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This is a continuation of expanded writing on “5 Keys to a Better Life“. And it seems like this topic is fairly important right now, as we’re in the midst of a virus pandemic, and it is so important to give our bodies the tools it needs to prop up our immune systems.
Truth be told, this is always important, but in times of stress, our bodies need an assist.
The matter of you
You are energy and matter. As a form of matter in this universe that is living, the processes in your body are constantly utilizing, spending, and replacing the molecules needed to make this magic happen. Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, H2O, and other molecules are absorbed through your gut, carried through your bloodstream, and delivered where needed. They are also stored in your body, should the time come that you can’t get these things from the outside.
Replenishment from the outside comes in the form of eating and drinking. What you put into your mouth ends up in your gut, and those are the molecules your body absorbs and has to make due with.
Utilizing bad molecules
The issue that comes into play here is that your body will try to use ANYTHING you put into it. Supportive molecules or unsupportive molecules will be incorporated if they can be.
A perfect example of this is trans-fat. Trans-fat is just fatty acids with their molecular structure bent a little bit. This little bend allows the fat to remain solid and shelf stable at room temperature. For the food industry this was a big bonus. Cheaper seed oils could be infused with hydrogen, causing that molecular bend, which didn’t go rancid like a seed oil would without the bend.
But what we discovered is just that little change in structure to a fatty acid has bad health implications for a human body. Your cells will still incorporate that fatty acid into their linings, but eventually this causes dysfunction.
This is where the dangers can lie with processed food. Our bodies are very resilient, and can handle quite a bit of abuse, but molecules that just don’t incorporate well into your system will only result in eventual breakdown and dysfunction.
Food that works for you
Knowing that certain food molecules can work against the mechanisms of our bodies, it’s a good idea to try and figure out what molecules work well. There is a caveat though: It’s impossible to get this completely right, and that’s OK.
Plants, which contain tons of nutrients, also contain natural pesticides (that’s how the plant tries to defend itself from bugs). These natural bug killers might irritate our system too, but the benefits of eating the plant far outweigh not eating it. (Unless you recognize that a certain plant food is just no bueno for you.)
This is the case with a lot of food. But one thing we do know is that foods that have been processed can contain molecules, or too much of a certain molecule, that don’t jive well with a human body. These are molecules that we just wouldn’t have been exposed to in nature before processing began.
So how do you even try to figure out what foods most support you, or perhaps more importantly, doesn’t? A rule I like to use is really paying attention to how food interacts with my digestive system, from the time it enters my mouth to the time it exits my body.
If a food gives me sores in my mouth, I question whether it’s likely that it will also irritate the lining of my gut. If a food makes my stomach hurt, or gives me indigestion, that’s a pretty clear sign from my body that molecules in that food are not digestible by my stomach. If a food gives me intestinal cramps, my microbiome isn’t efficiently digesting it. If I have an unpleasant time expelling the food from my body, it’s affected my gut motility (how quickly the intestines move to clear waste out).
Simply paying attention can give you a pretty good idea about what food is and isn’t supporting your body. If you want to really get a handle on this, try an elimination diet.
You are a biological machine that replenishes itself with matter from the outside world. Paying attention and understanding how certain foods and beverages affect you physically and mentally can help you dial in a consistent way of eating that provides the support you need to function at your best capability.
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