Basic Body Maintenance
If only our bodies came with owner's manuals! The care and feeding of our physical forms is a complex and often controversial subject. New and sometimes conflicting information and advice are available from a wide variety of sources. It is not always easy for an individual to keep a sense of perspective with this barrage of information.
My goal in this article is to give you my perspective, as a Naturopath, a basic outline of what I consider to be good health practices. This is general in nature and not meant to address and particular health issues rather a general philosophy about daily health practices. Not everyone will agree with all the information that follows. In addition, every one of us is unique, and only you can ultimately decide what is best for you. What I offer is some guidelines that you can use to review your own health practices, to help you make informed choices about what is best for your body.
Immunostimulant, Anti-bacterial, Diaphoretic, Anti-inflammatory, Alterative, Lymphatic, Anti-aging.
Quality water is paramount to good health. The body requires eight to ten glasses of water daily to keep the electrolytes at peak capacity for efficient functioning. This is the minimum: in summer or if you work in the sun or air conditioning, you will require more. Tea, coffee, alcohol, soft drinks, salt, sugar, chemical additives and salt or sugar substitutes all upset the electrolyte balance and should be kept to a minimum. Obtain the best quality water possible. Water filtered by an Reverse Osmosis Filter with an alkalinising post filter stage (best), or rain water from areas with little or no pollution make the best drinking water and are generally better than spring or mineral waters although these are better than tap water because of the additives.
With as few pollutants as possible-is of major importance. High levels of oxygen in the cells help to keep the system in top condition. Low levels of oxygen for lengthy periods will cause illness. Dr Otto Warburg, who received a Nobel Prize for his work with oxygen, has shown that cancer is the common outcome of bodies existing on less than 40% of normal oxygen intake. What factors can reduce the oxygen available to our systems? Smoking, polluted air, lack of regular exercise, sitting hunched up so as to reduce lung capacity allowing muscles of the rib cage to solidify so that it is impossible to take a full breath-all these practices have negative impacts on our oxygen availability.
Exercise is essential for many reasons other than the benefits of increased oxygen intake. Our bodies need to keep moving so that all the cells get proper nutrition. For example, some cells do not have a direct blood supply and instead rely on osmosis of nutrients through the tissues, a process facilitated by exercise. Walking creates a bellows-like action in the cells of the body, forcing the body fluids to circulate to those less well supplied areas such as the spine. Also regular exercise increases the red blood cells ability to carry oxygen and deliver it to the rest of our body.
It is well known that the low exercise levels today are one of the major causes of Metabolic Syndrome, Diabetes and the Obesity epidemic.
Processing of all types reduces the amounts of nutrition in foods. Factory processing makes it necessary to add chemicals to the food to create the appearance that it is appetizing and nutritious, even if most of the more important nutrients (Vitamins A, C, E and some of the B's) are destroyed in the process.
So have as much fresh unprocessed food as you can. When you cook, use the fastest method, and steam rather than boil, bake or grill rather than deep fry.
Marigold (Calendula Officianalis)
Anti-inflammatory, Astringent, Vulnerary, Emenagogue, Spasmolytic, Cholagogue, Antiseptic.
Modern refrigeration makes it easier to obtain fresh foods, however there are some hidden problems to be aware of. Fruit is often picked when it is green, stored for long periods, then artificially stimulated to ripen, thus enabling the producers to make maximum profits in the off season, when market prices are higher. The problem is that this unnatural process reduces vitamin and enzyme levels. If you possibly can, eat fruits and vegetables in season and grown close to your home. Even better are those that are home grown because the ripening process if done on the tree or bush increases the nutrients enormously. Recent research has shown that there are 8 sugars and the modern diet gets only two of these regularly, much of this lack is caused by artificial ripening without the nutrients supplied by the plant and soil and it is recognized that this deficiency is a major cause of many diseases.
Drying of many foods-such as fruit, fish, meat, onions and tomatoes-retains most, but not all, of their nutrients. It also concentrates the energy, so, moderation is needed with dried foods.
