The Drug of Choice

Today we have more technology than ever. Moore's Law states that technology doubles every 18 months. That means we know twice as much today as we did a year and a half ago. Well, that's no longer true. Today technology seems to double every 18 minutes! With all this technology, how is it then that we have more disease now than ever? In my opinion, technology actually contributes to disease and I'll explain why.

Let's take cancer, for example. Do you know that cancer has just surpassed heart disease as the top killer in Canada? It's true. What's scary is that every day 500 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer and 200 will die from it! The sad part is that a majority of these cases are caused by the environment and can be avoided.

Lung cancer is by far the top cancer killer and tobacco is the number one cause of death period claiming about 17% of all Canadian deaths (20% in males and 12% in females). And it may come to no surprise that second-hand or "passive" smoking can be just as detrimental to your health. According to the Health Sciences Institute, an eight-hour shift working in a smoky environment may have the same effect on the cardiovascular system as smoking an entire pack of cigarettes!

Now, I do not really need to go through this since most of you know that cigarettes are laced with toxic chemicals, many of which are carcinogens, as well as addictive substances including sugar, but what you may not realize is that carbon monoxide produced from tobacco smoke has a high affinity for hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is part of the red blood cell that transports oxygen. Well guess what? If all these carbon monoxide molecules fill up the hemoglobin bus, there's not much room for oxygen, and therefore, you can not effectively oxygenate your tissue. Last time I checked, oxygen was something important for life!

What about air pollution? If you think that running or cycling outdoors is your ticket to optimal health, do not hold your breath. Actually, maybe you should! A study published last year in The Lancet revealed that the main trigger for a heart attack is not violent exercise or stress, it's air pollution … and if you combine violent exercise, stress and air pollution all together, look out! Aerobic exercise can easily double or triple the amount of air you take in, which is bad news for your heart and lungs if that air is polluted. In fact, the American Lung Association claims that taking a jog in a heavily polluted city is equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. In the wrong environment, aerobic exercise may actually promote cancer, not prevent it. We'll get back to this form of training a little later in the article.

Next on the list comes breast cancer for females and prostate cancer for males. Both tend to be a problem with estrogen. Yes, even prostate cancer is related to estrogen not testosterone contrary to popular belief. Dihydrotestosterone (or DHT for short) is an androgen, a male sex hormone that is 10 times more potent than testosterone. It is responsible for male pattern baldness and benign prostatic hyperplasia, and it can be a problem for the prostate, but only because estrogen does not allow it to be released!

For females the cumulative lifetime exposure to estrogen determines the risk of breast cancer. So what do we do? We give females a known carcinogen called the birth control pill to help control their menstrual cycles. And then when we suspect breast cancer, how do we diagnose it? With a mammogram, of course. However, the risk of a mammogram may be greater than the handsome benefit. A report from the Nordic Cochrane Center in 2006 found that for every 2,000 women to have a screening mammogram, just one would have their life prolonged, but 10 would end unnecessary and potentially devastating treatment! Furthermore, evidence from the National Cancer Institute indicates that mammograms could cause 75 cases of breast cancer for every 15 identified women under the age of 35. And a Canadian study reported in found a 52% increase in breast cancer mortality in young women given annual mammograms. As functional medicine expert Dr. Robert Rakowski puts it, "Perhaps the thinking is let's keep radiating the breast until we find the cancer that we caused!"

And for guys it's no better. A prostate biopsy may contribute to the tumor spreading through the body! Actually, most males with prostate cancer will die from something other than the cancer itself.

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in both sexes. My father passed away of colon cancer at the age of 41. Now, my dad was in pretty good shape – he was not overweight, ate fairly clean, and played the occasional squash or tennis match. He was a hard-working guy, probably a little over-worked actually. At the time, he was employed for a company named Petroquip where he installed and repaired the digital displays you see on gas pumps. Well I remember every night when he would come home, you knew he was home because you would smell gasoline! I mean it was always on him. And I am convinced to this day that it was the ultimate cause of his demise. Just about any literature you read on cancer will list petroleum as a primary carcinogen.

Do you have to be of the age to pump gas to be susceptible to this stuff? Not at all. Let me give a perfect example, it's called Sunny Delight. You see this stuff advertised every 10 minutes after school or on a Saturday morning. It's a healthy drink for your kids loaded with vitamins and minerals and will provide them with plenty of energy. One thing that they neglect to mention, though, is that Sunny D may be loaded with petroleum byproducts. According to the Environmental Working Group, it contains ingredients that the FDA and the beverage industry have said can mix together to form benzene, a known human carcinogen. In fact, there have been many reports of kids turning yellow and orange from drinking too much of this stuff!

