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A Systems Approach to Wellness

© Joseph Pizzorno ND
 (Excerpted from Total Wellness: Improve Your Health By
Understanding the Body’s Healing Systems
, Prima Publishing)

After many years of extensive medical practice, I have come to believe that relatively few causes or imbalances underlie most diseases. However, recognizing these imbalances takes careful study because most people suffer from several such causes or syndromes. In addition, most diseases are caused by a combination of syndromes; sometimes the same disease can be caused by different syndromes. The actual symptoms or disease a person manifests is determined by his or her imbalances/ susceptibilities, the lifestyle he or she chooses, and the environmental challenges he or she experiences.

While this may appear complex at first, the symptoms we experience give us important, understandable messages about our susceptibilities. A step-by-step approach, starting with the most severe symptoms, allows us to recognize and focus on the susceptibilities or imbalances causing us the most trouble. Reestablishing balance in one area or syndrome may then more clearly reveal another, which can then be resolved, allowing us to progressively improve our health.

The Manifestation of Disease
The actual disease a person manifests is determined by the balance between his or her genetic susceptibility, lifestyle, nutritional status, toxic influences, and any previous damage or abnormality. For example, at the beginning of winter, many people develop upper respiratory tract infections. Why then, why there, and why do some escape? As can be seen in Figure 3-1, a respiratory infection develops only after four factors are in place: (1) heating buildings in the winter produces dry air that irritates the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract; (2) deficiencies of vitamins A and C (crucial for production of the mucous, which protects the membranes from irritants) allows the dry air to damage the respiratory tract; (3) consumption of excess sugar suppresses the white cells' ability to fight bacteria; (4) leaving the system vulnerable to pathogenic bacteria.


Figure 3-1 The Manifestation of Disease

The signs and symptoms of the above syndromes are fairly easy to understand, and most of the causes can be recognized and taken care of. The process is often complicated by the unfortunate fact that most of us suffer from more than one imbalance, and some of the signs and symptoms overlap. Clearing one underlying syndrome may therefore reveal another, which must then be resolved.

It is relatively easy to utilize drugs (and sometimes herbs and nutrients) to clear up the symptoms of disease, but as long as the underlying imbalances or impairments to healing continue, ill health will simply resurface again and again as either the same disease or as another disease that shares the same underlying syndrome(s). A far more effective approach, and the only one that will control health care costs and lead to improved health, is to recognize and control the underlying syndromes. Rather than focus on the disease, we need instead to focus on the individual and what is needed to improve his or her health, through dietary and lifestyle changes and the use of supplemental health-supporting nutrients and herbs that take into account our own unique biochemistry.

Many diseases have multiple causes. This highlights another reason why our current disease orientation is ineffective; it leads to the belief that each disease is an isolated problem rather than the end result of multiple insults to the body.

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About The Author
A leader in the field of natural medicine, Dr. Pizzorno is a practical visionary. His uniting the healing traditions of natural medicine with the rigors of the scientific method has resulted in major advances. Co-founder and founding president of Bastyr University, he led Bastyr to become the first ever accredited, multidisciplinary university of natural medicine in the United......more
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