• Lizzie Shutt

Ditch Disease with a Healthy Lifestyle

Updated: Oct 1, 2019

This semester I am taking Plant Pathology, the study of plant diseases that are caused by pathogens or environmental factors. A key concept I’ve learned was the principle of the disease triangle. There are three main factors that have to be in alignment in order for disease to occur: a susceptible host, a conducive environment, and a pathogen. It struck me that this happens the same with humans!

When we live in stressful environments, eat processed and fast food, and as a result have compromised immune systems and mental states, these factors set up a perfect disease triangle. Pathogens exist around us daily— whether we are talking literally, as in microbes, or metaphorically, as in unhealthy diet choices. However, most people don’t get sick every single week because healthy bodies are very resilient when it comes to fighting off diseases. In plant pathology we talk about diseases in the context of developing signs and symptoms over the long term. I relate this triangle mainly to human chronic diseases because they are gradual overtime when comparing the rapid common cold onset versus adulthood Type-2 diabetes that is attributed to lifestyle factors.

I wanted to draw this correlation for others to view disease as a bigger picture than just a virus. There are so many variables that play into development that it can be detrimental to recovery if you are only looking at one physical factor. In the case of a diseased tree, if I noticed that one branch was not growing properly and oozed slime, the first solution may be to chop it off and call it clean. Yet, further investigation into why the branch showed these symptoms would be necessary to prevent the rest of the tree from becoming diseased as well as determine if the whole tree is already infected. Likewise with humans we need to look holistically at disease and zoom out to view the big picture of our life.

Cardiovascular disease, specifically coronary artery disease, is the leading cause of death worldwide. About 2,300 Americans die daily due to cardiovascular disease. These are shocking statistics to me because they are nearly 100% preventable with lifestyle changes: better diet and exercise. Yet when these patients enter doctor offices they are prescribed statins or even worse, coronary bypass surgery, without doctors first stressing the importance of lifestyle habits that contribute to their state of health and how to go about changing them. Many doctors think cutting the tree branch will just solve the problem for now, but really it’s just buying some extra time. Doctors are life-savers when it comes to trauma wounds and emergency care, but the majority are not educated about nutrition, exercise, or the power of positive mindset when they go through medical school. I want to bring this topic to your attention in hopes that you can share with peers who may already be struggling with a chronic disease or to prevent those who may be heading down that path. There are a growing number of success stories from patients who with help reverse their disease and are no longer sentenced to life of medication and hospital visits.

Lifelong wellness is a journey, not a destination. Every step towards a cleaner, greener, more connected life counts! Not every day is a good one for me, but I can reflect on low days to learn about my own wellbeing. I encourage you to reflect on potential stresses or foods that may impact your mood and overall state of health!

"Live Dirty, Eat Clean & Green"

-Lizzie Shutt


Resources for prevention and reversal programs:




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