided imagery.14 I was encouraged.
I began to practice what I was learning, successfully stimulating my own body’s healing. I increased my energy by changing my diet and drinking pure water. I strengthened my immune system with restful sleep. I overcame days of fatigue after just one hour of acupuncture and acupressure15 I applied what I’d learned, and I was feeling better.
Despite these improvements, the chemo was too damaging and I began to develop new problems: a racing heart, hypothyroidism, rosacea, chronic insomnia, food allergies, and chemical sensitivities that gave me rashes. My body temperature dropped to 95°F. The cancer wasn’t making me sick, the chemo was.
It was risky and I was nervous, but I decided to stop chemo and forgo subsequent treatment altogether – which would have been several weeks of daily radiation treatments followed by taking tamoxifen, a drug that inhibits estrogen production and forces early menopause, for up to 10 years. When I told my doctor, he assured me that, for my case, I had made a sound, informed decision.
I decided to take a natural approach. You name it, I did it. Three months of bowel cleansing and colonics. Back-to-back liver and kidney cleanses. Hydrogen peroxide IVs. Enzyme therapy. Amino acid therapy. Dozens of daily vitamin and mineral supplements. Healing diets, one after the other. Juicing. Alkalizing. Homeopathy. Traditional Chinese medicine. Therapeutic massage. Yoga and transcendental meditation. And more.
Did these things work? Yes, and very well. Plus, they were healing. They didn’t make my body more sick. Some of them produced unpleasant side effects, but nothing compared to chemo. Still, I thought some of them were complicated and extreme. Nevertheless, in about a year my health was restored. In fact, I felt better than ever. And I remain cancer free today.
But understand this: My story isn’t unique – illness can happen to anyone. It can happen to you. The fact is, you need to take charge of your health – starting now.
Maybe you have. And maybe you’ve run into the same problems I did: You’ve found health information confusing and complicated. Why is that? Here are a few of the more significant reasons.
Why Is Health So Confusing?
One reason for our confusion is this:
Health information is constantly changing.
It’s a massive, ever-growing body of information that we believe – today. Because what’s true today wasn’t always true. And what’s true today might not be true in the future. For instance, bloodletting was practiced until the late 19th century. It became popular in ancient times with the discovery that arteries and veins contain blood, not air, as was previously thought.16
But don’t laugh. Just a few decades ago, doctors were routinely removing tonsils. Today, we understand that tonsils have been designed to trap infections and will become swollen when they’re overworked – not because they’re diseased. Today, we’re holding on to our tonsils.
Nutrients are even more confusing. Every day, it seems a new, important nutrient is being emphasized. One day it’s vitamin C, the next day it’s calcium. Vitamin D – no, vitamin D2. The resveratrol in grapes, the lycopene in tomatoes. Which ones should we take? Which ones do we really need? How can we know?
Adding to our confusion is this:
Everybody has an opinion.
A good example is diet.
Those who don’t eat meat – vegans, vegetarians, and others – will point out that meat is hard to digest. Undigested animal proteins can putrefy in the intestines and lead to digestive problems – even cancer. And the immune system will attack undigested proteins as they would other invaders because the body doesn’t recognize them. Which means that the immune system is averted from fighting off the real invaders. Not to mention that we’ve missed out on getting needed protein.
But those who eat meat – like Paleo dieters – will say that critical nutrients are found almost exclusively in meat, namely vitamin B12. One important function of vitamin B12 is to mitigate chronic stress. Vitamin B12 is unique in that the body stores and reuses it for up to five years. Which may explain why those who stop eating meat may not become deficient in vitamin B12 for some time. Though we can rely on other food sources or the minute levels of vitamin B12 that may be produced in a healthy intestine, neither option can provide adequate levels of vitamin B12 to truly counteract today’s stressful world, or so say the meat eaters.
Some meat eaters will qualify that animal food shouldn’t be cooked. Eat raw eggs, raw, unpasteurized cheese, sushi, carpaccio, they’ll say. It’s the heat of cooking and pasteurization that destroys the protein and causes indigestion.
