“Leave your drugs in the chemists pot if you can cure the patient with food.:
-Hippocrates, father of medicine, 420bc
The science of nutrition is defined as the study of nutrients in foods and the body’s ability of how it uses these nutrients (i.e., ingestion, digestion, absorption, transport, metabolism, interactions, storage, and excretion).
Interestingly enough inadequate emphasis is placed on nutrition. In our currently system of conventional medicine, nutrition is often regarded as an extraneous science to be relegated to nutritionists. Most of the time, only when a person is faced with a life threatening disease, is the role of the nutritionist viewed as an important one.
It is according to my experience (I apologize that Western Science has not yet backed me up on this) that the more toxic a world we live in, the more our bodies need nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in greater demand and at a greater frequency. The key is to identify which systems in the body need therapeutic nutrition in order to bring the body back into balance. In general, most people’s digestion, absorption and metabolism can be greatly compromised, creating the frame work for many disease states in the body. You may be eating all the right foods yet is your body actually absorbing what you eat?
Preventative nutrition is something that is not really talked about. It is nutrition that supports a body throughout the years and different stages of life. Many times I hear “My friend can eat this. But when I eat that, I feel terrible. Why?” Because you are different. You are unique and awesome and your body is telling you what it does and doesn’t need.
We were not all created the same, which is why we must listen to the symptoms that our bodies are telling us. Gas, bloating, belching, acid reflux, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, polyps, abdominal lesions are not normal symptoms. Your body is actually trying to tell you something!
Nutrition can be used therapeutically or prophylactically. Discovering and maintaining your truest potential is not just about how far you can run. It is about how you feel the majority of the time. Nutrition is the foundation for everything that you do, think and feel. Without it you are not able to complete that paper for your boss, go to the gym and maximize your weight loss potential or look and feel your best. There is a reason why each culture has a prized food that gives them vitality.
Bringing the body back into balance requires some basic fundamental knowledge about nutrition.
Here We Go:
The Six Classes of Food Are:
We obtain nutrients from the foods that we eat.
Macronutrients are nutrients that the body uses in large amounts. This includes proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Micronutrients are considered vitamins and minerals which the body needs small amounts of (compared to foods).
Much emphasis in the nutrition world is placed on metabolism. This in fact is due to the prevalence of many being overweight. I will then explain the basics of metabolism:
Food protein, fat, and carbs are broken down into simpler compounds. This process allows for energy (or ATP) to be used by the body to build and repair itself. The energy from your food may also escape as heat (used to cool the body in tropics) or to keep it warm during cold winter months.
It is from the food that you eat – the protein, fat, and carbs – that you YIELD energy from. Vitamins, and minerals do not provide energy that the body can use (They can be metabolized to help the body with certain function, or functions in general—think of them as helpers but not building blocks).
What are Vitamins?
Vitamins are essential organic nutrients that are required in small amounts. They are available in food sources; however you can take them in pill form. The body metabolizes vitamins but doesn’t actually get energy from them. They are essential to life and all of your body’s processes.
Fat Soluble Vitamins are
A, D, E and K
Water Soluble Vitamins are:
Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Nicin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Cobalamin (B12), Folate, and Biotin.
The body stores fat soluble vitamins which can be toxic at high dosages. Fat soluble vitamins are better taken with foods that contain fat – if taken alone or between meals, can cause some nausea.
The body needs water soluble vitamins on a regular basis because it does not store them. It absorbs what it needs and excretes the excess on a daily basis (therefore, take your B complex vitamins daily so that you get enough). Many people say vitamins don’t work – the type, brand, the amount, timing of taking them, and frequency plays a big role with optimizing your health. When it comes to vitamins and nutrition, consistency is the key. It’s what you do most of the time that matters, not ALL of the time.
What are Minerals?
Minerals are inorganic elements that serve a variety of functions needed by the body. Co-factors, enzymatic reactions, regulation of acid alkaline base balances, nerve conduction, and muscle movement need minerals.
Major minerals: Are found in the body in quantities greater than 5g: Calcium, Chloride, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Potassium, Sulphur, Sodium.
Trace minerals: Are found in the body in quantities smaller than 5g: Iron, Iodine, Zinc, Chromium, Selenium, Fluoride, Molybdenum, Copper, and Manganese.
WATER-WHY WE NEED IT
It is essential to life. Water provides the medium in which all of the body’s activities are conducted. It supplies vital materials to your cells and takes toxics substances out from the body (think of it as the canvas for a painter, without it there is no vision for the masterpiece to be created!).
The amount that you consume verses macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins and minerals requirement is ENORMOUS. 8 glasses per day is a starting point for most people (this does not include coffee or tea!)
What is RDA?
RDA stands for Recommended Daily Allowances. It is calculated by the mean requirement of a nutrient and increasing it by 2SD’s.
Caution: RDA recommended values are just above a disease state and do not constitute therapeutic values. Considering how widespread chronic fatigue, depression, ADHD, ADD, allergies, digestive disorders, arthritis and cancer are, the RDA guidelines are not applicable and are just “guidelines.” They are NOT INDIVIDULAIZED.
What does this mean?
It means that the RDA value of a vitamin and or mineral and or fat, carb, protein (anything basically that is a component of nutrition) is not catered to you. The RDA simply cannot give a number that works for everyone. Most RDA daily recommendations are set low for a variety of reasons – don’t know therapeutic values, no money to study therapeutic values, fear of being sued, and or drugs are easier to sell. The statement that I hear “vitamins don’t work for me” usually is because they are taking the RDA value and not the value recommended for that person and what that body needs in order to come back into balance.
Should I stop taking vitamins due to the low amounts recommended by the RDA?
Absolutely NOT! Your body needs nutrition, vitamins and minerals! A RDA amount is better than none at all! Understand that there is more to the picture—work with a medical provider who understands your bodies needs and you can optimize your health by knowing which amounts are best for you.
In summation: many people can feel better by understanding that balanced nutrition, vitamins and minerals catered to the individual can bring about sustained vitality and energy. By just tweeking the basics (a little) you can feel much better.
Emily Farish (L.Ac., Dipl. Oriental Medicine, NCCAOM and NCBTMB certified) is Atmanjai’s Resident Integrative Medical Practitioner. Her passion is healing – Acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Herbal Treatments. Emily can be contacted for consultations at Atmanjai.
For further learning about the fundamentals of Nutrition we recommend following up with this book:
Nutrition for Dummies – by Carol Ann Rinzler
Nutrition For Dummies is a one-size-fits-all guide to nutrition for anyone who may have fallen asleep in health class, wants to brush up on what they already know, or is looking to keep up-to-speed on the latest guidelines and research. It shows you how to manage your diet so you get the most bang (nutrients) for your buck (calories) and gives you the skinny on how to put together a healthy shopping list, how to prepare foods that are good for the body and soul, and ten easy ways to cut calories.