Digestive issues are the second leading cause of missed work days in the United States according to the IBS Treatment Center in Seattle, Washington. To those who have had such experiences, this statistic comes with little surprise. Since digestion is a bodily process that is active throughout the day, symptoms of poor digestion can last as long. The hassle, embarrassment and inconvenience of it all is enough to make anyone call in sick.
Digestion is one of five vital foundations necessary for optimal health. It's also the first place to look when addressing any chronic or life threatening ailment. Our body's digestive system breaks down proteins into amino acids; fats into fatty acids and carbohydrates into sugars. Through various chemical reactions, the body utilizes these building blocks for tissue formation, immunity, energy, detoxification, healing, mental health, strong teeth and an innumerable number of other processes. When digestion is impaired, your body's ability to assimilate building blocks degrades rapidly. All of the structures which rely upon digestion are compromised and the body becomes vulnerable to degeneration, illness and disease.
How does our digestion decline?
Good digestion is dependent upon the body receiving the necessary organic and inorganic components needed to keep the system running optimally. Organic components are made up of carbon chains commonly found in proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Inorganic components include non-carbon based substances such as minerals. Vitamins are actually carbon based structures as the ending of the word "amine" implies. Additional factors such as hydration, beneficial flora in the digestive tract and the absence of toxins also play a role.
Digestive decline can occur for a number of reasons, but it's important to first look at diet. What you eat becomes you. Your food provides those important building blocks which comprise your cell structure, fluids, bones and anatomy. All of this in turn influences your physiology, or how your body works.
The food sold in grocery stores is attractive and tastes good. It's also a part of our culture. Our friends eat it as do our parents and neighbors. They offer seemingly better versions of it at restaurants, ball parks and festivals. We rarely question it because it's been a part of our everyday lives for as long as we can remember and no one seems to be suffering any ill effects from it – at least that we know of. Remember, you don't notice those people who miss work for digestive issues…especially when all they tell you the next day is that they just didn't "feel well."
Here is an important, but overlooked truth --good health is NOT about just eating more fruits and vegetables. It's also about consuming healthy meats, milk, eggs and grains (if you tolerate them). Believe it or not, even desserts – when made the right way – can be very healthy. What I'm really talking about here is called food sourcing. Specifically, where does your food come from?
Why it matters
We've all heard the old adage, "You are what you eat." It's true, but it's also incomplete and misleading. Not only are you what you eat, but you're also whatever you're eating ate. It's a bit of a tongue twister, but let's think about this -- if diet determines the health of your body, then it also determines the health of the animal's body. If the animal consumed a healthy diet, the nutrients which make up that steak or those eggs will be passed on to you. If that animal ate a poor diet consisting of synthetic products low in nutritional value, then those nutrients of lesser quality are passed on to you. You are whatever what you're eating ate.
Take beef, for example. We've all seen pictures of cows grazing in fields of grass. It's an iconic image. In fact, it's a part of the logo featured in the advertising of many dairy products. But is that an accurate reflection of the cow's true diet? It's not.
Cows may consume grass early on in their lives, but they are quickly moved to feed lots where their food supply consists mainly of corn or wheat that's been highly processed. When you hear the word processed, think of food that's been stripped of essential vitamins and nutrients. It's necessary to remove these nourishing elements of the food because they spoil quickly. By the way, the same is true with the wheat and corn based products you buy at the grocery store. Why do you think pasta keeps forever? Synthetic vitamins are added back in, but your body doesn't assimilate them as well as in their natural state.
The processing of today's food renders it deficient in essential nutrients. It might provide energy and a limited amount of synthetic vitamins, but it's not the same nutritional powerhouse that our forefathers ate when they consumed meat, eggs and milk from animals raised naturally. At the turn of the last century, the degenerative diseases and digestive difficulties of today were hard to find. They had some worries about sanitation that led to various diseases, but the quality of the animal was far superior to its modern counterpart.
Your local grocery store isn't the only option you have when it comes to buying food. The "slow food" (as opposed to fast food) movement is making a comeback. Many farmers have eschewed commercial feeds and have gone back to raising their animals on pasture. This means that their diets consist of native grasses. Cows break down grass in a way that we can't and in turn they unlock the nutritional components and make them bioavailable to us.
Meat from grass fed animals is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, Vitamin A and an assortment of minerals. These nutrients support the body's digestion, immunity and overall function. They work preventatively against degenerative diseases and extend quality of life much further into the sunset years. They also keep the body healthy and its foundations strong. Food that contains an ample supply of nutrients in their natural state will better allow you to battle cancer, heart disease and auto-immune conditions. Food sourcing does matter and the majority of today's store bought foods have left our bodies with weak foundations and compromised defenses.
Here are some steps you can take to better source your food:
1. Buy meats, eggs, fruits and vegetables from your local farm. You can visit the resources page on my website for more information or run an internet search on farms in your area. For good local sources on farm fresh milk, go to www.realmilk.com.
2. Consume less processed foods which feature a long shelf life. Extended expiration dates are achieved by replacing healthy nutrients with synthetic preservatives.
3. Spend more time in the kitchen making your food from scratch and less time eating food that comes in a box or package.
4. Increase the amount of cultured or fermented foods you eat. Yogurt is good, but yogurt you make yourself is far superior to store bought yogurt. See the "Hands on" section of my resources page to learn how: http://vitalfoundations.com/Local-Resources.html#
5. Reduce the amount of sugar you consume. Sugar is a nutrient deficient substance which draws on your body's own stores of vitamins and minerals to digest it. The more sugar you consume, the more nutrient deficient your body becomes.
6. If buying your food from the store is the only immediate option, look for products that contain the fewest number of ingredients. For example, sour cream should contain cultured cream and potentially some enzymes. It doesn't need to have four or five ingredients.
7. Don't eat the same 10 foods from week to week. Vary your diet and introduce different kinds of vegetables, greens and fruits. When was the last time you had some beets?
Although food sourcing is a good place to start when it comes to improving your health, years of damage may necessitate the need for additional help. Severely impaired foundations will not digest and assimilate even the best food properly. For more targeted assistance with meal planning, supplementation and recommendations, please contact me at email@example.com. Nutrition is about more than just what's on your dinner plate. Healthy food leads to healthy bodies and healthy lives.