Can Knowledge Alone Make Us Healthier?

Let’s face it – our health is valuable, not only with regards to outward appearance, but also as it contributes to longevity and how alive we feel. We are constantly seeking ways to boost and invigorate ourselves, in order to attain maximum energy. If energy could be put into a pill and bottled – it would fly off the shelves. What is the worst thing about sickness, depression, hangovers; and weighted, heavy, oppressive rainy days? The low is almost always characterized by a loss of energy. It seems it does belong somewhere in the thermodynamic spectrum, the part that correlates with life force.

Is a high level of energy something we are born with, or is it acquired somewhere along the way? We all start out with a fair bit of energy, and it either thrives or diminishes as time goes by. Some people manage to keep reviving their energy levels into their eighties and nineties. Can we find a way to gauge energy levels, so we can track it like a brainwave pattern or a cardiac rhythm? We know how important it is – but we don’t quite know what it is. Energy is related to both food and mood, since we burn and convert food into fuel. Mood is often perceived as having a high or low energy level. Therefore more than anything, food is our best friend or worst enemy – depending on what we choose to eat.

Wellness promotion is now a multi billion dollar industry. Much time and energy is devoted to educating the public on everything from nutrition to mindful awareness, supplements and fitness – as well as warning us of the hazards of tobacco, a sedentary lifestyle, and way too many refined carbs. Candy works better than a carrot when it comes to human behaviour.

Candace Pert wrote the book “Molecules of Emotion” which may have opened doors to a new way of thinking about emotions in the realm of academic research. Although I was familiar with some of her work, most notably the discovery of opiate receptors in the brain, I have only read excerpts of her book. I certainly agree with ground breaking research on all forms of holistic approaches to health. After watching some of her videos, I wondered why she was not able to apply her extensive knowledge on the mind-body-emotional connection to her own life.

The first video I randomly chose to watch Candace Pert present some of her ideas sort of surprised me. I was expecting a fit, vibrant woman bubbling with enthusiasm over the knowledge she had acquired during her prolific life’s work. Instead I saw a woman who was very overweight, and clearly short of breath just standing still and speaking. The first thought I had was how unwell she looked. She sounded anxious, and then congestive heart failure popped into my mind. It so happened I had chosen a video published just a few months before she died. When I looked up what she died of – it confirmed she died of heart failure at age sixty-seven.

Few people have the level of knowledge, education and research to advance to the kind of acclaim attributed to Candace Pert, so what went wrong in her own life? The average life expectancy for women is around eighty years old. Those figures do not take into account a very important factor, which is quality of life. Many people would prefer not to linger in the “death zone” too long as it robs quality of life. A loss of appetite and energy makes for a dismal existence. How many of us would choose to be sick – knowing we are steadily getting sicker, over a period of ten years or more?

We tend to measure success in life based on how much we have achieved, how much money we make and accumulate, the education we acquire, the house we live in, cars we drive, and clothes we wear. Alongside the external measures of success, we have the more primal aspect of survival to contend with, especially as we age. So when very successful people like Steve Jobs and Candace Pert get sick and do not reach life expectancy, what does it teach us? Is it genetics or a hard-driven personality burning itself out? Who can say?

From what I have observed over the years, congestive heart failure has a gradual onset spanning a period of about ten years. The early symptoms present with swelling of the ankles, a persistent cough, and shortness of breath on exertion. Gradually the heart becomes enlarged as it struggles to pump blood throughout the body. Over time, the lower legs and abdomen swell and the person begins to experience shortness of breath while at rest.

The symptoms associated with CHF cannot be ignored or denied. Given the fact Candace Pert was sixty-seven when she died, it means (hypothetically) she would have had symptoms for a good ten years. Since she was writing and lecturing about the mind body connection, why was she unable to reverse her own morbidity when she began to experience symptoms of heart failure? Surely it was not due to a lack of knowledge on her part.

