When I was 23 years old, I had my gallbladder taken out. The pain of the gall bladder attacks had been excruciating, and I couldn’t imagine living in constant fear of the next attack. No more gall bladder…no more gall bladder pain. Problem solved.
Wow, have I changed. After more than 30 years of reporting on health care and wellness, I no longer view our bodies as pieces of flesh dangling off a skeletal frame. Rather, the body is an incredible system of engineering with a combination of highly specialized and multifunctional parts and assorted backup systems.
The more I learn about the human body, the more miraculous I believe it is. And even though my attacks were “solved,” having my gall bladder removed left my liver and digestive system constantly in overdrive because they lack the fat-digesting support of my gall bladder.
The good news is that, thanks to those backup systems, our bodies often have the miraculous ability to adjust. But just because we can adjust doesn’t mean that we should remove parts without understanding the full impact…or that we should force our bodies to do unnatural things because it’s more convenient that way.
C-sections can be beneficial for mothers and babies in distress, yet thousands of seemingly normal pregnancies end in C-sections each year. Expectant mothers may want to rethink that choice. Scientists now are learning that babies don’t simply travel through goo during a vaginal birth. They receive important micro flora (aka, “good bacteria”) from the mother. A C-section bypasses that part of the birth process, and that means the immune systems of C-section babies do not get the same kick-start as children who are born vaginally. Studies have found more overall health problems in C-section babies at age two than in babies who were delivered vaginally, as well as increased incidences of obesity, asthma and diabetes later in life. Will the mother and baby be fine after a C-section? Yes—but the immune system may be lacking and there may be an impact on the overall health of children born by C-section.
Another example: Back surgeries. While surgery may provide faster results for herniated discs, more conservative alternatives provide comparable mid- and -long-term results without the high risk and high cost of surgery. Our bodies know how to heal when we trust them to do it, and we help them along in constructive ways.
Normal symptoms of illness such as fever, indigestion and/or assorted sources of pain do not mean that our body is broken and that those symptoms should be muted with painkillers and acid suppressants. This is our body doing its job. A fever helps to kill germs that can’t exist in an excessively hot environment. Muscle or joint pain and tension headaches are signals that something in our bodies is in distress. Shutting off the pain signal with medication does not solve the distress. It merely masks it and creates risk for further injury. Same thing with indigestion—as I’ve said and written many times, suppressing stomach acid is one of the worst things we can do to our bodies and can result in grave ramifications.
There is serious concern about the fevers that some people are getting after they receive the COVID vaccine. While the response to the vaccine may be stronger than the response to other vaccines, our bodies commonly react with fever and other symptoms of illness when they face foreign material, such as in a vaccine. That fever, ache and fatigue indicate that our bodies are doing their job.
Science has learned a lot about our bodies, but there still is much that is not understood, and new discoveries continue to be made. CBD is all the rage these days, but it is less than 30 years since researchers first discovered the existence of the endocannabinoid system, which impacts not just pain but also sleep and the immune system.
Similarly, researchers have known about fascia—the “film” that surrounds all of our muscles and seems to hold our bodies together—since the first dissection occurred. Anyone who has ever cleaned a chicken or a piece of steak knows about fascia. But it is only in the last three years that researchers have discovered that fascia isn’t just a body stocking. It actually contains an inner layer, called the interstitium, that serves as a communication channel for our immune system, allowing lymphatic fluid to drain and white blood cells to get where they are needed to fight disease. This is an entirely new layer in our immune system that doctors had no idea existed until recently. Isn’t that amazing?
With everything we know, we only just discovered this incredibly sophisticated part of our immune system. The implications are huge. Besides opening a whole new field of study, this is a dramatic demonstration of how much we don’t know and that scientific “facts” are fleeting. And let me pose this—if the interstitium is a highly sophisticated communication channel that runs through every organ and muscle in our body, what are the implications of communication blockages when a surgery cuts through the fascia?
When I had my gallbladder out, I was not told about the long-term impact on my digestive function. Just like women often are not told that their lives may be shortened or their risk for heart disease increased when their ovaries are removed “as long as the doctor is in there” removing their uterus removed due to fibroids or prolapse. Removing these hormone-manufacturing machines deprives the body of estrogen and progesterone, which do far more than support fertility and the menstrual cycle.
Newton’s third law states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That includes the forced restructuring of our body’s systems, be it through surgery or activity-suppressing drugs.
When the body is broken due to trauma or injury, fixing it works miracles. But when it comes to healing and creating health, we need to stop throwing out the old Chevy and truly appreciate the sophisticated driving machine that we were born with. Race-car drivers don’t win races unless their cars are firing on all cylinders.
Sarah Hiner, president and CEO of Bottom Line Inc., is passionate about giving people the tools and knowledge they need to be in control of their lives in areas such as living a healthier life, the challenges of the health-care system, commonsense financial advice and creating great relationships. She appears often on national radio and hosts the Bottom Line Advocator Podcast, where she interviews leading experts to help people be their own best advocates in all areas of life.