Are we really what we eat?

Deposit Photos - Free Health Image
eat healthily
Source: Deposit Photos – Free stock image

Do you ever reflect on the functioning of the human body? I can’t think about anything created by man that compares to the incredible design of the human body.

As I pondered its wonderous workings, I found some amazing facts. Did you know:

  • The smallest bone in your body is in your ear
  • The heart circulates blood through your body about 1,000 times daily
  • Eyelashes last for approximately 150 days
  • You make about 500 ml of spit each day (that’s a lot of dribble)
  • A sneeze blows out of your nose at about 160 km per hour (are you still wondering whether to wear a mask or not?)
  • You are shorter at night than in the morning
  • When we are born, we have 300 bones. As adults, we have 206 (due to some of the bones fusing)
  • Humans are the only animals who cry when sad
  • Salt makes up about 0.4% of the body’s weight at a concentration practically equivalent to that in seawater (think about that for a second – it would mean that a 50 kg person contains about 40 teaspoons of sodium chloride!)
  • Your toenails grow four times slower than your fingernails
  • Food spends about six to eight hours in the stomach being digested (it takes about 36 hours for food to pass through the entire colon)
  • Your eyeballs are part of your brain
  • Concrete is strong, right? But bones are four times stronger
  • The strongest muscle in the body is the masseter (that muscle that runs through the back part of the cheek from the temporal bone to the lower jaw on each side. Its purpose is to close the jaw in chewing)
  • Lungs are the only organs that float
  • The muscle you are sitting on is the largest one in the body (I think most of us know this one, but do we know why? It has the critical job of keeping the torso upright. A chief antigravity muscle that helps us climb stairs. Note: If you have back issues, be sure to get your gluts firing so that your spine isn’t doing the job intended for your butt.)
Dreamstime anatomy art - Leonardo da VinciLeonardo
Source: Anatomy-art Leonardo da Vinci

Since a young age, I preferred living a healthy lifestyle and exercise has always been akin to breathing for me. This made me wonder whether innately our bodies simply tell us what they need. We choose to listen or ignore these signals. Usually, when I eat or experience something that makes me feel ill, I’m hesitant to repeat it. Other times I figure, perhaps this time it won’t have such a bad effect. We often try so hard to avoid the food/experience that made us ill. In the end, the extreme pattern of avoidance itself causes us to feel sick. Other times, we simply repeat the behaviour and deal with the consequences. Either way, do we adapt?

To learn from experience, we have to understand the general adaptation syndrome. Professor Hans Selye first described it in 1956. He was the first scientist to identify stress as “underpinning the nonspecific sign and symptoms of illness”.

Selye proposed three basic phases of reaction to any event, namely:

Phase 1: The initial response:

As I mentioned earlier, your first response to any substance or event is the greatest indicator of whether or not it gels with you. Think back to your first cup of coffee, your first encounter with alcohol, your first cigarette. Many foods were introduced to you when you were a child but it is unlikely that you can remember when you first tasted sugar, milk, meat, etc.

Phase 2: Resistance/Adaptation

At first, you may have been taken off guard by an experience or taste and how it made you feel, then you may try to resist it, which in itself is a stressor. In time, the body learns to adapt. Your heart may no longer race after a cup of coffee or you may no longer have a coughing attack after a cigarette or sip of hard liquor. What happened? Adaptation – right down to your cells. The cells of a smoker’s lungs change form to protect themselves from the smoke. The liver of someone who drinks large amounts of alcohol regularly starts adapting by producing larger amounts of the enzymes required to break down the alcohol. Why? The body is trying to protect itself, but in so doing it is in a hidden state of stress.

Phase 3: Exhaustion:

Carry on with these unhealthy habits and one day you find yourself in a state of disease. You feel fatigued all day every day, you have constant indigestion, you battle with hypertension, and you end up with various ailments, some more serious than others – like cancer. Why? The body stopped coping. It is in a state of exhaustion. It is usually at this point where most people seek help from their medical practitioner.

How does one rectify this process?

Recovery is essential. The body needs to heal. If we break a leg, we know that it has to go into a cast and no weight must be applied for a period. However, when we’ve unwittingly abused our organs, we for some reason don’t always apply the same principle.

Free stock image
Free stock image

Read any health books and the dictum “you are what you eat” rings true. To rectify the radical effect on the body, it is usually necessary to avoid or greatly curb the initial offence and other undesirable substances. One simply has to enter a period of weaning oneself off all sorts of things that have become an addiction or resulted in an allergic reaction. Think of all those substances to which you respond, “I can give up anything but not my….” (= addiction). This doesn’t only apply to what we choose to eat, drink, or sniff.

For the body to recover, it would also need much larger amounts of minerals and vitamins than what is necessary as a maintenance dose.

What happens once you have recovered? (note: this could take years – or sometimes never fully, depending on the damage done). Well, you are then effectively back to Phase 1 – a healthy body. However, since your diet and lifestyle are a lot better than before, your body may be hypersensitive and react to many things it never reacted to before. Perhaps you could tolerate a glass of red wine before, but now the sulfites in certain wines trigger a response. This is a good thing – it’s healthy. Just as the first response, your body is telling you what gels with you and what does not. The more you follow these guidelines, the healthier you should become. Once you’ve regained your strength, you may find that now and again your body can tolerate the odd offending substance without such an extreme hypersensitive reaction. But hopefully, you would have suffered enough in the past that you avoid such bad habits altogether.

Most of us religiously service our vehicles regularly. We may even diarise the next service due date way in advance, or you may have a car that flashes “service due” until you see to its “needs”. Perhaps it’s time to view the most important “vehicle” you have in the same light and become more in tune with those subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle warnings that you innately receive from within.

I leave you with two questions – if you could change anything in your lifestyle to enable you to function more optimally, what would it be? And, what are you waiting for?

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is for informational purposes only. No material contained herein is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment before undertaking a new health care regime, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

AFFILIATE DISCLOSURE: When you purchase something via an advert link in this article, I may receive an affiliate commission; these are my opinions and are not representative of the companies that create these products; my reviews are based on my own personal experience and research; I never recommend poor quality products, or create false reviews to make sales; it is my intention to explain products so you can make an informed decision on which ones suit your needs best.

Authored by Delilah Nosworthy

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


4 Responses

  1. I enjoyed this. Took me back to my days as a Reflexologist. I used to tell people that a quarter of our bones are located in our feet. Makes sense to look after those quite specifically too.

    We are what we eat, indeed, but I also believe a healthy body is one that can tolerate a little indulgence too!

  2. As a fellow sporty nerd, I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say here, Delilah. Thought-provoking for anybody who is serious about their health and trying to better understand why some diets work for some people but not for others.
    I especially love the comparison of motor vehicle service intervals being displayed to the driver – The body is like an engine and a simple equation of what you put in will determine the performance you get out.
    Thanks again for the great article. Its very well written and challenges the reader to think and apply the information to their own circumstances.

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