Defining Health, to Improve Healthiness

For centuries, medical experts and philosophers have attempted to define health, with little success. We might forgive Hippocrates for describing health “as a delicate balance of four fluids: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm, with imbalance leading to illness,” or the traditional medical experts of China for describing health as “the opposing forces of yin and yan, the notion of five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal and water), and the concept of chi”. In 1949, the World Health Organization defined health, as “a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity“, and since then their definition has been often criticized and widely ignored.  It has not lead to any success in improving health nor fighting illness. Since that time, there have been few isolated attempts to define health, and all have been largely ignored by the medical and other professions.

Why can’t we create a useful definition of health? The answer is actually quite simple. It’s due to a simple misunderstanding, which is illustrated in this diagram. We need to understand four words, because one of them is largely missing in both ancient, and modern medicines.

HealthHealthinessThe four words are ill and illness, and health and healthiness. 

Let’s think about illness for a moment. What is the difference between ‘ill’ and illness? An ill, as a noun, is a problem or a misfortune, an evil, or harm.  How could you wish him ‘ill’. Ill cannot be measured, nor improved upon.

An illness, on the other hand is a specific case.  An illness can be diagnosed, measured, treated, and often cured.  An illness has a cause, and a prognosis.

It’s the same with health.  Health is a general concept, without specific substance. You might say that you ‘lose health’ when you get sick, and regain it when your illness is cured. The health that was lost cannot be measured, only the illness can be measured. Health cannot be measured, and as a result, it cannot be improved. Health, it seems, is not susceptible to medical, or any other technology.

There is no definition of ‘health’ that can be used to improve ‘healthiness’. To improve healthiness, to improve any specific aspect of health.

We need definitions of healthiness.

A healthiness is a specific measurable instance of health. A healthiness can be measured, it can be improved, and it can be demonstrated to have been improved. Your physical healthiness, your mental healthiness, your dietary healthiness can be measured and improved. But when doctor’s, and courts of law, search for ‘mental health’ today, they are actually searching for ‘mental illness’.

Once we understand that a healthiness is a specific instance of health, we can proceed to define many healthinesses, to learn to measure them and to improve on them. We can use current measures of healthiness, to test improvement techniques, and re-evaluate our measures of healthiness, and improve on our measurement techniques, and to improve our healthiness improvement techniques.

It is interesting to note that the word ‘illness’ is commonplace, but the word healthiness does not appear in dictionaries, except perhaps as a note in the definition of health. Many dictionaries and references refer ‘healthiness’ directly to health, as if the two concepts were the same. This leads to many confusions.

We can measure a healthiness, but we cannot measure health.  Let’s look more closely at the concept of measuring healthiness, to gain a better understanding.

What might be a measure of healthiness? Surely not height, nor weight, nor any scalar measurement. Individual measurements of height, width, or weight, for example give no indication of health. The vital signs – blood pressure, respiration rate, body temperature and pulse are measures of danger, of risk, not measures of healthiness.

BMI, the ratio between height and weight, is a crude indicator of healthiness. BMI can be a weak measure of healthiness, but it is a useful measure.  Health is slow.  BMI does not ‘attack’ like an illness, it changes slowly, often only with considerable effort.

BMI as a measure of healthiness illustrates an important principle. We cannot measure a healthiness as any single measurement. The same is true of illness. No single measurement can be used to diagnose an illness. Traditionally, an illness is diagnosed by at least three observations, or measurements of signs and symptoms.  Sometimes, one of the measurements is time. A measured instance of high blood pressure does not indicate hypertension. Hypertension exists when abnormally high resting blood pressure persists over time.

A healthiness, like an illness, requires several measurements, and an evaluation of the relationship between those measurements. Weight divided by height gives BMI.  But how can we tell if the result is more, or less ‘healthy’?

A measure of healthiness is a relationship between different factors, and like many Facebook relationships, “It’s complicated”.  Every relationship between two or more health factors, measurements of health factors, has a healthy goal.  This gives rise to a very point about measuring healthiness.

