Wednesday, 25 March 2009

What you put into your body or how you get rid of it: What's the most important?

Does any one know what we're supposed to be eating any more? Seriously I really think it depends who you listen to. Everyone has a different answer. Think I'm crazy? well first it was low fat, then low saturated fat, then low carb, high protein. It goes on.

Ok we've all heard that debate. Well what do the oldest people in the world eat? Shouldn't that tell us something? It's not to say that this is a prefectly representative example. It could be that they have genes that can survive no matter what diet they eat and the rest of us don't. That's a perfectly plausible explanation.  

I also like to question the idea that we're all alike and so generic advice can be given. I don't really feel this is the case.

I think in truth the answer is plainly that we just don't really know what is the best combination of foods that humans should eat. Stepping back a little I'm not entirely convinced that what we eat is infact the be all and end all. I look to evolution as guide because it's practical. It deals with real life issues over time. What I find when I consider the evolution and how it would affect length and quality of life I conclude that organisms that survive well must be well adapted to dealing with the challenges of the lives they lead. 

Ok, that's a simple but obvious point. What does it mean? It means that we need to be good at dealing with the dangerous things we are exposed to, particularly if they get inside us, either by choice, through being eaten or by other means, through infection for example.

When we prevent bad things by controlling what we eat we assume that's the only way bad things get into our body and assume that we have complete control over what's in the food we eat. I haven't even started to rip apart these assumptions. Suffice to say it's inherently flawed. No matter how much you analyse the food chain and try to improve it there will always be a possibilty that something bad gets in. Of course that assumes you know what's bad in the first place and can isolate it and remove it and leave everything else intact.  I don't believe that's an easy or worthwhile thing to do. 

While I'd love to have complete control over what goes in me I don't trust at this point that I know exactly what that should be. Don't forget they've only just decoded the human genome. That the software that makes us up. They don't claim to know what it actually means yet. Also most studies on what we should or dshould not be eating simply track what we have the ability to track. If it can't be tracked or no one thinks it's important then it's ignored. I've never found that kind of approach to be particularly reliable. I'm not saying it's bad. Just that I take the results with a pinch of salt. As we get better at tracking everything and the tools to analyse this wealth of data become more accessible. Then our interpretations will become meaningful but I don't think we're so close yet. 

Ok, so what do we do instead? I can only speak for myself of course, but I feel we got by pretty well before we had all this amazing knowledge. That's not to say that disease wasn't rampant but for those with enough food and water, and appropriate shelter, survival rates were pretty good, assuming there were no wars going on and you didn't live in the land of a tyrant. 

What I'm saying is, our bodies seem to survive pretty well themselves. That's not to say they can survive everything we throw at them. I think it does come down to our ability to get rid of toxins and the things that are doing us harm. I would expect evolution to equip us with this ability. OUr immune system and other components would be able to recognise things in our body that either shouldn't be there or shouldn't be happening and do something about it. 

I think this sounds logical. If you can't stop it happening in the first place then make sure you can stop it once it's started and clean up the mess afterwards. I think we're all familiar with this approach in our daily lives. so is there any evidence? Funnily enough there is. I'm not sure how well accepted it is or how thorough the research is  but I wrote an article titled Feast and Famine: is that what our bodies expect? to cover exactly this. The basic theory I talk about is that our bodies slowly accumulate toxins and pathogens. Their effects can be seen in cells and the immune system simply marks these cells as bad and in need of destruction. During times of scarce food these cells are used for energy and their contents disposed off which meets two needs. Fuel and getting rid of rubbish. Given that in many areas of the world food is either abundant or scarce it makes sense that animals including us would be adapted to both survive and even take advantage of this fact. 

That's just theory but ever since I came up with it, it has fitted much of what I see. What it also does is say that I shouldn't just care about what I eat, I should care about how bad cells and toxins are rid from the body. That's something I've been considering for a while. This research gives me an answer I can work with. 

Right now it's highlighted the potential benefits of approaches such as intermittent fasting. I don't particularly like a rigid approach, rathe rone that just goes with the flow of my life. What this has done is make me question the appropriateness of having 3 set meals a day. I have to confess that I've followed all sorts of routines over recent years and now I'm wondering if it really matters when exactly that you eat. Unless your body is especially sensitive to fluctuations in nutrients I would expect that our bodies are simply designed to make good ue of nutrients when they're available and preserve them when they're not. 

I wrote another article suggesting that our bodies could be better at preserving the nutrients they are given. A lot of this really comes from research I read many years ago during either A levels or degree. It showed that rats uptake of essential nutrients depended on how well stocked their bodies and diet were already with that nutrient. In english that means that if you're body isn't low in a nutrient then it is pretty wasteful with it. Yet if it's in desperate need then it's adept at getting what it needs. As long as enough is available in an appropriate form in the diet. 

Ok, to the layman this isn't so much help. it still begs the question how much is enough. That's where I think we don't have the real answers. We can talk about requirements in terms of milligrams but few people can work out what that means in terms of the meal they last ate. So it's not practical. That's why I just ensure I have a few nutrient dense foods each day and ensure I have backups frozen, tinned and  dry so I never run out and they're always easy to hand. 

Now that I am confident my body can deal with any mistakes that occur I can just focus on putting good things in my body. If I fast a little here a nd there then I can encourage it to get rid of what's not good. 

That's the theory any way. We'll see how this pans out. 
Post a Comment