DAVID SUZUKI: Being healthy actually comes naturally to us all

Human body has ability to heal itself, if taken care of

One of the joys of being a grandparent is getting to see the world again through the eyes of a child.

Recently, I found my three-year-old grandson picking at a scab on his arm. It brought a flood of memories because I used to do the same thing.

It was amazing to watch the blood from an injury dry and, over days, form a scab. Before that scab was ready to fall off, I would pick at it to see what was underneath, and, wonder of wonders – it was fresh, pink skin.

It’s amazing how our bodies regenerate. We get hit and bruises form as blood leaks into tissues. Over time, the dark blue colour is diluted, and may move before disappearing. Even broken bones will heal and return to full strength.

And skin, our largest organ, is a miracle layer. It keeps the rest of us inside and everything else outside. It wards off infections, sheds water, cools us in hot weather, and repairs itself.

Still, viruses, bacteria, and parasites are ever-alert for opportunities to penetrate our protective layer. As well as frequent nicks and cuts, we have natural openings like mouths, ears, noses, anuses, and genitals, each with its own protective mechanisms. If an invading organism gets inside, we have an incredible barrier, our immune system, constantly generating new proteins to fight off infections we’ve never even encountered.

We have a defence system that recognizes and fights against any cell with a genetic makeup different from our own (which is why it’s so difficult to transplant organs, tissues, or cells).

Yet, pregnant women support a fetus that is genetically different for nine months.

Thanks to evolution, our bodies have powerful ways to ward off illness and infection and enable us to live long and healthy lives. Why, then, do health costs continue to climb at unsustainable and frightening rates?

Part of it is that medical care has become so sophisticated that doctors are able to treat more problems.

Another part is the ever-increasing cost of drugs. And with a medical system, people are more likely to seek help. Still, health-care costs can’t continue to rise forever. Governments are always looking for ways to reduce costs, often by offloading a greater share of the burden onto patients.

We must pay greater attention to keeping our bodies and minds healthy and able to heal. Yet we are making it difficult for our defences to work. We allow things to be sold that should not be called food.

Many have no nutritional value and lead to obesity, salt imbalance, and allergies.

We spew chemicals into the environment by the millions of tonnes.

Molecules pour into us through air, water, and food, overwhelming or weakening our protective immune systems.

According to Harvard University doctors Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, “Our behaviour is the result of a basic failure to recognize that human beings are an inseparable part of nature and that we cannot damage it severely without severely damaging ourselves.”

The medical literature tells us that the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more problems are though healthy diet and exercise.

Our bodies have evolved to move, yet we now use the energy in oil instead of muscles to do our work.  In 2007, the World Health Organization concluded that environmental factors contribute to 36,000 deaths and 13 per cent of the disease burden in Canada annually.

The Canadian Medical Association claims that air pollution causes more than 20,000 premature deaths a year.

According to author and environmental lawyer David R. Boyd, scientists estimate that environmental factors affecting heart and respiratory disease, cancer and birth problems contribute to anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 deaths, 78,000 to 194,000 hospitalizations, 600,000 to 1.5 million days in hospitals, and other problems, totalling between $3.6 billion and $9.1 billion in direct and indirect costs each year.

It’s easier, more effective, and cheaper to let healthy bodies fight off disease and infections than to weaken those defence mechanisms and then compensate for them medically.

If we want a stable health system, we must put more resources into reducing pollution and environmental degradation and creating a way of life that keeps bodies and minds happy and in good health.

Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Vancouver Island Crisis Society has seen a five per cent rise in call volumes compared to this time last year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Winter blues a concern for Vancouver Islanders during COVID-19 Christmas season

Statistics show British Columbians anticipate worsening mental health

Jason Soukochoff is wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, say Victoria police. (Courtesy VicPD)
Victoria police seek man with violent criminal history against elderly

Jason Soukochoff wanted on Canada-wide warrant for parole violations

Bystanders attend to a cyclist who is knocked to the pavement of Oak Bay Avenue. Witnesses say the cyclist was knocked off their bike in a dooring incident on Oak Bay Avenue at Fell Street at around 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday. 
(Daniel Opden Dries Photo)
UPDATED: VicPD tickets driver for ‘dooring’ cyclist on Oak Bay Avenue

Incident occurred at Oak Bay Avenue and Fell Street

West Shore RCMP pulled over a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee on Nov. 23 after noting that it didn’t appear safe for the road. (West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP pull over vehicle held together by tape and cargo strap

RCMP deemed the vehicle unsafe for the road and had it towed away

Salon owner Philip Ferreira with the PPE collection box at The Natural Hair Salon, 618 View St. (Mariah Johal photo)
Victoria salon inspires more mask recycling

Anyone welcome to drop disposable masks in bin outside View Street shop

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 24

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Haven Daley)
POLL: Do you think the current COVID-19 restrictions should continue beyond Dec. 7?

One week into the new restrictions to curtail the spread of the… Continue reading

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

An excavator was stolen from a rural property south of Nanaimo this month, say police. (Photos submitted)
Excavator stolen from property south of Nanaimo

Bobcat Mini believed to have been stolen between Nov. 12-14, say RCMP

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Most Read