I am not a doctor. I am a 31 year professional educator. For the last 25 years I have studied the body through the personal practice of Pre-Hospital Emergency Medicine. During that time I was under the guidance of a host of different Medical Directors with a wide range of experiences and specialties. Under their mentorship, guidance, and teachings I have had the rare experience of gaining deeper levels of information from specialists researching it more and then applying it holistically to my practice. Something medical doctors do not get the privilege of doing as they are cornered into their “specialty” or “scope of practice”.

As an educator, it was my scope of practice to understand all of the bodily systems. What began as clinical observations and research for lectures turned into a lifestyle as I applied the inter-workings of these systems to myself. This followed through to my teaching and sharing with the people closest to me. In turn, I could see the crosstalk that was not happening in the western approach to medicine.

What follows in the article below are tenants of virology that I was taught from these mentors, apply to my own life and still teach teach today. These simple fundamentals of health hold up for what is happening today. We are still human beings and pathogens are still pathogens. If one were to act radically different, outside of these tenants, humanity would get wiped out quickly. It seems this has happened before in the case of the Amazonian’s, who after being visited by Francisco de Orellana in the 1500’s, entire civilization was wiped out. This was due to their continental isolation that left them with no immunity to a truly foreign pathogen that once exposed, disease and death followed.

From Wikipedia: Inoculation for smallpox appears to have started in China around the 1500s.[19][20] Europe adopted this practice from Asia in the first half of the 18th century.[21] In 1796 Edward Jenner introduced the modern smallpox vaccine.[22][23] In 1967, the WHO intensified efforts to eliminate the disease.

From the passage above one can see how humanity was developing defenses to these pathogens very early on. Moving from the East (Asia) into the Western world (Europe). Although, not being used, in the yet to be discovered by white men, “New World”.

The most important thing to recognize is that where vaccines have had the most efficacy is in stable pathogens. More on this latter. Also it is important to make note of the word “inoculate”. Inoculate makes reference to the fact that the vaccine makes you immune. Another observation is that the word inoculate, is not being used with the vaccines that are currently being distributed for Coronavirus.

From Wikipedia: Inoculation is a set of methods of artificially inducing immunity against various infectious diseases. The terms inoculation, vaccination, and immunization are often used synonymously, but there are some important differences among them.

The majority of us as children after inoculation gained immunity. Again, that happens with stable pathogens.

I like to think of pathogens as a puzzle. And if the pathogen doesn’t have all the pieces it incapable of having an affect. The “puzzle” in this case has 4 pieces:

  1. Presence
  2. Quantity
  3. Route
  4. Weakened Immunity

Presence is one of the elements we have little control over. Pathogens are either present or not. Pathogens in fact are ever present. For instance, the flu virus is present in the summer. Although, our immune system is less compromised or stressed at that time of the year and has a better chance of beating it. Warmer temps, more time outside, more sunlight all contribute to less stress on the immune system. Presence of smaller amounts is actually helpful as it exposes us to the pathogen without making us sick. Although, if the amount is great enough…

Quantity is the other element we have little control over. When pathogens exist in enough quantity they are capable of overwhelming a weakened immune system. For instance, when we eat food and it arrives in our stomach, the acids there neutralize pathogens rendering them harmless. Although, if you have ever had food poisoning, the quantity of the pathogen is great enough in the food you ate to overwhelm your defenses. Yup, you read that right. The food you ate had live cultures of replicating pathogens in it. Your immune system responds with vomiting and diarrhea. If it did’t, you would likely be killed by the presence and quantity of the pathogen that would get delivered to your blood stream. When someone shows signs and symptoms we know they have contracted the pathogen. We also know it is present and has penetrated through a weakened immune systems with a great enough quantity to show signs and symptoms of illness. People who present with signs and symptoms and normally 24 hours prior and contagious. Thus, understanding route transmission can help you protect yourself.

Route is where we begin to gain some control. Routes includes: Ears, eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, anus (mucus membranes) and broken skin. With a pathogen like the Coronavirus, transmission is through the air and direct contact with infected individuals. Glove use and hand washing reduces the transmission through direct contact. We touch our faces on average of 20 times per hour. Therefore the difficulty is not touching our nose, eyes or mouth as these are the best routes for transmission.

