The subject of nutrition is confusing, complicated, complex and as opinionated as religion and politics. The purpose of this essay is hopefully to clarify and not to add more confusion, to help you to make use of some of today’s nutritional knowledge to meet your personal requirements. It is based on my 30 years experience of using nutritional medicine within my chiropractic practice.
How important is the chemical make up of the body? The abuse of chemistry by elite athletes (steroids) gives us an idea of how much influence on performance good and bad chemicals can have on us. Read on if you intend to ever eat again…
Your diet – ‘my diet’ for you: The diet I would recommend for you is the one, which promotes optimum vitality and health for you. If you have not yet discovered the correct formula then there are several dietary approaches, which I have found, help most people. In the end, as modern medicine is discovering, we are all unique and ‘one persons food is indeed another’s poison’.
How do you know what to take? A Naturopath, chiropractic nutritionist, or health professional working with nutrition can assess your needs many ways including symptoms, blood tests, hair mineral tissue analysis, other laboratory tests, and in complimentary medicine, applied kinesiology. The important thing is to test and re-test every 6-12 months to see if your needs have changed. The latest laboratory tests can predict problems years before a disease begins. This is achieved by looking for optimum levels as opposed to diseased levels. For example low level chronic inflammation over a lifetime is now linked with the development of vascular Alzheimers disease when elderly; if addressed decades before it may be preventable with nutrition or drugs.
The Food, Nutrition and Supplements Pyramid The food and supplements pyramid –see diagram below, is a model that illustrates some vital concepts when discussing diet and supplementation; models help us make sense of complex issues. Some things are more important than others – the lower steps of the pyramid should precede the higher ones. Later stages can only be really useful if the lower, or foundational steps are in place. While it is tempting to leap to the top and experiment with individual nutrients designed for special purposes, they will be of little value unless taken on top of the foundation stages, including a good basic diet; and even a perfect diet should be preceded by the removal of any unwanted gut bugs and allergens. (The healthiest people may host the healthiest parasites!)
The stages are discussed below
1. Water We can survive for seconds without air, days without water and about six weeks without food. Muscles are 80% water; in my experience most cramp and pain can be reduced significantly just by drinking enough. A typical plastic beaker or small cup is 200mls, drink one every waking hour for full hydration. One litre per 30 kilos or 5 stone body weight. Yes you will pass water more frequently to begin with, but after a few weeks you will return to your normal habits and just pass more when you go. In excess heat or under exertion drink even more! Good quality water is an issue. At the very least buy a water filter; a BRITA or equivalent removes most of the undesirable elements in water. If you can afford to spend more than £300 there are plumb in systems that are better. (see www.detoxifynow.com) There are also water energisers recently appearing on the market. My favourite bottled mineral water is LOUTRAKI, which is a Greek mineral water with a high natural magnesium content, or VOLVIC with virtually no minerals, i.e. pure water! In the UK, Highland spring and Buxton are my favourites. For more information see www.watercure.com. Also read ‘Your body’s many cries for Water’ by F Batmanghelidj, MD. A slight compromise is herbal tea- without milk or sugar. These are so watery they will work like water. I particularly recommend you try green tea because of its many health benefits – brew for only 45 seconds or it becomes very bitter. © pyramid nutrition concept by SA Rudd ND DC FRCC
2. Remove the unwanted: In step two we see REMOVE, this means a removal from the system of things that are not meant to be there including any heavy metals, unwanted gut inhabitants like candida yeasts, parasites, unfriendly bacteria and foods which cannot be digested by you. You should also address the blood type diet (ABO) at this stage see www.4yourtype.com or read ‘Eat right for your type’ by P. D”Adamo ND and adopt the appropriate blood type diet. Appropriate tests need to be done to assess the bugs above, these may be laboratory or applied kinesiology; without this everyone can benefit from a supplement of good quality bowel bacteria (acidophilus) or probiotics. This supplement is generally beneficial for all persons although it can upset sensitive bowels temporarily – for 3-4 days increasing looseness; if more than this happens either seek professional advice or try a different brand. It is naturally in live yoghurt or yoghurt drinks, although the amounts compared to most capsules is not much.
3. Major deficiencies In step three pothole deficiencies are addressed. The idea here is that if you are relatively much more deficient in one mineral, for example Magnesium then you should build this up first with a single product supplement as a priority before adding other general supplements which will contain both what you need and its natural antagonists. Some supplements might accentuate the major deficiency; in the case of Magnesium taking calcium when magnesium is needed would create a bigger magnesium requirement. Key deficiencies are dependent on diet and geography, some areas have calcium running in the water – i.e. hard water (not that this calcium is useful in the diet but it does increase magnesium requirements), others don’t; some soils are higher in certain trace elements then others. Also there is the genetic tendency where one person simply needs more of a given element than average to make things work. This can mean taking many times the RDA (recommended minimum dietary amount to prevent deficiency diseases) in order just to work normally. I have used hair mineral analysis for 25 years now and find it a useful independent assessor of beneficial and toxic mineral status, the test costs £40 -£80 depending on the laboratory.
4. Excellent diet: This means selecting an appropriate ORGANIC diet that should incorporate the following modern dietary concepts:
- A. Blood type, (begun in REMOVE PHASE above). Blood types evolved out of changes in our diet. Thousands of years ago we were all hunter-gatherers and were all O blood type – for whom the stone age diet still works best. With the advent of farming and animal husbandry the A and B blood types came about, gaining an increased ability to digest vegetables (A) and milk products (B). You need to know your blood type to use this information. I test most of my patients blood types for this purpose.
