I recently finished reading the book ‘Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder’ by Nasim Taleb. Admittedly, it was a difficult read. Usually I can complete a book in about a week, this one however took about three months! The reason it took so long was because of the depth of the content of its main topic:anti-fragility, and the wide array of applications it can be applied to. From our everyday health choices, to back pain, to the financial markets, this book really changed my perspective on many aspects of our daily lives.
So what is antifragility? In a nutshell antifragility is benefiting from chaos and volatility. For example, when you workout at the gym, you are causing stress and harm to your muscles. If your muscles were fragile they would deteriorate under such stress and wither away. However, rather than being fragile, they are antifragile: they become stronger and more resilient to stress. The muscles are benefiting from chaos, stress and volatility. Random, compound exercise workouts are extremely beneficial, as they ‘keep the body guessing’ as to what comes next. The more random and variable the stressor the better the body adapts to it and the stronger it becomes.
Another example of antifragility is the common cold. Exposure to pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses can cause sickness. In the short term, the sickness can cause discomfort, pain and fever. But overtime these exposures can improve your immune system, making you more resistant to infections. This is a good reason why having children exposed to many germs in the early years of their lives is important, as it allows the body to build a healthy immune system. Some may argue that our sanitary living conditions is leading to an increase in asthma and allergies. Using antibacterial soap is causing kids to become ‘fragile’, limiting a healthy dose of microbes from their immune system. On the flip side, these anti-bacterial soaps are making bacteria more antifragile: causing an increase in the number of superbugs resistant to antimicrobial products.
In relation to allergens it is interesting to note, recently the Canadian Paediatric Society advised the introduction of allergens at a younger age, to help the body build tolerance to the allergen. This is an example of antifragility.
So the question you might be thinking now is why is the topic of antifragility interesting to a Chiropractor? Let me explain with an example: I had a patient come in last week with back pain. He said “ Doc, I don’t understand how I got this back pain? I have not done anything differently…” And here is the problem. For most of the week, we are engaged in the same routine, driving to and from work, sitting at a desk, sitting at home. There is very little variability in our day to day lives. Our bodies do not like routine, they like variability. They like that occasional burst up a flight of stairs, or a sprint down the corridor. Our bodies prefer to participate in a morning yoga session, or an after-work sports league. Our bodies become stronger with variability, the more variable and random you try to make your day, the less likely you are to develop muscle and joint pain.
Good stress can be beneficial to your overall health. Next month is the start of Ramadan, and to expand on the topic antifragility we will be discussing the benefits of antifragility and diet. Fasting is a great way to introduce variability in our eating routine; the stress fasting causes can have many psychological, emotional, spiritual and health benefits.
Be more antifragile, add more variability, and more chaos and good stress to your daily life, your health depends on it!