You are what you eat?
It’s a curious phenomenon of how human beings identify with what they eat…
Have you ever read the classic, Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift? You know, the shipwrecked sailor who got his head sewn to the carpet by the wee-Lilliputians.
In it, the Lilliputians and Blefuscuians were at war. They had a serious, political concern over dietary practices. The Lilliputians believed that one should crack their 3-minute egg from the small end, and the Blefuscuians were adamant about cracking that egg from the large end.
Obviously, those are fightin’ words. Irreconcilable differences. And for hundreds of years, they proceeded to brutally exterminate each other over their dietary differences.
It’s a curious phenomenon how vehemently human beings identify with what they eat. We hear people define their lives by how they acquire nutrients:
“I’m a vegetarian.” “Well, I’m a vegan.”
“I’m a lacto-ovo-neuvo vegalopolatapus.”
“I’m paleo with some mezazoic, and just a smidgeon of cenozoic.”
“I’m a gluten-free, lactose-free, omnivore.”
“I’m an egg sucker.”
“I eat carbs at the firehouse with Fire Engine 2.”
“I only masticate foods in the order the sun shines on them.”
“I practice ritual cannibalism.”
“I eat Pro-Vita! with Susanne Sommers.”
“I don’t eat pork or shellfish, but aardvark and rodents are fine.”
“I’m a nudist, raw foodist.”
“I eat anything I want because I bless it. Pizza, anyone?”
“If it doesn’t have scales and a non-cloven hoof …”
“I only eat alkaline foods before the sun is at its zenith,”
“I never mix a sub-acid fruit with an acid fruit.”
“I don’t eat white foods, with the exception of jicama and turnips.”
The nuances go on and on, ad infimum or ad nauseam (depending on your viewpoint).
Maybe it’s a reflection of ‘you are what you eat.’ Whatever, food practices strike deep into the hearts and minds of humanity.
Dietary Denigration. Often disparaging labels are applied to ethnic groups or communities because of what they eat. One tribe refers to a rival tribe as ‘dung eaters’ because of using buffalo chips to augment nutrition and the microbiome.
There’s something about a diet that preoccupies people’s minds as being superior or inferior. What do you think? Is that picayune or what?
“There goes Fred and Ethel. They defile their temples with meat products. Let’s give them the cold shoulder (of lamb) and go have a sprout salad.”
“Here comes Lucy and Ricky. They’re okay. They’re vegetarians like we are, so no ‘splaining to do. Let’s invite them to the pot-luck on Tuesday.”
Just in the short course of our lifetimes, we’ve seen diet, after diet, after diet, come and go.
- The vanity symptom driving dietary information is that people got fat, with some 66% of the population now being overweight.
- The metabolic symptom is that people got sick-and-tired with 50% of the population over 60 struggling to make ATP energy efficiently, thus expressing metabolic diseases.
Natural Health pundits often cite the cause is the unnatural modern diet – the processed, sugar-laden, chemical-laced, altered foods. This subject was extensively researched by Dr. Weston Price and presented in his classic book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, which belongs, front and center, on every nutritionist’s/dietician’s/doctor’s’ practitioner’s shelf (after reading thoroughly, of course).
You might recall the Healthy Heart Diet of the 1980s. It was backed by fine, upstanding, well-intentioned people who never studied nutrition. (Actually, it was hog-wash promulgated by cereal/grain companies to boost sales.) It was a High-Complex- Carbohydrate Diet. They even promulgated a federal ‘food pyramid’ with white bread and packaged breakfast cereals as the foundation.
Problem: Healthy Heart Diet. It did not work out so well for health, but it did push a lot of bread and instant oatmeal off the grocery store shelves into the ever-expanding bellies of the population.
Those “trusted experts” lead the entire USA population to pack on an additional 11 pounds of fat per-capita, and skyrocketed Metabolic Syndrome diseases—diabetes, heart/cardiovascular disease, and cancer—to new heights.
Then there was the Low-Carbohydrate Diet. People blamed carbs for all their woes and the ever-increasing plagues of diabetes and inflammatory joint disease. Chronic fatigue became popular.
Problem: Low-Carb Diets. This did not work out so well for health. People depleted their adrenals and were starved for ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate—the chemical energy of life) because they did not convert cellular metabolic processes to handle fat for energy. Low ATP is often cited as a cause and contributor to aging and diseases.
You might remember the High-Protein Diet for muscles of the 1960s. In those days, “Hi-Pro” sold soy protein powders so 98-lb weaklings could kick sand in the faces of muscular rivals, and impress the girl in the bikini. It was revisited with the High-Protein Rapid Weight Loss programs of the 1990s.
