Friday, July 17, 2020

Search for the Garden of Eden: The Modern Obsession With Health

This morning surfing my Facebook news I came across another article drawing correlation between a widely used so called "environmental toxin" and a predicted rise in Autism and finally I was motivated to write a few of my recurring thoughts on the topic.

Just about every health article these days sites some man-made "environmental toxin" as the culprit for some modern health epidemic ranging from inflammation to brain impairments and behavioral disorders. We are warned of the dangers of environmental contaminants such as common pesticides, phosphates, parabens, synthetic dies and fragrances, Phthalates, Triclosan used in anti-bacterial cleansers, SLS, SLES, Formaldehyde, Toluene, Propylene glycol, Sunscreen chemicals, over use of antibiotic medications, vaccines, PCBs, PBDEs, and mercury.

Each article sites some study that show correlation to autism, ADHD, infertility, life-threatening allergies, digestive disorders, and so on and yet there are no concrete answers. I am not unconcerned by these reports, like every mother, it is terrifying to think that the food you feed your child or the products you use to keep your house and children clean may be poisoning those you are trying to protect by the same means. I believe in limiting refined sugars and processed foods, in eating an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, and in avoiding medicating your children unless absolutely necessary. I'm a natural birth doula, a homeschool mom, and may be pegged by some as a natural living nut case. I read these health articles because I suffer from a chronic illness that many health professional attribute to environmental toxins and diet.

I don't know if we are speeding toward the predictions of generational catastrophe but I do know that these reports are essentially saying that our modern era health challenge appears to be related to our diet and hygiene practices. The thing is, that is not a novel condition in the course of human history. As I have spent time worrying about these reports, spent money trying to eliminate these "toxins", and amending my healthcare regiments I have begun pondering on how our modern health challenges compare to generations of humans before us. I think these thoughts help keep my natural earthy ways grounded in common sense. 

These two factors, diet and hygiene, have controlled the human health condition since the dawn of human history. Environmental challenges have terrified humans since the first time humans saw the effects of malnutrition and poor sanitation. Now at a day when modern invention is solving the challenges of malnutrition, sanitation, and common deadly disease we are seeing a rise in childhood epidemics of autism, life threatening food allergies, immune disorders, and behavioral disorders. More adult bodies are becoming intolerant of common foods, overweight, and dependent on medications. Sounds pretty bleak, and yet when compared to the plague, starvation, dysentery, ergotism (poisoning from a fungal infection of grain), leprosy, malaria, typhoid, measles, small pox, and puerpetual fever; not to mention the average life span and general poverty and filth that were inescapable realities of the majority, our modern health condition looks pretty good.

Life before the discovery of penicillin, antisepsis, chemical pesticides, preservatives, and even modern construction and chemical cleansers meant that disease and malnutrition were a constant companion of life and that death was a constant threat. It seems another human condition is a constant -- we need to worry about every possible threat and imagine that a mass castastrophe is on the horizon. Sometimes I wonder how far we have come from those days when superstition placed blame on anything and everything in the absence of facts. It seems I come across a weekly article blaming one or all of the before mentioned "environmental toxins" for one or all of the "childhood epidemics" and I am left with some basic questions about their claims. 1) Which is it, is it one of these or all of these chemicals combined that are responsible for Autism, ADHD, Chronic Allergies, Digestive Disorders, etc? 2) How can we KNOW when NO studies of adequate duration and control have been done? -- And some of the studies moms have relied on in the past have turned out to be completely bogus! 3) And, Is it even possible to have a controlled study of each and every "environmental toxin"? 

The answers seem as mystifying as were the quandaries of our ancient progenitors even with all of our scientific advancement and in spite of our advancement we are behaving much as they did when faced with these threats. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to eat healthy or that we shouldn't take a critical view of the chemicals we are exposed to, I just think we are in danger of over reacting and eliminating technological advancements that have most contributed to our increased health, pleasure, and life span in a fool hearted attempt to live in a Garden of Eden. There has been no perfect human generation free of health challenges and as our generation compares to past ones we enjoy unprecedented health and wealth. And yet in predictable human fashion we are not satisfied, in fact, I think we are less satisfied. Our society as a whole seems to be obsessed with the quest for perfect human health. We don't endure the human condition, which is one of sickness and trial, with the same acceptance that past generations. I sometimes wonder what our ancestors are thinking looking down on us as we complain about how our clean abundant lives are killing us. I mean it! There's great great great... grandpa Smith saying, "I suffered my whole life from gout and malnutrition and died of the plague and your complaining because your super yummy food, clean house, and medications will be the death of you!"

I'm sure our ancestors are amazed and happy that we have improved life so much and don't begrudge the attempts we make to further improve them. What I'm saying is that whatever we do to improve our lives and health should place a healthy weight to the benefits these advancement bring to our lives and should not react against them without the proper evidence of their villainy. I'm saying we need to keep a healthy grateful perspective about life overall as we seek for improved physical health.

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