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 we are discovering, we are all unique and ‘one persons food is indeed another’s poison’.
How do you know what to take? A Naturopath or health professional working with nutrition can assess your needs many ways including symptoms, questionnaire, blood tests, hair mineral tissue analysis, other laboratory tests, and in complimentary medicine, applied kinesiology. 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 we hope it might be preventable with nutrition or drugs, time will tell.
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 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. Bottled water creates massive pollution worldwide and is best from glass bottles. For more information see www.watercure.com. Also read ‘Your body’s many cries for Water’ by F Batmanghelidj, MD. A slight compromise on pure water as a drink 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 MRN
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 excess candida yeasts or maybe parasites, unfriendly bacteria and foods which cannot be digested by you. Appropriate tests need to be done to assess this. Meanwhile 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 a few days increasing looseness; if more than this happens either seek professional advice or try a different brand. It is naturally found in live yoghurt or yoghurt drinks.
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 £59 – £80 depending on the laboratory.
4. Excellent diet: This means selecting an appropriate ORGANIC diet that should incorporate the following modern dietary concepts
- Organic because of what you are not eating, pesticides and herbicide residues are not food. Organic production possibly also means better nutrient content
- A predominantly vegan plant based diet including 5-10 portions a day of fruit or vegetables depending on your weight. More for heavier people. Include fresh coriander to help metal removal from the body. see www.nutritionfacts.org or www.Ornish.com
- Protein amount 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.Plant based proteins work easier in the body than animal products
- No added sugar – no amount of refined sugar is needed or natural; fruit sugar, when eaten in the fruit is fine.
- No colourings – but food with natural colour in it is very good for you. A rainbow diet is recommended.
- No nutrition free food – i.e. junk food.
- 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 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. Based on how much is required to prevent illness, this is the lowest strength pill.
- 2. The SONA or 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.
- 3. Megadosages for experimental life extension or specific genetic or health needs. 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.
- I recommend multi formulas that are as close to those found in food as possible. In the absence of professional advice buy the best quality you can afford. Two a day formulas are best because water soluble vitamins need replenishing at least twice a day, more often may be even 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 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 retarding ageing, a low calorie, high nutritional value diet has definitely been shown to prolong life in animal experiments.
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.