Problem: High-Protein Diets. They didn’t work out so well. They missed the mark with reports of kidney damage and acidosis from soy protein powders, and caused the yo-yo phenomenon of weight loss, gain it back, lose it again, gain it back plus a little bit more, lose it yet again, gain it back plus more roller-coaster rides that have been so frustrating for thousands of people.
Once I sat at breakfast with a morbidly obese man who ate two-pounds of bacon topped off with scrambled eggs and sausage. “Atkin’s Diet,” he said, licking his chops. Today, science explains that excess protein turns into sugar.
So, naturally, there was the Low-Protein Diet, but people often lost muscle mass and become vitamin B12 deficient. Backed by a faulty study that perpetuated the concept that high protein foods would rob calcium from the bones, it took several years for conflicting studies to reveal that the cited study was skewed by injecting isolated, free-form amino acids instead of nature’s foods.
Problem: Low-Protein Diets. Again, manipulating proteins did not work so well. Muscle loss = brain loss and loss of mobility and capability.
Popular today are High-Fat Diet variations such as Paleo and Keto, both of which have some really terrific features—Paleo resembles the Pro-Vita! Plan (1985) principles in many ways—but Keto has elements that can work miracles, but yet don’t quite work for some people.
Problem: High-Fat Diets. Many people errantly increase the use of refined vegetable oils to the detriment of fatty acid balance. They lack nutrients that protect the mitochondria and cell membranes from free-radical damage. They shun saturated fats that the liver needs to humanize proteins. They eliminate the nutrient spectrums in legumes or become too fastidious about what not to eat.
The high-fat diet arrived on the heels of the failure of the Low-Fat Diet, which attempted to fight beneficial cholesterol processes with avoidance of fatty foods, not understanding that the human bloodstream does not absorb cholesterol from the G.I. tract —it can only absorb lipids. The liver is the primary cholesterol-manufacturing site—the body takes lipids and constructs cholesterol and lipoproteins it needs to transport energy (triglycerides) and fats to make antibodies and hormones.
Problem: Low-Fat Diets. They do not significantly lower cholesterol or heart disease. Causes cells to starve for membrane support inhibits nerve sheaths nutrients and drives sugar cravings. Deprives people of the precious, macro-nutrient: fat.
How can I be so rude and flippantly dismiss all those diets?
Glad you asked. Guess I’m a bit quirky. The only right way of eating for you is what’s actually right for you.
Changing one’s diet often brings benefits. Seems that often, any change in diet will do ya good. But after some amount of time (6 months to a few years), the flaws start to matter as new symptoms occur. It can be a slow see-saw ride.
Your Eating Plan is actually established by forces much larger than a philosophy, label, and a list of cant’s. It’s established by your genes and to some extent your cultural and innate epigenetic processes. Cultural wisdom and traditions often were founded on maximizing nutrient uptake.
First tip to recognize a dietary imbalance: The names. High this, Low that. Nature is a balancing principle of long-term processes. Such “pushes” toward or against a macro-nutrient is not Nature’s design. Nature says, “Balance in all things.”
Even diets that pigeon-hole people into eating for a disease or condition, e.g. The Candida Diet, The Obesity Diet, The Reflux Diet, The Seizure Diet, Blood Type Diet, Gland-Type Diet, etc. risk that a person is forcefully controlling metabolic activities, but still missing “the cure.”
Yes, such diet modifications can be a temporary godsend for a suffering person. And in rare instances, foods or food-categorys can single-handedly drive a disease process as in the case of celiac. People can remove offending foods and gain immunological reprieve. But eventually, either the dearth of certain nutrients will take a toll, or the disease process (epigenetically deeper than food-impact) will recur unless a food was the single driving force.
Diet schemes are not Nature’s design. Something’s off if you have to spend your time calculating grams, measuring urine, weighing portions, or compensating for this and that.
Today, many “diets” are simply compensations for what science has done to nature’s food. Case in point. Wheat is massively hybridized and presents new gluten molecules over which which many people today belly-ache and experience as inflammatory. Thus, the proliferation of gluten-free diets. Many people who are gluten-sensitive can eat an ancient grain (not hybridized, fewer chromosomes) that’s been fermented, dried, milled, and baked into bread – just like the Little Red Hen taught.
Besides, the word, diet, means to manipulate the body toward an end result such as weight loss, weight gain, recovery from trauma, accommodate a health condition; and here we’re interested in Nature’s Foundational design for cellular, metabolic health and strong tissue integrity.
