ARE WE WHAT WE EAT?
Yes and no! In my nutritional practice, I often come across clients who are eating a brilliantly healthy diet and yet are plagued not only with sub-optimal health and lack of energy and vitality, but also debilitating digestive problems and conditions like eczema, hair loss, weight gain and split nails, let alone premature ageing.
Our bodies are undoubtedly made out of the food we consume on a daily basis, but the fact that we have eaten it does not mean that we have managed to put it to the best possible use. It is far more accurate to say that we are what we absorb from our food and what proportion of nutrients we actually assimilate.
When our digestive system is in good condition, the nutrients in our food will be extracted efficiently and sent on their way to do their specific jobs throughout the body. But many factors affect how well we digest our food. Digestive disorders are widespread in the 21st century developed world - Crohn’s Disease, different forms of colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, Coeliac Disease, gastritis, acid reflux, food intolerances – and the result is poor nutrient absorption and therefore nutritional deficiencies – multiple deficiencies! - of one sort or another. Nutrients are absorbed through the gut wall and into the bloodstream and move on from there to perform countless tasks such as tissue repair and cellular regeneration - so an unhappy, inefficient digestive system will have great difficulty performing adequately as nutrients may not be properly broken down and digested and simply pass straight through without being sufficiently assimilated to support health.
There are many other causes of poor absorption however. Stress for instance impacts digestion almost instantly – we all know what that feels like! Bolting our food, eating on the run, eating when we are not hungry, eating at our desks while participating in a conference call, eating late at night, overeating, processed foods and poor sleep, even a sedentary lifestyle can all affect the gut’s ability to draw out and absorb the nutrients in our food, and that includes all the antioxidants which are so indispensable to Dynamic Ageing.
Furthermore, a very common trigger of poor absorption is simply not chewing our food properly. Digestion actually begins in the mouth with the production of amylase, a digestive enzyme which kicks off the process of breaking down the food we are eating as we chew it – so inadequate chewing skews digestion right from the start! It also interrupts crucial signals to the stomach that food is on its way and therefore stomach acid needs to be produced.
Perhaps the most important reason for poor absorption unfortunately is age! And that is why digestion is the first system I address with new clients as it is one of the crucial foundations of my Dynamic Ageing protocols. Levels of enzymes such as the amylase which I mentioned earlier and the pancreatic enzymes needed to break down sugars, proteins and fats drop as we grow older, impeding correct absorption even more. And not only do enzymes become scarcer, but stomach acid production also slows down so it is a double whammy.
Poor absorption powerfully influences our mental and physical health, our energy levels, and how well or badly we age so learning to optimise our digestion as we grow older is absolutely crucial. There are many ways to boost our digestive strength and then “you are what you eat” becomes far more of a reality.