Cooking destroys food nutrients – of particular importance, vital enzymes, even a food’s life force,17 say those who eat raw, plant-based diets.
But eating cooked food can be healing, say plant-based macrobiotics proponents, as do meat-eating ayurvedic advocates. Certainly, healing is an important aspect of health.
The French just eat the freshest food possible. Raw oysters on the half shell, duck, raw cheese, butter, fresh greens, fruit. It tastes good, no? A mix of plant and animal food, fresh from the market, some cooked, some raw, prepared in flavorful ways – that preserve the food’s nutrients. As I’ll discuss in the Eat chapter, the French might just have the right idea.
But that’s the thing about opinions. Everybody has a point when you look at it from their perspective. Especially when their opinions are supported by a compelling body of research.
Only, research can be wrong. Another reason for our confusion.
Health information is only as good as the research that supports it, and therein lies a real problem:
Research has known problems.
In an article published in The Atlantic, David H. Freedman wrote about John Ioannidis, MD, DSc, who has become “one of the world’s foremost experts on the credibility of medical research.” Freedman says that Ioannidis has shown:
again and again, and in many different ways, that much of what biomedical researchers conclude in published studies – conclusions that doctors keep in mind when they prescribe antibiotics or blood-pressure medication, or when they advise us to consume more fiber or less meat, or when they recommend surgery for heart disease or back pain – is misleading, exaggerated, and often flat-out wrong. He charges that as much as 90 percent of the published medical information that doctors rely on is flawed.18
One of the challenges with research is the analysis. Take the Seven Countries Study, which began in the 1950s. The study supported a small but growing body of research showing a correlation between saturated fat and cholesterol and coronary heart disease. When the findings hit the mainstream, suddenly we were urged to stop eating eggs, butter, and beef, and eat egg whites, vegetable oil, and white chicken meat instead. Entirely new food industries were spawned around the new dietary recommendations that still prevail today.
However, recent research says something different: No significant evidence exists that saturated fat increases the risk of coronary heart disease,19 according to a reanalysis of 21 earlier studies with almost 348,000 participants.
Scientists have learned that saturated fat and cholesterol are required for good health. Cell walls depend on saturated fat and cholesterol for their rigidity, ensuring proper functioning – that nutrients can enter a cell, waste can get out, and toxins are banished altogether. Considering that the body’s billions of cells make up tissues, organs, bones, and blood vessels, healthy cell walls are key to overall health (and anti- aging!).20
Cholesterol isn’t the bad guy.21 Cholesterol is an antioxidant. And it serves a protective function. Together, cholesterol, calcium (the “hard” substance in hardened arteries), and a few other materials make up plaque, the substance that’s used to patch damaged arteries – from eating a lot of sugar, for example. Meaning that, for most people, having high cholesterol isn’t the problem – the problem is too much sugar.
Today, eggs, butter, and beef are being redeemed as healthy foods. An egg is one of nature’s perfect foods. And a few pats of butter won’t necessarily go to your thighs – the fat is mostly used as energy. The fats in butter and beef have properties that kill viruses and unfriendly bacteria and fight cancer. These foods are only unhealthy when they’re processed and overeaten.
So, what does today’s research say about the causes of coronary heart disease? It points to: (1) trans fats, (2) sugar, and (3) refined carbs like bread, pasta, and bagels.22
That’s good to know. Apparently, we’re making progress – research is improving. But, in the meantime, there’s been a fallout from the dietary recommendations resulting from one finding reported more than 50 years ago: Rates for diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity – and, ironically, coronary heart disease, where this story began – have all dramatically increased.23
Certainly, research has value. We continue to learn more about how the human body works. But we can’t afford to rely on what may be inconclusive information. Though we believe that our goal is to be healthy – and it is – what’s really at stake is that you don’t want to get sick.
As I’ve learned.
You can take charge of your health. You must take charge of your health. You’d be foolish not to. Especially when, at its core, health can be simple.
Health Can Be Simple
Health: The state of being free from illness.
The condition of being sound in body, mind, and spirit.
There’s good news.
Health can be simple.
