About a year ago, I started signing up for online health summits through a couple different websites. They consist of a variety of professionals in the field who are interviewed by the host. I find them very educational and interesting, and excellent exposure to seeing what other healthcare practitioners are doing in their practices to help combat disease. Last week, there were three different summits, ALL related to autoimmune disease.
I focused mostly on the Diabetes Empowerment Summit. This summit OPENED UP MY WORLD to SO MANY resources for people with type I diabetes. Not only that, but TONS of ATHLETES with type I diabetes. While this was great, it was also kind of depressing…
Like, damn, there are really so many people with this condition… they’ve even had to re-classify type I from just Juvenile Onset to also LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adults) because now people across the age spectrum are getting diagnosed.
And the numbers are only going up…
Then I take a look at all the folks with OTHER autoimmune conditions, like celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Lupus and so many more…
And THAT number is rising.
Not to mention the already-well-known epidemic of Type II Diabetes and other chronic conditions that consume our healthcare dollars and lower our quality of life.
What the heck is going on? Why are we all getting so dang sick? How can we stop this and what needs to change about the healthcare system in order to do this?
First, we need to understand some statistics and the current state of our health. In an effort to lay the incredibly dire state of our current healthcare system in an understandable, motivating and actionable way, I want to breakdown a podcast I recently listened to that was rather depressing, but necessary to hear.
Many of you know I am a big fan of Chris Kresser. He is known for breaking down the super-confusing and often misleading research out there on health and nutrition and providing the most accurate, up-to-date information of what we should actually apply to our lives. He isn’t a know-it-all, and remains flexible with his opinions based off the current research, which I appreciate. His recommendations for healthcare practitioners follows a functional medicine approach where they focus on the unique situation of EACH individual and attempt to find the ROOT cause(s) of a condition or symptom(s). The problems may manifest in lab values, skin conditions, autoimmune conditions, food allergies, hormone imbalances, fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, and the list goes on, but he attempts to find the deeper driver of the surface symptoms.
With that said, Chris was the guest on the Joe Rogan Experience recently, and dove into the many problems with conventional medicine and healthcare. I don’t think any of you believe the system to be perfect, but I assure you, it is in a much direr state that we realize. Specifically with managing chronic disease. Please note that I believe there to be MANY incredible things about conventional medicine, don’t get me wrong, but there are also very unfortunate ways it has evolved to treat disease. Nothing short of appalling, the podcast has staggering statistics on the state of our healthcare system and where it is going if we continue to treat disease the way we are currently. So, let’s break this down a little. I highlighted some key points from the podcast that stood out to me:
- Physicians receive A LOT of information on new treatments and conditions from pharmaceutical sales reps. Okay, duh. But, we need to make sure we know this and understand what it means.
- This would make sense if we indeed NEEDED to give patients MORE pharmaceuticals to help their health, but we are actually often avoiding the root cause of the problem. Pharmaceutical companies can be so sneaky, too, it’s hard to even blame the physicians sometimes. New conditions will even be MADE UP so that a drug can be marketed to treat it.
- According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans (100 MILLION Americans) have pre-diabetes or type II diabetes!
- 80% don’t even know they have it yet!
- In 2040, if healthcare spending continues to increase at current pace, 100% of the federal budget will go toward Medicare/Medicaid
- We are spending WAY TOO MUCH on treating chronic diseases that can be prevented.
- Healthcare is an existential threat to our country. Chronic disease is as much of a threat as nuclear war!
- 1 in 2 people have a chronic disease. 1 in 4 have MULTIPLE chronic diseases.
- This is a 30% increase from 13% in 1994
- Main factors affecting chronic disease: diet, sedentary lifestyle, not enough exposure to natural light, too much artificial light, high stress, low quality sleep
- Only 3% of people have a gene that allows for high functioning off of less than 6 hours of sleep. How many people do you know that gets six hours or less a night?
- Sleep is the 2nd MOST influential lifestyle factor that determines weight
- A single night of sleep deprivation can cause insulin resistance the next day
- This is the FIRST generation to not live as long as their parents.
- We are evolved from an environment of food scarcity and therefore are designed to want to eat calorie dense, palatable foods…these types of foods that are found in nature also tend to be rather nutrient dense. In contrast, the hyper-palatable foods available today are far less nutrient dense.
- There are food scientists hired to create the MOST hyper-palatable synthetic flavors and foods out there to get YOU addicted. Once you pop you can’t stop, right?
- So, given how we evolved and given the tastiness of these foods, OF COURSE we want them and enjoy them! Its really not your fault you crave and fall for these foods … you really are designed to want and love them.
The last point I want to make is one that really hit me hard, so I want to break down the story a little more for you guys. As I mentioned before, we are spending a TON of money on healthcare. This isn’t new news. But, have you really grasped how much? Do you know how close to home this is for most people (you included if you haven’t already felt the repercussions…) and more importantly, how PREVENTABLE these chronic diseases can be?
Say you have a patient with pre-diabetes. On average, it takes that patient five years to progress to type II diabetes.
It costs $14,000/year to pay for a patient with type II diabetes.
Say this patient is diagnosed at age 40 (many are being diagnosed much younger now) and they continue to live another 45 years.
It will cost $630,000 to treat this ONE patient with this ONE disease. Keep in mind, type II diabetes often comes with a few other chronic disease companions that cost even MORE to treat. Remember, 1 in 2 have a chronic disease and 1 in 4 have multiple.
Doesn’t that number alarm you? Think about how much money we can save and redistribute to others in need! Simply by changing our diet and lifestyles.
Now, I know what it is like to just get numbers thrown at you that are supposed to surprise you and help you take action toward improving your health. I also know that those numbers are rarely effective. The psychology around motivation to change is a rabbit hole I do not intend to go down today. My hope isn’t that this will just blow your mind and you will change your approach to healthcare forever (although that would be cool). Instead, I want you to just start noticing how you approach your health. What is your doctor really considering about YOU when you go in to see them? How much time do you spend with them? What is actually being treated, understood and/or addressed? Think about these things and take note of what may be slipping through the cracks in your own conventional treatment.
I truly believe the movement in medicine will ultimately go in a more functional direction, and steer away from the band-aid approach of popping pills and suppressing symptoms, but there is a long way to go. This will take more education, understanding, and action, and I hope you will be a part of it. If you need help making changes or don’t know where to start, please reach out.
Happy hump day!
Here is the podcast:
Therese Martinez, MS, RD, CPT