Pre-processed grains such as white and pre-cooked rice, rolled and steel-cut oats, cracked wheat, and all flours have usually lost many of their B and E vitamins and life force or vitality. They are also highly acid forming. Whole grains are high in nutrients and supply calories for energy, and fibre to aid elimination. My view is that excessive consumption of processed grains (empty calories) is of major concern and again one of the major causative factors in Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome. Whole unprocessed grains are excellent sources of nutrients as well as energy.
ACID ALKALINE BALANCE
The general rule is to have 70% alkaline-forming and 30% acid-forming foods in our diets. Today the modern diet is the exact opposite mostly because of processing and most processed foods are highly acid-forming. Nearly all proteins are acid forming. High levels of fresh fruit, vegetables and fresh juices will help to keep the system alkaline. (Citrus fruits are alkaline forming even though they have an acid taste). Most fresh vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds are alkaline forming. Fats are neutral, so are grains when raw & unprocessed but once processed become progressively more acid forming. Almost everything else is acid-forming. So making the change can be a challenge but it is very rewarding because the beginning of most disease is an excessively acid body (inflammation). You can change your lifestyle and eating habits and restore the balance eliminating the inflammation. Don't try and do it all in one hit, start with breakfast and begin to alter your habits over a period of time so that it becomes normal and then move on to the next meal. If you would like a chart showing a list of the Acid/Alkaline Foods please contact me through our contact page.
Proteins are the basic metabolic building blocks of the body and essential to growth and good health. In my experience, strict vegetarians can be unhealthy because they lack protein. Vegetarians can achieve a healthy protein level by eating a very broad range of foods. When I test a person for any intolerance of a particular food, it is rare to find someone whose body rejects all meat and fish. Some people have a negative test result on red meat, but many people require red meats in their diet such as people performing heavy manual labor, bodybuilders or women who have iron absorption difficulties. A little white meat or particularly fish/seafood up to four times a week is ample for many people. Dairy products are also a good source of protein but some people are intolerant of them and this causes high mucous levels or lots of gas.
Eggs are a highly concentrated food source, rich in protein and nutrients. They should not be consumed in excess. Organic free range eggs are especially good when they are available.
Antispasmodic, Anodyne, Sedative.
SEEDS and NUTS
Seeds and nuts are very nutritious, offering a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Like eggs, nuts are highly concentrated. An excellent illustration of how much of a particular food you should eat is to consider the size of the end product of each item: a nut grows into a large tree, an egg becomes a chicken, a grain of wheat can produce an ear of wheat, whereas a vegetable only reproduces itself. Therefore you can consume a lot of vegetables, reasonable quantities of whole grains, but smaller amounts of eggs, seeds and nuts. For example, more than 40 almonds can have a toxic effect on the body. I find nuts and seeds to be one of the best between meal snacks.
Nuts and Seeds
FATS and OILS
Lipids (fats and oils) are essential to warm the body, protect vital organs, assist growth, produce hormones, lubricate joints and much more. Lipids carry and enhance flavors, so we tend to like them in our diet. Today there is controversy regarding fats and the effects in the body. My personal view is that naturally occurring fats are no problem for the body as long as they are part of a balanced diet. The biggest cause of problems is altered fats that are used by food manufacturers to increase flavour and lower costs (please see Trans fat on Wikipedia). These fats and homocysteine (caused by excessive meat consumption and low intake of B vitamins, folic acid, B6 and B12 in the diet) are a major factor in Heart Disease. Elevated homocysteine is one of the factors involved in Metabolic Syndrome (pre-type 2 diabetes, putting on weight around your middle and having mildly elevated blood sugar) and dementia. Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes is at epidemic proportions today in the USA, UK and Australia, it is all caused by our diet and lifestyle. Butter, cheese, eggs, meat, milk and cream have high levels of lipids but they are not the evil things that they have been promoted by the media in the past. The lowest heart disease rates in the world are Eskimos, Greeks and Japanese tied for first followed by France. You might know that the Greeks love to pour Olive Oil over their food and 20% of their diet is fat, the Japanese love beef that has marbled fat in it and the French have the highest fat intake apart from Eskimos (whose fat intake is around 50% of their diet) and yet the French have the fourth lowest heart disease rates. So it is quite apparent that fat intake is not the major cause of heart disease that has been touted. In addition pre 1900 heart disease death rates were around 3% but today it is 36% and the fat intake then was much higher pre 1900 than it is today, so we have been sold a pup about fats.
