If it weren’t required reading for my functional medicine program, I might not have picked up this book. However, The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life, by Dr. Jeffrey Bland, Ph.D. (father of Functional Medicine) conveys such a powerful message I had to share it here! And if you’re a fan of Dr. Mark Hyman, you’ll love his introduction to the book too.
As The Disease Delusion explains, we are on the frontier of a new age of medicine. At the turn of the last century, over 100 years ago, the biggest health concern worldwide was infectious disease. And in fact, throughout history, most people died from infectious diseases. But with the industrial revolution came the invention of sanitation systems and the discovery of antibiotics. And thankfully we no longer have to worry so much about infectious diseases. But we’re not out of the woods by any stretch. Today, the largest killer worldwide is a chronic illness or chronic diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that by 2030, the global cost of chronic disease will be over $47 trillion dollars. So what is chronic illness? These chronic diseases, caused by chronic inflammation, include autoimmune diseases, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease, cancer, dementia, and Alzheimer’s. A century ago these diseases were fairly rare. But today, chances are, most of you know someone who’s been affected by one or more of these chronic conditions. Maybe even you yourself? If that’s the case, I can’t recommend The Disease Delusion highly enough! It’s one of the best wellness books I’ve ever read.
Epigenetics and our Human Genome
Since the advent of the human genome mapping project (1990-2003), scientists and doctors now more fully understand the intricacies of the human body or epigenetics—changes in the body caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. We now know that our genes can be turned “on” or “off” by our choices in diet, lifestyle, and environment. You are not born pre-disposed with certain genes and just have to deal with the consequences. And in fact, up to 95% of ALL chronic illness may actually be preventable or reversible with modifications to your diet, lifestyle, and environment. Wow-what fantastic news…You have the power to determine your own health!
What is the Disease Delusion?
As Jeffry Bland explains, “…chronic illness isn’t something you “contract,” the word we tend to use for getting an illness; In the purest sense of the word, in fact, there are no real diseases. This is why I say disease is a delusion. Rather, the individual’s unique genetic makeup responding over time to a perceived threat alters the functioning of specific tissues, and that “injury,” like a banked fire that burns slowly, becomes a sustained, low-grade impairment. We call it a disease or illness, and if it goes on for a while, we call it a chronic illness. But it’s really our genes responding to messages from our diet, our environment, and our lifestyle behaviors. Through their changing levels in the body, biomarkers show us just how the genes are responding to specific environmental threats.”
Common biomarkers we may be tested for include LDL and HDL cholesterol levels or PSA levels for prostate cancer. We all strive to have our numbers within the “normal” range, and these biomarkers help us to know what “normal” is…or to see when our bodies are out of balance. This is one reason I recommend having a blood test annually, your blood doesn’t lie.
Why a Pill for Every Ill Doesn’t Work
While many allopathic doctors aim to treat chronic disease with a pill for every ill, the truth is that most pharmaceuticals were only intended for short-term use. And a high percentage of them have never been studied for the effects of long-term use at all… yet that is how they are being used today. Plus many medications can interact with other medications, potentially causing additional issues and symptoms. While these medications generally treat a symptom, this is really a “bandaid” because unfortunately, they don’t get at the root cause of the problem.
As an example, there are over 20 possible root causes for high blood pressure, yet generally, everyone with high blood pressure is given the same drug to lower it, while the root cause is rarely looked into. But don’t blame your doctor. For the most part, they haven’t been trained to be bio-detectives and look for clues to the root cause of your illness. They’ve been trained to give out pills.
“The management of chronic illness constitutes nearly 80 percent of our health-care expenditures but occupies close to zero time in the training of physicians.” — Jeffry Bland, Disease Delusion
The Seven Core Physiological Processes In Our Body
In this non-fiction book, you’ll learn about the role functional medicine plays in the modern-day health system. The Disease Delusion paints an in-depth picture of the human body and how the seven core physiological processes are interrelated.
These seven core physiological processes include:
- Assimilation & Elimination (how well are you assimilating what you eat and eliminating the rest?)
- Detoxification (how well does your body detox?)
- Defense (how’s your immune system treating you?)
- Cellular Communications (how well do all of your cells communicate with each other?)
- Cellular Transport (how well are nutrients delivered to your cells?)
- Energy (how are your mitochondria holding up? Hint, it’s your energy storage house!)
- Structure (how’s your core architecture, your bones, and muscles holding you upright?)
Tools to Biohack Your Health
This book gives you the tools to take back your health. With self-assessment quizzes at the beginning of each of the seven core physiological processes, you’ll see how healthy (or not) each of your systems are. Then Jeffry Bland wraps up by answering the quiz questions so you can truly see what’s working, what’s out of balance, and what modifications you may need to make to your diet, lifestyle, and environment
The back of the book is packed with recipes and resources for further help in getting to the root of your chronic illness issues, resolving them, or hopefully preventing them in the first place.
One section of the book that I thought could be improved upon are the recipes. While some of the recipes look delicious, others seem a bit high on the glycemic index (ie: use honey, maple syrup or potato flour), which for someone trying to combat metabolic disease or diabetes wouldn’t be good. But overall, the book’s message and other resources are excellent. And the personal anecdotes scattered throughout help reinforce the messages.
Ultimately, Your Health Is In Your Hands
The core message of The Disease Delusion is that we all need to be responsible for our own health, and taking our wellness back into our own hands. While a pill for every ill worked with infectious disease, that model of medicine is no longer a viable cure for chronic inflammation and chronic disease. Ultimately, no one else can make you healthy but you.
I strongly encourage you to read The Disease Delusion today. Then take your health back into your own hands, with modifications to your diet, lifestyle, and environment. Your life just might depend on it. If you would like help in reaching your wellness goals, my Kickstart Your Health wellness plan might be just the ticket you’re looking for. And my new book, 90-Day Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal is a great tool to help you too.
On a personal note, while the quizzes showed Kirk and me to both be quite healthy overall, we were shocked to see the biggest area of weakness for both of us is in “Structure”. So we’ll be implementing more aerobic and weight-bearing exercises in the new year!
Please leave a message to let us know how you liked the book and what your biggest takeaway was?