The Rock Bottom Line
We all yearn to “feel great”, don’t we?
We want to wake up daily full of energy, think clearly, and have no pain or discomfort. Periods of illness are short lived and disappear on their own. Only healthy folks can make that claim.
If you watch TV, follow Facebook, read newspapers and magazines, you know one thing for sure. They are all filled with promises of amazing symptom relief with some supplement or medication. Don’t be fooled.
Health doesn’t come from taking some specific supplement or medication. Health certainly doesn’t come from medication; medication is treatment with an inevitable price in side effects. See for yourself.
Pay careful attention to the next medication advertisement you see on TV. The soothing music and happy people portrayed in the ad might make you miss that soft, underlying voice sharing a long and scary list of side effects. There is a medication on the market today that one potential side effect is an autoimmune disease called TTP. I once had that disease and it can be deadly.
Autoimmune diseases are the result of triggers and at the time (year 2000) I only knew triggers to be attached to guns. More about “triggers” below.
There is a lot in today’s world to interfere with health, sometimes in big ways..
The genes you inherited from your mom and dad might make you susceptible to chronic illnesses but, for the most part, your genes don’t become a problem unless something “triggers” them. The biggest triggers are toxic chemicals produced by man. And among those toxins, the ones with the broadest negative implications are endocrine disruptors.
You won’t see your endocrine system on an X-ray or MRI. It is comprised of all the hormones made in different organs in your body, including the brain. Your hormones have a critical role in keeping you going and the list of hormones is very long. See here if your are curious.
So an endocrine disruption could cause damage anywhere, a scary prospect.
According to National Institutes of Health “endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.” Very scientific description. You can read all you want about that here.
So you may be wondering what disruption looks like.
Dr. Joseph Mercola quotes The Environmental Working Group on his website:
“There is no end to the tricks that endocrine disruptors can play on our bodies: increasing production of certain hormones; decreasing production of others; imitating hormones; turning one hormone into another; interfering with hormone signaling; telling cells to die prematurely; competing with essential nutrients; binding to essential hormones; accumulating in organs that produce hormones.”
Anything that your body does not naturally have and recognize is a toxin. And they are everywhere – in the air and water, on the ground and in your food, food additives, cigarettes, medications and “drugs”, makeup and personal care products, household cleaners, plastics, mosquito spray, and even building materials. Even those little fabric softener sheets you use. The list goes on.
As long as you live in this country (or the world) you will personally never avoid all of those toxins. So you may have to prioritize, pay closest attention to those things that will do the most good with, quite frankly, the least effort and expense.This is the stuff that goes in your mouth.
Two great things happen when you pay attention to food.
- First, you minimize the introduction of a boat load of toxins into your body; more about that later.
- Second, you equip your body and immune system to respond to toxins and minimize disruptions.Your immune system has to be on high alert all the time.
Your Immune System
Your immune system is responsible for security. Your poor body is up against more than broken bones, scratches and scrapes, and trees that jump in front of your car. Your immune system is designed to respond to and heal infections, viruses, fungi, and parasites – plus the occasional random toxins like bee venom.
Toxic challenges were random 100 years ago before high-tech people figured out how to make and use chemicals to serve specific, primarily economic, purposes. Now those man- made toxic agents are a major, ongoing overload.
Your immune system now has to deal with all the usual stuff plus those toxins. One response for the simple stuff like bacteria, another huge response to toxins.
Avoiding toxic stuff when possible is important and my book, It’s All About the Food, talks about some ways to do that. There is much literature that will explain this to you in more detail than you ever wanted to see – information overload that will cause most of us to just glaze over and go right on. I mean, what can I do about it?
Last week I had lunch with some gardening volunteers between the two garden builds. We build two Tasty Acre gardens each year for low income families. Everyone has a story of a child, family member, or friend who reacted to some food or chemical. Those my age will struggle to remember even one child in our youth who lived with allergic reactions or autism. The story is different now; sometimes glazing over is not an option under life or death circumstances. Toxins.