In regards to blood borne pathogens vectors or shared needles are the most likely form of transmission. Vectors are anything that permeates your skin. Malaria and HIV are commonly transmitted by mosquitoes and needle vectors respectably. Unprotected sexual intercourse is also a possible mode of transmission for HIV. Although, hepatitis and syphilis are far more commonly spread this way than HIV or AIDS. Shared needles has been proven to be the most likely mode of transmission for HIV and AIDS. Funny no one came back after the AIDS Epidemic and rectified the situation. The research is out there although the conversation ended with “The only safe sex is abstinence”, but I digress.

Weakened or Compromised Immunity is necessary for a pathogen to take affect. Our immune system is the last line of defense when a pathogen enters our bodies. The coronavirus is no different. The individuals who are suffering the most have pre-existing conditions primarily from lifestyle choice. The people that seem to be spreading it  are weakening their immune response through a variety of forms that are all associated with a western approach to lifestyle.

We weaken our immune system through inadequate sleep, reduced hydration, high sugar and processed food based diets, anxiety, depression and overall stressful environments. If you are following a western lifestyle you will likely be engaging in all of these things on some level. The normalization of adding alcohol to the mix to reduce stress only weakens the immune system further. Thus making people more susceptible to disease.

Younger healthy immune systems when compromised and then exposed often show less serious symptoms if any. On the other hand, it is potentially fatal to older, weaker and compromised immune systems. The lifestyle choices we make directly affects our health. The lifestyle conditions of heart disease, diabetes and obesity are the most common pre-existing conditions that complicate patients with Covid. These are commonly lifestyle choices. When people have a congenital disorder they are born with it. These folks, when they manage their conditions through a healthy lifestyle, maintain healthy immune responses. Individuals with lifestyle driven conditions have compromised their immune system in order to develop the condition. This illustrates the health crisis we are having as opposed to a pandemic. How one maintains their own health dictates vulnerability to this disease.

A Healthy Immune System has a much higher capacity to fight off pathogens. We develop our immune system in a number of ways. For starters through exposure. As young children we are commonly exposed to pollens, and low level pathogens that we develop antibodies for. This mode of immunization is replicated through the vaccinations developed against viruses like measles, mumps, rubella, dypyheria, small pox and polio. While there are plenty of opinions on the topic of vaccinations it is difficult to disagree that we have limited the spread of these viral pathogens with their use. Although, these pathogens do not benefit from change through mutations. These pathogens depend on specific proteins to be able to exist. If they mutate, they are unable to find the proteins necessary to live. The Corona Virus on the other hand is a mutating virus. While vaccines can help reduce spread, the virus will continue to mutate. This is similar to the Flu Virus as the vaccine needs to be updated every year and we are using a strain from a previous virus as we cannot forecast how it will change. This is being mimicked by the Corona Virus. We see this when despite being vaccinated individuals still contract the virus. Thus the support of a health immune response is imperative to reducing the spread of the Corona Virus.  

We support and maintain a healthy immune system through our approach to life. There are a host of practices and techniques one can apply to their life to support a healthy immune response. Here are the basics:

A. Sleep: 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly is the minimum mandatory range for adults. We all fall into different places in the range on different days and at different times of our life. This changes due to stress, physical exertion, diet and lifestyle habits. Research has also shown that prepubescent children and teenagers often need as much as 9 to 12 hours of sleep per night. That’s right your kid isn’t lazy; they are developing. You are never surprised at how much a puppy sleeps the first few years of their life. Do the math and equate that to your kids and you will realize our societal norms are not intended for the benefits of any of us…let alone children. A good nights sleep constitutes two (2) Circadian Rhythms with REM Cycles. Your brain needs to dream! This contributes to a healthy brain and a solid immune system.

Additionally, this is normalized throughout western lifestyle. Working long hours and staying up late with caffeine induced mornings are not only the norm but accepted as “the way it has to be to get things done”. A never ending cycle that causes neurological harm, increased anxiety and depression which intern weakens our immune response.

B. Diet: 1. Fresh  2.Local  3. Organic.

I often tell my students, “if it doesn’t rot, it isn’t food, that’s a product. Therefore, you shouldn’t eat it”. Additionally, I mention a specific order:

1. “fresh” Fresh food is real food. This is most important. Fresh greens, vegetables and fruits provide us with vitamins, minerals, nutrients and fiber. The baseline of a healthy diet. While I don’t suggest that everyone should be a vegan, everyone benefits from more plant based protein in their diets. PERIOD!

2.  “Local” has far less of an environmental impact as it travels less to get to you. Additionally, when it is local it often surpasses the USDA organic regulations of no pesticides. When it is truly “local”, the grower often carries a higher responsibility for their practices as they know they are “feeding” their community.

