To observe the practice of modern medicine, it would be easy for an outside observer to conclude that the reason so many people have chronic illness is a deficiency of powerful prescription medications.
I say this because the most common response to a patient with a chronic illness is for many physicians to reach for a prescription pad.
This is not intended as a criticism of any medical practitioner. The physicians are responding in the way they have been taught, and in most cases the prescriptions are the most reliable means to impact the symptoms of the chronic illness.
Our nation, along with most of the world, is facing a looming crisis. The crisis is real, undisputed and will end up costing the lives of millions.
Chronic illness is expected to reach unprecedented rates in the near future.
There are likely many factors for this coming health crisis and health care authorities are desperately seeking answers to avoid the impending wave of illness, disability and early death.
One issue that is growing in interest is the role of our foods in our health. Many medical experts have expressed grave concern about our available foods and how these foods are related to chronic inflammation that persists in our body and leads to serious chronic illness and early death.
To eat a truly health diet requires some considerable effort in today’s environment. That is because the overwhelming majority of foods that are readily available are not particularly healthy. The foods that are available today are available primarily because they are profitable to whatever business provides them to us.
But before we react to condemn evil food businesses such as restaurants, groceries manufacturers and wholesale distributors, consider that the reason the foods are profitable is because those foods are the ones that sell the best.
If companies that sell highly processed snack foods full of unpronounceable ingredients were being beat out at the cash register every day by fruit vendors and salad bars, guess what, we would be awash in corner health food stands.
But the fact remains that most foods that are readily available are associated with health risks.
The risks are not obvious. Just like smokers don’t keel over and die in a fit of coughing when they take their first puff, the health hazards related to food stuffs are more subtle and slow acting.
Readers older than 50 will remember the Congressional hearings involving the big tobacco companies a few decades ago. For a while in the 1950s and ’60’s, it seemed like most people older than 15 smoked. It was considered ultra cool to light up in every conceivable environment.
Cigarettes even had doctors and movie stars as spokesmen.
Even though most people may have suspected that cigarettes were “bad for you,” in order to maintain the coolness of smoking it was easy to convince smokers that the dangers were minimal.
Besides the willingness of the smoker to avoid considering possible deadly risks from smoking, billions of dollars were pouring into the accounts of the big tobacco companies. As we have seen repeatedly, a few billion dollars a year can buy some pretty powerful lobbyists and legislators as well as governmental regulators.
Even when congress finally yielded to growing public pressure and demanded that the big tobacco companies face hearings, the chief executives stood side by side in front of congress and lied about the health risks of smoking. It was as if they had met at the hotel bar the night before and said, “Fellas, let’s get our story straight and stick to it.”
We are facing a similar situation concerning the foods that we eat today.
The companies that make the foods must know that the ingredients contained in many of the foods are associated with chronic inflammation that leads to disease. But they are able to continue to sell potentially dangerous products due to two primary reasons. The processes and ingredients are approved by regulators that are willing to see things the food industry’s way and consumers keep buying the products, insuring growing profits.
Next week this column will illustrate the role of many foods in chronic inflammation and the development of serious diseases that may affect you in years to come.