Food, Digestion, Nutrients and Health

A Nutrition Guide for Good Living

 

1. OVERVIEW

The importance of foods and digestion to human health cannot be over-emphasized!!  

The entire human body - atoms, molecules, cells, tissues, and organs - is made from food, water, and air. Every nerve, muscle, gland, secretion, bone, and hair begins as food we eat, water we drink, or air we breathe.

  

Everything that makes up our body originated outside of it. Water and air - simple molecules universal to all life - are absorbed into the body unchanged. Foods, on the other hand, consist of complex substances which differ from one species to another and even from one member of a species to another member of the same species.

   

Foods carry the potential for building optimally functioning -healthy-bodies, but they must first be transformed by digestion. If undigested foods were to enter our blood, serious illness would result. Undigested foods are incompatible with the body and with health. Our digestive system turns the food material that we eat and drink into material compatible to our body, from which our body and our health can then be built. 

  

After digestion transforms the foods we eat into compatible components, the body absorbs these components and uses them as building blocks to construct the molecules, cells, and tissues that are the human body.

   

When digestion fails to effectively transform foods into its small, compatible, health-building body construction materials, incompatible (undigested) food molecules may be absorbed. These interfere with the co-operative succession of events vital to the harmony of health. They may create social disharmony on the molecular level by stealing electrons. Molecular fragments known as free radicals result. The body's defenses, organized by the immune system, come out to neutralize these free radicals. If the first defenses are insufficient, the immune system steps up its activities and complex molecular events take place which we experience as acute and chronic disease.

 

Protected access 

Everything we eat and drink enters the body through our digestive system. Before foods are given access into the body, they have to pass certain barriers that protect the body from harm by substances not conducive to the maintenance of health. This barrier is not perfect-especially when dealing with synthetic substances that were not part of the natural system within which human digestion developed-but provides relatively effective protection against the entrance of foreign materials. 

 

The digestive barrier allows passage of small components of foods, components which are building blocks for the construction of all organisms. Easy access to the body is given to vitamins, essential and other amino acids, essential and other fatty acids, glycerol, glucose and other simple sugars, minerals with their electrical charges neutralized by chelating with amino acids, purine and pyrimidine bases from which genetic material is constructed, and other simple, natural molecules. Most of the foods we eat are not consumed in the form of these simple food components. They are large, complex, often giant super-molecules of proteins, starches and other polysaccharides, and nucleic acid polymers specific to the organism of whose body they were a part.

 

Dismantle and re-assemble 

To convert these complex molecules into simple, absorbable ones, nature evolved the process of digestion. During this process, complex molecules from the one-celled organisms, plants, and animals that serve as our foods are systematically dismantled into the building blocks common to all life forms.

We absorb these building blocks and, inside our bodies, we re-assemble them in our own unique fashion to make our own super-molecules of "us-specific" proteins, genetic material, complex carbohydrates, and so on. Every species of animal, in its digestion, follows a similar process with whatever species of plant or animal is its food.

  

Through this remarkable invention of nature - digestion (dismantling), absorption, and re-synthesis (re-assembly) - the bodies of potatoes, carrots, and fish serve as the basis for their own transformation into human bodies. Every organism, as food for other organisms, suffers the same glorious transformation.  

While the sloppy and misleading statement "You are what you eat!" has hurt the credibility of the natural foods industry - you don't become a pea by eating peas, nor a pig by eating pork - our bodies are made from what we eat, and our foods do carry the construction materials for human bodies.

 

2. DIGESTION, ABSORPTION, RE-SYNTHESIS

Foods supply the energy necessary to maintain life, and the building blocks necessary for the construction of the body. Yet foods are useless for both these purposes until many enzymes and chemicals in the digestive tract have acted upon them. 

 

Digestion  

Digestion -the conversion of foods into smaller components (nutrients) that the body can use - is the first set of steps in a complex process which transforms a grain, a vegetable, a fish, or a salad into skin, bones, muscle, blood, and nerves.

