In its most basic form, every living thing on this planet is made up of cells. From plants to animals, from trees to humans, wherever there is life there are cells. If we look under a microscope, you and I are little more than a mass of cells tightly wrapped in a layer of skin.
Just as a house is made of thousands of bricks, trillions of these tiny cells make up your eyes, lungs, brain, fingers, nose, and toes. Cells also make up just about every other bit of yourself you can think of. Essentially, cells are the building blocks of all this life and the smallest living unit that can replicate independently.
What’s the relevance of knowing that you and I are fundamentally made up of trillions of microscopic cells?
Think about it … if we are to accurately manage what ails us, our first goal must be to break down the complex into something more manageable. Looking at a problem in its most basic form (the cell) allows us to quickly develop a fresh perspective on what an illness really means to us. To some, what you are about to read may seem like an oversimplification, but this is just our base which we will then build on.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. — Albert Einstein.
As you read this paragraph, your old worn out cells are being replaced. This turnover forms an essential cycle of life. We can think of this process as similar to deleting unwanted photos from our cell phone; once that space is freed up, the system works better.
KEEP, KILL, OR RECYCLE?
To make way for healthy new cells the body makes a judgment call to either keep, kill, or recycle damaged cells. When cells are recycled, the body eats them, a process known as autophagy which stems from the Greek word, “self-devouring.”
When a cell is deemed damaged beyond repair it’s encouraged to commit suicide, a process often referred to as apoptosis. Under normal circumstances, cells do this in a tightly regulated fashion. When old cells “forget” to commit suicide, problems begin.
If we assume that a healthy organ is made up of mostly healthy cells, we can also assume an unhealthy organ must have a number of unhealthy cells. What we are doing here is breaking the problem down to its most basic form. Illness is reflected in the structure of our cells and this is true for just about any illness from A to Z.
Cancer is the most obvious example of an overzealous set of cells malfunctioning beyond the body’s ability to regulate them. A diagnosis of cancer can be alarming enough, but if we look a little closer at the problem, the bigger issue always happening at the cellular level. The term cellular is simply a word relating to the cells. The more health issues you have, the more relevant simplification becomes.
Let’s look at it another way: a basic four-digit PIN is all we need to provide financial peace of mind. This works because the number of combinations is too great to hack. Now imagine trying to unlock a health problem with several hundred possible causes!
To add to the problem, symptoms often overlap. This overlapping of symptoms makes the diagnostic process all the more difficult to navigate. But by breaking down the problem to the cellular level, we can see it from a totally different perspective.
In every area of the body, we either have a collection of healthy cells or not so healthy cells. When it is the latter, we call it an illness. Now we are off to the races and in with a chance of unraveling the complex.
I know what you are thinking because I thought it too: even if an illness is nothing more than a set of wacky malfunctioning cells, how does this help me? First, let’s replace the how question with a why question. When we ask the why question we are forced to dig below the surface for answers.
Asking WHY our cells have turned sickly on us is a smart question to ask and the answer is relatively straightforward. For a cell to form or rebuild it requires key nutrients. It rarely bodes well for a cell to be made up of toxic elements.
When new cells build, they take from whatever nutrients the body has at its disposal. A nutrient can be thought of as any substance that provides nourishment essential for the maintenance of life and growth. The quality of these new cells greatly depends on the quality of the raw materials fueling the body. Think of a carpenter trying to build beautiful furniture with rotten wood.
Quality nutrients are needed to build quality cells. These nutrients come to us in the foods we eat; this is the fuel the body runs on, whether it is junk food or superfood. Here we see the birth pangs of problem cells. A lack of key nutrients flowing into the cell will affect the cell’s overall quality and optimal integrity.
With quality nutrients, cell walls remain permeable. This allows the exchange of oxygen-carrying nutrients to come in, and the free flow of toxins out. Anything of a toxic nature will obstruct this rebuilding process.
When any part of our body becomes ill, something is either missing in our healthy cells or it has been replaced by something toxic. In short, we are trying to build a house with substandard bricks and rotten wood.
I’m using the word “toxic” here in its broadest possible sense. Indiscriminately, it could be used to describe any pathogen or foreign matter that has the potential to penetrate your cells and make you ill. It could be a virus, fungus, bacteria, pesticide, drug, heavy metal, chemical, liquid, gas fumes, contaminated food etc.
The list of potential (known) toxic substances is impossibly long. We will, of course, be looking at many of these toxins in more detail along with effective ways to remove them from the body. For the sake of simplicity, we can also think of the word toxic as any substance poisonous to the body.
The body (that’s you) is aptly designed to filter out such toxic substances and it does so in a highly efficient fashion. Problems arise when more toxins than the body is capable of removing flood into the body. Unfortunately, humans, in our pursuit of progress, have become highly destructive creatures. We often seem content to contaminate the world we live in.