Every measure of healthiness can be expressed as a percentage. The calculation of BMI gives a number, but that number, alone, is not a useful measure of healthiness. BMI can only indicate a level of healthiness when it is compared to a goal. If your BMI is exactly at your BMI goal, then your BMI healthiness is 100 percent.  If your BMI is below your BMI goal, then your BMI healthiness is less than 100 percent, but if your BMI is above your BMI goal – your BMI healhtiness is also less than 100 percent. Note: you can change your level of BMI healthiness by changing your personal BMI goal.

This leads to another important concept of health, that is little studied by medical researchers. The concept of ‘unhealthiness’. If a healthiness is a measurable instance of health, what is an unhealthiness?  Is it measurable?

Is unhealthiness a broken arm, or a case of measles, or a cancer, an unhealthiness? No. The first is an injury, sometimes called an illness. The next two are clearly illnesses, not unhealthiness.

If you are as smoker, your smoking is an unhealthiness.  If you are obese, your weight is an unhealthiness (and probably your diet as well). Sometimes, and illness is directly caused by an unhealthiness – scurvy is caused by an unhealthy diet. It can only be cured with health.

An unhealthiness is a negative healthiness that can be changed.  “That can be changed” is an important detail.  If it cannot be changed, it is a fact of life.  It might be a disability, or a natural feature. It is only an unhealthiness if there is potential for change, for improvement.

If your BMI is 27, and your BMI goal is 25, your level of BMI healthiness is 25/27, about 93 percent. Your level of BMI unhealthiness is the difference – about 7 percent. Unhealthiness is a measure of the improvement you might make in a specific aspect of healthiness. It too can be expressed as a percentage.

An unhealthiness is room for improvement in healthiness, room for improvement in health. If there is little room for improvement, maybe it’s time to examine and measure a different aspect of healthiness. If there is no room for improvement in healthiness, the subject might be dead.

We cannot measure ‘health’, we can only measure specific incidences of healthiness, which also give us specific measurements of unhealthiness.  Note: We might also measure a specific unhealthiness, as a percentage, and thus be able to calculate the inverse – the level of that specific healthiness.

How many healthinesses exist?  How many healthinesses do we need to measure, to get a true picture of health? But there is no answer.  We cannot count the number of illnesses that exist, and we cannot count the number of ‘healthinesses’ that we might measure. Mathematically, the number of healthinesses is higher than the number of illnesses. It is possible to have two, three or even more illnesses at once. But we have thousands of different aspects of healthiness.

How many? Can we get any idea how many different healthinesses might exist? How broad and how deep is health? Yes, we can.

Healthiness has two main dimensions, physical aspects and process aspects. BMI is a physical measure of physical healthiness. BMI can be measured.  A goal can be created, and the subject can initiate actions (or non-actions, not eating specific foods or quantities) in attempts to attain the goal. Sleep is a process that can be a base for a process based healthiness.  How much sleep do you get every day, on average?  What is your healthy sleep goal? How unhealthy is your current sleep profile, how much room do you have for improvement.

Health-HierarchyThe physical aspects of health can be arranged into the hierarchy of healthicine, beginning with genetics and nutrition, and expanding through cells, tissues, organs, bodily systems, body, minds, spirits, and communities.  There are many individual components at every level.  Every individual component has many possible measures of healthiness. There are also components and processes that exista t intersections or cross the boundaries of the hierarchy. BMI is body healthiness. Sleep healthiness covers many layers – body, mind, and spirit. At each layer in the hierarchy of healthicine, there are many individual physical components of health.  Each can be measured in relation to others, to create a measure of healthiness. Of course some are more important than others – but we can’t learn which until we begin to measure, to study and improve our measurements.

The hierarchy of healthicine also contains many layers of process.  As we rise up the hierarchy, the processes become more and more complex.  The basic processes of life, and of health are growth, which includes reproduction and evolution, and healing. Life forms soon developed processes that sense and react to our environment, exercising our choices, and ourselves, resting, relaxing and recovering, as well as communicating and cooperating.  As life forms become more complex, more complex processes arise.  The circulation of blood, for example, is an extremely complex process that facilitates both growth, healing, and many other processes.

