The End of Illness
Had a great weekend, in case you wondered. Friday we made the long drive to picturesque Midway, high in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Though it’s always a wrench to leave home, we love these trips to Midway. Likewise, when it’s time to return home, it’s hard to leave lovely Midway.
The last trip we came for a wedding. This time's a work trip but I brought a new book recommended by a friend, titled The End of Illness. The point of the book, I learned, is that just as we conquered last century’s pandemic of infectious diseases, we maybe could also conquer our current killers, the chronic diseases.
The infectious diseases (influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, cholera, smallpox, etc.) had existed in history but were made suddenly worse by Industrial Revolution crowding of people into cities. These people had once lived close to Nature—and Nature’s food supply—in farms and villages. Now they lived in crowded cities without sanitary water or systems of waste removal, separated from fresh foods and dependent on processed foods whose only virtue was a long shelf life.
The infectious diseases were the short-term result of these changes and were conquered by developing clean water and waste removal systems (vaccines came later). I shouldn’t say conquered; it’s more accurate to say they were prevented by the rise of public health works. Unfortunately, the food supply kept getting worse.
The chronic disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke, were the long-term result of industrialized life, and factory food. They take decades to develop and are the plagues of our time. A large part of medical research today is directed towards finding a cure for these diseases.
It’s the theme of this blog that prevention also offers our best chance of surviving the chronic diseases. So imagine the encouragement of reading a book that advocated just that—prevention of chronic disease, through better diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and becoming your own doctor. (The author shares my caution about vitamin pills and supplements.)
Because the author is both researcher and doctor, The End of Illness posits that science can offer better treatment through research into the million or so proteins triggered by our DNA. The idea works like this: The proteins in a drop of your blood can identify whichever chronic disease(s) you’re developing and guide you to a healthier lifestyle.
A current example of protein testing is the PSA test for prostate cancer, the usefulness of which has been recently questioned, after several decades of use. So I’m doubtful about how easy it is to innovate and implement such tests. Besides, one lesson from writing this blog is an appreciation of how hard it is to change one’s lifestyle. It’s easier to start down the right path than change it after you’re ill, though course adjustment could come from the protein testing advocated.
The Wasatch Back Ragnar relay
Saturday morning, as I came outside to enjoy the morning air, a runner jogged by, followed by others. These weren’t your regular Saturday joggers because they carried numbered tags. I realized our home was on the route of the biggest relay race in the country, the Wasatch Back Ragnar relay. Did I say “relay race”? I suppose it is, but it’s more a mutual encouragement marathon. The Ragnar is basically 197 miles with thousands of runners encouraging each other. It’s the most positive thing I’ve ever seen.
All day long on Saturday runners and team vans, creatively decorated, passed by the house. There appeared to be several thousand teams, each team composed of 12 relay runners and two support vans. So, I’m guessing, 2000 runners, 4000 decorated vans and 24,000 cheering team members, mostly thirtyish moms. There were guys too, but the Ragnar is really a women’s race.
I stayed outside all day Saturday, reading The End of Illness, looking up as runners passed, or enjoying the sun on my back as I took breaks to weed flower beds. Picking up on the spirit of the race, I also spent time at the front gate, giving encouragement to the runners. Despite their exhaustion, a few runners would glance over and then shout back as they passed, “Love the house.”
You couldn’t watch the Ragnar and see all the cheering and encouragement that accompanied the hard running without just feeling great. It was infectious. At the end of the day I told the beautiful wife I’d never felt more positive about the chances for food reform in our society. Sunday was Father’s Day. It was the greatest weekend.
Please comment: In you've run in the Ragnar relay, please share your experience.
This Week’s Menu
Monday—leftovers from Sunday.
- Chuck roast, cooked with potatoes, onions, and carrots
- Green salad
- Skip’s Vegetable-Cheese Sauce Casserole au gratin. I’ll have to share the recipe but we had some cheese sauce left over so I cooked it with steamed eggplant, bell pepper, onion, and carrots and then finished it with a breaded crust. The first time I made this it was great, this time I didn’t use enough cheese sauce plus the eggplant was undercooked. My bad.
- Sweet Potato-Carrot Soup—well that was the plan because I wanted to work on a recipe but I got busy preparing for a trip to Midway and didn’t get it done. My bad. We ate leftovers but we do need to clean out the refrigerator before the trip. Ditto for Thursday.
- Café Rio salad and pork enchiladas. We were traveling and had lunch at the Cedar City Café Rio. We ordered enough to have leftovers for dinner.
- Egg omelets with vegetables cooked by the beautiful wife—a common Saturday dinner.
Sunday (Father’s Day)
- Salmon marinated in a spicy Thai sauce and pan-fried.
- Baked potato
- Cole slaw