Four Steps to a Long and Pleasurable Life
When the Body Speaks
The body generally tells us what we need to know. Often this occurs more readily when we are injured or sick. These interruptions to our daily life force us to tune in and listen to the body. In particular when we slow down our bodies will sync up or entrain to the part of us that is healthy. This mechanism is built-in to our genetics and is similar to what happens between mother and child or doctor and patient. Next time you are in pain notice what happens when your body is still and you will likely find that the inner physician speaks up.
Is it possible to Age Gracefully?
Research has proven a connection between mind and body. Harnessing this understanding along with our genetic history can show us how to live more fully. For two million years of our evolution we lived embedded in our surroundings. Only in the last 0.5% of this time have adapted to agriculture and our current system of industrial food systems accounts for a tiny portion of this. Archaeology indicates that bone health decreased as people began to homestead. The explosion of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other chronic illness has specifically coincided with modern life. There is a mismatch between how we are genetically adapted to live and the age of agriculture. To live a long, healthy life and age gracefully we can simply look to our ancestors.
What to Eat: it can be Simple
We know that our ancestors ate a wide variety of foods which is what I encourage my patients to do. Enjoy a range of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Choose foods with vivid colours and revel in the ritual of preparation. Each person has unique needs which change throughout a life span. What is right for you can be discovered through experimentation although specific diagnosis or guidance can be important at times. For example anyone with thyroid imbalances do better with a more consistent source of carbohydrates which will assist with the conversion of the T4 to T3. Or, for example, anyone experiencing hypoglycemia needs to focus more on protein and to ensure fats are consumed with fruit to reduce blood sugar spikes as well as increase absorption.
Four Steps You Can Take
Once your metabolism is relatively stable it becomes easier to experiment because the need to eat is less urgent. This is how our bodies are meant to function. If you need support to reach this place there are some simple steps that can be taken. First, focus on foods that with high levels of bioavailable nutrients and those that actually support the good digestive bacteria. Microbiota accessible carbs are best and what it basically comes down to is eating more vegetables; for example root vegetables are packed with nutrients that are easily assimilated. Second, remove any foods that hurt your gut lining especially refined carbs and any known allergens. Third, stabilize your blood sugar which will reduce your risk of developing diabetes and dementia later in life. Finally, add extra healthy fats to increase the assimilation of micronutrients. A couple of examples are beta carotene and lycopene which absorb up to eighteen times more so eat your carrots with butter and add a dose of olive oil to your tomato sauce.
Facts About Fat, Protein and Micronutrients
Furthermore it is commonly understood that iron is made bioavailable by adding vitamin c but less known that non-animal sources are only 2-20% available partially due to phytate and oxalates reducing absorption. This accounts for why up to 85% of vegetarians are deficient in this essential nutrient. Other nutrients that are often very low are vitamin D and E, B 6, zinc, calcium and magnesium. This is because animal protein is the most nutrient dense and bioavailable source of many micronutrients. Small amounts of well-sourced meat is a shift from the Standard North American diet and one worth taking. I encourage patients to view meat as a medicine and honour it in the way our ancestors did.
Fish and eggs are also foods we can look to as medicinal. Soft yolks are great sources of choline and lecithin that become more available once you add butter or any other fat. Fish is our only bioavailable source of the essential long chain fatty acids DHA and EPA. Flax and hemp oil contains ALA which is the precursor to these omega 3’s but are lacking the full benefit. Enjoy a wide range of full fats and oils including avocado, macadamia, olive, palm, butter, and lard while avoiding all industrial seed oils including canola, safflower, sunflower etc. Seed oils and refined carbohydrates make up for over 50% of the Standard North American Diet and is linked to nutrient deficiency, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. Fat soluble vitamins like K2 have been proven to reduce heart disease and coronary calcification. When you consider that one in four people is affected by heart disease it is worth ensuring that you are getting enough of this fat soluble vitamin.
I’ll be writing more about fats and oils soon. Please send in any questions or comments.