- B. Food combining –see ‘Food combining for Health’ by Doris Grant. “Don’t mix foods that fight” is the motto meaning that it is best not to eat concentrated proteins- like meat, with heavy starches – like potatoes, why? Simply because the meat needs acid to be digested while the starch/ potato needs the opposite i.e. alkaline. If you mix them in a meal you will invite indigestion as acid and alkaline cancel each other out; this often causes acidic symptoms such as heartburn, in this instance the acid is probably from the starch food fermenting not your stomach acid.
- C. Water, as above – lots!
- D. Fruit and vegetables 5-10 portions a day depending on your weight. More for heavier people. Include fresh coriander to help metal removal from the body.
- E. Protein source appropriate for you body weight, see ‘Enter the Zone’ diet, by Barry Sears PhD, which began the GI (glycaemic index) dietary concepts that have become popular lately. Very approximately 1 gram of protein is needed per kilo of your body weight. Remember protein foods are not all protein, soya, nuts, fish and meat are about 20% protein; labelled food will tell you the amounts. If you weigh 78 kilos you will need 78grams of protein a day if you are moderately active; more if an athlete.
- F. No added sugar – no amount of refined sugar is needed or natural; fruit sugar, when in the fruit is fine.
- G. No colourings – buy food with natural colour and it is very good for you.
- H. No nutrition free food – i.e. junk food.
- I. If needed for optimum function a calorie control programme to achieve ideal weight – but if you follow the above steps weight will usually normalise without any other intervention. See our weight loss club pages if you wish to lose weight.
5. Multivitamins and general nutritional formulas These are great providing you have taken the preceding 4 steps. There are three types to choose from, based on three approaches to supplementation.
- 1. The RDA or recommended daily allowance. 2. The SONA or suggested optimum nutritional amount, and 3. Megadosages for experimental life extension or specific genetic or health needs. See below. Each has its merits:
- RDA: The recommended daily amount pill. Based on how much is required to prevent illness, this is the lowest strength pill. I don’t think these go far enough and I cannot recommend them. There is a story that may be true that the RDAs were born in the 1940’s when people wanted some nutritional guidelines post WW2. A group of chemists got together to come up with some figures basing them on observation of a local group of fit people, the New York Fire service. They worked out what levels were naturally in their food and that became the RDA, it has not changed much in 60 years.
- SONA: The suggested optimum nutritional amount. This is the amount recommended by today’s top independent nutritionists. Some amounts are far higher than the RDA, some are lower. This forms today’s best opinion and I tend to follow it. The RDA for vitamin C is 30-100mg, while the SONA is 1000mg.
- Megadosage: Using natural nutritional substances in unnaturally large doses sometimes called ‘nutriceuticals’. Why might you want to? To slow down aging as much as possible or for specific health needs. See below in the section devoted to this.
- I recommend various multi formulas but specific doses need to be worked out individually by a health professional; so in the absence of professional advice buy the best quality you can afford and take the minimum amount; two a day formulas are best because water soluble vitamins need replenishing at least twice a day, more often may be better.
6. Specific needs Note that in order to best treat ANY specific health problem, all the above stages will apply before it makes much difference what you do. Everyone needs water, to remove toxins, to get rid of deficiencies, to take a multi and then certain health problems become addressable – or are often already gone! This essay is too short to look at specific problems, but as an example glucosamine sulphate for arthritis has shown good results in many studies. See ‘The Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine’ by Murray and Pizzorno for detailed lists of supplements for specific health problems.
7. Age reversal and the prevention of ageing. We probably don’t know everything about why we age as yet. What we do know includes the concept that aging is chemically oxidation and glycation. Oxidation of metal is rust, glycation of bread means turning it into toast which is an irreversible binding of sugars and proteins in the bread; these Advanced Glycation End-products, form the convenient acronym AGE. These processes may be able to be slowed, stopped or even reversed with adequate nutrition. The above steps 1-6 must be in place and professional advice will be required so that the optimal amounts of various anti-oxidants (vitamins and other supplements) and anti-glycating agents (e.g. Carnosine and vitamin C) can be employed. Is it proven? Of course not, because this is cutting edge science but I think there is a lot of good information and products already available to help, see www.lef.org. Remember that high dose vitamins and mineral therapy was unavailable a few decades ago, one author has said that our generation may be the last generation to die of old age/ advanced glycation, or possibly the first to live on indefinitely. More modest claims suggest that high doses of appropriate nutritional supplements may prevent the tendency of our times to live longer but to spend the last 10 years or so in relative incapacity, so it might extend our healthspan, if not our lifespan. Finally as regards ageing, a low calorie, high nutritional value diet has definitely been shown to prolong life in animal experiments, or course this means you live life feeling hungry, so you’ll definitely feel like you are living longer!
8. Latest research Is just that, whatever is new should be ‘fed’ to you from your healthcare provider or maybe the internet – try www.lef.org the life extension foundation in the USA are dedicated to just this subject. For example in 2002 a landmark paper in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition by Bruce Ames MD states that many diseases have their life threatening effects by altering our genetic code which then interferes with vitamin digestion or usage; his conclusion is that once we know our genetic tendencies we can compensate for such defects – by taking supplements, and then hopefully live much longer. Other recent advances include the discovery of Homocysteine as a major cause of Heart disease, just as important as high cholesterol- the cause though is nutritional, a B Vitamin usage or deficiency problem. Summary Following the pyramid programme in Nutrition is a sensible approach to a complex and contradictory subject. Start at the bottom by drinking more water and work up. However remember all leading nutritionists allow some compromise i.e. what is important is what you do most days- a healthy body will cope with an occasional lapse into sugary junk food, but no body can remain healthy for long if it is the daily diet. Genetic variability explains why some people cope better than others. Nutritional consultation appointments and queries welcome.