3. Organic. Choosing “organic” does become important when you cannot locally source your food as it eliminates pesticides which has an impact on you, your health and our environment directly.

Whether you eat meat or plant based proteins, how it is raised and grown affects the quality and nutrition the food provides. When we source ethically raised meats and organic produce it serves us with a safer more nutritious food source and the environment with a more sustainable crop. Additionally, ethically raised animals produce less cortisol and adrenaline. Large scale meat and dairy operations, through intentional stressing of the animals, produce more quantity and less quality. The adrenaline and cortisol we produce under stress is not beneficial for our own health. Why would you want to eat an animal under these conditions?

Sugar is a pleasurable, slow killer that often takes decades for its impact to be felt. Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity are the effect of too much sugar in our diets. This results in high insulin production which becomes reduced or resistant over time. When we ingest more sugar than we need, with reduced or resistant insulin we store it as fat. Yes, you read that right. Too much sugar in the bloodstream gets stored as fat. This is not a statement of opinion it is a simple fact. Research has shown this for decades despite the dietary recommendations of the USDA. Processed foods or all sorts promote inflammation and the storing of fate in the body. This is exacerbated by stress.

C. Hydration: 2.5 quarts of water per day as a minimum mandatory for a sedentary lifestyle. More if you are active, live at elevation or in a dry climate. Coffee, tea, sports drinks or any other products do not count! 2.5 quarts of water…Period. If you are not counting how much water you are drinking you will not drink enough. You have to pay close attention to this. Try to start your day with 16 to 32 ounces of water before you eat or drink anything else. When we are slightly dehydrated we often get triggered for hunger. Meaning you are not really hungry, your mind is playing a trick on you. What you really need is water. Keep in mind that people survive with no food for 28 days only drinking water…just sayin…

D. Lifestyle: This includes a wide array of activities that promote health. These include but are not limited to things such as exercise, yoga, meditation and meaningful relationships. My generic prescription is, “sometime, everyday, outside preferably with somebody”. The most important factor in this equation is arguably relationships. Deep and meaningful relationships provide us a higher standard of health. Nearly all cases of heart disease and diabetes are coupled with some form of depression. Research has shown for decades that maintaining deeper and more meaningful relationships, has a direct impact on longevity, happiness and reduces the likelihood of depression. 

Spending time outside is also extremely important. Keep in mind that one of the treatments for depression is light therapy. Studies have shown that spending time in forests, hiking in mountains, and just being outside can lead to significant health benefits. Studies have shown that walking in the woods can decrease blood pressure, boost mental health, reduces inflammation  causes a de-stressing affect  can improve your eye sight, decrease the risk of cancer and overall improve your immunity. So go spend some time “forest-bathing” to improve your health.

Daily exercise and low impact activities are also a necessity. The key is moderation. I like to simplify this to “sustainable activity”. Meaning pick activities you can do your entire life and perform them at a rate that you can hold for a long period of time. These are basically endurance based activities at an aerobic pace. These are referred to as” lifetime leisure activities”. If you can only do an activity at a certain point of your life then I have a hard time encouraging people to engage in the activity daily. The intensity of activity and the level of aerobic output varies for everyone. Not everyone is an “olympic athlete” nor should one expect to get to the level of one. All of our capabilities and capacities are different. Own your capabilities and capacities. This is part of the happiness equation. Training harder often results in injury. the age old adage of slow and steady wins the race holds up well here.

E.Stress:  Lack of sleep, poor nutrition, inadequate hydration, inactivity and poor mental health are all part of a wester lifestyle. These things are simply stress, although they are often considered normal qualities of the western lifestyle. Stress is the real killer. Stress causes us to be in the thinking mind, constantly problem solving and reliving stressful moments. When the brain is in this state it is releasing the stress hormones of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is toxic to the heart and other vital organs while the release of cortisol causes us to store more sugars as fat. This state causes anxiety, a host of autoimmune disorders, disrupts sleep, reduces our ability to eat and exercise properly and disrupts our social interactions. Over time we get so use to it we don’t recognize the effects until our health begins to decline.  Later in life we are resistant to changing these habits as they are ingrained as normal and necessary. Despite the normalization, they are killing you. Sometimes slowly and at other times abruptly.

I have a lot of specifics and plans for folks who are looking to change their approach to health. If you are looking for more details regarding sleep, diet, hydration and lifestyle choices please reach out to me at jhoutdoorleadership@me.com to set up a one-on-one consultation. If you have questions please feel free to leave them in the comments below. 

Be well and do good!

Thanks for reading,

Jacob Urban

@tetonsnowgeek