  

During digestion, stomach acid and protein-digesting enzymes (proteases) break down proteins into amino acids. Fat-digesting enzymes (lipases) break fats and oils into fatty acids, monoglycerides, and glycerol. Carbohydrate-digesting enzymes (carbohydrases) break starch, glycogen, malts, syrups, dextrans and other polysaccharides into simple sugars. Other enzymes break down DNA and RNA into their components (nucleotides: purines and pyrimidines; sugars: ribose and deoxyribose; and phosphate). Still other enzymes break cholesterol esters into their components - cholesterol and fatty acids. 

 

Good digestion has to take place before efficient absorption is possible, necessary to generate good health. Incomplete digestion causes many problems, including poor absorption of nutrients, a nutrient-starved body prone to materials, intestinal gas and toxin production, and absorption of undigested materials leading to food sensitivities, allergies, and immune reactions.

  

Complete lack of digestion would make absorption of the building blocks necessary for the construction of human bodies impossible. 

  

Absorption

From digested foods, the body draws nutrients into itself. It uses these nutrients to build, maintain, repair, and replace molecules, cells, and tissues. Nutritious foods, well digested and efficiently absorbed, provide the basis of radiant health.

  

Poor absorption of food components results in a body deficient in building materials. Cells and tissues deteriorate. Digestive enzymes and stomach acid, which the body makes from the building blocks that it absorbs, may become insufficient, making for poor digestion, further decreasing the quantity of nutrients available for absorption, in a vicious circle. Poor absorption therefore leads to poor health.  

The efficiency of digestion and absorption decreases as we age.

  

3. THE HUMAN DIGESTIVE SYSTEM

A continuous muscular tube, the human digestive system includes mouth, esophagus, stomach, intestine, and anus. We sub-divide the intestine into duodenum, small intestine consisting of jejunum and ileum, and large intestine or colon. Each part of the digestive tract performs a different set of functions important to health. 

 

The Process of Digestion

When the process of digestion is working properly, it breaks down complex molecules into simple ones that the body can readily absorb (assimilate). The body then uses these simple molecules to produce energy and to build its own unique molecules. These provide the vitality and the form of human health.

  

Valves, which are rings of muscular material, and the muscles in the walls of the tube, regulate the speed at which the progressively more digested food material moves down the tube. Muscular contractions mix and move food through the digestive system. Various chemicals and enzymes introduced at various points along the tract perform the specific digestive functions necessary to digest foods into components that the body can absorb. 

 

Mouth

The body's need for building materials creates the feeling of hunger, which signals us to eat. Digestion begins in the mouth. Chewing, the first digestive process, grinds larger pieces of food into smaller particles. It moistens food with saliva, and thoroughly mixes the broken food, increasing its surface area to the action of enzymes throughout the entire digestive tract. An enzyme present in salvia (amylase) begins the breakdown of starch into glucose while food is still in our mouth. The action of this enzyme explains why, if we chew a starchy food for a long time, it begins to taste sweet. 

 

Esophagus

Chewed food is swallowed, entering the esophagus in which the muscular contractions of peristalsis begin. Peristalsis, a downward moving alternate constriction and relaxation of muscle, kneads the food material and propels it along the digestive tract in rhythmic waves. Three or four seconds after swallowing, the swallowed material passes a ring-like valve that separates the esophagus from the stomach. This valve, known as cardia or the gastro-esophageal sphincter, prevents material in the stomach from being regurgitated into the esophagus.

 

Duodenum 

Several alkaline secretions enter the duodenum, a U-shaped, 8 to 10 inch long section of the small intestine. These secretions change highly acidic, liquefied food material from the stomach to weakly basic.

   

The secretions which bring about this change from acidic to basic include bile from the liver and gall bladder, pancreatic juice from the pancreas, and secretions from the intestinal wall. The enzymes of the small intestine that facilitate digestion and absorption can fulfill their functions only in alkaline conditions. A muscular valve named pylorus prevents contents of the duodenum from regurgitating into the stomach and also regulates the rate of stomach emptying.

    

Liver 

Thousands of chemical transformations related to nutrition and essential to health take place in the liver. It detoxifies harmful molecules, stores several vitamins and minerals, converts carotenes to Vitamin A, and stores glycogen - "animal starch" - a carbohydrate that sustains blood sugar levels. The liver also metabolizes fats, and produces cholesterol, enzymes, and substances required for blood clotting (coagulation).

  

The liver also produces and delivers dilute bile fluid to the gall bladder, which chemically modifies and concentrates this fluid. A fat-containing meal triggers the release of the resulting bile, a complex, concentrated alkaline fluid containing bile pigments (blood breakdown products), bile salts (cholesterol molecules modified to make them water-soluble), bicarbonate, and other mineral electrolytes.

 

Bile facilitates the digestion of fats, and aids in efficient fat absorption into the body through the villi of the small intestine. The body eventually reabsorbs bile salts, but removes the bile pigments from the body with bowel wastes. 

 

Pancreas

The pancreas, best known for secreting the hormone insulin that moves blood sugar into our cells (preventing diabetes), also produces and secretes pancreatic juice into the duodenum. Pancreatic juice contains the enzymes necessary to completely digest the liquefied, pre-digested, now alkaline food that entered the small intestine from the stomach.

  

Protein-digesting enzymes from the pancreas include trypsinogen, chymotrypsinogen, procarboxypeptidases A&B, and proelastase. Pancreatic fat-digesting enzymes include phospholipase and triacylglyceride lipase. Pancreatic juice also contains the carbohydrate-digesting amylase, and the nucleic acid-digesting deoxyribonuclease and ribonuclease enzymes. 

 

Jejunum & Ileum

Peristalsis moves digesting food from the duodenum into the jejunum, then into the ileum; the two main parts of the small intestine. The inside lining of these parts are covered with millions of tiny, finger-like projections (villi). These increase the surface area available for contact between the small intestine and its digested food material.

   

Glands located at the base of the villi produce alkaline intestinal juice containing many more enzymes, mucus and electrolyte minerals. Villi, in constant expanding and shrinking motion, keep semi-liquid digested materials surrounding them in motion as well.

   

Villi absorb amino acids and small peptides (chains of a few amino acids) derived from proteins, sugars derived from complex carbohydrates, and short-chain fatty acids derived from fats. The blood vessel network of the villi carries all these to the liver via the portal vein. Long-chain fatty acids enter the body through lymphatic channels in the villi of the small intestine. 

 

Large Intestine (Colon)

A third valve in our digestive tract, ileocaecal valve, marks the passage from the small into the large intestine. It prevents food wastes in the colon from flowing back into the ileum. Watery materials enter the colon and move, by "leisurely" peristaltic contractions, through the large intestine. The large intestine contains no villi. Its main functions include re-absorption of water, and storage of wastes. A large number of different kinds of bacteria live in the colon. Along with indigestible and unabsorbed material, these bacteria constitute the bulk of the feces.

  

It takes 12 to 14 hours for material entering the colon to pass out of the large intestine through the anal sphincters, two ring-like voluntary muscles terminating the digestive tract. After foods have been digested and food components absorbed into the body, remaining undigested and indigestible waste material accumulates in the colon. Its pressure produces the "got to go" urge, which leads to the evacuation of the accumulated waste from the body.

 

Things go wrong

When the digestive system does not work properly, its malfunctions affect our health in many different ways: 

  •   Choosing to eat foods with poor nutritional quality may result in obtaining fewer essential nutrients than the body requires for health. 

  •   Inadequate chewing can result in incomplete digestion, failure to absorb some of the nutrients that foods contain, intestinal fermentation, gas, and toxin production which affects colon health. Some of these toxins may be absorbed and stress the liver, kidneys, and immune system.  

  •   Lack of stomach acid can result in inadequate protein digestion, inability to absorb Vitamin B-12, and intestinal putrefaction with generation of toxins which may be absorbed into the body, and which also affect colon health.  

  •   Lack of digestive enzymes results in incomplete digestion, putrefaction, decreased absorption of essential nutrients, and internal toxin production that increases the load on kidneys, liver and immune system.  

  •   Inadequate liver function can result in difficulties in assimilating nutrients, especially fats. Nausea or heavy, tired feeling after fat-containing meals is an indication of deficient liver function. If liver function is weak, detoxification processes for which it is responsible may be deficient, leading to negative effects on every cell, tissue, and organ, and allowing toxins to accumulate throughout the body.  

  •   Pancreatic insufficiency leads to seriously impaired digestion which affects the entire intestinal tract, mal-absorption which leads to deficiency of essential nutrients in the body, and lowered vitality of all cells and tissues. 

  •   Nutrient absorption tends to decrease with age because, like all aging cells, absorptive cells become less efficient in their functions as we age. If magnified, because malnourished aging cells are even less able to do their job.

  

Supplementation of the diet with essential nutrients, enzymes, fiber, herbs, and other substances can contribute to significant improvements in health in many of these situations. 

 

4. HUMAN HEALTH

 

Foods build bodies  

The entire human body is made from foods, water, and air. Every molecule within the body must come from these sources.

   

Foods must provide the building blocks essential for building a human body. If foods contain these building blocks in appropriate quantities, the body built from them functions the way nature designed it to - with energy, with vitality, without trouble. Such a body rarely breaks down.   This natural state of human health results from: a) consuming the necessary quantities of essential nutrients, b) completely digesting the sources that contain these essential nutrients, c) efficiently absorbing the nutrients, and d) properly utilizing them in the body.

   

The unborn child depends on the foods the mother eats for the nutrients to build its body. The suckling new-born also depends, for all of its nutrient requirements, on what its mother eats, digests, and absorbs. If mother's body during her pregnancy absorbs all of the essential nutrients in optimum quantities, the child is likely to be born healthy, to develop with few problems and set-backs, and to thrive.

  

Later, the individual's state of health depends largely on the nutrient content in their own food choices, and their own body's ability to digest and absorb the nutrients these foods contain. Parents' nutritional knowledge and practices in the home play an important role in the health of their children, and help to teach good or bad nutritional habits that will last a life time and be passed on in turn to future generations.   Health is also affected by stress and other life style factors. These too are learned and taught.

   

Essential nutrients

To build a normally functioning body, foods must contain appropriate quantities of less than 50 essential nutrients. These are substances that the body cannot make, substances its cells must have to live and to function normally (be healthy), substances that it must therefore obtain from foods, food concentrates, or supplements

  

The essential nutrients include 22 or 23 minerals, 13 vitamins, 8 essential amino acids (10 for children; 11 for premature infants), and 2 essential fatty acids. From these, a healthy individual's body makes other substances the body requires for healthy functioning. Individuals may derive additional benefits from a diet which includes conditionally essential and non-essential nutrients.

 

Deficiency

Deficiency of any essential nutrient results in alteration of normal cell, tissue and body functions (biochemistry). This is accompanied by symptoms of deteriorating health. Deficiency of each essential nutrient has its own set of deficiency symptoms. Prolonged deficiency can lead, through progressive deterioration, to death. Complete absence of any essential nutrient will result in death when the body's stores of that nutrient are completely used up. We cannot live without essential nutrients. 

 

Minimum health

The minimum amount of an essential nutrient, required to prevent deficiency symptoms in a healthy person, can be established. This measure, embodied by the government-set Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), can be expected to provide an average measure of minimum health. Below this amount, symptoms of deterioration can be expected in a large percentage of the population.

   

A large part of the population does not obtain even this minimum amount of essential nutrients from the foods they eat. The percentage of the population deficient varies for each essential nutrient. Some essential nutrients are so common, or required in such small amounts, that deficiency is not likely to occur. Other essential nutrients may be so rare in presently eaten foods that almost 100% of the population obtains less of this nutrient than they need for maintaining their health.

