The key to a house that will last is a solid foundation. The same goes for your health. In nutritional therapy, we acknowledge five pillars of foundational health.
When these pillars are weak, opportunities for a variety of degenerative conditions are introduced. Viewed through this lens, taking charge of your health – and even regaining lost health – becomes significantly more accessible. Ignoring the foundation leads to relying on pharmaceuticals and other conventional therapies in an attempt to patch up the weak areas or mask the symptoms. Strengthening the foundation leads to vibrant health and the resolution of many chronic complaints.
The five pillars of foundational health are digestion, blood sugar balance, mineral balance, fatty acid balance and hydration. Holding these essential components together is a whole foods diet. This week we will look at digestion and blood sugar balance.
The most perfect, balanced, nutrient dense diet in the world is basically useless if you are unable to digest it properly. Digestion is the interface between food and your body. The entire digestive tract – the tube that runs from tongue to tail – is technically “outside” of your body. Nutrients must pass through the lining of the digestive tract and enter the blood or lymph streams to effect any real change on the body.
Many factors can have a negative impact on this process. Distracted eating – meals in the car or in front of the computer or television – disrupt the normal flow of digestion. Without taking time to smell, taste and think about your food, the brain does not get the correct inputs to signal the start of the digestive process. This is also true of eating in a stressed state. The brain and body must be relaxed to trigger the adequate production of stomach acid and digestive enzymes. These digestive juices are required to liberate nutrients from foods to allow their absorption.
Malfunctions in the liver, gallbladder and small intestine are also problematic. Without good liver and gallbladder function, fat digestion is incomplete. Problems in the stomach or gallbladder which prevent the breakdown of foods allow larger than normal particles into the small intestine. This area is not equipped to deal with such particles and damage and inflammation are often a result. Processed foods full of preservatives, artificial ingredients, damaged fats and sugars also cause this type of irritation. An irritated small intestine cannot function optimally.
The last stop is the large intestine. A common ailment of the colon is dysbiosis – an imbalance in the needed yeast and bacteria strains. “Friendly” bacteria perform helpful functions such as breaking down cellulose and manufacturing vitamins. If these bacteria are outcompeted by less friendly microbes, many opportunities for nourishment will pass by and annoying symptoms like smelly gas will arise.
Taking steps to improve digestion will pay back in dividends for overall health. These can be as simple as disconnecting from other activities to eat, making sure you chew your food adequately and avoiding drinking too much water at mealtime, which dilutes digestive fluids.
Blood Sugar Balance
The next foundation is blood sugar balance. It is next to impossible to feel your best when blood sugar levels are awry. Whether too high, too low or rapidly shifting between, poor blood sugar control will get the best of anyone.
Blood sugar issues are a major problem today because high sugar and processed carbohydrate intake is a novel situation for the modern human body. While we have multiple mechanisms for raising low blood sugar, such as in times of famine, we have never had the persistent problem of needing to lower blood sugar. In days past, this would have only happened after coming across an in-season fruit tree and overindulging on the treat, for example. For this rare event, the pancreas would jump into action, secreting insulin to carry the sugars to cells that can use them.
In today’s nutritional landscape, with readily available sugars and starches, this process is often happening three or more times per day. Over time, insulin resistance occurs, because the body’s cells can not accept any more glucose. From there – if nutrition is not corrected – debilitating conditions such as obesity and type II diabetes may occur.
There are many symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation. These symptoms must be noted and addressed early on to prevent the onset of damaging chronic conditions. Feeling irritable, shaky or headachy before meals and sleepy afterward are sure signs of blood sugar problems. Binge eating, excessive appetite and irresistible cravings for sugar are additional symptoms. If these symptoms sound familiar, it is time to drop all sugars form the diet and increase healthy fats, proteins and fibrous veggies.
Healing and improving digestion and regulating blood sugar are essential first steps to regaining health and feeling your best.
Next week we will look at mineral balance, fatty acid balance and hydration.
This information is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice.
Sara Kennedy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She lives fitness, nutrition and wellness – and wants to help save lives and change the world’s view on health and nutrition. Learn more about Sara and her plans at thriveak.com To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org