World health organization (WHO)

Health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Health may also be defined as the ability to adapt and manage physical, mental and social challenges throughout life.

Disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure or function of part or all of an organism, and that is not due to any external injury. Diseases are often construed as medical mental or physical conditions that are associated with specific symptoms and signs.

For just more than 100 years the medical fraternity seeked the answers to understand the pathology of and developing diagnostic procedures to name and treat disease/s. People came to see themselves as well/ healthy or ill/ suffering from a specific disease. The truth is that wellness and illness does not stand apart; it rather flows into one another. There is a time period involved moving down or up the scale.

John W. Travis, MD, MPH, a true wellness pioneer, first proposed an Illness-Wellness Continuum that he developed in 1972. It was first published in 1975 in the Wellness Inventory. He developed a model for lifestyle change that focussed on self-responsibility, self-love or care and acknowledge the whole person – body, mind, emotions and spirit.

He explained wellness as;

  • A choice or decision you make to move towards optimal health.
  • A lifestyle you design to achieve your highest potential for wellbeing.
  • A process with no endpoint where health and happiness are possible in each moment here and now
  • The appreciation that everything you do, think, feel and believe has an influence on your state of wellness
  • The loving acceptance of yourself

His wellness philosophy is based on 3 principals;

  1. the Illness-Wellness Continuum
  2. the Iceberg model of health
  3. the Wellness energy system

From Neutral point to the left our wellness change into an increasingly worsening of a disease process. To move back, a treatment paradigm is needed and from neutral point to the right our state of wellness improves. To continue this movement, we should adhere to what it takes to do well all the way from the left through the neutral point where the symptoms and signs of the disease improves, to the right of the continuum. To stay well we need to commit to this health supportive lifestyle changes. Neither Illness nor Wellness is static points.

The Illness-Wellness Continuum promotes the understanding of the two-way flow where preventive treatment can improves wellbeing even in the absence of signs or symptoms of illness. It can educate people to be aware of and avoid risk factors and behaviour, in order to protect against disease and premature death.

What is visible and perceived as our state of health/wellness or disease
is underlined by the influence of our lifestyle, behaviour, psychological and spiritual realities.

We need to realise that lifestyle includes our foods we eat, our water we drink, the exercise we do or neglect, our recreational habits, and the quality and amount of sleep we experience. It also entails the stress (mental, emotional and physical) load we are exposed to, our resilience, the relationships and networks we have, and our reality about spiritual meaning and purpose.

Wellness energy system

This can be divided in;

Energy input

Energy input by breathing (oxygen), eating (food) and sensory stimulation (touch, sound, light, heat and electromagnetic radiation).
On an emotional and spiritual level, we find enthusiasm, attention, caring and love.

Energy output

This is influenced by your energy needs around daily metabolic processes, weight, exercise, work, activity of our nervous system, general state of health, need to repair body tissue, intellectual and emotional processes, creativity expression, and many less known and understood energy communications through thought processes and psychic phenomena.

In pursuit of wellness;

Since the 1980’s an awareness around being well, preventing and treating disease more holistic erupted from being ok to just treat disease as it presented. We experienced an almost spontaneous growth in the development of the wellness industry. The knowledge around our foods, food sources and farming practices, and storing of foods became concerns. We need to understand concepts like grass-fed and free-range animal products, organic and genetically modified crops and concerns around pesticides, herbicides and radiation of foods. We now realize our bodies need for clean water and a clean, pollution free, EMF free environment.

It became important to educate ourselves around disease creating practices, take responsibility for our own health and become a partner in addressing changes and looking after ourselves in order to move up the wellness ladder. It is not enough to just suppress or get rid of symptoms in order to be healthy and well.