By: Sabiha Pasha, M.D.

Salutogenesis is a term coined by Aaron Antonovsky, a professor of medical sociology. It describes an approach to healing that focuses on factors that support human health and wellbeing rather than on those that cause disease. It looks closely at the relationship between health, stress, and coping.

Holistic/Integrative medicine looks at the whole person, including an analysis of one’s physical, nutritional, environmental, emotional, social, spirtiutal, and lifestyle values. It encompasses all modalities of diagnoses and treatment, including drugs and surgery, if no safe alternatives exist. It focuses on education and responsibility for personal efforts to achieve balance and wellbeing (as defined by the American Holistic Health Association). Learning about ourselves and how we uniquely respond to stress, and thus, learn to modulate our behavior, puts the power of our health in our own hands.

Unexamined stress and our response to it is wreaking havoc with our health, as evidenced by the prevalence of many chronic illnesses such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, anxiety, depression, etc. The traditional teaching–that serious illness is caused by genes alone– is flawed. The study of epigenetics–how environmental signals regulate our genes– has shown that environmental stress is perceived differently and uniquely by the central nervous systems of different individuals. The central nervous system then engages in cellular processes via the secretion of hormones, thereby influencing cell survival or death[1,2,3]. Cell biology has shown us that cells can either be in a “growth mode” or a “survival/protection” mode, not both simultaneously[4,5]. How we perceive our environment, then, affects how our bodies react to it. Our perceptions are rooted in our beliefs, and chronic unregulated stress keeps our cells in a state of protection and survival, thereby inhibiting growth, recuperation, and ultimately our vitality. Merely getting rid of our stressors would bring us to a neutral state. To thrive, we need to engage in healthy behaviors that promote growth and wellbeing.

“Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space there is a choice, and in that choice lies our growth and freedom.” -Victor Frankl

When examined, many of our beliefs turn out to be misguided and self-limiting. It is my sincerest hope that I can help guide you to recognize your true self for better health and healing.

[1] Jones, David S. (2010). The Textbook of Functional Medicine.
[2] Pray, L. A. (2004). “Epigenetics Genome, Meet Your Environment.” The Scientist 14-20.
[3] Segerstrom, S. C. and G. E. Miller (2004). “Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.” Psychological Bulletin 130(4): 601-630.
[4] Cornell, B. A., V. L. B. Braach-Maksvytis, et. al. (1997). “A biosensor that uses ion channel switches.” Nature 387:580-583.
[5] McEwen, B. S., and T. Seeman (1999). “Protective and Damaging Effects of Mediators of Stress: Elaborating and Testing Concepts of Allostasis and Allostatic Load.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 896: 30-47.

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