As part of an annual reunion, a group of eight college buddies meet at a trailhead to enjoy an overnight in the wilderness. They each lace up their boots, hoist up their packs, and take off on a beautiful hike, winding through meadows of wildflowers, aspen copses, and rocky outcrops. Buoyed by the spectacular vistas and the long-held friendships, they trek several miles before locating their campsite and setting up for the night. All is going perfectly until a storm brews suddenly, cold winds swirl around their tents and dinner preparations, dark clouds pour heavy rains soaking every one of them, and a brief but intense conversation between lightning and thunder dominates their concerns.
Once the storm passes, they decide with reluctant unanimity to stay put for the night, and make do with what they are able to salvage from their dinner rations. They build up the fire and gradually warm up and dry out as they huddle close and fill the starry night with laughter and reminiscences from their college days together. The next morning, everyone packs up their still-soaking tents and sleeping bags, and hikes back to the parking lot.
Within the next day or so, three of the men come down with colds severe enough to keep them bedridden for four or five days. One has low back pain that prevents him from joining his weekly basketball game. Another is still shaken by the lightning which danced dangerously close to where they camped, keeping him fitfully awake the entire night in his tent. One suffers a terrible migraine headache, which requires a doctor visit and injection of a potent pain-killer for relief. The remaining two suffer no ill effects from the episode, and actually make plans to return to the site the following weekend for another sojourn in the wilderness.
Why did this experience affect each of these people in different ways? And why didn’t it affect every one of them? The answer is the same as the answer to these questions: Why doesn’t a flu epidemic affect 100% of the population? Why does a stomach flu topple only a few family members, while others living in the same house escape its grip? Why does strep throat hit a second-grade class but only seven out of the 23 students get sick? And why, after two hikers encounter a mother bear and three of her cubs on a mountain trail, does one swear never to hike in the mountains again, while the other books a trip to Alaska to go bear watching in Grizzly territory?
The answer is a simple, yet profoundly important concept: SUSCEPTIBILITY. Each of us has a unique make-up, and part of that can be a predisposition which means we might be vulnerable when exposed to external microbes, toxins or events. Our susceptibility might have a genetic component, but it is often governed by our history, our habits, and our attitudes. The ‘point of susceptibility’ would vary from one individual to another. You might describe it as a ‘weak link’ or a ‘soft spot’ but it is that system which is compromised and has lost its ability to defend itself against an external assault.
One factor affecting one’s susceptibility is the strength of the external threat. No matter what the ‘soft spot’ is, the susceptibility of any individual is challenged by the strength of the incoming assault; so the virulence of a microbe, the corrosiveness of a toxin, or the traumatic nature of an emotional experience all qualify its degree of impact.
There probably is no such thing as perfect health, but if we were to characterize what would lead to it, we could say that it is a state of zero susceptibility. This means that microbes would be unable to take hold, toxins would be neutralized or excreted before they could do any damage, and our emotions and attitudes concerning events in our lives would remain receptive and flexible.
There is good news here. Our susceptibility is not fixed, and there is a lot we can do to optimize our health by fortifying our vitality and minimizing our susceptibility. There are simple ways we can nurture ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually that have a profound influence on our level of susceptibility. The way we eat, the way we carry ourselves, the way we engage with other people and the attitudes we adopt about life and the world around us all go a long way to influence the level of health we enjoy. The life habits we establish and the belief systems we draw on are the resources we have to improve our state of health, and maintain it at peak levels.
This is the foundation of what Naturopathic Athlete offers to anyone interested in optimizing his/her health, and enjoying greater vitality, strength, clarity and wellness. At Naturopathic Athlete we will evaluate your unique vulnerabilities, and work with you on specific ways you can fortify your own resources to resist compromising external influences. By minimizing your susceptibility, you reduce the ‘sick days,’ the general malaise, the vulnerability to infectious ailments or attitudes that pervade the public domain, and instead live the healthiest, most robust and positive life you can.