Current science continues to demonstrate that the reason we move away from health and develop chronic illness is due to our environment rather than our genes. Less than 1% of chronic illness is truly genetic in nature. Essentially, this means that chronic illness is preventable.

Yet over half of the American population has been diagnosed with a chronic illness and nearly 80% of all health care spending (doctors’ visits, prescriptions, hospitalizations, etc.) is a result of these conditions of lifestyle.

This number is expected to rise astronomically over the next few years. In fact, many say this single problem will bankrupt our nation. Interesting. It’s particularly interesting since science tells us this is completely preventable!

What are chronic illnesses? The list includes conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, infertility, autoimmune issues and disorders, Alzheimer’s, dementia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, acid reflux, constipation, insomnia, decreased sex drive, and so on.

With a list this expansive, it’s hard to imagine how we could possibly prevent these conditions from developing in the first place. They seem so unrelated. In order to understand our role in preventing chronic illness, first we must have a simple understanding of how chronic illness develops as a result of our environment.

To explain how our lifestyle and environment relates to chronic illness, I’d like to share with you a visual that Dr. James Chestnut, B.Ed., M.Sc.,D.C.,C.C.W.P. of The Wellness Practice in Victoria, B.C. teaches. Imagine that when your life begins you are born into a pool of water. You have two items on you: inflatable water wings and an empty backpack.

Your water wings have been inflated for you, but they have a very slow leak. The air in them is expected to last 120 years (the “healthy” human lifespan). As the air leaks out of them, you have less time left. It’s called getting older! If there’s no interference to these water wings, they’ll last you all 120 years.

Each time you make a lifestyle choice that is incongruent with your innate genetic requirements for health, you add a “rock” to your backpack. Our blueprint for health and optimal function requires purity and sufficiency in the way we eat, move and think. This means, giving our bodies exactly what’s required for optimal health (purity) and providing enough of it (sufficiency).

No where in our blueprint for optimal function do we find toxic and deficient choices of lifestyle. Toxicity and deficiency are incongruent with homeostatic cell function. Therefore, it’s these toxic and deficient choices that become the rocks in your backpack.

These rocks (stressors) can come from any area of lifestyle: poor nutritional choices, sedentary living, being overweight, being chronically stressed out, having unhealthy relationships, taking toxic drugs, not feeling loved or appreciated, excessive negative stimuli, having poor posture, smoking or exposure to smoke, not enough time outside, and so on.