One of the most commonly used phrases related to health and healthy eating is: “you are what you eat”. This obviously refers to the fact that our tissues are made from the food we consume on a daily basis. However, this phrase is a bit simplistic. After thinking about this concept for a while, I realized that we are a lot more than what we eat. Because of this, we need to consider some other factors beyond just what we eat in order to really gauge what we are made of. OK, so besides what you eat, what are you? Here’s a list for you:
1) You are what you eat
2) You are what you digest
3) You are what you absorb
4) You are what your environment contains
5) You are what you do not detoxify
6) You are…the result of 1-5
These may be self-explanatory, but I’ll expand on them a bit.
Number one mentioned above is obvious. This relates to the foods (and things referred to as “food”) we choose to eat/drink on a daily basis. This is a no-brainer and what we all refer to when using the phrase, “you are what you eat”.
Number two begins in the mouth. Well, it can be argued that actually seeing food is when digestion begins, but I won’t go into that. Digestion begins chemically and mechanically in the mouth. Chemically-speaking, we need to have a salivary pH of about 7.2-7.4 in order for our salivary enzymes to begin processing and digesting food. I have seen different pH ranges mentioned, but I generally find that my patients do well with a salivary pH between 7.2-7.4. Salivary amylase is a starch-digesting enzyme, so it’s especially important when eating starchy vegetables. I hope you don’t consume too many starches from grains. The other step involving digestion in the mouth is chewing. If you don’t chew your food well, the digestive acids and enzymes won’t be as effective as they should be in breaking down food, and you’ll surely miss out on some of the nutrients in the food. By the way, it’s probably more important to chew your plant-based foods, because humans don’t have the enzyme cellulase in order to break down fiber.
In addition to the digestive processes that take place in the mouth; you’ll need sufficient hydrochloric acid in your stomach to break down proteins, and sufficient pancreatic enzymes to help with protein, fat, and carbohydrate digestion. Also, a properly functioning gallbladder is necessary to fully break down fats.
Number three has to do with (mainly) your small intestine’s ability to absorb food. There are small hair-like projections that line the small intestine called villi. These increase the surface area in the small intestine in order to be able to absorb more nutrients. A common hypothesis is that these villi can get clogged up with impacted matter. This is thought to be due to eating processed food, and not eliminating very well. The bottom line is that if the villi are clogged up, you won’t be absorbing everything that you are eating. Additionally, the “glue” that holds the cells in the small intestine together can get damaged resulting in leaky gut syndrome. When this occurs, you absorb too much. And you won’t want to be absorbing some of those things.
Number four refers to the chemicals in the environment that we are exposed to on a daily basis. This goes for everyone, but if you live in a major metropolitan area, you’ll most likely be more at risk.
Number five does relates to what we eat and the environmental chemicals we encounter. If your detoxification pathways aren’t running as smoothly as possible, you can be sure that “you are” a lot of toxins no matter what you eat. Additionally, if your digestive function isn’t up to par, then you may also be “made of” the food that sits in your small intestines and clogs up those villi mentioned in number three. There are five major detoxification pathways that need to work effectively for optimal detox. They are the liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and colon. Making sure that these pathways are capable of dealing with the toxins of every day life in the modern world will go a long way in making sure that “you are not the toxins you encounter”.
So in conclusion, we are quite a bit more than what we eat. We are the result of the how our body’s respond to what we encounter on a day-to-day basis. This includes the (digested and absorbed) food we eat, the toxins we are exposed to, and whatever our body doesn’t let go of (whether those substances are helpful or harmful). Starting with a healthy diet is a great way to get all of those steps in order, but chances are you may need some more assistance (e.g.: supplements, specific diet(s)/food choices, detoxification methods, etc.) when building a better you; at least in the beginning.
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology