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  Louis Valencia: From Prevention to Optimal Health and Elite Athletic Performance


This was a lecture presented to the Orthomolecular Health Medicine Society as one of their advisory board members, which meets in San Francisco annually to present their latest findings.




"The doctors of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease".                                                                                                                                Thomas Edison  


The health care providers that best represent the vision of Thomas Edison are chiropractors, orthomolecular physicians, and psychoneuroimmunologists.


There are many ways to look at health. In chiropractic we like to consider health as a homeostatic state composed of a “triad” or triangle of structural, chemical, and mental factors. Balance within the triad forms an equilateral triangle, thus an ideal or optimal health state. When a person experiences poor health, imbalance in one factor of the triad is a contributor.  Imbalance in two or three factors can be found in people with severe and chronic health problems. Often, a health problem starts on one side of the triad and eventually involves all three aspects. Any side of the triad can affect the other sides, both as causative factors of health problems, and in therapeutic approaches. See the triad of health graphic below, which highlights each aspect of the triad of health.

Triad of Health


The Health-Disease and Ability-Disability Continuum

Chiropractors believe the human body is in a state of dynamic flux along a biological continuum-'State of the Organism'. This continuum extends from optimal health to death, and each person passes through the continuum stages. From optimal health, humans move to a state that may be termed as a departure from health, then to disease, and on to the expression of a specific disease, complete with signs and symptoms.


People with mild departures from physiologic normal should be treated before they experience pathological changes. An early departure from health that is not yet expressed as illness is much less classifiable as disease. In this stage, the healthcare goal is to determine the patient's position and direction of movement on the biological continuum by tracing the gradual deterioration, and then restoring the body's internal resistance before disease develops. This early treatment, directed at the vertebral subluxation complex and its crucial relationship to the spinal cord and the spinal nerve roots, is of utmost concern to the chiropractor, as is the functional capacity status of the patient.


There is also an ability-disability continuum, which has parallels to the 'State of the Organism' continuum described above. It is difficult to identify a discrete point within most human functions where a line can be drawn between ability and disability. Therefore, it is essential to develop a standardized reference against which function can be compared to differentiate elite athletic ability from disability and the stages in between. Within that reference, a distinction should be developed to clarify treatment for prevention and a return to optimal health and elite athletic performance, rather than just focus on the standard treatments from the continuum of dysfunction through disease to death, and from sub-normal ability through impairment to disability.


The health promotion model we advocate is that of the ‘State of the Organism’ and ‘Functional Ability’ Continuums. These two continuums’, which run parallel to each other as displayed in the graphic below, can act as template on directing behavior toward lifestyle choices which increase our internal resistance. The goal is to increase one’s internal resistance on each side of the triad of health in order to meet the structural, chemical, and mental stressors we encounter.


Optimal Health through Death Continuum


Human Adaptation to Life Stress

Humans can adapt to and successfully function within a range of external conditions if we are given regular exposure to those conditions. Each individual possesses an intrinsic and biological dynamic that interacts with and mitigates external forces. The potential for healing is our natural heritage when we are free from vertebral subluxations, nourished with a balanced diet, and get adequate sleep, clean air/water, regular exercise, proper posture, and when stressful living is well managed.


The adaptation goal is to build the body's internal environment (including structural, chemical, and psychological hardiness) to best resist the external environment (including traumas, toxins, microorganisms, nutrient deficiencies, temperature extremes, and stress). When the body must function through a wide range of conditions, it becomes greatly strengthened and builds an enlarged scope of adaptability. Rather than be victimized by the external world the body adapts more efficiently to its surroundings.


Each side of the triad of health (structural, chemical, and mental) has its internal resistance that copes with the physical, chemical, and psychological stressors that produce responses within the body. Conditioning factors can selectively enhance or inhibit a stress effect. Thus, conditioning may be internal (caused by genetic predisposition, age, sex, and/or other structural, chemical, and mental factors) or external (caused by treatment with hormones, dietary factors, the removal of nerve irritation, and/or stress management). Under the influence of such conditioning factors (which determine sensitivity), a normally well-tolerated degree of stress can become pathogenic and cause diseases of adaptation, selectively affecting the predisposed body area. Some good can come from physiologic challenge, if not taken beyond the limit. Evidence of a positive effect is apparent, since repeated exposure to arousing stressors may lead to physiological toughness, which is an increased capacity for responding to stress, plus the increased resistance to the potential damage that stress can produce.


It appears that the greater one's internal resistance, the greater the ability to resist distress, and the greater potential for optimal health and elite athletic performance. When internal resistance is at sub-optimal levels in the structural, chemical, and psychological realms, the chance of dysfunction is greater and there is an increase in the signs and symptoms of injury, illness, and impairment.


Structural Side of the Triad of Health

Structure, with which chiropractic has always been concerned, is the base of the triad of health. Chiropractors address structural issues by treating nerve, joint, and myofascial dysfunction by removing subluxations to improve nerve, joint, muscle, lymphatic, and vascular function. Chiropractors and personal trainers also address structural issues by increasing their patient’s and client's functional capacity with active rehabilitation and functional training.  In addition, ergonomics addresses the structural issues by helping people maintain their neutral postures while interfacing with their workstations.  The structural part of the triad of health involves the relationship between the function of locomotion and the workings of the biomechanical neuromusculoskeletal systems. The integrated professions, which act on this side of the triad, are chiropractic, fitness, and ergonomics.


The mechanical lesion referred to by chiropractors and stated eloquently by Joseph Janse, D.C., "a subluxation is an attending complication of those chemical, mechanical, and/or environmental irritations of the nervous system which in man, the biped, produce muscle contractions sufficient to cause articular dysfunction. Once produced the lesion becomes a focus of sustained pathological irritation. It irritates proprioceptors in the articular capsules, ligaments, tendons, and muscles of the involved segment. The barrage of nerve impulses stream into the spinal cord where interneurons receive them, and then relay them to motor pathways for the conduction of muscles and glands initially in excessive amounts, but the contraction which provoked the subluxation in the first place, is thereby reinforced, thus perpetuating both the subluxation and the process it engenders".  The subluxation is typically treated with high velocity and low amplitude adjustments of the spine, pelvis, temporomandibular joints, and extremities.   


Chiropractors and fitness trainers advocate how to improve functional capacity (strength, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance, flexibility, and motor control-balance and coordination), because neuromusculoskeletal structures (ligaments, joints, intervertebral discs, muscles, tendons, and nerves) are constantly subjected to biomechanical forces such as tension, torsion, compression, and shear. When functional capacity is less than what the work or activity demands, micro failure (fatigue) and eventual injury are the result. The distress these demands placed on the neuromusculoskeletal system acts against the system's functional capacity, and when the distress outweighs a patient's capacity: internal resistance, then signs, symptoms, and injuries results. Maintaining neutral postures keeps demands and distress to a minimum. Maintaining ideal functional capacity keeps the body's internal resistance up, toward ideal elite athletic ability. 


Chiropractors, fitness trainers, and ergonomist place emphasis on educating their patients and clients in maintaining neutral body postures while in static postures and during dynamic motion. Good ergonomics and proper biomechanics are advocated at work, home, and during athletic activities. This emphasis on better posture helps prevent injury and enhances performance.


Chiropractic, Fitness, & the Ergonomic Model for the Structural Part of the Triad of Health


  • Injury, structural irregularities, & awkward postures
  • Joint (i.e. motion segment) & myofascial dysfunction
  • Deconditioning & altered nerve function (i.e. slowed nerve velocity due to nerve impingement, thus compression)


Internal Resistance

  • Manual therapies & physiologic therapeutics
  • Active rehabilitation & functional training
  • Ergonomics & occupational health promotion


Chemical Side of the Triad of Health

Orthomolecular physicians and nutritional advocates who use natural occurring substances toward building tissue by providing the basic raw material for fostering biochemical reactions for normal to optimal body function. The components of nutrition, diet, hydration, and supplementation are used to drive the biochemical reactions that drive one toward optimal health and elite athletic performance. Orthomolecular physicians focus on nutrition, pollution, and stress in diagnosis and treatment. Orthomolecular identifies with science and with the genius of Linus Pauling, who created the name to highlight the link between medicine, nutrition, and physiology. Orthomolecular refers to the concept of having the 'right molecules in the right amounts' for optimal heath and elite athletic performance. This relationship involves the energetic systems of the body and the workings of the bio-chemical electromagnetic systems.


We have approximately 5000 chemical reactions occurring each second in each of the trillion cells of our body. In biochemistry we know that we are all unique based upon our genetics. A new field of study called Nutrigenomics looks at ones diet in relation to their genes. This field of study breaks it down into a three-part equation. This is accomplished by looking at an individual’s genes, and how their diet and environment influence them. We have no control over our genes. However, we do have control over the other two thirds of this equation. We control what we put in our bodies by way of the foods that we eat, the water we drink, and the nutritional supplements we take. We also control the environment that we live under. Our environment includes where we live, work, and play everyday. If we live under stressful circumstances and in polluted areas this will then have an adverse affect on our over all health. By ignoring the environmental and dietary influences on health, this can then have a strong influence on an individual’s genetic profile. This makes us more susceptible to expressing inherited diseases rather than letting them lie dormant with better lifestyle choices.


Orthomolecular Model for the Chemical Part of the Triad of Health


  • Oxidative stress
  • Coagulated states
  • Deficiencies
  • Toxicities


Internal Resistance

  • Anti-oxidants & anti-coagulants
  • Minerals, & vitamins
  • Fatty & amino acids
  • Enzymes & probiotics
  • Distilled water with electrolytes
  • Other naturally occurring physiologic substances such as herbs


Mental Side of the Triad of Health

Psychiatrists, psychologists, and other counselors have dominated the mental side of the triad, but it is the psychoneuroimmunologist who physiologically defined the mind/body connection . We can change our brains as the field of plasticity in the neurosciences has recently found. By altering our external environment and/or our body's internal environment, we can take advantage of our strengths and amend our weaknesses. Possibilities for change are bound only by our imagination, our willingness to assess our circumstances accurately through self-reflection, and our commitment to hard work. The mental side of the triad of health deals with the relationships we have with ourselves, others, and nature, thus the workings of the bio-ecopsychosocial body.


