01 May Nutrition from 30,000 feet
The area of diet and nutrition is a very confusing place. There are so many conflicting opinions, articles and authorities out there it is understandable that the majority of people don’t know where they stand, or they have been fed some misinformation that they have taken for the truth. Our overall health is dependent on the health our cells so if we are working optimally at the cellular level then it will transpire we will be healthy as human beings. The complexity of our cells is to such a degree that they require quite specific conditions to do their job properly and keep you healthy in all areas of your body. They are however quite robust and resilient and because of this seemingly beneficial characteristic, we can potentially do a lot of damage to ourselves without being aware of it. We can cope with so many harmful behaviours and habits that the ‘illness’ or ‘dis-ease’ may not show up for many years. By that stage it takes so much more energy to turn the health of the individual around but it is absolutely possible.
Based on this the 5 key questions related to nutrition are:
– What are the nutritional requirements for a cell to be healthy?
– What is nutritionally toxic to cells?
– Are nutritional deficiencies and toxicities common?
– What dietary choices are needed to create sufficiency?
– What dietary choices are needed to create purity?
Our genes are programmed for health and balance and it is our daily choices that lead to sickness NOT faulty genes. We must supply the body with what it requires genetically for the cells to function as well as possible, this is the key to health. We are by far the sickest species on earth and suffer from diseases that are not evident in wild animals, largely because they do not eat food incongruous with their needs.
The only difference between our healthy ancestors and our sick society is that we are either toxic with something that we can’t adapt to or deficient in something we need. There are many things we consume that we know are bad for us but what we don’t understand is how detrimental it really is and how many people are suffering needlessly. Leading on from this we need to create the opposite; purity and sufficiency and to do this we look at what did our healthy ancestors (and what do healthy indigenous tribes) eat.
In essence this is very simple but due to social, psychological, cultural habits, this may be slightly tricker than it seems. From studies done on healthy indigenous tribes, it appears that they ate quite differently in the actual foodstuffs and also the ratios between foods. There are all the obvious components that are included in the western diet such as flavourings, colourings, sweeteners, salt, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, MSG (and anything else man-made). The major differences however come from what are sometimes called ‘white man foods’, including white flour (grains), sugar and dairy. Sugar is more clear but given what we have been told for most of our lives, for us to now say that grains and dairy are seriously detrimental to your health may seem like bold claim, but let me explain.
• Grains – We have been told for many years that grains should provide the bulk of our diet (remember the so called ‘food pyramid’?) Studies have shown that our healthy hunter-gatherer ancestors ate very little, if any, refined grains. A world renowned expert in paleolithic nutrition has extensively researched this area and wrote in his paper entitled ‘Cereal grains: humanities double edged sword’ stated evidence that was contradictory to what we are told the majority of the time. He states that: “without them (cereal grains) we would not have had our ‘agricultural revolution’ and we would not be able to sustain our enormous present day population but there is a significant body of evidence which suggests that cereal grains are less than optimal foods for humans and that the human genetic makeup and physiology may not be fully adapted to high levels of cereal grain consumption.” The research suggests some alarming facts about the drawbacks of modern day grains being the staple of our diets:
1) Nutritionally void of vitamins and minerals
2) High phytate content of grains may interfere with metabolism of vitamins and minerals
3) Result in a high omega-6 : omega-3 ratio which is toxic to our bodies
4) Inadequate growth because of reduction in protein and amino acids
5) Increased acidity leading to increased risk of infections, cancer, osteoporosis
6) Increased auto-immune conditions. The body loses its ability to differentiate between foreign proteins and self-proteins and so stages attacks on itself leading to a host of conditions such as Addison’s disease, asthma, autoimmune thyroid disease, dental enamel defects, epilepsy, liver disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Withdrawal of gluten-containing cereals from the diet can often ameliorate symptoms
7) Long term consumption leads to insulin resistance
• Dairy – This is a very contentious issue and one that meets a lot of resistance. The major issue with dairy is with pasteurised and homogenised dairy (totally raw organic milk can be very beneficial) and it is this that causes a great deal of health conditions at all ages. We have been told by authorities that we need milk from when we are infants and up through childhood and adulthood and the main argument is related to calcium. Now I’m not going to come out and say that we don’t need calcium, of course we do but what I will say is that to try and get it from dairy far from ideal. Let me ask you this; how many other species on earth consume another animals milk? How many animals consume milk after they have been weaned? the answer of course is none (and don’t say cats as I think you would agree that they wouldn’t do it out in the wild!). Lets look at large animals in the animal kingdom such as gorillas or cows (neither of which suffer from osteoporosis), where do they get their calcium from? Not from other animals, the answer is of course plants and that is where we as humans should be getting ours from. Now I’m really going to go out on a limb and say that not only do we not need dairy to give our bones strength, dairy increases the risk of osteoporosis. You may well be thinking that is ridiculous but this isn’t just mere opinion. Once your body has metabolised the dairy, it leaves an ‘acidic ash/residue’ and this increases the overall acidity of the body. In order to neutralise this acid your body needs to mobilise something alkaline, and the largest stores of alkaline in the body is, you guessed it, calcium in the bones. So your body uses the calcium in the bone to neutralise the acid leading to more osteoporosis, not less.