It’s how the human body is designed. Your body is equipped with a myriad of brilliant little helpers that keep you healthy. And to trigger them, all you have to do is seven things. It’s that simple.
You can stop trying so hard to be healthy.
You’re doing it right now as you read this, without even realizing it. Your heart continues to beat. You digest food and absorb nutrients. Your skin blocks germs from invading. Your immune system hunts down viruses and unfriendly bacteria.
All of this is going on around the clock and you’re not even thinking about it. You’re not even trying. Your body is constantly taking care of you, keeping you healthy while you go about your day.
There’s more good news:
You can restore your body.
A broken bone mending is a miracle. So is the liver completely regenerating itself, even when it’s been reduced to a fraction of its original size. And though sometimes cells can mutate into cancer cells, the immune system is always busy at work disposing of them. Our bodies may break down from time to time, but they’re designed to repair and regenerate.
Understand this: The human body is incredibly adaptable and resilient. Health problems don’t develop overnight. Health problems develop slowly, over time, usually beginning with minor symptoms, discomforts, and aches and pains. Within a few years we might start taking medications, seeing the first signs of aging. Over a few decades, full-blown illness, disease, and aging seem to pop up out of nowhere.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
We need to change how we think about our bodies, about what they can do. The human body is a beautiful, fluid, dynamic, living organism. We have a rock-hard belief that our health declines inevitably with aging. But not necessarily. You can remain healthy as you age, and can even reverse some of aging’s negative effects, including effects on our appearance. In this book you’ll learn how. And I promise you: It’s simple.
But what about my genes? [Insert illness] runs in my family.
Your genes can play a role in your health, but they don’t have to.
A tiny percentage of our genes uniquely defines who we are: our physical characteristics, like hair and eye color, and our personality. Also included in the 1 percent are genes that designate whether diseases “run in the family,” which is another way of saying whether or not we have the potential for developing a certain disease. This doesn’t mean that the disease will develop, only that it can.
We may be stuck with the genes we’re born with, making it seem that we’re stuck with the potential for developing certain diseases. But epigenetics24 is changing our perspective.
Epigenetics is a field of biology that’s uncovering how our lifestyle can trigger a potential for disease – or not. According to epigenetics, our body places gene markers on top of our genes (“epi” means “on top of”), turning them on or off, turning the potential for a disease on or off. Which gene markers your body lays down depends upon your lifestyle. The exact number of epigenetic markers is unknown, but conservative estimates are at least in the millions.
Consider the power of epigenetics. Studies show that identical twins, born with the same set of genes, develop different health problems based upon their individual lifestyles.25
Interestingly, gene markers can be passed to our offspring and future generations, implying that, along with our parents’ genes, we inherit a genetic snapshot of their lifestyles at conception. With that potential plus our own lifestyle, which is also learned and adopted from our parents, is it any wonder that diseases continue to run in families?
Heredity can play a role in your health, but it doesn’t have to.
It can be overridden by your lifestyle.
How can you override your genes? By doing the The Simple Seven.
Does this sound too good to be true? It isn’t. But it is good. And it is true. Are you ready to get started?
The Simple Seven
Now, how many times have we heard that for good health we need to stick to the basics: eat right, exercise, get a good night’s sleep, quit smoking, and drink alcohol in moderation?
But most of us don’t.
Why isn’t this advice sticking?
Because we’ve made it hard work. We believe: no pain, no gain.
Well, nobody likes pain. We’re not supposed to. Pain – whether it’s physical or emotional – is a signal that something’s wrong. Pain and hard work run counter to our natural state.
Humans are designed for simplicity and pleasure.
Doing The Simple Seven is simple and pleasurable; they add to your life. They work with your body, not against it. But most importantly, they work.
In the following chapters, you’ll learn seven simple things you can do to change your health. Seven Body Basics. Each chapter details a different Body Basic. In plain and simple terms you’ll learn the science behind them, along with a healthy dose of common sense and practicality.
The Seven Body Basics are:
The Simple Seven work with – not against – your body. To power everything you do. Whether it’s chewing an apple, feeling elated, or taking a nap. Writing a report, opening your car door, or brainstorming. Doing the Body Basics gives your body what it needs to do its job.
