What I’ve Learned About Environment and Disease as a Home Health Physical Therapist


What I’ve Learned About Environment and Disease as a Home Health Physical Therapist.

What I’ve Learned About Environment and Disease as a Home Health Physical Therapist

I’ve spent the last 5 years working as a home health physical therapist.  I never expected to work in this area..it sort of just happened.  As an athlete, I always expected I’d be working with other athletes, a professional baseball team or something of that nature.  But life doesn’t always give you want you want, it gives you what you need for your own growth and evolution.

During a typical day I drive around from home to home working with people who are not strong or well enough to make it out of their home.  Many of these people have recently returned from the hospital and have some disease like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, or Alzheimer’s.  I’ve treated people of all races, religions, the rich, and the poor.  There are few diseases that I have not seen up close.  I’ve stood by patients and families as death approaches and I’ve felt what that feels like time and time again.  I’ve seen the worry, the sadness, the fear and the kind of suffering humans should never have to go through.  I’ve seen a lot of darkness in that sense.

I’ve also seen light.  I’d say that in my career I’ve come across at least 10 people who I like to refer to as “oracles.”  These are people who have taught me something about life and how it should be lived.  How it shouldn’t be taken for granted and should be pursued each day with appreciation, compassion and love.  Even in the “worst” situations I’ve noticed these people were able to find contentment, peace and eternal, unwavering bliss.  They never seemed to take things too seriously. It became very clear to me when I met these people that they could see something others could not see.  You can call it whatever you want…salvation, awakening, enlightenment, etc….whatever it is, they had it and I was drawn to it.  I soaked them up like a sponge.  These people have changed my life and I will forever be grateful that I was in their presence.

During this time my wife was battling her own illness and we began doing a great deal of research on nutrition and how it relates to disease.  As I drive from home to home in my car I would listen non-stop to the latest research on nutrition, physical degeneration and the origins of disease.  I’d listen to podcasts and audiobooks on what we are designed to eat, how some foods make us sick and some foods can heal us.  This has given me a unique perspective and it has led me to many “aha” moments.  For instance, I’d be in my car on the way to a patients home with heart disease while listening to a podcast or book speaking on what foods we have been eating in our Standard American Diet along with certain environmental and emotional tendencies that contribute to heart disease.  I’d then go into the patients home and see these very foods all over the place along with a toxic environment, both physically and emotionally.  The same example however can be given for cancer, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and so on…I’ve learned that virtually all diseases can be traced back to environment.

I see a medical industry that is blind to this and it’s causing greater problems.  I see a lot of confusion.  I see a health industry that knows very little about food and a food industry that knows very little about health.  The only proposed solutions to our health crisis that we are given by the medical community are more medicines, testing and surgical procedures.  We have a government that seems to argue back and forth over healthcare policy in terms of what health coverage should look like and who should be responsible for it.  It seems to me that we never seem to ask the right question which is WHY ARE WE SO SICK and why is it getting worse?  I’m finding this question is never addressed because most people are thinking inside the box.  So we end up trying to solve a problem but we haven’t come close to finding the root of the dysfunction.  It’s as if we are busy coming up with the best way to mop up water on the floor but we fail to see that all we have to do is turn off the overflowing sink.

I’ve entered homes where mom and dad are diabetic, obese and use electric wheel chairs to get around.  I’ve seen these people with diabetic children at the age of 5.  In these homes I’ve seen processed and refined foods on the counter sitting next to countless bottles of medication.  I’ve then watched as a nurse comes in (who very often is obese themselves) to give the patient medicine and then educates the patient on when and how often they should take their meds.  I sit as I watch people hypnotized by a TV telling them how they should be living their lives.  The commercials always get louder and brighter to really get people’s attention.  The two types of commercials that seems to stand out the most are food commercials and pharmaceutical drug commercials.  The message is clear…EAT THIS FOOD…and when you get sick or are unhappy…TAKE THIS PILL.

So this is what people do.  Much like cows moving with the herd, our thoughts and actions line up with what the TV and culture is telling us to do.  We do it…and the same thing keeps happening over and over again…more suffering, more disease, and we never get to the root of the problem.  We never get free and remain trapped in a never-ending cycle of misery.  I see a lot of this….everyday in fact.

