Currently viewing the tag: "physiological variability"


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I recently discussed the concept of physiological variability, and how it’s factor most responsible for rendering a one-diet-best-for-all nonexistent. Part of that variability expresses itself in the form of food sensitivities. Every person walking this planet has a sensitivity to one food item or another–of this I am convinced; and it would make sense, since we probably share some genetic differences with a group of others, which account for these sensitivities. And it’s these food sensitivities, I believe, that are responsible for the majority of gastrointestinal or digestive ailments plaguing the world today.

To give you an example, I cannot handle berries of any kind digestively. Yes berries. They give me heartburn. Now I can eat a handful here or there; a small amount not being the problem (a blessing that allows me occasional indulgences). It is if I were to eat either a large amount in one sitting (unlikely), or a moderate amount over a longer period (much more likely) that I would experience significant symptoms.

berries (Copy)How do I know that berries bother me? Well I didn’t for many years, but I simply observed…and as I learned to become more in-tune with the messages my body sends me (subject of an upcoming post), I became aware of the various foods that caused me symptoms.

It is not that a handful of berries is benign to my body, I’d like to point out–I just don’t have symptoms severe enough to really challenge me one way or another with a small amount. So even just a moderate amount of berries can give me an ever-so-slight heartburn. But I am definitely aware of the subtle change. To be so one really needs to practice tuning into one’s interoceptive senses.

food-sensitivities (Copy)Most people, however, are unaware of which foods they are sensitive to, with the exception perhaps of some real obvious ones, like lactose intolerance, for example, or allergies to shell fish…you know, the typical “food allergies” recognized by medical science. But sensitivity to berries, or mint, or chocolate (all sensitivities of mine) are not, and may never be, recognized by western medicine; I guess only time will tell. But again, I believe that every person walking the planet has sensitivities to foods western medical science would consider perfectly normal, non-reactive foods.

But one need only look as far as the prevalence of gastrointestinal disorders in the U.S. According to the Health and Human Service’s National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC):

  • 60 to 70 million people in the U.S. affected by one digestive disorder or another
  • 13.5 million people hospitalized every year
  • 236,164 annual deaths
  • 12 percent of all inpatient procedures
  • 31 percent of all ambulatory procedures

The conditions include:

Why so many digestive disorders? As I’ve said before, when medical science has no explanation for the true cause of disease, it tends to fall back on the ol’ randomness reasoning, disguised as something sophisticated, which they call genetics. Yeah right. Genetics are highly intertwined with evolutionary processes; our digestive systems evolved over millions of years. Genetics, as it is rationalized, is NOT the cause of the high prevalence of GI disorders—it’s diet!

gene-11 (Copy)Yes, GI disorders are about what you eat and drink. Some of that is obvious, like the amount of food one eats, or how much booze one imbibes, but I am convinced that the majority of digestive disorders stems from people chronically ingesting foods that they are sensitive to. It can be subtle enough for awhile that they don’t catch what’s bothering them—and believe me it’s very easy to blow off when symptoms are minor and transient—but over time, or as a particular food increases in frequency of consumption, symptoms can intensify, and even lead to flat out disease. Further, because many of these foods are considered “healthy” by medical science, academia, the popular media, and the average man’s common sense…well, they get overlooked.

Because, yeah, everybody knows that berries are good for you—why would they be harmful?

Next post: The probable sequence of events leading from sensitivity to disease. Stay tuned.


earth2 (Copy)When I talk about health, I generally like to focus on universals–that is, what is true for everybody across the board, and not just the nuances of one diet or another. For example, drinking the juice of an açaía berry is not universal. It may be rich in antioxidants (although there is no scientific evidence to support this marketing claim), but it is not an essential food consumed by people all over the world. Having a diet rich in antioxidants, however, is a universal. Drinking water from a hole in Costa Rica is also not a universal, although maintaining sufficient hydration most certainly is. To pound the point home, there isn’t one person reading this that wouldn’t suffer the same fate were he or she to swan dive off a ten-story building. That’s because everybody is subject to the law of gravity–it’s universal, get it?

Okay so when it comes to dietary health, then, only four universals exist. The human diet must fulfill all four of the following:

  • Act as an energy source—food provides us with energy, measured in calories; energy not immediately used is stored as fat.
  • Act as a nutrient source—in the form of vitamins and minerals that are necessary for metabolism, regulation and tissue repair.
  • bigstock-close-up-view-of-bacteria-12354305 (Copy)Provide water for proper hydration—some “experts” believe that we get all the fluids we need from our food, but I am not one of them; no doubt, though, that diets high in plant-based sources get a good portion of their daily water replenishment from food.
  • Maintain a beneficial gut environment—we now know that the foods we eat directly influence our gut microbiota: the organisms that inhabit our intestines and, among other things, help the digestive process.

That’s it. A healthy diet should fulfill these four universal requirements in the most efficient way. This is a point worth elaborating: While many diets (and I’m speaking of a way of eating here, not a fad diet, per se) may fulfill all four universals, they may not do so efficiently. This is likely the case for the majority of people on the typical western diet (some whole foods, lots of processed foods), which is high in calories and low in nutrients. These people often get their necessary nutrients, but at the expense of having to eat more food to do so. They are not malnourished, but instead over-nourished. Think about it, a diet low in essential nutrients will cause the body to communicate, “More nutrients, please!” in the only way it knows how: By increasing the appetite.

malnourished (Copy)Other diets, like those based on junk food, candy, and/or near-starvation (anorexia) lead to none of the universal being fulfilled, which causes malnutrition, and eventually the breakdown of the body.

So, again, the healthiest diets fulfill the four universals most efficiently. But what’s the best diet for you?  The one that fulfills all four universals with the least amount of food.

Now to say there is one diet that can fulfill this requirement for all people would be lie…because everybody is different. My body type is such that I need lots of protein. When I eat carbohydrate-rich meals, regardless of the source, I get weak and shaky within an hour. Thus, I need protein in every meal. Because of this personal nuance, I find that concentrated sources (meat, eggs, dairy) work best for me. This is NOT a universal; it is a nuance of my dietary needs. Believe me, I know plenty of people that thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet. Physiological variability I tell you.

That’s why I say stick to the universals. If veganism gets you there, then groovy, man. If it’s raw foodism—rock out. All that matters is that the four universals are most efficiently met.

Don’t get caught up into dietary nuances. Eat the widest variety of whole, natural foods that your body likes and craves, and try to get everything you need nutritionally with the least amount of food possible. I promise that you’ll get closer to achieving optimal nutrition by following these principles. It’s the human variability that throws the monkey-wrench into most popular diets, but universal is universal, so keep that in mind every time you eat. And if your way of eating already fulfills all four dietary universals, then you’re doing just fine.

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