Food nutrition is the basic cellular alphabet—the raw materials necessary for long life, mental clarity, and a life of innate vitality. It’s the relationship with the Earth analogous to an infant nursing at the breast.
Nature’s Foundational Design. So why don’t we simply start at the beginning with Nature’s design? That would be one important feature, right? It would be the Ancient Wisdom—the connection between our bodies and how they evolved with the earth’s flora and fauna. This is what we’ll do in this blog.
We’ll shake off all the clingy labels, fastidious nit-picks, and our cultural orthorexia Nervosa (symptoms of obsessive behavior in pursuit of a healthy diet); and look at Nature’s principles such as a full and varied access to a wide variety of nutrients, biodiversity of nutrients, and how to individualize food intake.
For some, maybe we’ll find something loftier with which to identify—something to define our lives, our purpose, other than being all about what we shove into our pie-holes.
Next, let’s add some modern-day science. Each person’s genome (all the DNA in and on your body) is unique. From the microbes in the intestines to the mitochondrial DNA and cellular RNA, we are each biochemically unique. So is optimal nutrition.
If you are ready to set aside all the well-meaning ‘diet’ books and first discover Nature’s design for human health, and more specifically, what applies specifically to your health, you’ll enjoy these upcoming discussions.
QUIRKYHEALTHTIPS.We all know the cliché, “You are what you eat.” So, here’s an update. “You are what your gut-bacteria eat.” It’s actually our gut-microbiomes that processes so much of our nutrients for uptake—the nascent vitamins and metabolites for our health.
For fun, let’s consider another one. Hippocrates, the father of natural medicine, is often reputed to say, “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” But really? Seems there’s something off. You can’t use medicinal herbs or any medicines every day without suffering side effects. That’s Nature’s Law of “Proving.” It’s the equal and opposite reaction of Newton’s 3rd Law of Mechanics.
There is another, valid translation of Hippocrates’ famous quote in the context of the historical writings, “Let NOT thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine NOT be thy food.”Hippocrates knew the difference between dietary sustenance and therapeutic use of medicinal substances. This thought will set up our next blog discussion.
There’s much to chew on as we delve into nutrition according to Nature’s Directives and your cells nutritional requirements. Very few diet books will escape our astute queries and new-found stipulations, but we all need a good dose of overview before we’re emotionally drug into, and drugged by, the cited virtues of various people’s dietary theories.
To the power of original thinking. Buon appetite, y’all.
Looking forward to exploring food’s impact on holistic health. Seems there is a silent global crisis of food to fill bellies VS food to engender optimal health. As savvy sapiens of the 21st Century, our ever-burgeoning population must have both. It’s called healthy food to feed a hungry world. Let’s discover the TRUE model together — whether we like it or not, whether it’s convenient or not. That’s a good place to start.
…love it! And to the point regarding we are really what our gut bacteria eat (and work their alchemy on), the low-carb diets (and by carb, see high-fiber, organic/non-GMO, whole grains and legumes that have been prepared with care to dissolution or degradation of anti-nutrients, as discussed in the WAPF website per Dr. Price’s findings–soaking, maybe sprouting, maybe fermenting) keep a key piece out of the equation as a food and fuel source for the biome and the large intestine cells–that fiber is a key part of short chain fatty acid creation (gut alchemy–carbs becoming fatty acids–amazing!)–and so long-term low-carb can be quite a challenge to the system.
Thanks so much Sarica. Many readers know that I love your NaturallyLivingToday newsletter and recommend your Funky Kitchen by Sarica Cernohous book to sit right next to Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions book for daily nutrition. Your on-line Funky Kitchen course taught me how to make water kefir 5 years ago, and my jar of “bugs” is still happily growing and supporting G.I. health. Thank you for that.
I hope you’ll comment again soon. I’m looking for “commentators” who can help guide people to discover their dietary foundation for optimal health. Too many people are jumping into every biohack diet trend without first addressing their body’s basic requirements — things like VARIETY and VARIATION (timing) and the true value of organic, soil-grown foods as opposed to slippery “gene edited” and “bio-engineered” and “genetically-modified” substances that resemble Nature’s bounty.
We’re in a time of “runaway science” which is not holding human nutrition and health as a priority. Instead science’s guiding principle is “filling bellies with an empty harvest for profit.” Governments fear hungry people. Instead of bringing health, they bring exploitation of our health for corporate profits. People suffer for lack of knowledge. Here we’ll bring knowledge for all people to consider.
I dedicate this time we of communicating to helping people be genuinely healthy. My fingers are crossed that there will be more experts of your high caliber who will join this discussion for the benefit all readers. Again thank you for sharing.