Degenerative Diseases II - Natural Prevention and Treatment
(Vitalité Québec, June 2006)
It's interesting to note that the approaches to treating and preventing degenerative diseases are more or less the same.
- Minimize xenobiotics and help the body eliminate them.
- Compensate for deficiencies associated with accelerated degeneration.
- Consume a sufficient amount of antioxidants.
Hippocrates, considered the father of medicine, said, "First, do no harm. Secondly, cleanse." In naturopathy, as with any Hippocratic medical approach, detoxification has always played a key role.
When it comes to preventing degenerative diseases or treating them organically, detoxification therapy is highly recommended. In addition, when people decide to change their diet, they may want to detoxify in order to help their body eliminate toxins that have built up over the years. Aside from fasting, which I rarely recommend, there are some excellent detoxification treatments available. They should be adapted to the individual’s health, the condition of their elimination organs, their living conditions (e.g. employment, education and social conditions), any medical conditions, and prescription drugs they are taking.
Today’s diet should exclude as many xenobiotics as possible. The following should be minimized or eliminated:
- Artificial additives (e.g. colorants, sweeteners and essences)
- Fungicides, herbicides and pesticides – Opt for organic food whenever possible.
- Tap water – Drink spring water or filtered water instead.
Be sure to eat a high-quality diet that includes fewer processed foods and more whole foods, as well as a high concentration of vegetables. It is recommended that your lunch and dinner consist of at least 60% vegetables. Remember to get enough omega-3, -6 and -9 essential fatty acids.
It is preferable to add a complete supplement or superfoods to your diet to boost your nutritional intake. Your diet, as well as any supplements, must be adapted to your individual needs and options. In addition, it will vary depending on whether you are looking to prevent or treat a degenerative disease.
Fruits and vegetables are a good source of antioxidants and should be a priority in your diet. However, they do not provide enough antioxidants to overcome today's challenges. An article published in The Globe and Mail highlighted a study in this regard. According to this reputable newspaper, broccoli has lost 50% of its vitamin C*. It is therefore highly recommended that you take an antioxidant complex or eat superfoods with high concentrations of antioxidants.
Some of the most important antioxidants are vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, selenium, cysteine, alpha lipoic acid and flavanoids.
Here are some of the top antioxidant complements:
- Green or blue-green algae: chlorella, spirulina
- Green grasses: wheat grass and barley grass
- Coenzyme Q10
- Carotenoids: beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene
- Extracts: apple, pomegranate, grape seed (or full spectrum grape), bilberry (or blueberry), pine bark and ginkgo biloba
ORAC and free radicals
Oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) is a measurement of the total antioxidant potential of a food or chemical substance. Studies conducted by the US Department of Agriculture showed that foods with high ORAC values increased the antioxidant capacity of human blood by 10% to 25%. In addition, foods with high ORAC values minimized memory loss and learning difficulties in middle-aged individuals.
Foods with the highest ORAC values should be a part of your daily diet. These include (measured in ORAC units per 100 grams):
- Prunes 2,577
- Blueberries 2,400
- Grapes 2,130
- Blackberries 2,036
- Strawberries 1,540
- Spinach 1,260
- Raspberries 1,220
- Brussels sprouts 980
- Alfalfa sprouts 930
- Broccoli 890
- Beets 840
- Oranges 750
- Red grapes 739
- Red peppers 710
- Cherries 670
- Kiwi 602
- Grapefruit 483
- Onion 450
- Corn 400
As you can see, blueberries are among the richest in antioxidants, which goes to show that healthy food doesn't necessarily have to taste bad.
Alternative medicine vs traditional medicine
When it comes to my clinical approach, I prefer the term "complementary medicine" over "alternative medicine." Traditional medicine and naturopathy are not mutually exclusive or at odds with each other. When tackling degenerative diseases, we should combine these approaches rather than favour one over the other. By using the strengths of one approach to compensate for weaknesses in the other, we will get the results patients are seeking from the health care community.
The problem with the natural approach is that it sometimes lacks the tools to stabilize a patient, particularly during acute stages. Meanwhile, the traditional approach generally eliminates symptoms without attempting to eliminate the cause or prevent a relapse. For example, an arthritic patient may be prescribed an anti-inflammatory without being advised on ways to heal the arthritis or prevent it from worsening so that he or she no longer needs the medication. That said, not all alternative medical practitioners use a causal approach. They often act similarly to traditional doctors, except they use natural remedies while still not looking for the cause of the problem.
In some cases, a complementary approach will merely minimize the harmful effects of a particular traditional medical treatment. In fact, many side effects from prescription drugs are due to an increased loss of nutrients. In such a case, a complementary approach should aim to compensate for the deficiencies caused by the drug in question without reducing its therapeutic effectiveness. This is a prime example of where traditional and alternative medicine can complement one another.
The startling increase in degenerative diseases is not a fatal, irreversible trend. By working on the causes of these diseases, we can reduce their frequency and severity. If you do not suffer from a degenerative disease, you can reduce your risks of getting one. In addition, if you already suffer from a degenerative disease, you can minimize its scope and harmful effects while boosting your health safely and naturally.
*The depletion of vitamins and minerals in our food should not be used as an excuse to eat less. Vitamins and minerals are two elements which can help prevent degenerative disease. Other elements include pigments (if a fruit or vegetable still has its natural colour, it has pigments), essential oils (if a fruit or vegetable has retained its aroma, it contains essential oils), as well as several other nutraceuticals.