   

Degenerative symptoms, which accompany degenerative diseases such as heart and artery disease, cancer, and diabetes, are widespread. These three conditions kill 68% of the population. Furthermore, drugs, antibiotics, and the other miracles of modern medicine - surgery, radiation, life support systems, and chemotherapy - do not address the cause of these diseases, and cannot cure them. Foods (nutrients) are better suited to treat and cure degenerative conditions than are medicines.

  

Optimum health  

How much of each nutrient is required in a person's diet in order to give that person the optimum amount of each essential nutrient for optimum cell, tissue, and body functions (biochemical and physiological processes)? An average measure of such quantities was recently proposed in the document “Suggested Optimum Nutritional Allowance (SONA), to the U. S. Senate.

   

SONAs are based on a long-term study carried out at the University of Alabama Medical School by Drs. Cheraskin and Ringsdorf. These doctors found that the healthiest people in their study - who had the least signs and symptoms of disease - consumed nutritional supplements, and obtained essential nutrients from foods and from supplements in daily amounts that sometimes exceeded the RDAs by a factor of 20 times.

 

SONAs for other nutrients were also much higher than the RDAs, but SONAs for a few nutrients were about equal to RDAs.

   

SONAs are average measures that are likely to result in improved health for a very large part of the population. But they leave some important, specific questions unanswered. Would even higher quantities of essential nutrients - such as are being taken by many individuals - have resulted in even better health than Drs Cheraskin and Ringsdorf found in their study? 

Individual optimum

   

Every individual is different in their biochemistry from other individuals, and therefore differs in his or her requirement of the quantities of essential nutrients that lead to optimum cell, tissue, and body function. The SONAs are an average measure of good health. Many people in the study had to consume higher quantities, and many consumed smaller quantities to arrive at these average figures.

   

The key question that every individual must ask about their own optimum health is this: What is the daily quantity of each essential nutrient that will lead to optimum health for me? Because we are different, this individual optimum has to be individually determined. To some extent, this determination depends on individual trial and observation. 

  

A second key consideration in determining an individual's optimum intake of essential nutrients is the fact that this optimum changes with activity, life style, stress, age, exposure to virus, fungus, and bacteria, and other factors. Because all of these change over time, today's optimum may not be optimum for tomorrow.

 

To maintain optimum intakes under changing conditions, I need to become sensitive to my body, to listen to it, to feel it, and learn to understand what it tells me. It does let me know its needs - through hunger and thirst, through how I feel, through how my energy levels change with the day, my lunch, the supplements I try, etc. 

 

Toxicity

Just as there are deficiency symptoms from not getting enough of an essential nutrient, there are symptoms from getting too much of certain essential nutrients. Excess consumption of the oil-soluble vitamins A and D is possible, and does happen sometimes. Imbalances or excesses of essential nutrients can lead to sub-optimal functioning, and may lead to toxic symptoms.

   

Essential nutrient-related toxic symptoms are rare, and can be reversed by discontinuing supplementation of the nutrient(s). They are almost never life-threatening or irreversible. Since 1900, there have been 4 deaths from Vitamin A and D overdose. Two of these deaths were due to eating polar bear liver, which is extremely high in these two vitamins, but is not available to us. 

  

Deaths from toxic doses of essential nutrients are extremely rare. In comparison, drug-related deaths are quite frequent, 40 being attributed each year to aspirin alone, which is one of the least toxic pharmaceutical drugs on the market.

   

The danger of toxicity from an excess or imbalance of essential nutrients is also very small compared to the danger of deficiency, which affects upward of 60% of the population may be as high as 90%, and kills 68% of us through degenerative diseases.

 

5. THE CASE FOR NUTRIENT SUPPLEMENTS  

There is no doubt that the body is made from foods. There is no doubt that every molecule in the body originated outside of it. It follows that foods and food quality make an important contribution to the development, not only of health, but also of tumors; fatty deposits in our arteries; fatty deposits in our liver, kidney, and brain; moles, warts, and growths; and every kind of cellular malfunction. 

