Engines of Chronic Disease

When we are young, everyone has similar health goals of how we want to be when we are “old”. We want to be independent, have a healthy brain, and be as active as we want to be. Unfortunately, far too few people reach their goals. Their older years are spent in varying degrees of sickness.

The process that breaks our body down and eventually causes sickness is called oxidation. Oxidation leads to inflammation and free radical formation. If you read about the chemical reactions that cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, dementia, autoimmune disease, and even just normal aging, they are all similar. They all involve oxidation. We call these reactions the “Engines of Chronic Disease.”


We only get one vehicle

Oxidation of iron forms rust. Think of the process of aging as rusting. Some vehicles rust very slowly because they are well cared for, like a vintage vehicle in an antique auto show. Others were sent to the junk yard long ago. Similarly, some people rust much faster than others. Unfortunately, we cannot trade in our human vehicle if we neglect it during our young and middle-aged years!

Oxidation is actually a normal human function. It produces inflammation and free radicals that kill invading infections, rid ourselves of toxins, and eliminate mutated cancer cells. Oxidation is turned off once the mission is accomplished.

The dilemma is that in our western culture, many are overweight, consume pro oxidative foods, get very poor sleep, and have high stress. This lifestyle does not allow the oxidative process to turn off. Free radicals and inflammation are continually produced. Our sedentary lifestyle and under-consumption of antioxidant foods don’t adequately clear the products of oxidation. This disequilibrium leads to an ongoing inflammation and oxidation. That is non-sickness. We are rusting whether we feel it or not!

Dr. Michael Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic believes that, “80% of diseases are caused by our lifestyle, only 20% are genetic”. Our genetics may load the chamber, but our lifestyle choices pull the trigger. The image above illustrates this concept. Genetics will determine which path of disease we take if we choose a pro-oxidative lifestyle.