Just this past week I came across an article in the Washington Post entitled ““Health Illiteracy is nothing new in America. But the pandemic magnifies how troubling it is.”
We in the United States tend to get prideful of all our greatness we have created in the past 100-200 years…”the greatest nation in the world.” Our grit and determination followed by our incredible commitment to higher education. We have built perhaps the most prolific economy in the world. Our educational institutions are being tapped by every major world player as some of the best higher educational institutions in the world. And we have reported more discoveries and intellectual property created than any other nation.
Notwithstanding creating some of the greatest entrepreneurial minds on the planet and seeing advancements that most of us never dreamed of, we have truly left something behind: OUR HEALTH! A recent article in the Washington Post referred to it as “HEALTH ILLITERACY” and attributed the current “out of control pandemic” to this phenomena. So why is it that we in the US, perhaps one of if not the most highly educated populations in the world, choose to ignore our most important asset: the human body?
First, we need to look at some of the major causes of our health issues today. I highlight three of them that truly play a role in our creating this negative result on our health including impairing our immune systems.
1) We are referred to as “The Fast Food Nation” and for good reason as we consume more fast food than any other country. This is disturbing because although convenient, the majority of fast food by a very high percentage is loaded with synthetic ingredients not “real food.” We are always on the go and spend billions of dollars on these establishments because they are “easy,” and some even argue the food “tastes good.” But are we aware of how incredibly unhealthy 90% or more of it really is? So, what causes us to sacrifice our health for convenience? Illiteracy? I would suggest the majority of people know that most fast food is not healthy. So, it is with a lack of concern over the real side effects as most people do not immediately suffer upon eating that so called “food.” Our psychology is such that we look for more immediate responses to “warn us” or it assume it must “not be that bad.” But we KNOW that is not true. It is choosing convenience over health…just a choice.
2) As a nutrition coach, I do grocery shopping tours for groups from time to time and the number one directive is “only shop the perimeter” where things are alive. Even on the perimeter, many foods have been highly tainted…whether cheese, meats, butter, even our fruits and vegetables that are not organic, many of which have so many pesticides their value has become a liability. Use the site “Clean fifteen dirty dozen” to keep yourself updated on exactly what produce you should not be buying except organically as not all are necessary (like watermelons). On the interior the problem is massive: whether canned goods, cereals, chips, snacks, etc. “contaminated” by artificial colors, seasonings, additives, preservatives , etc. There is probably not one package of food you buy that you can pronounce and/or understand all the ingredients. To support you making best decisions throughout the grocery store since the interior is truly full of “land mines,” get the free app called “fooducate” to be able to just point your phone at the product and get an immediate assessment as to its health “grade.” This alone can accelerate anyone’s health literacy.
3) Finally, the US is the number one consumer of drugs throughout the entire world. In fact, our average consumption of pharmaceuticals is more than double per capita than any other nation in the world (based on cost, but our cost is also higher than any other country in the world). I am not suggesting you stop your drugs without proper medical advice, but do you think your immune system recognizes those toxins? Once again, as “foreign” to the human body they potentially create a response by the immune system and overtax it. (go to patient.info “Immune Suppression” for a laundry list of drugs and conditions that suppress the immune system)
WE ALL NEED TO take back control of our health and quit being negligent in our behavior or this downward spiral will only get worse. And who does that start with? Each and every one of us.