 

Foods therefore make an important contribution to building and maintaining health, and to treating disease conditions. Health, by definition, is the right kinds of molecules (foods, water, and air), in the right amounts, involved in the right kinds of chemical interactions to build, maintain, and repair a body made out of these foods.

 

Nutrient deficiencies

Because they are necessary for the biochemical reactions basic to life, essential nutrients play key roles in the establishment and maintenance of health. It follows that nutrient deficiencies are important factors in the development of disease. Possible causes of nutrient deficiencies - which have increased dramatically over the last 100 years - are easy to identify. They include:  

Poorer food quality 

 

A. Farm-to-market practices

Soils are becoming more and more mineral-deficient. Plants remove 20 or more   minerals from soils in which they grow. Commercial fertilizers replace only 4   to 6 of these minerals. Year by year, more minerals leave the farm in foods grown on the soil, are eaten by humans, and the wastes containing these minerals from the soil are flushed (down the toilet) into our rivers  (polluting our drinking water in the process) and swept out to the ocean.

 

Estimates and measurements indicate that crops remove half of the minerals present in topsoil every 50 years. Plants deficient in minerals may manufacture less vitamins. Nitrogen fertilizers "drive" plants to grow faster by absorbing and retaining more water (vegetables with edema), but do not absorb more minerals. The grower obtains added profit for water-logged produce regardless of its nutrient content. Produce is harvested unripe, before all of the minerals have been absorbed, and before nutritional qualities have fully developed and matured. Transport is as stressful for plants as it is for humans, and results in nutrient losses. Storage results in vitamin losses, and also affects essential fatty acid content.

 

B. Advertising  

Food preferences and habits have been influenced through advertising, toward less nutritious but more shelf-stable foods (especially true for Omega 3 essential fatty acids). Advertising has helped to increase sales of more and more processed (less nutrient-dense) foods. Advertising has led consumers to choose fewer and fewer whole foods in their natural state, and more and more prepared, processed, refined and nutrient-poor convenience foods.

 

C. Processing  

Refining removes 99% of all nutrients from sugar beets and sugar cane. Processing and refining grains to make white flour removes 50 to 100% of the vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, and up to 33% of the protein. Processing and refining oil seeds to make colorless, odorless, tasteless refined oils, removes all the protein and fiber, 95% of the minerals, and most of the vitamins.

 

Lecithin, phytosterols, and other nutrients are also removed. In canning, potassium is replaced with sodium. Heat destroys up to 50 or more percent of some vitamins. Freezing, drying, pickling, blanching, cooking, canning, baking, deep frying and storage all result in nutrient losses. Hydrogenation, which produces margarines, shortenings, shortening oils, and partially hydrogenated oils, destroys essential fatty acids. Food irradiation, a nutritional disaster, destroys most essential nutrients and in addition, produces unnatural and toxic substances.

  

D. Food preparation & choices

We eat fewer raw, sprouted, and whole foods. Cooking decreases the digestibility of proteins. High temperature food preparation (fry, deep-fry) destroys nutrients by combined exposure to light (generates free radicals), oxygen (oxidizes) and heat (speeds up the rate of chemical reactions).

 

Frying is especially hard on essential fatty acids. Fast food choices are less nutritious than whole foods freshly prepared with loving care and awareness of the nutrient needs for health. Fast foods contain many substances that slow down metabolism and clog the biochemical wheels of life. Saturated fats, cholesterol, and processed fats (margarines, shortenings) fit into this category.

 

Increased nutrient needs

An increasingly stressful life style uses up more essential nutrients than one that is less stressed (depression results in loss of Vitamin C). Hurried eating and eating while under stress result in poor digestion, poor absorption, and creation of toxic substances. Addition of artificial flavors, colors, stabilizers, preservatives, and other additives increase the need for essential nutrients that the body needs, to deal with these unnatural substances.  

