When you get up in the morning, if you have the enthusiasm to be of some use to someone everyday, you are healthy. You can then forget the WHO's definition of health
"It takes more than just a good looking body. You've got to have the heart and soul to go with it."- Epictetus
I was attending a big conference, called the symposium, at the University of Central Florida Medical School, which had in attendance some of the leading lights of western scientific reductionist (vivisectionist) research. They ranged from those touched by Her Majesty's sword (Sir), or were Fellows of Isaac Newton's Royal Society to those that were nominated for the Nobel and may soon to get it. Most of them talked about inflammation as the root cause of atherosclerosis. At the end it was my turn, a villager from India, to talk about definition of health. Who is interested in that dry subject where there is nothing to get at the end of the day? If all became healthy where is this trillion dollar business, the medi-business?
One by one, the great researchers left the auditorium when I started and some before the start after lunch, an unusual experience for me. But the young students and some of my colleagues from India who had to, per force, did stay back. So I had some audience at the end. I tried to do justice to the title to the best of my abilities. One of the senior members in the audience said that my speech did not have the usual punch. Little did he realise my plight when I was seeing the big "guns" leaving one by one. I was happy that the Dean of the medical college stayed back for courtesy’s sake. I then thought I better put my thoughts, which I expressed there that day in print so that the readers could judge for themselves at the end of the day. I also thought I should put my thoughts on inflammation as the root cause of all ills man is heir to. My suspicion is that many powerful drug companies are ready with a host of anti-inflammatory molecules, which they want to push down the patients' throats with the help of these great researchers. That is what research these days is all about.
Kathryn A Taubert, PhD, of the American Heart Association sums up her opinion about inflammation and heart disease in the following words: "More than 80 million people in the US have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD)—for example, coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, or heart failure—and millions of others are at increased risk for these diseases. Over half of these people are also affected by arthritis and other disorders of the musculoskeletal system—the muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, and bursa. The pain associated with these chronic conditions is often treated with a class of medications known as nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, it has been shown that taking some NSAIDs can increase a person’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke. This risk is likely greatest in patients who have a prior history of CVD or who are at high risk for CVD. The information here will help you to understand what NSAIDs are and whether it is safe to take them.”
Newer studies funded heavily by drug companies however have a different story. "There is a decreased risk with methotrexate (MTX) use. The current evidence suggests that MTX use is associated with a reduced risk of CVD events in patients with RA. This suggests that reducing the inflammation in RA using MTX not only improves disease-specific outcomes but may also reduce collateral damage such as atherosclerosis. (But methotrexate is not an anti-inflammatory molecule. It is an anti-metabolite and it's reducing the risk does not mean that inflammation is the be all and end all of atherosclerosis.) TNF (tumour necrosis factor) inhibitor is another molecule the drug companies are after. They have been able to convince the world that combination of methotrexate and TNF could be a great improvement in treating inflammation in many situations. No one talks about the serious side effects these two drugs could have in the long run. Apart from any others a new blood cancer has also been attributed to TNF. Sitting there in the auditorium for 36 long hours listening to the varieties of studies showing the wonderful effect of inflammation in atherosclerosis was amusing, each one of them patting the other on the back. Today only this kind of vivisectionist research excites researchers, their funders and even the Nobel and Lashkar committees. Have we lost the woods in counting the trees? I can understand the funding sources have their vested interests. No industry wants its stakeholders to lose money but what of us doctors who are trained to keep society healthy? My worry is should we be used as pawns in their game?
I was expecting at least one of those great thought leaders would mention that some safe TNFs are there in the innocent Indian spice Turmeric (curcumin). Now that the Nobel committee picked up Chinese herbal medicine artemisinin for Nobel, may be they will look back at curcumin!
I strongly feel that if we change our educational system to produce "healthy" minds instead of just "wealthy" careers we would have humane researchers who would look at human problems through the holistic glass instead of looking at human beings in bits and pieces in their reductionist research. When the industry is in cahoots with scientific research, poor sick population suffers, why even the well segment of the population suffers thanks to the Alma Ata definition of health which, in short, says that health is absence of disease, which boils down to getting oneself screened to know if one is healthy. This WHO definition of health is a damagingly negative and serves only vested interest in the industry and their minions and not the common man. In the presentations, one thing came out stealthily is that if statins are given in real big doses (note the stress on dose) it becomes anti-inflammatory. How did statin suddenly become anti-inflammatory? If it does it could be dangerous as all the NSAIDs have killed people due to heart attacks and as such could not be anti-atherosclerotic.
I am reminded of what that romantic British poet wrote when the first industry started in England at the beginning of the so called the industrial revolution in 1802 AD.
The world is too much with us! The first four lines go like this:
"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"
William Wordsworth. 1802
How very true in medical industry funded research? This malady affects all medical research especially in the area of cancer research. Even the very foundation of the theory of atherosclerosis, Ancel Keys six-country study, was not authentic!
Indian Ayurveda has a very fine and ideal definition of health, which I call as humane definition as the latter allows the hapless human being to find out if he is ill or well without going to the doctor and without the need for expensive regular check-ups. Sushruta, the great Ayurvedic surgeon, had this definition in his text stanza: 12.7
The exact transliteration in English goes thus:
"The one who is established in the self and always full of bliss, whose doshas are all balanced, whose Agni is also balanced, whose dathus are in equilibrium, whose body excreta and impurities are removed in an orderly regular way, and whose mind and senses are also established in bliss- such an individual should be termed a healthy person. "
The contextual meaning simply is that when you get up in the morning if you find that you have enthusiasm to work selflessly and also at the same time have the enthusiasm to be of some use to someone everyday, you are healthy. If the answer to the above two questions are in the negative you might need help to get back your health.
Work is worship if this world has to go on. Compassion is at the root of our very existence on this planet. But for the generous donation of genes from the germs, our ancestors for two billion years on is planet, we would not have been here today. We are that nucleated cell that was born out of the DNA donation by germs. (Elisabet Sahtouris) We were the single nucleated cell, the zygote, in the mother's womb which multiplied into hundred odd trillion cells today as a happy colony of those human beings (nucleated cells) along with ten times that number of germ cells which are both incorporated inside our genes and others living in symbiosis with us for our good. The billions of germs in our gut manage our immune system, the shield against diseases.
Western medical science can only answer the question as to how does one get ill? But not the question why does one get ill? Now that we know that the human mind is the human body as an illusion, we understand that all diseases start and end in the human mind, human consciousness, which is not situated in the brain. Wilder Penfield, the Nobel winning Canadian neurosurgeon, did write that the mind does not reside inside the brain as recently as 1970 long before quantum physics showed that the body and the mind are but the two faces of the same coin. But the human consciousness, the mind, is a part of the universal consciousness, the universal mind. Just as Ayurveda had said the self healing capacity of the human body is very powerful. Recent study did show that to be true even in western medicine (Bingel et. al. The placebo Effect. Science Translational Medicine 2011; 3: 70) If I have to sell this self-healing in the west I better call it as quantum healing.
"A wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings, and learn how by his own thought to derive benefit from his illnesses."
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS.)