In spite of all the information and all the prescriptions offered by modern diets, people just keep getting fatter. This suggests that our knowledge about metabolism is missing something — perhaps some of the old wisdom that kept hundreds of generations of people slender and strong.
Of course, having access to modern scientific knowledge is enormously helpful too. The key lies in integrating these two bodies of wisdom, and then applying them to get a better understanding of our entire physiological landscape.
1. Level of Toxicity
If you are like most people, you probably haven’t spent much time thinking about how many toxins you’re absorbing from your car upholstery or your Mountain Dew. But toxicity is a definite danger from some surprising sources, and it can wreak havoc on your health.
Many toxins like bromines are common endocrine disruptors, and are part of the halide family, a group of elements that includes fluorine and chlorine. What makes them so dangerous for our metabolism is that they compete for the same receptors that are used to capture iodine.
In our everday world, these toxins are found in pesticides, plastics, bakery goods (dough conditioners), soft drinks, medications, fire retardants and many other commericial products.
Eat organic as often as possible. Wash all produce thoroughly. This will minimize your pesticide exposure. Avoid eating or drinking from (or storing food and water in) plastic containers. Use glass and safe ceramic vessels. Look for the “no bromine” or “bromine-free” label on commercial baked goods. Avoid sodas. Drink natural, filtered water instead. Look for personal care products that are as chemical-free as possible. Remember — anything going on you, goes in you. When in a car or a building, open windows as often as possible, preferably on opposing sides of the space for cross ventilation.
2. Diet and Nutrition
Food supplies us with nutrients that are critical for healthy metabolism, and for health in general. Vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids and probiotics are all essential nutrients, many of which cannot be produced by the body and must therefore be ingested from an outside source. Missing even one essential nutrient from your diet could have an effect on your metabolism and overall health, so it’s important to understand how they work.
Minerals (such as calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc) are critical for all tissue structures, including bones, skin and hair. They also play vital roles as electrolytes, which regulate the body’s electrical charge. That electrical charge is necessary for all cellular metabolic functions, but especially for the assimilation of nutrients and the elimination of toxins.
Proper mineral balance helps moderate our body’s sodium levels, preventing water-retention, inflammations and bloating. It also maintains our body’s proper acid/alkaline balance (overacidity leads to sluggish metabolism and makes the body more vulnerable to infection and disease). Minerals even help protect the body from radioactive toxins to some extent.
Because mineral deficiencies are related to serious metabolic problems (with symptoms such as indigestion, headaches, nervousness, depression, exhaustion and impotence), it is wise to eat plenty of mineral-rich foods, including fruits and vegetables grown in mineral-rich soil, as well as seafood and especially sea vegetables.
Proteins – and the essential amino acids they contain are the body’s chief building material. Adequate protein is absolutely necessary for healthy metabolism. However, to be useful, it must be properly digested and assimilated by the body (we’ll address this point in more detail later).
Good sources of complete protein (protein that includes all nine essential amino acids) are animal foods such as chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, fish and seafood. In times of short meat supply, ancient people traditionally used the combination of grain and legumes (such as rice and beans) to produce a complete-protein meal. All through the Roman Empire, in fact, beans were considered to be the “poor man’s meat” and were also the gladiators’ main food.
5. Essential Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and omega-6 are vital for all bodily functions, and particularly important as building blocks for prostaglandins (hormones that regulate blood pressure, control inflammation and pain and support energy production, including fat burning).
EFA deficiency may cause insulin insensitivity, which negatively affects the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. Many nutritionists recommend eating fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna and mackerel) as a natural source of EFAs. However, that recommendation tends to ignore the fact that most cooking methods (including frying, poaching and baking) destroy most or all of the fish’s sensitive oils. Taking supplemental EFA oils (such as flaxseed and primrose) is therefore highly recommended.
Probiotics, such as lactobacilli, are the friendly flora (i.e., bacteria) that live in your intestines. They assist with digestion and, at the same time, inhibit all sorts of dangerous, unfriendly organisms that would otherwise take over your digestive tract.
Probiotics help digest proteins. They also neutralize toxins in the colon. When protein isn’t fully digested, it may reach the colon and bloodstream in a toxic form. When that happens, metabolism is compromised. Allergic reactions, irritable bowel symptoms and other pathological complications can result.
Naturally fermented foods (such as yogurts with acidophilus) are a good source of friendly bacteria. Probiotic supplements are another option.