 

Consumption of hydrogenated (trans-fatty acid-containing) products interferes with essential fatty acid functions in the body. Also, trans-fatty acids affect heart and arteries negatively, because they lower the protective HDL and increase the detrimental LDL cholesterol. Trans-fatty acids also interfere with the liver's most important detoxification systems (Cytochrome P450), and   this compromises not only liver function but immune function as well. 

 

Increased quantities of essential nutrients are necessary to deal with the   effects of hydrogenation and trans-fatty acids in foods. Increased levels of toxins in food, water, and air (pesticides, chlorine, ozone, nitrous oxides, and many, many more) require an increase in the intake of those substances involved in detoxification, the processes by which the body rids itself of its toxic burdens. The essential nutrients - antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids - are intimately involved in these processes. They provide the necessary nutritional support for these cleansing processes. 

  

Increased use of drugs (legal & illegal), which the body must detoxify, using  up essential nutrients (birth control pills increase the requirement for  Vitamin B-6). Viruses (Herpes I & II, AIDS, Epstein-Barr, etc.) & bacteria endemic in the population increase our nutrient needs. Nutrient needs are increased during pregnancy, lactation, growth, and adolescence. Nutrient needs are increased after injury and during convalescence. Increased nutrient needs due to aging become apparent after age 30, and increase as age progresses.

 

Digestive imperfections

Genetically, our digestive ability may not be 100% to begin with. Most of us also have genetically determined needs for extraordinary quantities of one or more of the essential nutrients. Our eating habits may leave something to be desired. We don't chew properly, eat on the run, eat under stress, eat nutrient-poor foods, etc. Digestion deteriorates with age. Stomach hydrochloric acid production declines. Enzyme production decreases. Absorption becomes less efficient.  Elimination of toxins & wastes becomes more difficult. Cell, gland, and organ   functions decline.

  

 Illness, especially of the gastro-intestinal tract, decreases digestive and absorptive capacity. Diseases of glands, liver, and kidneys also have negative effects on digestion. 

 

Increased performance

In addition to correcting the health-damaging nutrient deficiencies caused by decreased food quality, increased nutrient needs due to stress and toxins, and nutrient enrichment to compensate for digestive imperfections, a case can be made for nutritional supplementation for three positive goals. 

 

Life extension

What about stretching our years beyond those allotted to us on the usual diet of meat and potatoes, or even by a more natural diet of grains, greens, and fish? To add years to our life, we can supplement a natural diet with anti-oxidant, anti-aging nutrients, and with a balanced program of supplements above our basic requirement for living "three score years and ten". 

 

Quality of life

Supplements can improve the quality of our physical condition, adding life to our years as well as years to our life. 

 

Performance extension

Supplements can be used to extend physical performance - strength and   endurance - in athletics. Supplements can improve business performance by increasing stamina, vitality, and staying power, extending the time that we can function (with or without added stress) before fatigue sets in. Supplements can improve active sex life as well as family life by increasing energy levels. 

  

Supplemented maternal diets result in healthier children with fewer, shorter and less severe childhood illnesses, and fewer complications from these   illnesses. Supplementation improves children's ability to concentrate, improves their work, and raises their grades in school. 

 

Confirmed by surveys

Surveys indicate that the nutritional quality of the foods eaten by the average individual is declining. At present, the number of people improving their nutritional intake is still quite small. Foods served in hospitals have been shown to worsen the nutrient status of patients within 2 weeks of their admittance. Nurses' diets were found to be seriously deficient in essential nutrients. 

 

Some of the nutritional surveys included thousands of people from every part of North America, from every age group, from every economic level (poorer people did even worse than economically advantaged people). The largest of these surveys, carried out by the U.S. government, measured food intakes of 36,000 and 80,000 people, respectively.

   

Confirmed by geography

In the 1930's, Dr. Weston Price, a dentist, traveled around the world to correlate the food habits and health of traditional people and tribes of all races around the world. He found that the traditional whole foods eaten by these people resulted in strong bone structure, wide angular jaws such as we like to admire in both male and female models of beauty and health, straight teeth, virtually no tooth decay, and perfect dental arches. 

