What does it mean to be healthy? Does it simply mean that there’s an absence of overt disease, or is there more to it? I’d argue that a healthy body isn’t just a body that’s free of illness, but one that functions well in general and is vibrant and productive, which is exactly how one would expect the body to operate given the nature of evolution and natural selection. In other words, a healthy body is analogous to a well-functioning, energetic body.
Inherent in this supposition is the belief that one can assess one’s own health condition by paying attention to the workings of one’s body. Personally, I don’t go to the doctor and do a bunch of blood tests when I want to figure out how my body is working; rather, I simply pay attention to how I feel and function. This may sound like a non-scientific, conjectural way of doing things, something that’s emphasised by it’s absence from conventional, allopathic approaches to medicine; however, I’d argue that it’s actually a lot more revealing than a list of biochemical measurements, at least if the goal is simply to assess one’s general state of health.
In this article, I thought I’d list seven of the most important observations you can make in this respect…
1. The duration and quality of your sleep
It’s a little known fact that healthy people generally require less sleep than unhealthy folks. This is particularly true when comparing non-inflamed individuals with inflamed ones, and helps explain why hunter-gatherers don’t actually get that much sleep (1). If you average well over 7-8 hours of sleep a night, maybe regularly sleeping well into the day, and rarely feel truly rested or energetic when you wake up, then you’re undoubtedly less than perfectly healthy. Furthermore, if you regularly have bad nightmares or isn’t getting great, deep sleep, then chances are you’re not giving your body the proper stimuli and your microbiota (which contributes to generating and shaping your dreams) is in a sorry state.
2. Your libido
The fact that viagra is among the most recognized and sold drugs in the world speaks to the fact that a lot of men are having trouble in the bedroom these days. Modern women are also suffering, not just because their husbands have trouble performing, but also because they are prone to develop problems of their own, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, yeast infections, and/or other issues that affect their libido and reproductive capabilities.
From a Darwinian point of view, this situation is peculiar, seeing as reproduction is at the very core of evolution. It’s what keeps it running. It’s safe to assume that it’s a novel situation that’s largely brought about by rapid changes in the human environment, seeing as it makes absolutely no sense for natural selection to manufacture, via its selection of genetic material, lethargic, impotent men or infertile women riddled with reproductive issues. On the contrary, one would expect natural selection to preserve sexual vigor, strength, and potency.
This is not to say that it’s necessarily normal, from an evolutionary point of view, to go around craving sex all of the time; however, there’s no doubt that it’s a bad sign if one rarely or never feels aroused and ready to jump in and roll in the hay with another human, at least if one’s still fairly young. This is reflected by scientific research showing a clear association between ill health, in
3. The state of your digestion and bowel movements
Concurrently with the rise of the microbiome, it’s become increasingly recognized that our state of health radiates from our guts. This is no longer perceived as just a wacky idea that’s upheld and advances by quacks, but rather something that makes a lot of sense, both from an intuitive and scientific point of view.
Evolutionary health aficionados have long been aware of the intimate connection between the gut and the rest of the body, and it’s also something I’ve talked at length about here on the site; hence, I’m not going to devote a lot of time to it in this post, other than to say that the state of your digestion and bowel movements is among the best indicators of your general health. If you rarely experience any digestive woes and your trips to the bathroom tend to be regular, pleasant, and uncomplicated, then chances are your microbiota and body
4. Your cravings
Do you regularly crave chocolate, pizza, donuts, and/or other types of junk food? If so, then your health is most certainly compromised in some way. Most likely, you have an «overgrowth» of troublesome bugs in your gut, which contribute to steering you towards bakeries, candy shops, and burger joints via their effects on your brain. This may sound far-fetched, but as I’ve repeatedly pointed out here on the site, it’s actually got some compelling science behind it (5, 6, 7).
This is not to say that it’s unexpected, from an evolutionary point of view, for humans to crave calorie-dense, sugary or fatty food items; however, there’s no doubt that it’s a bad sign if one regularly get cravings for processed foods that have a markedly different nutritional configuration than that of any of the natural foods we evolved eating. This closely relates to something I’ve found to be true, which is that a common, probably universal, characteristic of truly healthy
5. Your susceptibility to infectious illness
In this day and age, it’s so common to get a cold every now and then and occasionally be bed-ridden as a result of being hijacked by influenza viruses that such events have come to be perceived as completely normal parts of the human existence. Is this an accurate perception of things? Not necessarily. It may rather re
It’s certainly not a novel occurrence that we humans get sick as a result of exposure to microscopic life forms. If you pick up a cold this winter, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your general health is very poor. It could simply mean that you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. What’s important to recognize though, is that our vulnerability to germs of all kinds, ranging from Clostridium
6. Your desire (or lack thereof) to be physically active
It’s true that we’re programmed, as a result of spending millions of years “struggling” to attain enough energy to survive and reproduce, to avoid unnecessary energy expenditure. That does not mean that it’s natural to want to spend one’s days lying on a couch though. This comes back to something I mentioned in the introduction, which is that healthfulness goes hand in hand with vigorousness. Healthy people are active and productive; not tired or spiritless. From a Darwinian point of view, this makes perfect sense, as it’s a lot better to be sexually, socially, and physically active (e.g., as part of food procurement) than inactive in the context of survival and reproduction.
What all of this is to say is that you may gauge the level at which your health is at by paying attention to your activity levels. If you feel full of energy and excited aboutt the prospect of going for a run, participating in some type of sport, lifting weights, or otherwise engaging your musculoskeletal system, then chances are you’re pretty damn healthy, whereas if you feel tired and uncompelled to move around, then it’s a good bet that your body is compromised in some way. Most likely, it’s chronically inflamed, perhaps stressed by an infection of some sort.
7. Your mood
Is your mood like a yo-yo, constantly going up and down? If so, then chances are your general health is less than good. Everyone has ups and downs; however, major mood swings are indicative of a deeper problem, often one that relates to gut dysfunction, inflammation, and/or hormonal disturbances. Depression, for example, is intimately linked with immune activation (13, 14), which strongly contradicts the age-old assumption that ‘it’s all in the head’.
Putting it all together
If you score well in all of these seven areas, then chances are you’re pretty damn healthy. If you don’t score as well though, then your body is probably not working as well as it could be. Basically, you’re not tapping into its full potential. You’re far from alone in that respect. Very few contemporary humans are truly healthy.
On a positive note, you now have some information to go on that could help you turn things around. Not only may the simple screening procedure presented in this article help you pinpoint what’s wrong with your body, and hence, where you should direct your efforts moving forward, but it may also help you monitor your progression as you intervene (e.g., by altering your exercise pattern or diet) in an attempt to remedy any potential issues.