The other day I started to do a thought experiment.
You know, like the kind Albert Einstein use to frequently do, which was a big piece of his genius. Thinking about what it would look like to ride a beam of light at the speed as it moves helped lead to his theory of relativity.
Don’t worry, we’re not talking about physics here. Instead…
What would it look like to have a person that was the ideal of health?
…Someone that was truly optimally healthy throughout their entire life.
Go ahead and think about that for a little while. In fact, if you really want to benefit, I would encourage you to do the thought experiment yourself.
Meditate on it. Map out your thoughts and ideas.
Then come back here and read my thoughts below. You’ll get much more out of this than if you just read this article.
Good you’re back. How did it go?
Below I’m going to share the results of my thought experiment.
In some ways this is very simple. In other ways it is complex.
While I don’t think the ideal is achievable (ideals never are) we can learn a lot from this thought experiment. Then we can work in the direction of the ideal in order to improve our own health.
As always when it comes to health, the picture is multi-faceted. As such I came up with this list of 8 areas.
#1 – For Ideal Health Come from a Line of Optimally Healthy People
This is the only one that is really out of our control. More and more science is coming out every day showing that the health of our parents can directly impact our health, and the consequences can even last your entire life.
This likely begins before conception even occurs. What is the health of your mother and your father that created the seed and the egg from which you came?
It is not just genetics, but epigenetics that matters.
What was the health of your mother all throughout gestation? Not just physical health, but the mental and emotional that’ll we’ll talk about as well.
All these factors then create the environment into which you are formed, quite literally here in the womb.
Of course, the importance of the mother’s health continues to matter throughout birth and breastfeeding. (And yes, breastfeeding is required for optimal health. How we ever thought that the natural food a mother produces for her baby wasn’t as healthy as “formula” is beyond me…)
But it’s not only your parents. Ultimately because their health is determined by their parents, this goes back to the health of your grandparents, great grandparents and so on.
Perhaps the biblical injunction, “…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation,” is talking about health.
Like I said, this is the one and only thing that is outside of our direct control.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on if you had unhealthy or healthy parents, the effects can be life-determining to some degree.
All the more reason, if you’re planning to be a parent, to focus on your health first.
#2 – For Ideal Health All Organs/Systems/Cells Work Optimally
In ancient systems the gut was, and has always been, the seat of our health.
Even though there was a time when doctors said what you eat has nothing to do with this disease you have, the pendulum is swinging back. Another “DUH!” moment for the West.
Although it may begin in the gut, we can extend this idea further to include every single organ we have, every system we have, down to the cell level, where every cell we have, is fully functioning.
Cells do die and get replaced. Cells become cancerous from time to time. And our body is full of checks and balances to correct these sorts of thing. I don’t think an ideally healthy person would never have them happen, instead the checks and balances would just always be functioning correctly.
This starts with our parent’s health in the creation of these cells, organs and systems. Then it comes down to our own support of them through the other steps as detailed below.
#3 – For Ideal Health Our Symbiotic Relationship is Optimal
As a human being, we are not just us. It’s commonly stated that there are about 10 times as many bacteria cells in and around us as there are human cells.
In short we are more “them” than “us”.
Since these bacteria play roles in just about everything, from creating micronutrients, digesting food, creating neurotransmitters and hormones, playing a role in the immune system, for better or worse, and much more, for us to be optimal, they need to be optimal.
This means the right ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria. I put those in quotes because we do need some “bad” bacteria for many reasons. It’s not so much that they are bad but a skewed ratio can make them so.
This microbiome must be suitable for our environment and our diet. With about a thousand different known possible bacterial species that can be in us, this may differ widely.
Not just bacteria either. I believe future science will reveal more about the symbiotic fungal relationships we have too!
Thus supporting our symbiotic relationship is something that must be done, through the other steps. Once again, we are not just “us” but “them”, therefore optimal health must extend beyond us to them too.
This means providing them the right fuel to thrive. And other things like our mental and emotional states undoubtedly affect them too.