I think what can be extrapolated from her work and early death is that the emotions and spirit are much more complex than we can fully comprehend. Every single type of addiction known to man can bypass our knowledge and common sense for unknown reasons. We tend to think of addictions as being drug or alcohol related, but there are hundreds of different kinds of addictive behaviours. Our psyche will switch from one to another with hardly a twitch of awareness. The onset of symptoms with the capacity to adversely affect our health, means we need to take some drastic measures to change the direction we are headed. It is a call for action and change.

Knowledge alone cannot save us. Whether it is diabetic teaching or education about tobacco – we all know the drill. Every smoker knows smoking is bad for the health. Every jogger who dons a track suit and heads out in the pouring rain knows this discipline is going to add energy and vitality to his or her life. Some people look piously upon the person swilling a can of Coke and turn toward some other insidiously destructive substance. Others do everything right, from activity to food choices – yet they can still end up with cancer or some other serious illness.

To further muddy the waters – we can research every topic under the sun on the Internet now. The problem is there is so much knowledge and information out there now it makes it difficult to filter out all the misinformation. You can read oppositional arguments to every health related topic. Various health gurus are telling us to avoid things like tomatoes, grains, and beans, when common sense would tell us these are not the real culprits. Should you, or should you not take vitamin D, calcium, probiotics, supplements of all kinds, and various strange sounding tinctures and extracts?

Candace Pert was obviously a disciplined academic researcher who acknowledged the connection between mind, emotions and physicality, yet that academic discipline did not transfer very well to fitness and weight loss in her own life, even after she developed symptoms that were certain to shorten her life. Something deep down inside hindered the cognitive connection to take immediate action. What was it?

I think she made tremendous connections and advancements in the field of neuropeptides, pharmacology and neuroscience. She did understand that we cannot treat or examine one part of the body, without realizing that systemic illnesses affect all systems of the body. But in later years as she got more into the spiritual connection, it sort of veered away from science to a somewhat vague New Age spirituality. If she mentioned the word “soul” it was a four letter word not to be used in scientific literature. Yet she was striving to identify the spirit as well as the mind and emotions, as they pertain to health, healing and cognition.

Perhaps the best lessons we can learn go right back to the science of nutrition and physical exercise – and even then, the healthy tennis player might just drop dead of a heart attack while on the court. Knowledge informs but it does not guarantee insight, assimilation or change.

It brings to mind the questions surrounding pre-destiny and fate. Perhaps we are all born with a death date on the horizon, which will not be altered no matter what we do? How much of our physical presence is rooted in spirituality and soul? Are they separate – or blended into every molecule of our physical bodies?

I believe our soul inhabits our physical bodies and consists of mind, thoughts, emotions and spirituality. Our soul gives us our unique identity, intuition, insight, and prompts us to action pertaining to physicality, yet elements of the soul are outside the realm of flesh and blood. It explains why so many near death experiences are described as leaving the body and looking down on what is happening. It is outside the scope of science because for one thing – how can we see ourselves without our eyes?

As it is with hindsight and so many famous yet humanly fallible people, we can learn as much from what they did not do – alongside all the research they did do. Like rats in a lab, what is it about sugar, drugs and alcohol that holds such a magnificent and compulsive attraction to us? Why are some of us more susceptible to those addictive substances, even when we know they will significantly shorten our life span?

Knowledge is increasing at a very rapid rate. We have to filter the noise, the distractions, and the contradictions – in order to navigate the systems within our own bodies. When science is applied to spirituality – it is doomed, because spirituality is not based on scientific knowledge. It is based on faith. Like love – faith is unseen and difficult to fully define.

Are there molecules of love and faith circulating within our physical bodies? Maybe so. But in the end – our soul perseveres, and is the only part of us that can leave and go to another dimension. Knowledge does serve us as we navigate life’s complexities, but truly understanding it all – is probably the greatest enigma of our entire existence.

Copyright Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage (2019). Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie J. Hayes and Quiet West Vintage with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Valerie Hayes

Quiet West Vintage represents a private vintage and designer collection that has been gathered and stored over a thirty-five year period. I now look forward to sharing this collection and promoting the "Other Look" - a totally individualistic approach to style.