Does anyone measure healthiness today?  Of course. There are lots of organizations today, and lots of techniques for measuring healthiness. We, and these organizations can ‘create’ measurements of healthiness, thus creating new healthinesses to be measured.  All that is required is a healthiness goal – and a way to measure status and progress toward the goal. But today, there is no overall understanding of the concepts of healthiness and the concepts of unhealthiness.  The word healthiness is not in the dictionary, and it is not used in any scientific research papers.

We create illnesses as well. When we look closely at the concept of illness – illnesses are invisible.  They do not actually exist.  An illness is the name we give when a cause intersects with, or causes specific signs and symptoms.  We can see the cause – the bacteria, or the dietary deficiency, or the toxic chemical.  We can see the results – the signs and symptoms of illness. But the illness only exists in the intersection of the causes and the symptoms.  The cause can exist without the illness. The symptoms can exist without the illness.  The illness only exists at the intersection.

We know this, about illness, but we don’t study healthiness, so we don’t know much about healthiness. We have no understanding of the concepts of healthiness.

When your doctor, or your health coach, measures your BMI, they are measuring your healthiness. Adolphe Quetelet created and refined BMI in the mid-1800s. Quetelet didn’t create it to measure healthiness, instead it was created to measure the unhealthiness of populations, and their tendency towards illness. BMI was not intended for use by individuals, because it does not contain individual goals. But, with an individual goal, it can be used as a measure of individual healthiness.

Most measurements of healthiness today are directed against illness, not towards improvements in health.  We can change that, now that we understand the of healthiness, and of unhealthiness. Once we do that, we will know that the definition of ‘health’ is largely irrelevant.

But what about ‘overall healthiness’, how might we measure that? In order to measure overall healthiness, we need to be aware of a fundamental distinction between diagnosing illness and measuring healthiness. When we diagnose an illness, our goal is to eliminate possibilities, to zero in on the illness by asking specific questions that focus our attention.

In this diagram, the medical view follows the red arrow, to focus signs and symptoms on the illness, and sometimes, on the cause of the illness. 

A healthicine view searches for healthiness, looking in the opposite direction. But it doesn’t look for a single healthiness and it doesn’t look for a single cause of healthiness. When we search for health, for overall healthiness, we need to widen our perspective, widen our view.

It is not logical to ‘narrow’ our view to find health. Medicine searches for illness by narrowing the view to a single illness.  But using this technique to measure health is a misunderstanding.  An illness is like a tree.  Health, overall health, is like a forest, like a jungle, like the garden of Eden. If you want to understand a forest, a jungle, even a garden, you need techniques that broaden your view, not techniques that focus it.

If want to know if a student is ready to graduate, we don’t try to ‘zero in’ on the question. We ask the student a large number of questions.  The questions cover the area of study. If the patient passes the test, they get a mark, a percentage – and a decision is made about their success.  Sometimes, there are errors, but the more questions we ask, the more accurate our assessment becomes.  It’s the same with overall healthiness.

We can learn which areas of healthiness have more opportunity for improvement, by studying many factors, and comparing them.  Developing techniques to measure and improve healthiness is more complex than searching for a diagnosis, and then searching for a cause, because health is about choices, about opportunities, not about limitations and risks.

We might, over time, learn which aspects of healthiness are more important, and which are less important, but I suspect that time is far away.  At present, even studies that might be viewed as measures of healthiness, tend to be used to predict and avoid illness, not to improve healthiness.

to your health, tracy

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Mr President: “America Can’t Cure Cancer”

USFlagCancersPresident Obama, I applaud your initiative to cure cancer. Joe Biden is a very capable person.  However, it is not possible for America to cure cancer today.  It is much less possible, yes, less than impossible, to cure cancer within the next 15 months.  Cancer cures, today, are defined by 5 year survival.  If you cure a cancer today, you can’t claim it was cured until 5 years have passed. Even Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Moonshot 2020 fails this test. If he’cures’ a cancer today, it’s not proven ‘cured’ until 2021.

There are many other reasons why it is not possible for America to cure cancer. The three fundamental reasons are:

  1. Cure is not defined for cancer.
  2. Cancer is a general class of disease. Only a specific case of an illness can be cured.
    Note: Every cure is an anecdote.
  3. Cancer cures are illegal.

