Food and Health

August 5th, 2013

“Popular fat diet raises risk for stroke.”

 

thinker

 

This was the headline from the front page of Dagens Nyheter in Sweden on August 1st 2013.

 

It refers to a research study that can now demonstrate a correlation between a high fat/protein, low carbohydrate diet (a.k.a. the Paleo diet – amongst other names – throughout dietetic history) and cardiovascular disease.  Most of us growing up have heard from our parents and grandparents the importance of eating fruit and vegetables. Well, as long as it wasn’t TV’s Simpson family: “Bart! Butter your sausage!”.

 

Garbage in, garbage out

 

Meanwhile over at Integrative Care’s website (www.integrativecare.se) David Finer and Johanna Hök bring our attention to a recent British study showing a marked difference in the occurrence of heart disease between British vegetarians and meat/mixed eaters.

 

In other words, if scientific research is good for one thing, it is proving the ‘bleeding obvious’ as the saying goes. Or at least it should be obvious. As the saying also goes with computers: ‘Garbage in. Garbage out.”

 

Now of course nothing is obvious with food because the subject of what we put in our mouths is very personal and linked to our oral development[1] and the diet scene is both a minefield and a goldmine for booksellers, magazines, supplement makers, websites that promote food fads, miracle cures and so on. It is also true that our body is quite forgiving and can put up with a lot for a long time before it begins to show any obvious symptoms. Many conflicting practices may all appear to work – for a while.

 

This is a Conscious Health blog however so let us take away the focus on food and return it to ourselves. Let us examine a few theories throughout history that look at how our body responds to food.

 

Stuck in the mud

 

In traditional Chinese medicine food is primarily ‘transformed and transported’ by the Earth element. This controls the function of the digestive organs, primarily the stomach and pancreas – and of course its influence on the small and large intestines that come later in the process.  Food initially causes a ‘damp’ stagnation. Damp is considered one of the six potentially ‘negative climates’ and targets the earth element (think: mud).

 

It is indeed true that the digestion of food takes enormous energy before it can start giving it back to us – unless we are eating only simple sugars. As our digestive fires struggle for a while to transform this damp, rotting sludge in our stomach we will usually experience a period of sleepiness. Many people choose to modify this effect with a hit of caffeine and/or sugar after the main meal.

 

Donut creams

 

Damp does not stop there however. It also manifests as phlegm/mucous, fat and water retention, arterial plaque and is even indicated in mental disease (“Phlegm misting the heart”).

 

The Natural Hygiene movement of the late 19th to 20th century in the West, while not possessing the energy/Chi model of the Chinese, also saw the potential of food to block our body in various ways. One of the chief proponents of this was Arnold Ehret. He viewed mucous (sounding suspiciously like the Chinese concept of damp) as the scourge of health.

 

Ehret was witness to the great tuberculosis epidemic of his time and saw first-hand how people literally drowned in their own waste products. He was therefore an advocate of a ‘mucous-less’ diet that created very little if any of these harmful byproducts that caused so much suffering. His system involved a transition phase from mucous producing foods to an almost total raw fruit and vegetable diet by way of regular short fasting and mild exercise.

 

Formulas for Health?

 

subway sandwich

 

To demonstrate how much he thought that food was as much the cause of disease as the sustainer of life he came up with the formula: V=P-O: ‘V’ being the fully expressed vitality of a healthy person; ‘P’ being our innate power, at least potentially; ‘O’ being the obstruction that gets in the way of V and P being one and the same thing. He was, and still is in many quarters of medicine, regarded as a quack. The prevailing medical AMA approved textbook of his time was called ‘The all meat diet.’ – which must have pleased the cattle barons if no one else.

 

Under the microscope

 

Meanwhile in the West modern medicine really took off with Louis Pasteur’s discoveries. The use of the microscope and the discovery of germs/bacteria ultimately lead to the wildly successful discovery and use of antibiotics. This in turn led to the 800lb gorilla we now know as ‘Big Pharma’ aka: the medical drug industry which is measured in (if not actually worth) trillions of dollars worldwide. It has highly funded lobby groups influencing government policy and funds the vast majority of research to such an extent that any reasonable observer must consider it a profound conflict of interest.

 

The funny thing is, according to Pasteur, now left standing in the falling dust as the multitudes ran screaming to the new church of ‘a pill for every ill’, bacteria wasn’t anything to be alarmed about. The more important thing he thought was the state of our ‘milieu interieur’ – our inner state of health and immunity – specifically, healthy blood. He posited that a healthy body should be the focus as it will combat disease by itself.

 

Ehret agreed with Pasteur and added that the precursor to a bacteria-rich state of disease was a high amount of mucous. The mucous provided the damp, (there’s that word again) sticky bed that allowed the bacteria to proliferate in the first place. If this was effectively neutralized (through an unclogging, mucous free diet and intermittent fasting) we would not need to go chasing the 1000-headed serpent of symptoms and endless new diseases. But hey, where is the fun (not to mention the money) in that?

 

Chinese medicine had the same ‘root of all diseases’ approach as Ehret and Pasteur. Health they state is the free flow of chi. Dis-ease is the blockage or impediment of that flow.

 

The last chance power drive tune up                                    

 

There is of course another school in all of this. The proponents of this school say that it doesn’t matter so much what you eat as long as you ‘burn it off’ through exercise. This theory was particularly popular during the jogging craze in the early 1970’s as popularized by Jim Fixx’s book, ‘The complete book of running’.

 

The idea that, like a ‘poor man’s tune up’, we just accelerate our physical activity to force out or burn up the clogging waste products assumes quite a mechanical view of the body. This is enforced in medicine by the focus almost exclusively on work with cadavers in the first few years of medical training.

 

If the body is viewed as just a ‘juicy machine’ of pipes and biochemistry then of course it would seem logical that we could just flush it out with physical force like extended exercise. Even if this metaphor was adhered to, would not it be a better idea to not block it up so much in the first place and so cut down on all that wear and tear?

 

Jim Fixx believed that running a marathon insured the user for the next ten years from heart disease. Despite being an avid runner (and boasted that he ate whatever he liked) who completed several marathons, he died of a heart attack at 52. An autopsy showed profound levels of atherosclerosis blocking several of his coronary arteries.

 

soft center

 

Does not it seem strange that we in a highly abundant Western society overflowing with food and choice should constantly be hounded by arguments that we may be missing out on some vital ingredient or nutrient?

 

Is not the truth more likely that we are literally drowning in that excess?

 

Till we run into another Monday,



[1] Not to mention a fair amount of oral addiction but that is a blog for another day

 

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