• Sugar – Ok, where do we start, sugar could easily and should be classified as a poison. Before you dismiss that out of hand we should look at the definition of a poison; “a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health” or “something harmful or pernicious, as to happiness or well-being”. Take your pick. Refined sugar has been depleted of all its vitamins and minerals leaving pure refined carbohydrates. When digested this causes a plethora of issues and if consumed on a regular basis leads to insulin resistance amongst others. Insulin resistance has a significant role to play in most chronic diseases that we suffer from today, the big ones being cancer, diabetes and heart disease. One incredibly worrying aspect is the amount of sugar that children are now consuming and the hidden sugar in ‘foods’ where you wouldn’t expect it such as infant formula, breakfast cereals, bread, ketchup, peanut butter, microwave meals etc. when consumed as children it is setting them up for a lifetime of health problems. Following is a few effects of sugar consumption and by no means is it exhaustive:
a) Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defences against infectious diseases
b) Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach
c) Sugar increases your risk of diabetes
d) Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis
e) Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease
f) Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, multiple sclerosis
g) Sugar contributes to obesity
h) Sugar can cause gallstones, appendicitis, uncontrolled growth of Candida Albicans (yeast infections), osteoporosis, increased systolic blood pressure, cataracts, gout and many others.
i) Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines and dizziness
j) Sugar can reduce the learning capacity, adversely affect school children’s grades and cause learning disorders, eczema in children
k) Sugar is an addictive substance
• Water – Water is often overlooked as part of a balanced diet. Part of the reason it is not considered when it comes to dealing with various ailments is that the importance is massively undervalued and it is ‘too simple’. It absolutely essential that a sufficient water supply is provided since every function of the body is influenced by the presence of water and dehydration is hugely detrimental to health. Ultimately we evolved from sea dwelling creatures and over millions of years as we started venturing onto land, have had to develop methods of storing water efficiently within our bodies and managing it efficiently, with the brain being top priority (although it is only 2% of total body weight, it uses up to 20% of the body’s blood supply). Water is a genetic requirement and we have the ability to survive only a few days without water (think of a fish out of water and imagine how it suffers without it). From this innate desire to survive, our body’s are able to deal with a certain amount of dehydration before you become consciously aware of it and so by the time you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated so it makes sense to keep on top of things. Like alot of things there are many conflicting opinions regarding quality, quantity and type and it is sensible to err on the side of logic and common sense. One point that crops up regularly is whether coffee, tea etc. count as water or whether it is dehydrating. We believe that it is necessary for an adult to consume at least 1.5 litres of pure (filtered if possible) water every day. If the coffee and tea doesn’t dehydrate you then no harm will have come from drinking the extra water but if it does dehydrate you then of course it is fundamental you drink the water. Avoid squash/cordial (especially if it contains aspartame or other sweeteners), sugar and milk in tea and coffee, excessive alcohol, fizzy/soda/pop drinks, ‘energy’ drinks and anything else processed.
Using this paradigm, the way we approach nutrition is different to many places. Our belief based on the research out there, is that we don’t need to try and diagnose conditions and then try to treat them symptomatically with nutritional lotions and potions. If you provide the body with what it needs genetically then it can’t do anything else but to be healthy. As long as you have the desire, we have the knowledge and techniques to help you (and your family) through the transition to health.