When John Kennedy announced the moon mission, in 1962, he had a huge advantage over your search for a cancer cure. We can see the moon.  It’s right there in front of us, every day. We can easily tell when we get there.  It’s a simple, clear goal.

Curing cancer is not a simple, clear goal.  Not only that, curing cancer is not possible, using current scientific and medical definitions of cancer, of cures, and of cancer cures. It is also not legal to claim a cure for many cures of cancer.

Why Define Cure?

Modern medical science cannot find ‘a cancer cure’ because ‘cancer cure’ and ‘cancer cured’ are not clearly defined.  You can search the literature for a definition of cancer cure. There is none.  The cancer establishment has decided to use ‘diagnosis birthday’ as a definition of cancer cure.  It’s silly, but it’s the best we have today. If you are diagnosed with cancer, and you are cancer free after surviving 5 years – no matter what treatments you received, you are ‘5 year cured’ according to today’s cancer statistics. If your cancer returns after 4 years, you were not cured, but if it returns after 6 years – you were cured.

This, frankly, is total nonsense. Imagine if we used this model for other diseases?  If a patient is diagnosed with diabetes, or arthritis, or obesity – and we cure the illness – we would then need to wait 5 years before we could claim they were ‘cured’.

We can only cure cancer when we create a definition that measures cured.

Defining Cure

How should cure be defined?  It is necessary to define cure, before we can test if a cure is valid, test if the cure has worked.  It is necessary to ‘define cure’, before we can find a cure.  It is necessary to define cure, in order to validate a cure when one is claimed. Today, many people claim to have cured cancer.  But with no definition of cure, no definition of cured. As a result, there can be no proof, only denial. Today’s scientific, medical systems can only prove ‘failure to cure’.

How should we define cure?

There are several useful definitions of cure, and of cured in medicine today:

  1. A cure is an action that stops the progress of an illness by addressing key causes.
  2. A cure is the healing the occurs before, during and after an illness.
  3. A cure can be a surgery that ‘cures’ damage or  a disability caused by an illness. Note: Surgeries seldom cure illnesses with active causes, unless the entire cause can be surgically removed.

Cancer is a complex disease, with a large number of possible causes, and  a large number of progressions. Each specific case of a cancer, each illness, has specific causes, and a specific progression, which depends on the cancer, on the health of the patient, on the treatments, and on the cure.

Some cases of cancers might be cured by Type 1 Cure – by stopping the progress of the illness. Many current cancer treatments attempt to stop the progression of the illness – without addressing the cause. The result, predictably, is remission of symptoms – the growth of cancer cells, but the cancer is not cured.  It returns, but it never really went away.  To cure a cancer by stopping the progression, we must address the cause of the progression, not just the progression.

In other cases a cancer has grown so far that surgery might be required to remove and repair the damage it has caused. Most cancers require healing to complete the cure.  Some cancers might be healed, without surgical or other intervention.

Some cases of cancer might require all three types of cure for a complete cure.

It is important to note that no cure is a ‘thing’.  Every cure is an action.  Penicillin does not cure infections by itself.  Penicillin only cures infections when it is taken in specific doses, for specific cases of an illness.  We cannot ‘find’ the thing that cures cancer, no matter how hard we search, because the cure is not a thing.

Cancer is a Disease, not an Illness

We tend to use the word ‘cancer’ for two things, without thinking about it.

– Cancer is a disease, a class of illnesses.
– A cancer is a specific case of an illness.

But in medicine,t here is a clear difference between an illness and a disease – a class of illnesses.  An illness is what the patient has, what the patient presents to the doctor, what the patient and the doctor wants to cure. A disease is what the doctor diagnoses, to aid in developing a prognosis and a treatment for the illness.  Diagnosis, the act of naming the disease, puts the specific illness into a class of illnesses, giving it a disease name. But it is still only a specific case, an illness, not a disease.

Every illness has the potential to be cured, but no disease can be cured.

Every illness, every specific case of cancer, has specific causes and a specific progression. Each illness is cured only when the causes and the progression are addressed. A cancer is no exception.

