Minding The Three I’s of Illness to Stay Healthy

After returning home from The Optimum Health Institute (OHI) in August 2005, I tried to make sense of what had occurred during my four-month stay. There’s no doubt something extraordinary had happened.

Thoughts flowed clearly through my mind, and rolled effortlessly off my lips, my walking was smooth and fluid—I was transferring weight through my hips rather than hesitate after each labored step, and feelings of numbness and tingling in my hands and feet had subsided. I had renewed hope.

My Mom would say it was a miracle. I love her faith and have greatly relied on her influence, but I wanted to see if I could sum up my experience into a cogent framework to guide my thoughts, habits, actions, and being moving forward. My first morning home, I wrote in my journal about the essence of my stay and captured it as six core concepts: mind/body/spirit connection, live enzyme-rich raw food, daily exercise, body detoxification, positive affirming beliefs, and emotional expression.

These concepts helped explain how I regained my health but didn’t capture why illness had taken hold in the first place. What I sought hit me a year later while searching for a way to build a stronger body. I came across Jordan Rubin’s amazing story of healing from the effects of crohn’s disease reading his book, The Maker’s Diet. In it Rubin talked about how be rebuilt his body.

It was insightful to hear about his healing journey. It validated what I was doing and provided new ideas. The most intriguing part was his notion about the key to keeping disease from taking hold in the body that he summed up as “The Three I’s of Illness”: infection, inflammation, and insulin. I had heard of “the three I’s” at OHI but knew of them independently. They coalesced as a related group while reading his work. Below is greater insight into “the three I’s.”

 Minding The Three I’s of Illness


I remember from seventh grade science that an infection is the colonization of a foreign organism in the body. In my case, it was probably a bacterial infection that had developed above a root canal-ed tooth that happened during an accident playing ninth grade basketball. At some point, the seal at the base of the root had cracked deep inside the roof of my mouth which allowed bacteria to leak from the root tooth stub and spread to other areas of my body.

My dental experience reiterated the importance of watching for signs of infection such as nasal congestion, lethargy, and fatigue. I realized that the phantom fatigue I felt at nineteen might not have been such a mystery, but rather the result of my body fighting an infection above my tooth. My body instinctively recognized the signs—I just needed to learn to heed the signals.


Inflammation, the second “I”, is defined as the body’s vascular response to an irritant, such as an infection or other foreign body like a free radical or toxic substance. The five primary sources of inflammation are stress, lack of sleep, pollution (e.g. smoking), lack of exercise, and diet. Of the five, diet has required the most diligence to manage.

I stay away from foods known to trigger an inflammation response. The major offenders include: sugar and refined starch, vegetable oil, dairy products, red meat, grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, foods high in trans-fats, processed corn, peanuts, and foods containing chemicals.


Insulin is the third “I.” The key to maintaining a healthy balance of insulin in the blood is to avoid foods that raise sugar levels. From my time at OHI, I knew these foods are refined sugars, refined complex carbohydrates, and alcohol. It made complete sense why OHI’s offered two meal options on juice days: a vegetable only juice with reduced natural sugar, or a higher natural sugar option made from fruit. I selected the low sugar option back then and continue to watch my sugar intake today.

This is the essence of what I’ve learned about minding “the three I’s of illness” to stay healthy. While the cause of multiple sclerosis and the pathology of the disease is unknown, minding the three I’s represents the heart of what I do on a daily basis to maintain my health and keep the impacts of the chronic disease from having a bigger impact.

What did you think? Let me know how you might have found this information useful in the comments below. It will help me know how to focus my efforts in future posts.