Packing Up: Mt Baker and the Healthcare Debate Fiasco

Our Peaking At 70 mission is not to just create paradigm shifts within ourselves, but to offer new perspectives, and to stimulate similar shifts in others.

Packed up and heading out; so looking forward to another shot at peaking!

Packed up and heading out; so looking forward to another shot at peaking!

Packing up—heading out to climb Mt Baker for 70th birthday. Excited to have another shot at peaking. After Mt. Shasta and the E. coli contamination, it took several weeks to get back into training… a blessing in disguise. It forced, or allowed, me to do a bit more study on diet, and additional experimentation with this aging carcass; and it did this at the critical time of public debate over our healthcare system.

If you’ve been following this blog you know I struggle with ulcerative colitis (UC); and you know I’m skeptical (to say the least) about standard medical protocols—the pharmaceutical approach that suppresses your immune systemand , oh, by the way, destroys blood cell production... just a minor bit of collateral damage, eh?!

Above I said public debate, didn’t I? I should have said pathetic debate. It has been superficial to the realities of individual and public health—just incredibly shallow. More on this in a moment.

While experimenting with diet I’ve been up on the Appalachian Trail four times in the past two weeks—the same steep, stone-strewed five-mile section each time—testing different boots or boot-sock combinations. It’s also where I do my best thinking. The clutter and chatter of daily living is gone so one can process all recent input and manipulate it into previous knowledge. That’s where it hit me that this bogus debate calls for a major paradigm shift: forget Repeal and Replace, let’s Heal and Rejuvenate. It’ll better for all of us, and it’s a lot cheaper.

The rain forest at a low elevation on Mt. Baker.

The rain forest at a low elevation on Mt. Baker.

To me, this debate is very personal. Eight years ago I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis; this was my introduction to the medical merry-go-round.  For two years I was very sick. Slowly I became convinced that current standard treatment protocols for UC were as arcane as George Washington’s doctors bleeding him to death in an attempt to get rid of bad humours. Five or six years ago I began experimenting with diet and supplements--gluten-free, grain-free, paleo, various probiotics and prebiotics, specific branch-chain amino acids, etc. Some things worked for short periods; nothing stopped flare-ups (inflammation and bleeding) in its tracks, nothing has kept it from recurring. Nothing includes all the prescribed pharmaceuticals. At least the diet experimentation had none of the collateral damage of the prescription drugs. In me, UC tends to be cyclic: inflammation and flare-ups every spring corresponding with the onslaught of tree pollen, abating every fall when all the pollen seasons are over. MDs have tended to look at me as if I have three eyes when I’ve relate this. The pollen factoid doesn’t fit in with the standard protocols, even though there are numerous articles connecting UC and pollen on the National Institute of Health’s National Medical Library website.

It seems to me, in the recent national debate, very few (maybe no one) are truly talking about healthcare, about making people healthier, or about lowering costs by making people are healthier. They all seem to be trying to figure out how to get Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Insurance, Big government bureaucracies, and Big corporate medical centers/groups paid in a manner that keeps Americans from bitching about paying the bill.

Yet more and more books are being written and videos produced exposing the causes of the increase in disease conditions amongst Americans (and many Europeans). And more and more doctors are proposing dietary shifts to counter changes in both our food supply and in our eating habits that have occurred in the past 50 years. What I seen little of in these books, articles or videos are ties to the public healthcare debate and national healthcare costs.

Imagine if people ate diets that didn’t contribute to inflammation and illness. Imagine if we ate foods like our parents and grandparents did in the 1950s. Those much maligned diets somehow didn’t produce the degree of obesity and diabetes as the diets of the 2000s and 2010s. I’m not advocating a complete return, but shouldn’t we be asking why and where are today’s eating habits and food supply worse?

Let’s put some numbers to it. The current adult obesity rate in America is between 30% and 35% and it is projected to increase to 60% within twenty years. According to the CDC, the 2015 rate of diabetes in America is 7.4% or 23,400,000 individuals. In 1959 that rate was 0.87% or the equivalent if the population were the same of 274,900 individuals. If today’s rate reverted to 0.87% there would be 23 million fewer people with diabetes! Now imagine how much less our national bill would be for healthcare, and thus for healthcare insurance, public and private healthcare bureaucracies, and all the other adjuncts associated with the medical-industrial complex.  

