A common phase that all toddlers go through when they are learning is the “why” phase. While it may be somewhat trying for the child’s parents at the time, it is actually an important part of the learning process that facilitates better understanding. This same approach is very useful to take when it comes to our own health as it allows us to walk far enough upstream to see where the real problems occur.
The why approach in action
A checkup visit to the doctor is often accompanied by testing that may reveal deviations from our “healthy” normal ranges. Let’s assume that a blood test showed that your blood sugar levels were elevated. It is not uncommon to be given medication to reduce or control these levels, but in reality this is the same as buying a water purifier when you have a contaminated water supply. Wouldn’t it be better to try and find the source of the contamination by walking upstream a little?
Why, why, why?
This is where the “why’s” come in. Why was your blood sugar elevated? Your blood sugar elevates according to changes its local environment or due to dysfunction. Why would changes in the environment cause blood sugar to rise? In the acute stages of blood sugar elevation, the cause may be linked directly to the food you have eaten or to the body’s stress response. You see the body literally prepares for fight or flight – both of which require energy! Energy is supplied by glucose (sugar) which travel in the blood to the muscles. Hence increased levels of sugar in the blood allow more fuel to be transported to the working muscles.
Longer term exposure to stress (chronic stress) affects the body in different ways. Getting the sugar out of the bloodstream and into the working muscles requires the help of insulin. Insulin takes the sugar into the cell, like a key opening a door. However under chronic stress, sometimes the key doesn’t work. Why would the cells want to keep sugar out? If your blood sugar levels are constantly high, but the muscles don’t need it, they will change the locks to keep their unwanted guest out! Insulin becomes less effective and sugar levels in the blood remain elevated as less sugar is allowed into the cells.
Why would a person get chronic stress?
Contrary to what most people think about stress, it is not purely psychological. Lack of good quality nutrients, dehydration, poor sleep and inactivity are all linked with chronic stress. Financial worries, relationship problems, loss of a loved one and health problems can all lead to chronic levels of stress. It is important to realize that while it would be much easier to solve, there is seldom one simple reason why our health breaks down. Asking the “why’s” helps us to identify and explore more of the possible causes of problems.
Of course, just like the water contamination, you often still need the purifier (medication) while you are trying to get to the bottom of the problem. The sooner you can find out the source of the problem, the sooner you can take real action to prevent further consequences as it is unlikely (given the interrelated nature of the body) that the problem will remain isolated for too long!