 

Within one generation of trade contact with white "civilized" man, and trading white sugar and white flour for the goods of their tradition, these people had the same incidence of tooth decay, narrow faces, and crooked teeth as was common in white populations of the time. His findings are recorded, complete with photos of rows of straight (traditional diet) and crooked (sugar & flour) teeth, in his book "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration". 

 

Traditional food habits around the world support populations in a healthier way of life than our opulent, over-abundant but nutrient-deficient present way of life. Examination of these traditional diets confirms the diagnosis. Whole lives less marred by physical degeneration and

degenerative diseases. 

 

Confirmed by history

The opposite correlation holds true as well. Historical records of food habits confirm that our foods today contain smaller quantities of essential nutrients than they did 100 or 200 years ago, before the advent of refined sugar, refined flour, and refined everything. Records also show that the incidence of today's degenerative conditions - cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and others - was less frequent before the advent of the technology that gave us refined, shelf-stable, nutrient-poor foods.  

 

Worsening food habits over the last 200 years correlate with increasing incidence of degeneration. Medicines do not provide real relief of degenerative conditions. They may manage the symptoms, but don't slow the progression of these diseases. Medicine's track record is unimpressive in the treatment of cancer, heart and artery disease, diabetes, arthritis, pre-menstrual syndrome, etc. 

 

Confirmed by reversals

Medical doctors using supplements of essential nutrients, sometimes in large doses, have witnessed remarkable reversals of degeneration in patients. Naturopathic physicians trained in nutritional therapy often get remarkable results after drug-prescribing doctors have given up, unsuccessful. Lay people to succeed in reversing degenerative conditions where the professionals have failed.

  

There are people diagnosed with terminal cancer, still alive without any signs of cancer 40 years after doctors told them their last "I'm sorry,... ". Natural foods, supplements, changes in life style to minimize stress, certain herbs, and other natural remedies set the conditions that allowed the body to heal itself. These people are living proof of the healing powers of foods and supplements, living proof that degenerative diseases can be stopped, reversed, and healed.  

From cure to prevention... 

 

From the point of view of our goal of health, reversing degenerative diseases provides powerful testimony of the medicinal value of foods. But it is even smarter to prevent degenerative conditions from occurring in the first place, by adopting preventive lifestyles and eating preventive foods and supplements, those foods and supplements that are in alignment with the body's requirements. 

 

Prevention involves a small investment of time, for learning about nutrition and about the human body. Compared to other professions, which may require years of concentrated and specialized study, it is relatively easy to master the basics of preventive nutrition. Having been eating and living in our bodies for many years already, we already have a lot of valuable information about our health. It is just a matter of formalizing much of this experiential information, and making the links to both researched and common sense information about foods and human health. 

 

The investment of time required to master nutrition is far less than the time most people spend, especially in the second half of life, trying to find effective treatments for the conditions that resulted from not taking the time to learn to live preventively earlier on. 

 

...to building Health

But prevention of disease is still a negative focus. Is our goal the absence of disease or the presence of health? Our flight from disease, based on fear of disease, could be replaced by embracing health, based on love for health.  

 

Health is a presence. Disease is its absence. Health has components that can be identified. Disease is the result of one or more of these components being absent.  

Research has identified the physical components of health - the essential nutrients - the building blocks for making human bodies that exemplify the natural state of health, bodies which function optimally. The quality of what we eat and drink and our level of activity determine our health. We can enjoy health from conception to old age. 

  

The medical model does not address degenerative conditions effectively. Its premise - that disease is a presence and health the absence of disease - is wrong. To try to remove a degenerative condition based in the absence of essential nutrients is like trying to remove darkness - impossible. One cannot remove something that is already not there. Darkness is the absence of light. Disease is the absence of health. 

  

Pursuing health requires us to identify and embody all of its components. 

 

Adapted by permission from The Stress and Wellness Consultant Curriculum of The Canadian Institute of Stress.

VitalCorporation does not endorse any particular brand of dietary supplements.