This article originally appeared on Doctor-Natasha.com on May 9, 2011.
We are all different; every one of us is a unique individual. So, ‘one size fits all’ never works. That is why we have such a bewildering number of various diets being proposed: high carbohydrate / low carbohydrate, high fat / low fat, high protein / low protein, all raw / all cooked, etc. etc.; and the interesting thing is that every diet suits some people and does not suit others. Why is that? Because ‘it takes two to tango’, which means that there is no such thing as a bad food per se or good food per se without taking into account a very important factor, who is eating it! Not only who is eating it, but what state that person is in.
Let’s try and understand this in more detail.
We all have different heredity and constitution. If your predecessors were Vikings or Eskimos, then chances are that you will generally need to eat lots of fish, meat and fat. But if your predecessors came from a Mediterranean culture or some tropical area of the world, then you will probably need more carbohydrates in your diet. Ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicines try to classify different constitutional types of people, and would not dream of applying diet or herbs without this knowledge, as different constitutional types need very different approaches.
Constitution is just one factor. There are many more.
Throughout our lives our bodies go through anabolic / catabolic cycles, in other words cycles of building itself up and cleansing itself. There is a daily building / cleansing cycle, a seasonal one and ‘as-it-is-necessary’ ones which can happen any time. For building itself your body needs very different nutrients from those it uses for cleansing itself (animal foods are generally building, while plant foods are generally cleansing). Only your body knows what it needs at every moment of your life.
Depending on what your body is doing at the time, depending on the season of the year, on the weather and the level of stress you are under, your body can switch between different ways of energy production: using glucose for example or using fats. Only your body knows what is appropriate at any particular moment of your existence, and it requires very different nutrients for different patterns of energy production.
We all have an autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for all the ‘autopilot’ functions of the body: for your heart beating, for your blood circulating, for your digestive system feeding you, etc. The autonomic nervous system is made out of two branches: a sympathetic nervous system and a parasympathetic nervous system. These two systems generally work in opposition to each other providing a very complex balance in every function of the body. Again, depending on an infinite number of factors (daily cycle of activity and sleep, season, weather, stress, infection, feeding / cleansing, your occupation at the time, etc.) you will shift from being ‘sympathetic dominant’ to ‘parasympathetic dominant’. This shift can happen several times every day, every few days, every season and it is different in different age-groups. The important thing is that these two branches of our nervous system require very different sets of nutrients to be fed: one likes meat and fat, while the other needs more carbohydrates. Only your body knows what proportions of protein/fat/carbohydrate it needs at any given moment of your life; no laboratory or scientist will be able to calculate this for you.
Then there is the acid / alkaline balance in the body, which again changes all the time every day depending on many factors. There is a myth in nutritional circles that ‘being acid is bad’ and that all of us have to strive to be alkaline all the time. Different foods have been classified to be ‘alkalising’ (such as fruit and vegetables) or ‘acidifying’ (such as grains and meats). This simply is not true. Your body shifts from alkaline to acid states all the time depending on many factors: activity of your autonomic nervous system, the type of energy production at the time, your hormonal profile at the time, respiration, kidney function, many of which in turn change according to daily cycle, season, weather and your activity. Depending on all those factors an apple, for example, which is considered to be an ‘alkalising’ food, can make your body acid, and vice versa, a piece of meat, which is considered to be ‘acidifying’ can make your body alkaline. Only your body knows how to use foods at any given moment of your life; only your body has the inner intelligence to make these impossibly complex calculations.
As if that is not enough, then there is the water and electrolyte balance in the body, which also shifts all the time depending on many factors. Our mainstream medicine pronounced salt to be ‘evil’ and recommends reducing its consumption. Processed salt should not be consumed just as all processed foods should not be consumed (as these things are unnatural for human physiology and should not be called ‘food’). However, natural unprocessed salt (such as Himalayan crystal salt or Celtic salt) contains more than 90 minerals and not only is good for us, it is essential for our bodies to maintain the right water/electrolyte balance. Then there is the myth that we need to drink lots of water every day, even different amounts in litres-per-day are prescribed in nutritional literature. Following that advice blindly can get you into a lot of trouble, if your body is low on electrolytes and needs salt instead of water. No matter how clever we think we are, we cannot calculate how much salt or water we should consume at any given time: only your body knows that, and it has excellent ways of telling you what it needs – thirst for water, desire for salt or any particular food, which may have the right mineral composition. Make no mistake, your body knows the nutrient composition of foods on this planet.
These are just a few factors to demonstrate to you that no laboratory, no clever doctor or scientist and no clever book can calculate for you what you should be eating at 8am, or 1pm, or 6pm or in between. Only your body has the unsurpassed intelligence to figure out what it needs at any given moment of your life, as your nutritional needs change all the time: every minute, every hour and every day.
Check back next week for part 2 of 3 of this mini series…