Self-reflection often involve clearing and managing emotional wounds from past relationships, forgiving, setting goals, moving forward in life, getting in touch with passion, and voicing opinions. These actions can unload the mental side of the triad of health. The commitment to work on these issues strengthens the internal resistance on the mental side of the triad, so the body can resist mental distress and move toward optimal health and elite athletic performance.


Physical and mental exercise, proper nutrition and supplementation, and adequate sleep will help anyone gain cognitive clarity and emotional stability. Increased health can also come through spiritual practice, meditation, relaxation, and the pursuit of personal interests. One necessary precursor to change is often an alteration of attitude. Mental problems, from a hot temper to laziness, from chronic worry to excessive drinking, all have roots in the biology of the brain. This shifts the focus of responsibility. We have to examine our lives from the joint perspectives of biological, ecological, psychological, and social factors.


There are many psychiatric problems that have a physiological and/or physical cause. Depression can be caused by inadequate blood sugar control, food sensitivities, and/or constant pain for example, thus a physiologic cause with mental consequences. There can be chemical and structural causes of “mental” problems. The sides of the equilateral triangle interrelate with each other. A constant structural strain will affect one's emotions. The emotions can then affect the digestive system, which will affect the chemistry in terms of nutritional deficiencies. This can then lead to muscle weaknesses, which will further aggravate the structural strain. A unified and cohesive approach is therefore important and necessary.


Unfortunately, today’s health care has promoted extreme specialization. This has provided for good results in highly specific and acute conditions but not necessarily in overall health of the patient.  Problems exist when a specialist may be treating a patient for a problem on one side of the triangle, and the actual problem lies on one of the other areas of the triad. An example of this is the use of painkillers and muscle relaxants for structural problems with a known cause, such as a subulxation for instance. You fix the cause by the removal of the subluxation with an adjustment, good body mechanics, and exercise thus you fix the problem.


Psychoneuroimmunology Model for the Mental Part of the Triad of Health


  • Social isolation
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Addictions
  • Inability to forgive & express opinions


Internal Resistance

  • Social network & connectedness
  • Psychotherapy & hypnosis
  • Time & stress management
  • Mental & physical exercise
  • Meditation & imagery
  • Art & passion expression


In Summary

‘The doctors of the future will push their patients up the ability and biological continuums toward optimal health and elite athletic performance’. Our goal is to help increase our patient's internal resistance by improving their bio-mechanical, bio-chemical, and bio-psychological status.  In addition, keeping the structural, chemical, and mental stressors to a minimum.  In addition, it is important to avoid other risk factors for injury, illness, and disability so that our patients and clients can resist the signs and symptoms of disease and disability.


The chiropractic physician specializes in the biomechanical neuromusculoskeletal realm, which promotes ideal locomotion, neurophysiology, and good musculoskeletal function for optimal health and elite athletic ability. Orthomolecular physicians specialize in the bio-chemical electromagnetic realm, which promotes ideal combustion within the body's energetic systems for optimal energy needs, physiology, and detoxification. The psychoneuroimmunologist specialize in the bio-ecopsychosocial realm, which promotes ideal relationships with nature, others, and oneself toward the goal of optimal health and elite athletic performance. A balanced triad of health means a balance of the human body, mind, and spirit, thus better adaptation in today's rapidly changing society.


The patients that come into our offices are multi-dimensional and complex in their presentations. The triad of health helps us view their overall dynamic presentation and dysfunction. In addition, spinal subluxations, peripheral nerve entrapments, and dysfunction in the sacral occipital respiratory function can effect the information processing occurring within your central and peripheral nervous systems. Circulation can also be compromised, as the vessels pass through muscles that may be tight due to guarding from joint dysfunction or from prolonged awkward posture that have caused muscles to shorten. When insults to the biomechanical, bio-chemical, and bio-psychological systems within the body are managed, patients are able to heal, adapt, and experience optimal health and elite athletic performance and be hindered by neither disease nor disability. As healthcare providers, we need to convey to our patients and clients that being fit in a technological society means taking responsibility for a chosen lifestyle and making smarter choices that effect well being. Lifestyle choices that mimic our ancestors past, which incorporate natural physiological efficient postures, movement, nutrition, relaxation, and play can help one achieve optimal health and elite athletic performance. Active and healthy lifestyles enable a patient’s mind, body, and spirit to function at peak efficiency and better adapt to our changing world.


For overall wellness, we help our patients and clients have less distress in each aspect of the triad of health. In coordination, we must arm our patients and clients with more the factors which increase internal resistance in each aspect of the triad of health. As healthcare providers, we must also practice what we preach. Our patients look to us as model educators and our personal progress offers our patients persuasive guidance in their paths toward optimal health and elite athletic performance.  

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