All the focus seems to be on putting the right species there through things like probiotics, instead of just cultivating the right things through feeding them correctly. It may be best to think of yourself as something akin to a shepherd here…
#4 – For Ideal Health You Need the Optimal Level of Stress
At first, if you think about health you might think that you want no stress. But zero stress would be just as bad, perhaps even worse than too much stress.
We need stress to survive. We need stress to thrive.
It’s just a matter of the right amount of it. Too little and you won’t grow properly and function in a healthy way.
One example is that by being so sanitary with our children (not letting them eat a little dirt and all the microbes it contains) their immune systems aren’t “stressed” to become stronger, setting them up for problems later on.
(By the way this is how adaptogenic herbs appear to work. They “stress” the body in a certain way that allows the body to become better able to withstand stress.)
This goes to the idea of hormetic stress. Hormesis is the term for generally favorable biological responses to low exposures to toxins and other stressors.
There is an ideal zone of stress from which your body responds. Too little is bad for your health. Too much is bad for your health.
Here is the cool thing. If you are ideally healthy, your capacity to handle stress will be greatly improved. That means this ideally healthy person would actually take a large amount of “stressors” in order to keep growing.
This person could likely live in today’s polluted world, with environmental stressors all around, their body would just be able to handle everything properly. The systems of detoxification would be working smoothly.
To put it another way, our ideally healthy person would be very adaptable.
In order to handle this stress, the steps above and below need to be optimal.
#5 – For Ideal Health You Need Optimal Levels of Nutrients at All Times
What allows the body to handle stress? What allows the body to function in a healthy way and keep on functioning year after year?
A large part of it comes down to nutrition.
You need the right amount of macronutrients for the body’s energy supply, as well as the many other functions they play.
Perhaps even more important you need every single micronutrient in optimal supply. This means vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and much more.
This would likely be in amounts far more than RDI’s. After all, that is what is needed to prevent deficiency, but not necessarily the amount needed to function optimally.
For cells, organs and systems to function optimally the right building blocks must be ever present.
On the flip side, you can’t get too much. Too much of one thing can inhibit another. That means they also need to be in the right ratios to each other.
Plus in the right forms so that the body can use them.
Of all the steps, this would be the hardest to do in an ideal way, but ultimately would probably do the most for your health, leading to the others.
#6 – For Ideal Health All Lifestyle Factors Would Be Ideal
It’s not just about nutrition either.
All lifestyle factors would need to be handled in a similar way. This is not a complete list but covers some of what these other factors are, the foundations of health:
At first glance, some of these might not seem important for health, but they all are. And once again, optimal amounts, not too little, not too much, are going to be required of each.
#7 – For Ideal Health the Energetic, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Aspects of Health Would Also Be Ideal
In some of the aforementioned bullet point list, there were a couple things that blend into this step.
The fact of the matter is we are not just a physical body, nor is our health just about the physical.
The energetic component of our health must be taken care of.
The mental component of our health must be taken care of.
The emotional component of our health must be taken care of.
The spiritual component of our health must be taken care of.
In fact, we can find plenty of research backing these areas up as MORE important than nutrition.
As before these areas could all suffer stress in different ways. For ideal health it would have to be in ways that we can come back stronger and more adaptable than before.
#8 – For Ideal Health This Person Would Possess the Wisdom to Know and Act On What They Need At Any Given Time
What would it take to do all of the above? This ideally healthy person would also have ideal self-awareness on what they need to maintain that health.
In short, their internal intuition would be at a high level.
They would know exactly what to eat to fuel that health (remember this is both for our cells and the microbiome too).
They would know exactly how to sleep and how much for optimal results.
They would know exactly how to stress themselves in the right ways.
They would think, and feel, accurately to support all of the above.
…And so on and so forth.
Is doing any of the above possible? Once again, as an ideal, no.
But the purpose of an ideal is to give us the direction we aim for. Then if we can do a few steps towards that, as listed above, we can also move our health in the right direction.
An important thing to note is that our health is tremendously adaptable. In truth, there probably is no ideal amounts of anything above.
But if we can do enough that we don’t cause irreparable harm then our health can come back.
Is there anything you feel I missed that would be important for Ideal Health?
Please post your comments below.