Sadly, it has become impossible to avoid dangerous levels of toxicity, hence, awareness becomes all the more important! As a rule of thumb, if you have a pulse then you have some degree of toxic exposure. To take this a step further, we could say that anything you come in contact with that’s manmade almost certainly has a toxic element to it.
DRIP, DRIP, DRIP
The body relies heavily on the functioning of the liver, kidneys, lungs, and skin to filter out these harmful toxins. In fact, our entire health hinges on the ability of these organs to cope. Once these vital organs begin working overtime, it’s easy for the whole system to become overrun. A tipping point usually occurs when the prolonged demand remains too great for the body.
It doesn’t matter what your doctor calls it, it ALWAYS involves toxicity — Dr. Sherry Rogers
Imagine a bucket of water catching water drips from a ceiling, only this bucket has a small hole in its side. As each new drip lands in the bucket, another oozes out from that hole in the side. As long as the drips coming in matches the drips going out, the bucket doesn’t fill up. One drop in, one drop out maintains a steady level.
In this analogy, think of the drips coming into the bucket as your daily exposure to toxins. And the hole on the side of the bucket as your detoxification organs working to keep the bucket from filling up.
If the drip coming from the ceiling begins to speed up the water level in the bucket will rise. When the water level reaches the rim of the bucket is when we find ourselves at the edge of illness, or at the “tipping point.” And when the water spills over the sides of the bucket, it’s a sign that your body can no longer cope with the demand being put on it.
Life is good when we prevent toxins from building up to the point where they overtake our detoxification capabilities. The good news is, we can reduce our exposure to toxicity and begin getting clean nutrients into our cells. Once the cells get fired up, good things happen!
Common sense suggests that our first goal must be to reduce the number of new toxins coming into the body. At least until the gravity of the situation is assessed. There is no point in bringing nourishment to a toxic cell. That would be like putting a fresh bandage on an open cut before washing all the dirt off your finger.
If repetition is the mother of all learning, let’s remember that new cells are constantly replacing old, worn out cells. These new cells are made from the raw materials that we provide from the things we ingest, whether those are carrots, cucumbers or cake. A cell with a toxic element to it is not a healthy cell and illness ensues.
Having an illness can make it seem as if our world is coming to an end. Going into a hospital can be a daunting experience, and trying to make sense of it all can drive a person to despair. As a patient, you will typically deal with an organization well versed in terminology unfamiliar to you. Enduring any long-term medical problem with a firm diagnosis can be frustrating. Not having a diagnosis is even worse.
Once we become ill, the first thing a physician wants to do is give the illness a name. A diagnosis is simply a descriptive term relating to a specific part of the body — that’s all. No matter what ails you, I’d like to suggest that you really don’t have an illness, what you do have is a label. This label is simply reflecting what is going awry at the cellular level.
A complicated diagnosis can leave a patient feeling helpless. A synchronous diaphragmatic flutter, for example, has a serious ring to it, but most of us know it as a hiccup. And that transient lingual papillitis? That’s nothing more than a bump on the tongue. I know right? Who talks this way?
This type of terminology can soon become overwhelming, especially if you aren’t feeling well, to begin with. The next time a doctor provides you with a complicated diagnosis you could try saying to yourself, “Nope, what I have now is a label.”
Looking at a diagnosis this way helps to charm the mystery out of complex medical terms. Osteoporosis, as I’m sure many will already know, is the label given to reflect the condition of certain bones. But even bone is made up of cells. We could just as accurately say that something is going wrong with the cells that make up the bones.
By taking the complex and breaking it down into workable parts we begin to unravel a tangled web of symptoms. An autoimmune condition affecting the cartilage of the joints carries an arthritis label. But once again we know that all cartilage is made of cells. Cancer found in the blood carries the leukemia label, but again blood is made up of cells.
Each and every part of the body has its own label, but regardless of the label being applied, something untoward is happening at the cellular level.
The suggestion that cells play such a pivotal role in our health might be a different way of thinking, but that tide may now be turning. In 2016, the Nobel Prize for medicine was awarded to Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan for his work on none other than cells.
Ohsumi’s discoveries are directly related to the importance of how cells recycle their content, how they break down proteins and non-essential components for energy and destroy invading organisms. I guess another way of saying it is that cells are working out whether to keep, kill, or recycle themselves.
What did we learn from this?
A diagnosis is nothing more than a label and it shouldn’t define who we are. Complicated problems remain complicated unless we break them down into manageable parts. Getting toxins out of the body allows nutrients to flood in is the essence of good health.
Homework: Check out this book