In the end, at the rock bottom line, the best protection for each individual against a world of toxins is attending to the simple essentials of nutrition. In the simplest terms, your diet (and nothing else) provides the building material to keep your body running and your immune system doing its job under difficult circumstances.
The Body’s Building Materials
At the grand level, the nutrition needs of your body are pretty simple. You eat protein, fat, and carbohydrates found in plants; these are called macro-nutrients. The protein and fat are crucial, without them you are toast.
Carbohydrates are useful but are not crucial. It’s the rest of the stuff in the plant that adds the real value.
Within protein, fat, and plants containing carbohydrates are micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, etc.
All of these micro-nutrients are essential to your health and, to a large degree, can be derived from any of the macro nutrients. God’s little back up plan. So you don’t have to eat one thing for bones, another for eyes, and another for blood- although stuff you read might make you think differently. That could drive you nuts.
Look at it this way. Consider building a real house. Somebody brings a big pile of lumber and dumps in on your property. Your contractor and carpenters may use that lumber to become the foundation or the walls, or perhaps the roof. It’s going to take a while to build the house and you just have to wait, just like your mother waited nine months for your body to be built.
When the house is finished, you move in. Eventually some wear and tear will occur and occasional repairs will be required. Storms or fires may do damage that has to be fixed or replaced. The difference between a real house and your body “house” is that wear and tear on your body begins immediately and continues perpetually. Every cell in your body will be replaced many multiple times throughout your life. Your body uses all the stuff in your food as “building supplies” to accomplish all that ongoing work.
And just as happens when the lumber for your house is inadequate, when you fail to provide the basic supplies for your body in your food, trouble is brewing. You won’t want to live in either of those houses.
Food Sources of Building Materials
Now, where does all that protein, fat, and carbohydrate come from? Still simple. Sources are meat (on land or sea) and plants.
Meat is essentially protein and fat. Generally speaking plants contain some protein, some fat, sugar and fiber in carbohydrates, and water.
However, all plants are not equal. Simple vegetables such as brocolli include very little sugar. Fruit contains a bit more sugar. But starchy plants like grains (wheat, corn, etc.), root vegetables like potatoes, and beans are actually seeds for another plant and have lots more sugar than simple vegetables. This becomes important.
So your body builds and repairs your “house” with those building materials. And the lights have to be on all the time. Your car only needs gas when you want to drive; your AC only needs electricity when you want it to cool. But your body’s lights have to be on 24/7 because all that perpetual cell replacement is going on all the time. So the question is, how do you keep the lights on?
Where does that fuel come from? The cool part of this is that, unlike gasoline and electricity, the fuel for your body comes from the very same building supplies used to build the “house.”
Fuel comes from fat and/or sugar.
Both can do the job but in different ways. Another of God’s little back up plans.
Here is where the trouble can start. In a car there is just so much room for fuel. When you run out of gas on the interstate, the car shuts down whether it’s convenient or not.
But the human body is different. It not only needs an ongoing supply of building materials and the lights on all the time, but it was designed to survive through historical periods of food shortage.
That survival mechanism is body fat, build it up in times of plenty and then use it up in times of shortage, like bears do when they go into hibernation. In America at least, times of shortage are few and far between. It is supposed to be a cycle but we now seem to be in perpetual build it up mode.
Too Much Fuel, Not Enough Building Material?
This build it up mode was initiated largely by one thing – the dawn of commercially processed food. This is not whole, natural food from a pasture or garden, containing all the natural macro and micro nutrients building materials described above.
Instead it is chemically derived or created parts of food along with other chemicals for flavor, preservatives, color, and texture. Using an amount of heat that you wouldn’t dream of using in your own kitchen.
