Modern biology centers around a reductionist, mechanical view of the human body that permeates both conventional and alternative medicine.
Each bodily system is considered to be separate and independent from one another. The function of the heart is unrelated to the function of the brain which is unrelated to the function of the liver, and so on.
This leads to the treatment of symptoms, which has become the primary focus of conventional medicine. If cholesterol levels are high, a cholesterol-lowering drug is prescribed. If blood pressure is high, a blood-pressure-lowering drug is prescribed. If the immune system is overactive, an immunosuppressive-drug is prescribed.
And what’s considered to cause the modern epidemic of symptoms and diseases? Typically, the answer is genetics.
(It is becoming slightly more common to consider lifestyle factors as a minor contributor to some diseases, but there’s still very little focus on these factors.)
Alternative medicines often follow a similar path, where medications are substituted with “natural” supplements or other symptom-based treatments. While there may be slightly more emphasis on lifestyle factors, many people in the alternative medicine community are taking handfuls of supplements every day, each one for a different symptom.
Many other non-conventional medicines, like integrative and functional medicine, also fall into the same reductionist tendencies. They might not be as quick to prescribe medications or supplements and they may have more emphasis on lifestyle factors, but there’s still a focus on independent causes for various conditions.
In these forms of medicine, there’s often a wild goose chase for the cause of a symptom or condition. An endless search ensues to find some form of nutrient deficiency, hormonal imbalance, mold toxin exposure, EMF exposure, gut infection, heavy metal toxicity, or other environmental harm, with the solution being to remove that causative factor. They still miss that all of the problems and their causes fall under the same umbrella… energy.
Energy is the driving force behind all our functions and our entire structure. As such, it also serves as the unifying principle that underlies our health.
Energy allows us to breathe, think, digest food, sleep, heal injuries, move, and just about anything else you can think of. It also maintains our structure, from the structure of every individual cell to the structure of our muscles, bones, organs, fascia, skin, hair, nails, and all our other tissues.
It’s therefore logical, but perhaps counterintuitive, that virtually any condition or symptom that we experience is due to a lack of energy, which inhibits proper function and structure.
That’s right, everything from fatigue to autoimmune conditions (1, 2, 3), diabetes and insulin resistance (4, 5, 6, 7), obesity (8), cancer (9), hypertension, allergies, fibromyalgia, neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative conditions (10, 11, 12) like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, Huntington’s, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and autism, and pretty much every other condition can be traced back to an energy deficiency (13).
So, it makes infinitely more sense to shift our focus away from the individual symptoms, conditions, and causes, and towards a bioenergetic view of health.
By focusing on how our bodies produce and use energy, we can determine how to best reverse energy deficiencies.
Energy is produced in the mitochondria, or “engines,” of our cells through a process called respiration. This process uses fuel from food, like carbohydrates and fats, along with other nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and oxygen, to produce energy. This energy is held in a molecule called ATP.
(In future articles I’ll explore mitochondrial respiration more closely, including the differences between the oxidation of carbs and fats and other inputs that affect these processes.)
The energy produced from mitochondrial respiration is then used to perform all our functions. This includes our basic functions like breathing and keeping our heart beating, as well as maintaining our structure.
Energy is also used to handle stressors, which are any external energy demands. This includes physical activity, like exercise, and mental activity, like problem-solving and processing emotions, in addition to handling damage from things like infections, EMFs, or mold and detoxifying toxins like endotoxin.
In other words, this is why these various “causes” of different diseases aren’t independent from one another – they all exert their effects through a common means: depleting our energy supply.
When we don’t have enough energy to handle these stressors, perform our basic functions, and maintain our structure, we begin to have problems. The energy to handle these functions has to come from somewhere, and it typically comes from the maintenance and integrity of our structure. This causes deterioration over time and inhibits proper function, which eventually leads to the chronic conditions we see today in epidemic proportions.
In order to prevent this from happening and even reverse it, we have to improve mitochondrial respiration to produce more energy and reduce our stressors so that more energy is left to repair and maintain our structure.
We’ve already talked about how a lack of energy underlies the chronic conditions we’re seeing today in epidemic proportions, but energy affects all aspects of our health.
Because energy is the driving force behind all our functions and our entire structure, a lack of energy can result in all sorts of symptoms. This includes cold hands and feet or always feeling cold, fatigue, weight gain, muscle loss, hair loss, lack of libido, irritability and unstable mood, difficulty concentrating, weak hair and nails, hair loss, dry skin, insomnia, constant hunger or cravings, a lack of appetite, chronic infections, depression, PMS, headaches and migraines, swelling and edema, infertility, and many more common symptoms.
Virtually all of these symptoms were seen in the Minnesota Starvation Experiment, a study dedicated to figuring out what happens when we starve our bodies of energy (14). In this experiment, which was performed in the 1940s, participants were put on diets of around 1,800 calories per day for 6 months. This reduced-calorie diet isn’t too far off from commonly recommended fat-loss diets today, based on the participants’ height and weight.
The effects of this reduced-calorie diet were astounding, and completely changed the lives of the participants. Their health deteriorated to an incredible extent and they experienced all sorts of symptoms, including most of the ones mentioned above. It took between 2 months and 2 years of eating as much as 4,000-5,000 calories per day following the experiment for the participants to fully recover.
This experiment studied energy deficiency in the context of a low-calorie diet, which is a surefire way to reduce available energy. But, energy deficiencies are extraordinarily common nowadays even when consuming normal- or high-calorie diets.
Mitochondrial respiration, or energy production, can be inhibited by numerous factors, such as polyunsaturated fats, nutrient deficiencies, and endotoxin. So even if we’re eating enough food, we still may not be converting it to usable energy. (This is also what underlies fat gain.)
This is not even considering the excessive amounts of stressors that our bodies must use energy to handle, like psychological stress, environmental toxins, and EMFs.
Increasing our energy supply by improving mitochondrial respiration and reducing excessive energy demands is the key to resolving the more minor symptoms of energy deficiency, such as cold hands and feet, as well as the larger symptoms, like fat gain, infertility, and chronic conditions.
How exactly do we do that?
Well, this is the question.
And there’s not a simple answer.
This process is affected by pretty much everything in our internal and external environment, from the food we eat to the amount of sunlight we get. Of course, this can’t all be explained in one go, which is why energy is a theme that I come back to in pretty much every one of my articles.
Plus, there’s all sorts of ridiculousness out there when it comes to improving mitochondrial function, including completely misguided recommendations like ketogenic diets and fasting, which often steer people astray. I’ll cover these topics in future articles as well.
In the meantime, you can check out the free health and energy balance mini-course, which you can sign up for below! In this mini-course, I outline several of the more important factors affecting energy production and usage, how they affect our health, and what you can do about them.
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