At times I’ve wanted to pull my hair out!  How can I be a part of a system that works this way, that fundamentally is flawed in it’s approach.  What’s more frustrating is the fact that many of the foods that are labeled as being “healthy” are actually the very foods that are killing us.  And that many of the foods that conventional thinking is labeling as “unhealthy” are actually the foods that will heal us.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about and how it leads us in a downward spiral.

There is a family that I treat (husband and wife)…lets call them Jane and Jim.  Jane has cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.  She also has severe edema (swelling) in her hands and feet as well as arthritis in every joint in her body.  She needs a rolling walker to get around and has fallen several times resulting in injury.  She has pain with even the slightest movement.  She is 67 years of age.  Her husband Jim has severe dementia, is very overweight and can no longer transfer from the sitting to standing position.  He is limited to his wheel chair and needs their live-in caregiver to move him around and help with transfers.  His skin is extremely  dry and very frequently breaks out with lesions.  He never knows what day it is and often forgets the name of his kids.  He is 69.

The other day Jane asked me if I had heard about two of the latest pills they had coming out that were supposed to help people.  One was for arthritis and the other for obesity.  She said this as she took a sip of her diet soda and asked me to check her blood pressure.  She is always checking her blood pressure.  With much hope she said, “These pills are supposed to be the best, they are different from all the other pills that have come out. It‘s sounding like they have finally found a way to cure the arthritis and the obesity problem in this country.”

I sat and took a deep breath, trying to speak from a place of compassion rather than ego.  I looked around the counter and saw empty bottles of diet soda, fat-free cottage cheese, “heart healthy” cereal and skim milk.   The truth is that Jane is a victim of an unconscious society that fails to see it’s connection with nature.  At this point, she has little choice in thinking the way she does or ending up in the position she is in.  She’s part of the herd and completely unaware about the big picture. She doesn’t do what she wants to do or even what’s best for her, she does what a system wants her to do.  She’s trapped and has been for a long time…but she doesn’t know it.

I spoke… “Well Jane, if you want my honest opinion then I would say you are being sold on something that ultimately fails to get to the root of your problem.  Your problem is your environment, specifically your food environment.  In my opinion you can take all the pills and supplements you want but unless you change the way your eating then you will not see any progress.”

She quickly came back in a somewhat defensive manner.. “What do you mean, we eat healthy food all the time?  We only eat healthy food, it’s all we buy and put in our home.”

I understood exactly where she was coming from.  What she is viewing as “healthy” is under the veil of conventional thinking.  It comes with key words that we have been conditioned to believe are good for us. When she is shopping for food she seeks out these types of foods because she thinks they are health foods and that she is taking action to improve Jim’s health, as well as her own.  This mindset is consistently reinforced by the TV (which they always have on…mostly the news), magazines, family, friends and even her doctor.  The mantra goes something like “eat a low-fat, whole grain diet, avoid saturated fat and red meat, exercise more, eat less and count your calories.”   Everyone seems to be operating under the same mindset and it’s leading to suffering on an epidemic level.   I’ve come to see that we are all a bit mislead with the information we’ve been getting about what we should and shouldn’t eat.

I told her about my experience and how my wife’s health has greatly improved with changes in our diet, how we’ve done a great deal of research and come to many realizations about what we’ve been told is right and wrong.   We went into the kitchen and she pointed out to me the many foods with labels that said the following:  “low fat, fat-free, low-calorie, sugar-free, zero cholesterol, 0 trans fat, heart healthy, whole grain, no saturated fat and natural.”  The labels were big, bright and very captivating. They filled up the entire fridge and pantry.  She then said to me “how could these foods be bad for us when they say that they are good for us.”  She was getting a little upset and you could tell her head was spinning.

I gave her some insights into what I’ve learned about where disease comes from.  I told her how the latest science is showing us that the overconsumption of refined carbohydrates gets broken down into sugar in the blood stream which then causes us to over produce insulin.  It’s this chronic over production of insulin that eventually leads to many of the problems that we are facing such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and so on.  We are also eating the wrong types of fats and not enough of the good fats…mainly too many industrial seed oils and not enough quality animal and saturated fats.  These are the very things we are told not to eat.  I explained how this eventually leads to systemic inflammation which then lays a nest for disease and obesity.  I also explained that the grains have changed dramatically over the years and have become more of a hindrance than a help, and that the milk we have been drinking has been stripped of vital enzymes and is basically like drinking sugar water.