But a disease, a class of illnesses, does not have a single cause that can be addressed by a cure.  A disease, a class of illnesses, does not have a single progression, that can be addressed by a cure.  The disease of cancer cannot be cured.

Only a specific case of a cancer can be cured. Every specific case is an anecdote.

Cancer Cures are Illegal

You might have heard of some cancer cures that are illegal.  Conspiracy theories?

The fact that cancer cures are illegal is simple and clear. You can check the legality at your local USFDA (US Food and Drug Administration) webpage, where it is clearly stated: “The disclaimer must also state that … the product is not intended to ‘diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,’ because only a drug can legally make such a claim.“. It is not legal for any substance or treatment, except an approved drug, to claim to have cured any illness.

If a non-drug treatment cures a cancer, it is not legal, according to the USFDA, to claim a cure. If we find a cancer cure, that is not a drug, it is illegal.

This severely limits our ability to cure cancer. Because the USFDA has clearly stated that only a drug can legally claim to cure any disease – there are no studies today of cures that are not drugs.  Journalists might pretend that we are searching the jungles for plants that cure cancer. But the USFDA will not allow anyone to claim that a plant can cure cancer. Some people have claimed that the cure for their cancer was marijuana, or a herb, or a spice. But those are not legal cures. According to the USFDA law, a drug must be extracted, purified and scientifically tested – before anyone can claim it cures any disease, not just a cancer. At the same time, it is not scientifically possible to test a cure, because cured is not defined.

This is simply nonsense.  We know the cure for scurvy is Vitamin C, preferably in foods. We know that the cure for progressive arsenic poisoning is to stop consuming arsenic. We know the cure for sloth (an illness perhaps not technically defined as a disease) is exercise. It’s easy to make a long list of illnesses that can be cured, but not by medicines. Many illnesses cannot be cured with drugs, they can only be cured with ‘health’. With healthy foods, often with healthy exercise of body, mind, spirit and even community, and sometimes only with healthy restraint of body, mind, spirit and community. Many iIllnesses cannot be cured with medicines, can only be cured with healthiness, with healthicines. But, according to the USFDA law, only a drug can cure an illness.

There is an entire class of illnesses that can only be cured with health, not with drugs. Many cases of cancer are clearly in this class. The World Health Organization classifies diseases into three categories, using the ICD10 International Classification of Diseases and encourages worldwide classification of all disease as either:

  • communicable diseases, HIV, TB, etc.
  • non communicable diseases : hypertension, breast cancer, etc.
  • external causes of injuries : traffic accident, drowning.

Which is cancer? Most cancers are non communicable diseases.  Some might be caused by a virus or other communicable diseases. But there’s a simple problem with non communicable diseases.

Non Communicable Diseases Cannot be Cured by Medicine

There are many, many non communicable disease. Each is caused by a lack of healthiness, and can only be cured by healthiness. Modern medicine studies illness to death, but it does not study healthiness at all.  As a result, there are no cures defined, no cures identified for any non communicable diseases.

Every non communicable disease is currently classed as incurable by modern medicine. Medical texts do not list cures for any of these diseases. There are no tests for ‘cured’, for any of these diseases. If you cure your hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis – there is no medical test to prove the cure. The only cure for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis is health.  If you raise your healthiness – the illness disappears.  If the illness disappears, it is because you raised your healthiness. If you check, you will find that even scurvy, a non communicable disease that we understand clearly – cannot be cured by medicine.  As a result, most, if not all, medical texts do not use the word ‘cure’ for scurvy.  Scurvy is a non communicable disease, therefore it is an incurable illness.

Many medical experts classify these illnesses ‘incurable’.  This is simply giving up. It is not possible to prove that an illness cannot be cured. But, according to the USFDA, these illnesses can only be cured by drugs.

There are many people, today, who claim to have cured their cancers.  There are even clinics who have claimed to cure cancer patients – although none in the USA. In the USA it is illegal to claim to cure cancers, unless you cure them with a drug, and most cancers cannot be cured with a drug.  We’ve spend more than 40 years proving that.