If you can’t imagine it, try this: the average medical expenditure for a person diagnosed with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association, is $13,700, although only $7,900 is attributed to the disease. Insurance costs and factors like lost work days are not factored in. Let’s be simplistic and use the minimums: $8000/year times 23,000,000 equals $184 Billion dollars/year!

That’s one disease.  UC and Crones affects about 1,600,000 people but the cost is a bit higher. Figure about $14.5 Bn/year (this figure seems low to me as the infusion of biologics cost between $4000 and $7000/month, but this is what the disease association reports—not included are all other IBS problems); for rheumatoid arthritis $19 Bn/yr. And on and on…

Now imagine a paradigm shift in our eating habits; imagine seeing autoimmune disease rates drop significantly; imagine cancer rates dropping. That’s the paradigm shift we should be talking about. Every person removed from these disease roles reduces the national healthcare bill. And more importantly, via diet change, they are less ill and they do not suffer the severe side-effects caused by harsh drugs.  Imagine if the national bill for healthcare were reduced by 50%! Now we have a proper discussion. Repeal and replace becomes moot. Let’s go for Heal and Rejuvenate.

So, forget repealing and replacing Obamacare. Repeal and replace Lectins. Repeal and replace GMOs! (BTW, the gene spliced into GMO crops is often a lectin.) Repeal and replace HFCs (high fructose corn syrup)! And repeal and replace the FDA’s lamentable food pyramid. If you want your countrymen to be healthier and you want lower healthcare costs, get rid of Obamacare, but also get rid of everything they’re talking about replacing it with. The system must be disrupted and shifted from an insurance-tax mandate paradigm to a patient-doctor-nutritionist paradigm.

Go further: Ask what’s making us sick? What has happened to our food supply? Why did it happen? What’s going on with the medicines we take? Who approves these drugs? And who approves GMO splices?

There are five major elements affecting the quality of our health and the cost of our healthcare—Big Pharma, Big Insurance, Big Corporate Hospitals and Medical Groups, Big Government bureaucracies, and Big Agriculture.  Before I go on I wish to be fair and very clear about individuals in each of these groups. There are tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, likely millions of individuals in these groups who are sincere, honest and caring, who are efficient and effective, and who strive to help others either recover their health or degenerate more slowly and die with dignity. Very seldom is there an individual who for some sick or evil reason tries to make or keep people ill. However, the system often over-powers the individual. Standard protocols and following laws, rules and regulations become paramount. My gastroenterologist knows the side effects of Mercaptopurine and all the other drugs, but believes the benefits outweigh the destruction.

Simultaneously there are, in each of these groups, elements which have no interest in Americans being healthy. In fact, for some, the interest seems to be in keeping Americans sick, in treating symptoms but not curing disease. Big Pharma lobbies the FDA, Big Ag lobbies the USDA. The relationship between government and industry becomes cozy. Big Pharma has annual revenues in the $1.5 Trillion range. Yes, Trillion with a T! That buys a lot of lobbying. Protocols trickle down from on high. Few people are watching. Half of all healthcare bills for individuals are paid indirectly by the government from money it has collected via taxes. That system encourages inflation. Individuals seldom pay directly for services, and individuals and providers become less concerned when costs are not directly tied to treatment.

 If your doctor tells you, “There is no cure for UC (or RA, or MS…), we can only manage the symptoms; you’ll have to be on these meds for the rest of your life,” don’t doubt his sincerity. He has been convinced by the higher powers that he is doing the right thing. Still, I’d suggest you get up and walk out of his office. Find someone who says, “Let’s cure it.” That goes for all autoimmune diseases, most cancers and many other conditions. Let’s eat ourselves healthy.

Right now I’m experimenting with Dr. Steven Gundry’s lectin-free (or lectin reduced) diet (see his book The Plant Paradox); and also Dr. Joseph Mercola’s cyclic ketognic program and Mitochondrial Metabolic Therapy (see his book Fat For Fuel). Here’s an article from Mercola’s site that was published 30 July 17 subtitled Who Controls What We Eat:

Okay! Enough. Back to the mountains. Baker should be easier than Shasta being that it is only a bit over 10,700’. The climb has nearly the identical elevation gain that Shasta had, but one starts lower. The distance covered is almost twice that of Avalanche Gulch at Shasta meaning the trail isn’t as steep. Baker’s glacier might be a bit more tricky than Shasta—recall, this mountain gets lots of snow—in 1998 receiving 122 feet, more than any location ever in the U.S.! Collapsing ice bridges and crevasses are potential perils, but will rope up and gear up for any eventuality.

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