It is important to use the highest quality oils we can, the best oils are extra virgin olive oil, coconut, avocado and sesame oils. Be sure all oils are cold pressed - any other type of processing causes damage to the essential nutrients.
Most oils that are liquid at room temperature are naturally polyunsaturated. Supermarket oils labeled "polyunsaturated", however, have been processed in a way that causes an imbalance in the oil's structure. Do not routinely use any product that is claimed by the manufacturers to be "polyunsaturated".
Natural fish oils are high in Omega 3 unsaturated fatty acids and are excellent for the circulation and the heart and I recommend it as a supplement for most people.
Salt occurs naturally in many foods and there is much confusion regarding the wide recommendation of low sodium diets as there is very little solid evidence to support these diets (please see this article on ScienceDirect).
I recommend Sea Salt and it should be a grey or pink colour indicating it has a broad range of minerals in it, if it is white it has been processed and the beneficial components have been removed. Table Salt is just Sodium and Chloride whereas Sea Salt has up to eighty four minerals in it thus making it very close to our natural electrolytes in our bodies. It also tastes better but still should be used sparingly.
Sugars are necessary to good health but only in their natural form, in fruits (fresh and dried), honey, pure maple syrup, etc. Commercially refined sugar is too far removed from its natural source, it is also addictive and damaging to the body. Sugar is one of the major causes of Metabolic Syndrome and needs to be eliminated from our diets as much as possible. Chemical sweeteners and High Fructose Corn Syrup are much worse and should be avoided at all costs. Substitutes are: Stevia (OK for Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes). Rapadura Sugar (dried sugar cane juice), Xylitol, pure Maple Syrup, Rice Syrup and raw unprocessed honey are all better than sugar but they are still not low GI.
Stimulants cause problems mostly because they are addictive. The most common stimulant in our society is caffeine, found in tea, coffee and chocolate. Coffee causes other problems as well, containing very high levels of antioxidants and more than 200 toxins with which the liver could cope in small quantities, but which overload the liver when this common beverage is consumed to excess. Tea, coffee and alcohol also have an additional problem; they all are diuretics and actually take water from our body. Tea contains tannin, one cup of tea has enough tannin to dry up two to two and a half times its volume, causing damage to the fluid balance of the body. Tannin also destroys B vitamins on contact. Green teas, Formosan tea or herbal teas avoid these problems.
Having said all that, tea, coffee and chocolate are responsible for over 35% of most people's antioxidant intake over their entire lives, they are very potent foods and need to be treated with respect and consumed less often: once a day for coffee, one or two black teas making sure you drink extra water. Green tea is not such a problem and in fact is strongly anticancer and very good for the circulatory system. Cacao is very beneficial and can be used liberally. Chocolate bars are not so good but can be positively beneficial IF it is 70% cocoa or more, the others are too full of sugar and fat.
If you can't pronounce it, then you probably don't want to eat it. This is also a huge subject and too much to go into here, however if most of your diet is fresh foods that you prepare yourself then there will be none or very few of these chemicals.
Alcohol in small quantities is not damaging for the majority of people, but alcohol abuse - daily consumption, or more than three (women) to five (men) drinks at one session - will cause damage to the brain and/or liver.
Medicinal drugs can be essential for life support but should be considered as a last resort rather than the first option. All drugs have side effects, and at the very least can cause stress to the liver and kidneys as these organs work to eliminate the drugs from the system.
Like a Garden
Health begins with a single step. If this review of basic health maintenance has caused you to consider changing any of your current practices, then I urge you to do something that you can live with. It is better to make a small change that you can sustain than a drastic change that will only last for a few weeks or months. By all means, make it easy and have fun! Your body's health is like a garden, it is never finished, it needs regular maintenance and every now and then a major overhaul.
So if you are needing a major overhaul or there are things that your body does that you don't know how to deal with or you have something that just keeps on happening and shouldn't, you need to see a professional Herbalist or Naturopath who can help work out what you need to do to get to your peak health.
To your good health.
Geoff Beaty Naturopath, DN
Broom (Cytisus scoparius)
Diuretic, Peripheral Vasoconstrictor, Anti-haemorrhagic
|Tags: Latest News News from our Naturopaths|