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Positivity For Better Health

April 2018 Column Editors Speak

Positivity For Better Health

The mind seems to be the superpower when it comes to beating illnesses and staying healthy.

By Dr Ulhas Ganu

Human health was described for the first time in a meaningful way back in 1948, when the WHO defined it as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Thus, the degree of health depends on the level of functional and metabolic efficiency of the organism. Any imbalance may lead to a metabolic disorder. As it defines an ideal state, almost impossible to achieve, this definition has been subject to a lot of criticism.

Yet, the WHO definition indicates in clear terms that life is not just about food, shelter and rest. It has been observed since ages that between wounded soldiers with similar intensity of injury, soldiers from the victorious side are more likely to recover from their injuries than the ones from the vanquished army, showing that positivity of outlook makes a vast difference to health. The term ‘psychosomatic diseases’ has its genesis in the ‘psychic part playing heavily on our body’. Stress is an unwanted gift of the modern lifestyle.

Positivity For Better Health 1
Dr. Ulhas Ganu

The caveman also was not without stress because of his way of life, surrounded by wild animals, with only rudimentary weapons at hand. There was no food security as planned farming was absent. To be able to face such uncertainties squarely, he developed an intricate biochemical response mechanism, the fight or flight response, governed by the sympathetic nervous system through the production of the hormones adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Even so, we did not hear of psychosomatic diseases afflicting mankind so frequently almost till the early part of the last century.

When the caveman faced a ferocious animal or faced an adverse situation, the fight or flight response and consequent shunting of blood to the vital organs would not only help him make an appropriate decision but more importantly, to execute it. In modern living, we may develop the biochemical response but may be unable to execute it because of social implications. We have no control over the situation; yet we react to it in an abnormal way, generating stress and the psychological factor, through the mind, affects the soma or structure that is the body. Such changes may later become irreversible, causing conditions like hypertension or diabetes, weakening the immune system.

While bones provide the framework for our body, we are what we are because of the muscles. Anti-gravity muscles are muscle groups involved in the stabilization of joints or other body parts by opposing the effects of gravity. In the absence of gravity, there is no need to invoke the services of the antigravity muscle system, as was hypothesized and found to be true in the case of astronauts who went out into outer space. Lack of functioning of the antigravity muscles leads to loss of muscle strength and tone, in turn leading to Gravity Related Medical Conditions (GRMC) like low back pain, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, postural neck and shoulder pain, and pelvic floor problems such as stress incontinence.

Surprisingly, it is not necessary to be in space to lose strength and tone of the anti-gravity muscles. A sedentary lifestyle like sitting in a recliner chair, avoiding climbing staircases, no running, and swimming, or a workstation-related routine—such as a desk job, slouching while working on the computer or while working with a microscope—can lead to muscle weakness. At some point in their lives, 70-80% of people face backache.

Through regular exercises or yogic practices that are designed to tone antigravity muscles, one can avoid GRMC and keep oneself fit and healthy. This applies to everyone except for those with acute illness. Not only healthy but chronically afflicted patients can benefit from yoga and meditation, which have been shown to improve a variety of symptoms like fatigue, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, and pain in cancer patients. There may be some contraindications and hence, learning from experts, and keeping one’s doctor or healthcare professionals in the loop are indicated for patients. Diminished overall health problems in society or reducing the intensity of symptoms in patients mean the lower load on medical and paramedical staff and better treatment for the needy.

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