Sports drinks are also popular with both children and adults. These sugar-laden drinks can cancel out any exercise gain and instead lead to significant body weight gain. They can also promote (not prevent) dehydration, and the acid from the additives can do some serious damage to teeth. Research has found that damage to the enamel of teeth from consuming sports drinks can be 3 to 11 times greater than cola-based drinks. And if that's not bad enough, the price of sports drinks has gone up recently. Do you know why? Because the price of petroleum has increased. Petroleum is used in the resin that lines each bottle.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.

You know the detrimental effects of technology do not only apply to humans. The same fate occurs when we domestic animals – they get fat and they incur disease!

According to Dr. Udo Erasmus, author of Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill , "terrestrial wild animals rarely have more than 5% body fat, except for bears that sleep it off in the winter. 're predators or prey, are generally very lean – usually around 3% body fat. " Erasmus points out that one of the leanest animals in the wild are warthogs at 1.3% body fat. Domestic pigs, on the other hand, contain 35-60% body fat! By the way, animal geneticists from the University of Illinois contend that the pig is one of the closest large animal species to humans.

Much like a domestic animal, we no longer hunt for prey. We drive to the store to get it. We do not even use stairs anymore – we use escalators or elevators. And we are either on the computer or watching television – the average Canadian watches around 29 hours of television a week, which equates to over 1,500 hours and 28,800 commercials a year. Heck, we do not even get up to change the channel – we have remotes! Most Canadians lead a sedentary lifestyle – only 15% meet the minimum recommended standard of exercise each week according to a report by Statistics Canada.

Then we have all this garbage food … if you can even consider it as food. Supermarkets are filled with processed, packaged, and refined foods that are doing nothing more than robbing nutrition (not providing it) and promoting obesity and disease!

Most of you should recognize the acronym SAD as "Seasonal Affective Disorder", which causes many people particularly in northern climates to become lethargic and depressed in the winter due to a lack of sun. Well, the acronym SAD has another meaning. It also stands for "Standard American Diet", and in today's state of affairs, the standard American diet is quite sad indeed!

There is no argument that today's technology has its benefits. We enjoy a standard of living that could hardly be imagined just a few decades ago, but at what expense?

About half of the Canadian population is overweight and around a quarter are considered obese. It's even worse in the United States with close to two-thirds of adults overweight and nearly one-third obese. Here's the scary part: over the past 2 decades, rates of overweight and obesity have more than doubled for adults and nearly tripled among children. In fact, childhood obesity today is almost 4 times greater in the US and 10 times greater across Europe than in the 1970s!

It is known that obesity brings many health hazards with it, including coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer just to name a few. Obesity is a very serious concern. We have to stop kidding ourselves that the problem is overstated and will go away in time. It will not, but the good news is that obesity can be reversed. According to alternative medicine specialist Dr. Mark Wiley, "Obesity is not a disease; it is a self-induced health problem that causes disease and death. If you want to make a difference, you must be proactive and take charge of your existence, and the first place to start is with proper nutrition.

There are over 40 nutrients that the human body is incapable of producing at all or in adequate amounts for optimal health. These nutritional elements are essential for life and must be obtained from a dietary source.

Essential nutrients include proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and water.

Contrary to popular belief, a carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient! There is no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates since the body is capable of converting other nutrients into glucose for energy through a process known as gluconeogenesis.

Am I saying that we need to eliminate all carbs from the diet? Absolutely not! There are many nutritional factors found primarily in carbohydrates that are beneficial, such as fiber and various phytochemicals, but the standard American diet is loaded with processed and refined carbohydrates that are lacking many of these important nutrients.

Furthermore, people consume far too many carbohydrates than they require. Carbohydrates can provide immediate energy, or be used to replenish depleted energy stores (known as glycogen), which occurs primarily through physical activity. A popular slogan used by many of today's fitness professionals is this: "If you want carbs, you've got to earn them!"

So where do we start? Well, let's take a look at the Canada's Food Guide.

I think the Canada's Food Guide is great … for about 25% of the population.

Generally, you can divide people into 3 categories: apple-shaped individuals, pear-shaped individuals, and banana-shaped individuals or the lean, skinny guys and gals that can eat just about anything they want and never gain weight. For these individuals, a high carbohydrate diet like the Canada's Food Guide works well, but for the remaining 75% of the population who are either apple- or pear-shaped and experience some degree of insulin resistance and carbohydrate intolerance, a low-carb approach is indicated.

What about exercise?

Well, aerobic activity is critical for weight loss, right?

Sure, you'll lose weight, but at what expense? If you do excessive aerobic work, rest assured that you will catabolize muscle tissue, and remember, the more muscle you have, the greater the metabolic rate.

Will frequent, slow, rhythmic aerobic work decrease body fat?

Yes, it will … for a period of time … then your body starts to accumulate body fat. You heard me right. Your body will store fat as a result of the aerobic activity.