The original natural fat, flavor, color, texture and most of the micro-nutrients are lost in the processing. Fiber usually disappears unless it is artificially added. Excess heat is death to the nutritional value in food. The natural enzymes in the food, absolutely required for digestion, are destroyed by heat.
So we have both toxins introduced and nutrients lost in the processing. Oh so conveniently packaged in boxes, sacks, and jars.
So what are these “parts” of commercially processed food?
The first thing most commonly prevalent in processed food is sugar. And why is that? Because the parts almost invariably come from the starchy foods mention earlier. And remember that all that sugar isn’t a nutrient, it’s just fuel.
The most obvious examples (but not limited to) are anything made of or containing wheat (flour), corn, potatoes, and sugar/high fructose corn syrup.
Remember also that the natural fats in the food are removed and other processed fats are added in. The processed fats are typically soy, corn, canola. The negatives of this “processed fat” are a subject for another post or you can read about them in the book. In short, the amount of heat and the kinds of chemicals used are astounding.
Remember that good, natural fat is both a macro-nutrient (nutritional value) and fuel. Processed vegetable oils are just fuel and actually bad fuel. It’s like what happens to your car’s engine when water or sugar gets into the gasoline. Not a good idea.
Processed starch (which is actually sugar) and processed fats are handy tools in commercial processing because they are cheap.When you eat a potato, it is one whole food on your plate. But when you are eating processed foods you are getting that starch multiple times over in every product.
So the primary ingredients in commercially processed food are cheap, unhealthy fuel.
Combined with sugar, fat is a double edged sword.
Nobody sits around and eats starches by themselves. Pasta is usually augmented with butter (or processed margarine), sour cream, cheese, sometimes in a sauce using other starch (like flour or cornstarch) as a thickener. What about gravy? These are heavy combinations of starch (sugar) and fat.
On the other hand, a vegetable like cauliflower (as an example) has very little sugar. So that little bit of sugar in combination of butter and cheese is much less fuel intensive.
Worthwhile to consider is plain old refined sugar which is usually extracted from sugar cane or beets; all nutrients are long gone. Nobody I know eats bowls of plain sugar although Nutella comes really close. Rather, we sprinkle it on cereal (grain) or we add it to flour (which is processed grain) combined with (usually) processed oils for a pancake or a tasty dessert creation. And we can’t settle for the natural sweetness in fruit so we add more sugar.
The consequence is that commercially processed food and the stuff you create in your own kitchen made from processed food are doubling up on fuel. When our diet depends heavily on processed “food” in any form we are short on building material and heavy on fuel.
Just because you have fuel in the car’s gas tank does not mean the engine is in working order. And the same is true of your body.
Review of Processed Food
Lets review this again just so we can be clear. A diet that depends on commercially processed food
- is deficient in protein and good fats,
- has excessive sugar and bad fats,
- is missing most of the micro-nutrients and enzymes your body needs,
- and introduces chemical toxins into your body.
Just because it tastes good doesn’t mean it is good for you.
And to make matters worse, while the natural fat in your diet can actually help to avoid hunger, sugar intensive fuel makes us hungry, always wanting to eat more sugar. Sugar will usually win; it’s a hormone thing and, gosh, who can resist that?
Thus that extra fuel becomes body fat. The famine is not coming but it is still anticipated.
Ongoing Deficiency Means “Sick”
So is my point overweight? Nope, extra weight is just the end of the trail and usually a symptom of a deficient diet. My point is deficiency.
In ongoing deficiency, you are going to be sick. Brain fog, aches and pains! You are not going to feel great. And once you are chronically ill, it becomes more and more difficult to restore health. But here is a promise. Recovery, just like prevention, always has to start with the right food.
And what is the right food? Whole natural food out of the garden or the pasture, just as God intended, not commercially processed parts of food containing chemicals, excess sugar, and bad fats. The rock bottom line!
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All About the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, president of Ouachita Village, Inc board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry), chairman of the Tasty Acre garden project, and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors.