The Increase in Chronic, Degenerative Disease

A chronic, degenerative disease is one in which our normal body structure or function deteriorates over time causing unwanted symptoms and effects on the body. As opposed to an infectious disease caused by a foreign organism, usually bacterial or viral in nature, these chronic degenerative diseases are caused by the body’s cells not being able to function properly.

Chronic implies a long-lasting effect, not a sudden, one time occurrence, but changes that take place over time.

To truly understand degenerative diseases, one must understand the root cause of these diseases. Dr. Kenneth Cooper, MD, author of the book The Anti-Oxidant Revolution, delved deeply into the cause of these diseases. His exploration of free radicals has greatly expanded our understanding of how these debilitating diseases actually start! Free Radical Damage is linked to many of these chronic degenerative diseases. {Kenneth Cooper, 1994, The Antioxidant Revolution, 54-63}

Numerous studies have shown this strong link between free radical damage and disease. Studies have shown that normal aging in the brain and abnormal brain function can be linked to free radical damage.{Rao, 2009, Indian J Biochem Biophys, 46, 9-15}

A good explanation of how a free radical can damage the body is given by Dr. Ray Strand in his excellent, eye-opening book, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine, 2002.

Here is Dr. Ray Strand:

“Within every cell in the body is a furnace called the mitochondria. Imagine yourself in front of a crackling warm fire. It burns safely and quietly most of the time. But on occasion, out flies a cinder that lands on your carpet,burning a little hole in it. One cinder by itself does not pose much of a threat, but if this sparking and popping continues month after month, year after year, you will end up with a pretty ragged carpet in front of your fireplace.
Similarly, this microscopic organism, the mitochondria, within the cell reduces oxygen by the transfer of electrons to create energy into the form of ATP, and produces a by-product of water. This process goes on without a hitch at least 98 percent of the time. But the full complement of four electrons needed to reduce oxygen to water does not always happen as planned and a “free radical” is produced.
The cinder from the fireplace represents a free radical, and the carpet represents your body. Whichever part of the body receives the most free radical damage is the first to wear our and potentially develop degenerative disease. If it is your eye, you could develop macular degeneration or cataracts. If it is your joint space you could develop arthritis, If it is your brain, you could develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. After the passing of time our bodies can look just like the carpet in front of the fireplace: pretty ratty.””{Strand, 2002, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutritional Medicine}(Page 20 – 21)

Within the last 100 years the incidence of many of these chronic degenerative diseases is increasing. According to the book, the Hundred Year Lie, cancer rates are increasing at alarming rates. For example, prostate cancer is up 286%, thyroid cancer up 258%, Liver cancer up 234% and so on. {Randall Fitzgerald, 2006, The Hundred-Year Lie: How to Protect Yourself from the…}(page 30). What can be behind this alarming increase in the leading cause of death in Canada and the United States? Presently in Canada , 1 in 4 people are expected to die of cancer! {Canadian Cancer Society, 2015, General Cancer Statistics,} And because the incidence of cancer is rising, even adjusted for age and the longer life span of people, the medical system is left scrambling and wondering.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States, scientists are struggling to understand how the environment interacts with our cellular genetics, which causes molecular changes that start the disease reaction. To quote from their website, “Scientists liken the changes to a cascade — a series of ever-larger waterfalls of cellular changes — that may lead to cancer, Parkinson’s arthritis, heart disease or other diseases. Though we still do not understand the root causes of many of these serious chronic diseases, we suspect they can be caused or triggered by chemicals and other environmental exposures from years before.” {National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “Our Chemical World, and Our Dilemma”, 2012,}

However, according the free radical understanding model, we do know that the underlying cause of cellular DNA or molecular changes is damage to the DNA of the cell, caused by those harmful free radicals.{Sinha et al., 2009, Indian J Cancer, 46, 146-50} Free radicals are produced by many things, normal cellular metabolism, even disease processes themselves increase free radical production {Fearon and Faux, 2009, J Mol Cell Cardiol} environmental elements such as pollution, chemicals, the sun, our processed foods we eat so much of, and of course daily stress. Even exercise increases our bodies production of free radicals. {Kenneth Cooper, 1994, The Antioxidant Revolution, 54-63}

These free radicals cause damage in different areas of our body, called oxidative damage, like rusting metal. Like we are rusting on the inside. Much of this damage leads to inflammation. Inflammation is also seen in almost every single degenerative disease, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, arthritis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.

With this in mind, if you are truly interested in protecting the health and longevity of your body, you begin being interested in reducing your exposure to free radicals and neutralizing them once they are in your body, to reduce your oxidative stress and inflammation.

Louis Pasteur, the developer of the rabies vaccine and many other scientific discoveries, stated that the secret to health lies in host protection. Getting the host, our bodies, to have extraordinary health and cellular strength leads to its ability to resist disease and injury and operate at the highest functioning.

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