The human body is a highly adaptable organism. It prefers fat for fuel at lower intensities. This is true. So when you consistently perform low-intensity aerobic work (often referred to as "cardio"), your body is smart. It says: "Okay, if you want to burn more fat for fuel consistently performing this activity, then I will store more fat to make you more efficient at the activity you are trying to perform!"

During weight training, for example, you are breaking down muscle tissue. So your body adapts by building muscle to make you more efficient at that activity.

The aerobic movement was founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper over 40 years ago, and it's still going strong today. A majority of the health and fitness curriculum in school is based on aerobics. "Aerobics are imperative for cardiac health," we're taught. If that is indeed the case, then how do we explain the fate of marathon runners Jim Fixx and Brian Maxwell, or long-distance cyclist Dr. Ed Burke? Each one of these endurance athletes had an extremely high aerobic capacity, yet all 3 died from heart attacks.

Here's something that you may find quite surprising: resistance training has a comprehensive effect on the cardiovascular system. In fact, resistance training may be a safer approach than aerobics for cardiac rehab patients according to Dr. Doug McGuff, an emergency room physician and co-author of the book Body by Science .

Can you believe that?

We know that exercise is important for optimal health. Most people can afford 3 hours a week for exercise. It's a small price to pay for their wellbeing – only 1.8% of the week – that's it! But people do not want to waste their time. They want the most for their training buck and that's why I'm a big fan of weight training.

Yoga and stretching improve flexibility. Aerobics improve cardiovascular endurance. Pilates improve core strength. Well, weight training will do all of the above and much more … It's the concept of "killing many birds with one stone," and that's the type of activity everyone should perform regardless of age or gender. I believe that weight training is even more important for females quite frankly. The famous Framingham Heart Study found that by the age of 65, the average woman could not lift a 10-pound weight!

And recent studies have shown that strength is more important than endurance to improve functional capacity in aging adults. One problem that plagues many elders (particularly females) is osteoporosis. You hear of many seniors falling and breaking bones – they can not even get up to call for help. Well, the sad reality is that their bones break first and then they fall! Weight-bearing exercise is crucial – not walking!

Let's finish our discussion with the prevalent use of drugs today.

"A drug without a side-effect is not a drug!" I'm sure you realize that.

As strength and conditioning coach Charles Poliquin points out in his audio CD The Science of Body Building : "Smoke a joint on Friday and by Monday your testosterone levels will return back to normal. Smoke a joint everyday for 6 weeks and it will take 8 weeks for your testosterone levels to return to baseline. "

Research indicates that a man born in 1970 had about 20 percent less testosterone at age 35 than a man of his father's generation at the same age, and since the 1980s testosterone levels have dropped even further by about 1.2% per year and infertility rates have increased Dramatically. Men aged 18-30 are now increasingly turning to the impotence drug Viagra. It's sad!

The new party drug is Ritalin, a Schedule II narcotic in the same category as cocaine that happens to increase libido. And who do we give this drug to? Our kids. So while little Johnny should be concentrating on the chalkboard, his focus is on the teacher's behind! Meanwhile, antidepressants are one of the most prescribed drugs in the world, yet these little pills decrease libido and growth hormone production. Not quite what adults are looking for!

If you look at long-time comedians, such as George Burns and Bob Hope, they had longevity on their side. New-age comedians John Belushi, Sam Kinison, John Candy, and Chris Farley had altered brain chemistry likely linked to drug use and all four suffered an early demise.

Many drugs are so readily accessible and encrypted. You go to the drug store and purchase them over the counter. One of the top selling over the counter drugs is Tylenol. Tylenol is also the # 1 cause of acute liver failure in the US! What's better – 100,000 deaths or so a year from FDA-approved pharmaceutical drugs, or 0 (zero) deaths from nutritional supplements such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and herbs? Do the math. The problem many times is that drugs work much faster than herbs, so curing that pounding head may be far more enticing than, say, the possibility of death!

I agree that drugs may be necessary for acute, emergency care but not for long-term use. Some medical drugs have only 12-week trials, yet patients are told to go on them for life! If a drug has not been tested over a long period of time, then it really is not appropriate for long-term, chronic care.

Often prescribed drugs may cure a problem but cause a host of other problems. For instance, some drugs lower cholesterol levels but increase the progress of heart disease. There are just too many examples of "the treatment was a success, but the patient died" to list in this article, but it happens everyday. As Dr. Michael Colgan points out in his book Your Personal Vitamin Profile , prescribed drugs should be used only in dire necessity for the extremely ill. "Drugs have no business in the healthy human body," says Colgan. "Every needless drug you take, for an ache here, an itch there, damages you." In 1980 the Sixth World Nutrition Congress reported that even a single aspirin could make your intestines bleed for a week! If you want a long and healthy life, leave drugs to the truly ill. They may benefit from them. You will not. "

Really, the drug of choice should be exercise. It's been said that for a man to live to be 100 years old, he must sweat a little everyday. That's the drug that I take and hope you will too.

References available upon request.