Wellness Planning 101: Do You Have Immune Power?

As a doctor of Preventive and Integrative Medicine, I like to remind my patients that our energy, our vitality, our enthusiasm, our passion for life, and our happiness are all priceless commodities that we can’t afford to live without.  Let’s face it, everyone all over the world wants to be healthy and happy!  Fortunately, there’s a way to protect these precious commodities.  To do it successfully, however, I’ve found that it requires a little wellness planning.  In the simplest of terms, wellness planning empowers us to be well, stay well, and prevent disease.  In other words, wellness planning guides us with the basic tools, strategies, and know-how to fight off long-term illness and degenerative disease, which have the ability to restrict our happiness; stifle our enthusiasm; undermine our passions in our personal and professional lives; and leave us physically fatigued, mentally strained, and emotionally stressed.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what causes long-term illness?  Are your genes, genetic predisposition, or family history putting you at risk for disease?  Is illness just a matter of misfortune or bad luck, or is there something you can do about it?  Today we’re going to explore these questions in more detail.  Our goal is to take the confusion out of what causes long-term disease, so you can develop a wellness plan that will protect your long-term health and happiness.  With that in mind, take a moment and ask yourself the following question:

  • Chronic and degenerative disease–such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke–is determined primarily by:

a.       My genes,  genetic predisposition, and family history

b.      My daily living habits

c.       Environmental factors, such as air pollution and water pollution

d.      Misfortune or bad luck

While all of these factors can certainly play a role in the promotion of disease, the idea behind this question is to get you thinking about what plays the primary role in causing long-term illness.  Let’s take a closer look.

Our Daily Living Habits, Our Immune Power, and Our Long-Term Wellbeing

Is it possible that the way we eat, the way we think, the way we manage stress, and our activity levels on a day-to-day basis have the most influence as to whether we stay well, or eventually come down with a long-term illness–more so than our age, our genes, or our environment?  While you may not hear this in the media, and may not even hear this in your doctor’s office, this is exactly the case.  Chronic disease and degenerative illness–such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and type II diabetes–have been shown to be primarily determined by our daily living habits.  This isn’t just my personal observation in overseeing more than 60,000 patients, but is supported by the most recognized clinical research and epidemiological studies on the prevention and cause of disease.[i]

More specifically, self-enriching daily living habits–such as eating Smart Foods, meditating, and exercising regularly–build up our body’s Immune Power.  What exactly do I mean when I talk about Immune Power?  Our Immune Power is determined by our body’s ability to self-govern, self-rejuvenate, and self-repair.  Whereas daily living habits of self-care increase our energy and vitality, strengthen our Immune Power, and increase our ability to fight off aging and disease, daily living habits that lead to nutritional stress (eating the wrong foods) and emotional stress (mental strain and emotional turmoil) do just the opposite.  These daily habits of self-wear undermine our immune system, wear down our mind and body, increase our susceptibility to burnout and fatigue, and eventually lead to sickness and disease.  In other words, our lifestyle and our long-term wellbeing have a hand-to-glove relationship. What I find particularly exciting about this, as a doctor of Preventive & Integrative Medicine, is with some simple shifts in our lifestyle, the great majority of chronic and degenerative illnesses can be prevented!  That’s right!  With an intelligent wellness plan in place you can fortify your body’s immune system, prevent the accumulation of nutritional and emotional stress, and build up the Immune Power you need to protect your body from long-term disease.

Our Genes & Our Long-Term Wellbeing

How about our genes and genetic predisposition?  Can these factors play a role in developing a chronic health complication?  They can certainly play a role, but are not the primary factors.  What I mean by that is no matter what your gene pool is, it’s how you play your cards that counts.  In other words, a genetic predisposition needs a certain environment in the body–an environment fueled by nutritional stress and emotional tension–to really take hold.  Let’s take heart disease as an example.  If your mom has heart disease and your dad has heart disease, does that mean that you are going to get heart disease?  Not necessarily!  Not if you do something about it!  By eating Smart Foods, exercising regularly, and effectively managing stress, you can prevent 97-99% of adult onset heart issues–regardless of your hereditary factors.  This applies to other chronic illnesses as well.  Studies have estimated that less than 3% of all breast cancer cases, for example, are a function of family history.[ii] Meanwhile, the genes that have received a lot of attention in increasing a woman’s risk for breast cancer–the mutated forms of the BRCA-1 and BRCA-2 genes–are only carried by 0.2% of the population.[iii] What I find interesting is even in the presence of these genes, not all women develop breast cancer.

So what is it that I’m trying to get at?  While it’s common to point the finger at genes, family history, and genetic predisposition as a primary cause of disease, my personal observation and mounting scientific evidence doesn’t support this.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t want you to ignore a family history of heart disease, cancer, or any other degenerative illness for that matter.  I just want to point out that in the vast majority of cases, your gene pool doesn’t have the primary say as to whether you stay well or eventually succumb to a long-term illness in your lifetime.  So who does?  You do!  That’s right–you have an incredible influence over this process by the daily choices you make, and whether or not you are creating an environment in your body for wellness or illness to express itself.  In other words, it’s up to us!  Our primary risk for illness is determined primarily by our lifestyles, and what we do on a daily basis to either build-up or break-down our immune system–our body’s ability to self-govern, self-repair, self-rejuvenate, and fight off long-term disease.  So how exactly do our genes come into play?  Our genes play a secondary role in either magnifying or mitigating this underlying risk profile.

