Ounce of Prevention | The wonder of natural regenerative medicine
After decades of practising conventional, high-tech, hospital-based medicine, I experienced a profound shift in my understanding of health and healing. I realised that healing was an internal process that the body itself performed. The human body was designed with a tremendous capacity to heal itself. I, the doctor, was not really the healer.
My job with my medicines, surgery and other techniques was to support and encourage the healing process, to create the optimal circumstances for repair and healing to take place. Yes, my treatments could help correct a negative situation, restore balance and even save a life, but ultimately, the body could heal itself.
The human body is composed of up to 100 trillion microscopic units called cells. These cells are the building blocks of life. Each cell is intelligent and sophisticated, cooperating with its fellows to maintain the body's health.
Normally, cells are not immortal and as they age, get damaged or diseased, they die and are replaced. For example, liver and skin cells have a three-month lifespan; red blood cells live for four months; while the cells lining your intestines are quickly replaced every two days.
Every minute, millions of your body's cells die and new ones take their place. Each year, over 90 per cent of your cells are replaced as the body continually repairs itself. Old medical dogma had insisted that once brain cells died they could not be replaced. We now know that even the brain can regenerate new cells.
Heart specialists had also claimed that when heart cells die from a heart attack, they never grow back. Not true. Groundbreaking research has overturned the old, negative thinking, showing that heart cells are capable of regenerating themselves. This is great news, as heart attacks that damage hearts and strokes that injure brains are two of the commonest causes of death and disability worldwide. Old beliefs die hard, and years may pass before most doctors come to accept these new discoveries.
The body repairs itself using special cells called stem cells. A stem cell is a cell produced in the body with the ability to create all types of new cells. Your body creates these stem cells every day and they act as a repair system, replenishing damaged tissues. Modern medicine is racing to find expensive ways to transplant stem cells into patients to promote healing. This has been called regenerative medicine. An example of this approach is the injection of stem cells into the hearts of people with severe heart disease. The world welcomes all the help modern, sophisticated medicine offers.
However, my focus is on natural regenerative medicine: how to encourage your body to produce more of its own stem cells for your healing. Then, if that fails, we can consider the more dangerous, expensive and invasive options. Research has shown that your lifestyle influences the activation of these stem cells and may improve the ability of your body to self-repair and heal.
New research reveals that the body increases stem cell numbers when we exercise. The more active we are, the more new cells we need and the more stem cells we make. Physical exercise not only stimulates an increase of stem cells in your muscles, but also in other tissues such as heart, bone, brain, liver, etc.
Researchers in China report that people who practise the martial art tai chi saw a significant boost in their stem cell populations. I suspect the same may be true of yoga.
Regular exercise not only prevents disease, but also keeps stored stem cells in reserve for healing after stress and injury. Although exercise can boost stem cell numbers, optimal stem cell activity is enhanced when exercise is accompanied with healthy sleep and good stress management.
FASTING AND CALORIC RESTRICTION
Research shows that fasting boosts stem cell production. Even after a few days of fasting, the number of stem cells in the blood is definitely elevated. It seems that the body becomes more efficient when food intake is lowered and boosts its stem cell output. Meals low in calories but high in nutrient value are ideal for this purpose. The quality of your nutrition has a major impact on the quality of your cells. The cellular nutrition meal-replacement shake and supplements are great tools for that purpose.
Research conducted at the University of Pennsylvania medical school revealed that a type of oxygen therapy using hyperbaric oxygen dramatically increases stem cell activity. The results were amazing. After only one treatment, concentrations of stem cells doubled, and after a full course of 20 treatments, stem cell levels increases by 800 per cent!
Our neighbours, the Cubans, have long promoted and successfully used hyperbaric oxygen to help in the recovery from strokes and other nervous system and circulatory problems. Other simpler and still useful oxygen therapies include ozone therapy, breathing oxygen while exercising, and even some deep-breathing techniques.
PROTECT YOUR STEM CELLS
We live in a toxic world. For example, the plastic industry has filled our lives with products made of or stored in plastic. There is growing evidence that some of the chemicals in plastics such as bisphenol-A and polyvinyl chloride are dangerous and may damage stem cells. Regular detoxification of the body is therefore very important for good health.
To be really safe, try to limit storing food in plastic containers, or drinking out of plastic bottles. Also, never microwave food in a plastic container of any kind, even if it says it is microwave-safe. In general, use microwave ovens as little as possible.
Based on current evidence, popularly advertised stem cell enhancement supplements are not effective. Stem cell experts say they are at best a waste of money and at worst a risk to your health.