As a health care practitioner, I am often asked, “How long before I get better?” Keep in mind that the restoration of optimal health takes time and patience that a quick fix mind set will never allow. In an attempt to answer this very important question I have stated the following 7 central principles to help answer that question.
#1. With nutrition, we are not suppressing or manipulating symptoms as with pharmaceuticals. We are not treating conditions as with herbology. We are simply giving the body what it needs to heal itself and rebuild itself anew and this takes time.
When correcting nutritional deficiencies, while we won’t see instant improvements in most cases, we will be promoting true and lasting healing. Pharmaceuticals may sometimes “work” instantly, yet never address underlying causes and posses unwanted side effects. Contrary to popular thinking, drugs don’t heal anything: only the body can do that-when it gets what it needs.
Dr. Michael Colgan explains in his book Optimum Sports Nutrition why patience is the key:“A principle of nutrition you need to know is physiological dynamics. Unlike drugs, nutrients do not have rapid effects. No quick fix. The business of nutrition is to build a better body. That has to wait on nature to turn over body cells. A blood cell lasts 60-120 days. In 3-4 months your whole blood supply is completely replaced. In 6 months almost all the proteins in your body die and are replaced, even the DNA of your genes. In a year all your bones and even the enamel of your teeth is replaced, constructed entirely out of the nutrients you eat.
“This time course is well illustrated by the course of deficiency diseases. If I remove all the vitamin C from your diet within 4 weeks blood vitamin C will drop to zero. But, you will see no symptoms of disease at 4 weeks. You will have to wait until enough of the healthy cells have been replaced by unhealthy cells. It is another 12 weeks before the symptoms of scurvy start to ravage your body.
“So when you implement an optimum nutrition program, don’t expect to see rapid results. In one of our studies at the Colgan Institute, runners were supplemented to try to improve their hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cell count. But after one month of supplementation, there were no improvements at all. After 6 months, however, all three indices were significantly increased.
“Think of it this way. If you take a neglected houseplant and start feeding and watering it, the leaves may perk up a bit from the improved nutrition. But you have to wait for the old leaves to die off and new leaves to grow before you get a really healthy plant. It is the same with the human body.
When you start feeding it better, you have to wait on physiological dynamics of the body to grow new, improved cells in the improved medium. After 18 years in sports nutrition, the shortest program we will give any athlete is six months.” When given the right nutrients and the right amount of time the body can do marvelous works of healing.
#2 . We are all unique. Individual biochemistries are affected by diet, lifestyle, drug usage, stress, fitness level, genetics, toxins, etc. It’s inevitable; therefore, that some persons will respond more rapidly than others to improved nutrition. If you’re not experiencing results as fast as you’d like, it could be a factor of any number of things. It might be that the body has priorities other than the one upon which you’re focusing. For example, you may want to lose body fat while your body may want to lose a tumor you don’t even know you have. Give your body permission to have its own priorities and timetable.
#3. Positive health changes can be occurring without you “feeling something.” Research studies utilizing blood tests, bone density and body fat measurements, etc. confirm this. Improved health begins on the molecular and cellular levels. Later, this may translate into the alleviation or disappearance of specific symptoms and conditions.
#4. The greatest health benefits of improved nutrition may well come in the latter years of life. Regardless of the rate your current health challenge is improving, continued optimum nutrition just makes good sense, since the greatest benefits may be experienced in your senior years. While others are painfully shuffling around nursing homes and tending to medicine schedules, you might be enjoying your summers on the Colorado River and winter in Hawaii. Is this a benefit you want? Learn what your dietary supplements can do for you. Then make an educated choice.
#5. If you experience a “correcting crises” while on an optimal nutritional program, stay the course – it’s working! When your body begins cleaning out toxins, metabolic wastes, parasites, candida die-off and the like, you may experience uncomfortable symptoms. Because you may feel worse before you feel better, it’s important to understand this process. The correcting crisis, when understood, is a clear indication that your improved nutrition program is truly working and leading you to improved health.
#6. Licensed health care practitioners still make educated guesses as to how long it might take to see a specific health improvement using nutrition. Admittedly an imprecise science, but as a starting point: For specific health improvements, figure three months, then add one additional month for each year the chronic condition has existed. For example, a chronic condition of 5 years might be expected to see good improvement with 8 months, provided the body, mind and spirit of the patient gets everything it needs. Experience with nutritional supplements largely indicates the longer the consumption, the greater the benefit.
#7. The human mind and spirit are powerful beyond measure. They can easily override any optimal health plan. They must therefore be in alignment with the healing process. Sometimes the non-physical causes of ill health are poorly understood by the individual dealing with it. If long term attempts to achieve better health bring minimal or no results, there may be deeper reasons that need exploration. Tend to your thinking, nurture your spirit. Staying mindful of these 7 central principles of nutrition and healing will help you on your path to optimal health.