With that in mind, here’s the main point that I try to communicate to my patients and that I want to share with you: the steps we take in building nutritional balance and emotional balance, maintaining a positive attitude, staying physically fit, managing stress, and developing a powerful immune system are far more important than our genetic predisposition when it comes to being well and staying well!

Environmental Factors

What about environmental factors, such as air pollution and water pollution?  While air pollution and water pollution certainly aren’t good for you, they aren’t the primary factors behind the widespread epidemic of chronic and degenerative disease in our country.  As it relates to cancer, for example, it’s been estimated that somewhere between 1-5% of cancers can be attributable to air and water pollution.[iv],[v] It’s also important to note that even in the presence of air and water pollution, you can increase your ability to filter, detoxify, and protect your body from these environmental toxins by strengthening your immune system and building Immune Power.  How do you go about developing your Immune Power, increasing your resistance to environmental toxins, and preventing disease?  Through a daily wellness plan!

Falling Victim to Disease

So far we’ve discussed our lifestyle, our genes, and our environment as contributing causes of long-term illness.  But what about the possibility of plain old misfortune? Although coming down with any illness is an unfortunate process, to say the least, I try to encourage all of my patients not to take a victim’s mentality when it comes to disease.  Why is that?  When we believe that illness is a function of being at the wrong place at the wrong time it’s a disempowering process.  When we see ourselves as victims, it keeps us from embracing our infinite potential to grow stronger immunologically, metabolically, nutritionally, attitudinally, emotionally, and spiritually.  It inhibits our desire and motivation to make the necessary shift in our thinking habits, eating habits, fitness habits, and stress management habits that are primarily responsible for determining our Immune Power–our long-term ability to fight off aging and disease.

In Summary

So what have we learned so far today?  We all have a tremendous ability to influence our long-term health, happiness, and wellbeing!  In other words, developing Immune Power and maintaining the body’s ability to self-repair, self-govern, and fight off disease is something that we can all do to be well, stay well, and live well-regardless of our genes or genetic predisposition.  As a doctor of Preventive Medicine, my goal is to make sure that all my patients have a wellness plan in place to build Immune Power and secure their health, just like it makes sense to have a financial plan in place to build your finances and secure your wealth.

Do you have a wellness plan in place to protect the long-term health and happiness of you and your family? Looking for help in how to get started?  Let us know how we can help!


[i] For those that are interested in more information on this subject matter–particularly as it pertains to nutrition and long-term illness–I would encourage you to start by reading The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, and Diet For a New America, by John Robbins.

[ii] Colditz, G. A., Willett, W. C., Hunter, D. J., Stampfer, M. J., Manson, J. E., Hennekens, C. H., et al. (1993). Family history, age, and risk of breast cancer. Prospective data from the Nurses’ Health Study. JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association , 338-343.

[iii] National Human Genome Research Institute. (n.d.). Learning about Breast Cancer. Retrieved March 8, 2011, from Genome.gov: http://www.genome.gov/10000507#ql

[iv] National Cancer Institute. (1985). Cancer rates and risks. Washington, DC.

[v] Doll, R., & Peto, R. (1981). The causes of cancer: quantitative estimates of avoidable risks of cancer in the United States today. Journal of the National Cancer Institute , 1191-1308.

  • By Loving Killer, July 18, 2011 @ 2:31 am

    I agree, the gene excuse is often played, but sometimes people need to look more closely at themselves and not their ancestors!

  • By Jim Bottrell, July 18, 2011 @ 3:55 am

    Wow, this article was great. I am so glad I came across this blog. It looks relatively new, but I am all over it now.

  • By Simba, July 18, 2011 @ 4:49 am

    Cool thoughts and theories.

  • By Henry Turner, July 18, 2011 @ 7:56 am

    Very informative post, thanks.

  • By meltzer, July 19, 2011 @ 4:40 pm

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Yep, a lot of times we underestimate the power of our immune system and our infinite potential to influence our long-term wellbeing.

  • By meltzer, July 19, 2011 @ 4:44 pm

    Thanks Jim! Glad you enjoyed the article. Yep, we just started up the blog, but we’ll be posting weekly articles and videos so check back to get our view on different wellness topics.

  • By martin, August 15, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

    great web site. i am getting much out of your latest book and learning how to understand nutrition. thanks martin grusin meltzer patient and friend of 25 years,i always knew you were right.

  • By meltzer, August 16, 2011 @ 2:20 am

    Martin…thanks for your kind words. You are a learned a wise man. It has been my pleasure to be your Doctor all of these years. In good health, Barnet Meltzer

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