Have any patients been cured of their cancer?  We have no idea. Although there are many claims of cancers cured, there are no statistics.  No one validates, or refutes claims of cancers cured in any scientific manner.  If you cure your cancer, your father’s cancer, or your patient’s cancer, the cure will be ignored. The cancer, the patient, and the cure will disappear from medical statistics.

There is one final important point about cancer cures.

Medical Insurance Won’t Pay

Medical insurance is another reason America can’t find a cure for cancer, another reason we cannot cure many illnesses. Medical insurance pays for treatments, not for cures. If you are diagnosed with any non communicable disease – and you receive treatment – your medical insurance will pay for the treatment, as long as it’s on their list.

But if you cure your illness, or if your doctor cures your illness, or your mother cures your illness – your medical insurance will not pay for the cure, unless it is on their list of treatments.

Cures are not on any list. Only treatments are on the list, not cures. If the treatment cures your illness – your insurance will pay for the treatment. But if any treatment that is ‘not on the list’ actually cures your illness – your insurance will not pay for it.

This is, frankly, nonsense – and a waste of money. You can buy insurance to pay for treatments, and if you receive treatments – they will be paid for.  But you cannot buy insurance that will pay for results. You cannot buy insurance that will pay for cures.

If you have a non communicable illness, current medical insurance is prepared to pay for the rest of your life, if necessary.  If your illness is cured, there is no more need for treatments, no more need for payments.  It only makes sense to pay for cures. It makes sense to pay more for cures, than for treatments that do not cure. Even though the USFDA says that only drugs can cure, it makes economic sense to pay for cures, whether they are a consequence of drugs, or any other treatment.

How can we Cure Cancer?

In light of the above, how might we cure cancer? We need to do several things.

  1. Define cure, and cured for cancer, and for every non communicable disease. We cannot search for cures, if cure is not defined. Once we define cured, we need to count cured, to keep statistics on cures, and use those statistics to improve our definitions.
  2. Allow medical experts to search everywhere for actions that cure.  Today, cures are only legal if they are drugs.  This is nonsense.  It forces people who cure a cancer, to hide from the law.
  3. Insurance companies need to figure out how to pay for cures.

I wish you and your team success.  I hope that your plans take us down the path to a cure for cancer.  To head down that path, we need to define the goal.  We need to define ‘cancer cure’ and ‘cancer cured’.

to your health, tracy

Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine:

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The Medicines Myth

medicine_mythsWhat are medicines for? What do medicines do? 
Your first instinct might be exactly wrong “Medicines cure disease“. Isn’t that what medicines do?

No, it is not.

I researched the top selling prescription medicines of 2011 (you can see the list below) and reached a simple conclusion.

None of the top ten best selling drugs in 2011 cures a disease. Some of them address symptoms  – but none address the cause of the disease they treat. Continue reading “The Medicines Myth” »

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The Love Cures

Love-CureWhich illnesses can only be cured by love? You might be surprised. Let’s suppose you have scurvy.  You feel tired and weak all the time, irritable and miserable. You have pain in your legs, and your skin is breaking out in small blue spots and you bruise easily. Your gums are swollen, and bleed a lot. You don’t seem to have much breath, after exercising.

Scurvy is caused by a lack of Vitamin C in your diet. You go to a doctor, the doctor prescribes Vitamin C tablets. Within a few weeks, your symptoms are gone.

Is your scurvy cured? Continue reading “The Love Cures” »

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The Cure is the Cause, the Cause is the Cure

CureCauseEvery illness has a cure. How can we find the cure? Every illness has a cause. How can we find the cause?

It’s obvious that every illness has a cure, obvious that every illness has a cause, but most of the time, when we encounter an illness, we don’t look for the cause, we don’t look for the cure, we treat the symptoms. Are the symptoms the cause? No. Are the symptoms the cure? Nope.

To clearly understand “the cure is the cause, the cause is the cure” (The Healthicine Creed), we need to clearly understand what we mean by illness. Our medical systems don’t help much.  Modern medicine has no clear definition of illness, nor of cure. Modern medicine tackles ‘disease’, but it has no clear definition of disease either. Continue reading “The Cure is the Cause, the Cause is the Cure” »

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