DAVID SUZUKI: Being healthy actually comes naturally to us all

Human body has ability to heal itself, if taken care of

One of the joys of being a grandparent is getting to see the world again through the eyes of a child.

Recently, I found my three-year-old grandson picking at a scab on his arm. It brought a flood of memories because I used to do the same thing.

It was amazing to watch the blood from an injury dry and, over days, form a scab. Before that scab was ready to fall off, I would pick at it to see what was underneath, and, wonder of wonders – it was fresh, pink skin.

It’s amazing how our bodies regenerate. We get hit and bruises form as blood leaks into tissues. Over time, the dark blue colour is diluted, and may move before disappearing. Even broken bones will heal and return to full strength.

And skin, our largest organ, is a miracle layer. It keeps the rest of us inside and everything else outside. It wards off infections, sheds water, cools us in hot weather, and repairs itself.

Still, viruses, bacteria, and parasites are ever-alert for opportunities to penetrate our protective layer. As well as frequent nicks and cuts, we have natural openings like mouths, ears, noses, anuses, and genitals, each with its own protective mechanisms. If an invading organism gets inside, we have an incredible barrier, our immune system, constantly generating new proteins to fight off infections we’ve never even encountered.

We have a defence system that recognizes and fights against any cell with a genetic makeup different from our own (which is why it’s so difficult to transplant organs, tissues, or cells).

Yet, pregnant women support a fetus that is genetically different for nine months.

Thanks to evolution, our bodies have powerful ways to ward off illness and infection and enable us to live long and healthy lives. Why, then, do health costs continue to climb at unsustainable and frightening rates?

Part of it is that medical care has become so sophisticated that doctors are able to treat more problems.

Another part is the ever-increasing cost of drugs. And with a medical system, people are more likely to seek help. Still, health-care costs can’t continue to rise forever. Governments are always looking for ways to reduce costs, often by offloading a greater share of the burden onto patients.

We must pay greater attention to keeping our bodies and minds healthy and able to heal. Yet we are making it difficult for our defences to work. We allow things to be sold that should not be called food.

Many have no nutritional value and lead to obesity, salt imbalance, and allergies.

We spew chemicals into the environment by the millions of tonnes.

Molecules pour into us through air, water, and food, overwhelming or weakening our protective immune systems.

According to Harvard University doctors Eric Chivian and Aaron Bernstein, “Our behaviour is the result of a basic failure to recognize that human beings are an inseparable part of nature and that we cannot damage it severely without severely damaging ourselves.”

The medical literature tells us that the most effective ways to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and many more problems are though healthy diet and exercise.

Our bodies have evolved to move, yet we now use the energy in oil instead of muscles to do our work.  In 2007, the World Health Organization concluded that environmental factors contribute to 36,000 deaths and 13 per cent of the disease burden in Canada annually.

The Canadian Medical Association claims that air pollution causes more than 20,000 premature deaths a year.

According to author and environmental lawyer David R. Boyd, scientists estimate that environmental factors affecting heart and respiratory disease, cancer and birth problems contribute to anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 deaths, 78,000 to 194,000 hospitalizations, 600,000 to 1.5 million days in hospitals, and other problems, totalling between $3.6 billion and $9.1 billion in direct and indirect costs each year.

It’s easier, more effective, and cheaper to let healthy bodies fight off disease and infections than to weaken those defence mechanisms and then compensate for them medically.

If we want a stable health system, we must put more resources into reducing pollution and environmental degradation and creating a way of life that keeps bodies and minds happy and in good health.

Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This house in the 600-block of Linden Avenue in Fairfield has a Día de Muertos theme for 2020. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Haunted Oak Bay

Residents spookify houses

A rare Short-eared owl was found dead in a Saanich backyard on Oct. 26 and will be sent for a necropsy to find out if it had ingested rat poison. (Photo courtesy Kimberly Adamec)
Rare owl found dead in Saanich yard to be sent for necropsy

Short-eared owl ‘vulnerable’ in B.C., owl advocate says

Police continue to investigate a break-and-enter in this Sidney jewelry store in the 2500-block of Beacon Avenue. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Thieves hit Sidney jewelry store

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP says incident is not part of a larger trend

Norm Scott, president of Royal Canadian Legion Branch #91, said plans for a new building will ensure long-term sustainability. (Black Press Media file photo)
Plans for new Legion in Langford include low-cost housing for seniors

Project could be before council in early 2021

The Starbucks at 3849 Cadboro Bay Rd. closed permanently on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Google Maps)
Cadboro Bay Starbucks closes despite petition signed by nearly 250 residents

Closure part of transition to more drive-thru locations, Starbucks spokesperson says

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

A picture of John taken at Children’s Hospital Vancouver last week. Photo courtesy, Alicia Sewid.
RCMP investigating after young boy run over by SUV in Campbell River parking lot

The seven-year-old has multiple injuries including a broken pelvis and was admitted to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A video message from Mrime Minister Justin Trudeau was streamed to attendees at the State of the Island Economic Summit on Tuesday morning. (Vancouver Island Economic Alliance image)
Prime minister greets Vancouver Island economic summit attendees

Vancouver Island Economic Alliance conference being held virtually this week

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Most Read