The human body is brilliantly designed. The body is fueled with nutrients in food, water, and oxygen: Eat, Drink, and Breathe. The body Clears waste, its natural byproduct. The body is vitalized when you Sleep, Move, and Feel. By doing the The Simple Seven, you’ll give what your body what it needs to take care of itself.
Here’s a short preview of what you’ll learn in the following chapters:
In the Eat chapter, you’ll learn, once and for all, which foods are healthy, or packed with nutrients – and flavor.
You don’t have to chug eight glasses of water a day, as I’ll discuss in the Drink chapter. But you do have to stay hydrated, and it’s simple to do.
In the Move chapter, you’ll learn why dancing and shooting hoops can provide the same benefits as working out at the gym – maybe even more.
In the Sleep chapter, I’ll explain how it’s possible to get enough restful sleep living in today’s busy world.
Inhale and exhale. The simplest of the Body Basics is perhaps the most impactful, as you’ll learn in the Breathe chapter. I’ll explain why.
In the Clear chapter, I’ll talk about something most people shy away from: bowel movements. They’re essential for good health. And they’re designed to be effortless.
Laughing so hard that you cry, music really moving you, and feeling love, deeply and profoundly – as you’ll learn in the Feel chapter – make you healthier.
Each chapter is divided into two parts. The first part explains the science, followed by a “how to” section. You can jump to the “how to” section if you’d like to get started right away and learn the science later.
The “how to” section is set up like a workbook, so you can pick and choose which tips and suggestions you’d like to incorporate into your lifestyle.
In each chapter, I’ll incorporate some basic principles that we often talk about but don’t always apply. I’ll highlight how to:
Keep it simple. This goes without saying. Health is simple, so you’ll want to keep it simple. I’ll explain what to do.
Do what works for you. Health isn’t one size fits all. Everybody’s different, with a different set of genes and state of health – and even personal preferences. Only you can know what’s best for you. I’ll provide you with information that will help you decide.
Do everything in moderation. Your body constantly strives to maintain equilibrium, no matter what you command it to do. Overdoing even “healthy” things can upset this balance. I’ll tell you what to avoid doing.
Listen to your body. Your body is always talking to you, letting you know how it’s doing. You need to listen to it and heed what it’s saying. I’ll point out what you should listen for.
Give it time. Your body will restore itself if you give it what it needs and the time to do it. You’ll marvel at the changes you’ll see. I’ll share with you what changes I’ve seen.
But here’s the thing: Your body wants you to do all of the Seven Body Basics – not one or a few of them. Your body wants you to do them together. Because together they trigger all of the brilliant mechanisms that keep you healthy, vibrant, and beautiful. You’ll feel better – have more energy. You’ll look better – younger. And you’ll shed that extra body fat – without having to try hard to do it. Because that’s how your body is designed to work.
Which is why I’ve included another chapter: Look Good. In this final chapter, I’ll explain a very important tenet of good health:
Good health = a beautiful, youthful, lean you.
It’s natural for us to want to look good – to be our very best. It’s a sign of good health.
Now, what about this: What about when something pops up in your day that stops you from doing one of the Body Basics? What if you have a social function and have to miss your dance class or basketball league? Or you have a late night? What if a coworker brings doughnuts to work?
It’s okay – just don’t stop doing The Simple Seven altogether. Once you’re doing the Sevn Body Basics all the time, the one-offs won’t make a difference. Until then, just keep going. Every day, keeping it simple. Doing what works for you and doing everything in moderation. Listening to you body, and giving it time.
Enjoy doing the Simple Seven. You don’t have to try so hard to be healthy anymore.
If you’d like to track your progress, you can do so on a calendar. Every day you can rate how you did with each of the Body Basics and make notes, such as what foods you ate that day, your energy level, and the improvements you’re beginning to see.
That’s all there is to it. Simple.
So, let’s get started.
Eat – Drink – Move – Sleep – Breathe – Clear – Feel
Feel very good, indeed.
The Simple Seven © Marlene Veltre 2016 All rights reserved