I explained that we are getting so overweight and sick largely because of the over consumption of foods that have sugar, artificial sweeteners and toxic chemicals.  These are all foods that the food industry is promoting as “healthy” and “low fat.”  As we looked at the many packages, and bottles of food (all labeled as “healthy” in some form) I asked her to look more closely at the labels.  On the back of every product there was a list of long ingredients that she could not pronounce.  I pointed out that there are many words for sugar, such as sucrose and fructose (basically anything ending in “ose”) and we found this in virtually every single packaged food she had.  I also explained that these foods were filled with chemicals, engineered in a lab and are extremely problematic to our immune system.

I went on to explain that it’s our environment that is making us so sick and if we want to be healthy and lose weight then it starts with food.  Our ancestors did not face the health problems that we do today because they were eating REAL FOOD that they were designed to it.  Real food never comes with a label of how many calories or grams of fat it has.  Have you ever seen a squash, cucumber, or apple with a label?  It  doesn’t happen!

I see similar examples with every single home I go to.  Most people are truly thinking they are eating healthy simply because that’s what the box says and this is what they’ve been told.  What they’re unaware of is that it’s the food they’re eating everyday that is making them sick, but they’d never suspect it because everyone is eating it and it’s all they’ve ever known… and it’s everywhere.

From my viewpoint this delusion has also taken over most of the medical industry.  Our doctors get little to no education on nutrition and what information they do get is often incorrect.  In fact most health professionals that I see while I’m working are not healthy at all and often are eating the worst foods.  I once worked as an intern at a hospital in Houston that was world renowned for its treatment in heart disease.  On the first floor of this hospital there was a McDonald’s.  Patients would get out of heart surgery and then be rolled down in their wheelchairs to get a Big Mac.  Because of the lack of education in the medical field regarding nutrition, the role that diet can play in terms of prevention and treatment of disease is often dismissed.  It’s this ignorance that drives our actions to always look towards a pill for a symptom or a cure for a disease.  We show up to races and fundraisers in full support of a “cure” for this or that disease, not realizing the environmental factors that are contributing to the cause.

For most of the patients that I see, it’s too late to make changes in their diet and environment.  They are unable to do their own shopping and cooking and are forced to eat what is available, easy or prepared for them.  But for those of us that are physically able to choose and prepare our food, we must wake up and start taking control of our own health.  We need individuals to play their part in cleaning up the mess by cleaning up their own lives and their own environment.  We need to turn our health from a liability to an asset and we need a new paradigm that says we are the ones that control our health because we control the environment.

We are a species that has lost its way.  We’ve been misled by advertising which has us buying things we don’t need, eating food we weren’t designed to eat and popping pills as band-aids.  It has us believing that if we count our calories, eat less fat, and exercise more then we will lose weight and get healthy.  And that if we get cancer, heart disease or diabetes then, well, it must be bad luck or run in our family. This has to STOP!

We must take control of our own health and make better choices. We have to realize that what we’ve been doing isn’t working.  It is up to us!  And it starts with eating REAL food. Stop viewing disease as something that “just happens” or “runs in your family”. Stop thinking that doctors will give you a pill and “fix” you. It doesn’t work that way. You must take your health into your own hands.

Awareness is the greatest agent for change.  More and more people are becoming aware of how food affects their health everyday.  They are going back to the roots and reconnecting with nature.  These people are dropping the “low fat, whole grain” mindset and eating foods without labels as nature intended.  They are shopping at local farmers markets, cooking their own food, spending more time in the kitchen and eating at the dinner table.  They are making food and the WAY they live their life a priority.  People are waking up!  The question is…is this growing awareness happening in you?  Are you still stuck in the herd with all the chaos or have you broken free and are taking back the true health and true nature that is your birthright.  This is your opportunity to create a better world for you and those around you.  Don’t wait another minute.  Do it and do it now!

Chad Walding, DPT

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