With the rise of many diseases such as diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases, healthcare has reached saturation point where hospitals and those in the medical field are no longer able to cope with the workload (1). GP clinics are filled with leaflets and videos encouraging us to take some responsibility for our health to prevent disease and the media is constantly giving news on health but with so much information, it can be difficult to know how to start. By understanding how our body works, we can have a better idea what we can do. Here we share some ideas to help you start your journey to empower your health. This is the first of three short articles on diet, lifestyle and health
Our bodies are so complex that it’s usually not just one or two factors that lead to a health condition. It can be a myriad of causes over a number of years that can result in symptoms. With the age of information technology, we have more knowledge about health at our fingertips. However, it is vital that information comes from valid sources such as primary research papers or established groups such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or The National Institute of Healthcare and Excellence in addition to professional guidance and recommendations.
Digestion in a Nutshell
The food we eat is broken down to smaller pieces as it travels through to our gut which is about 7 metres long and is where most of our food is digested and absorbed into our blood stream so that the nutrients from foods can feed all of our cells and keep our body systems healthy such as our immune system or cardiovascular system.
Food Propels Cells
There are an estimated 37 trillion cells in the body (2). To function effectively they require a variety of different nutrients depending on which type of cells they are. Cell types include nerve, muscle, skin, eye, hair, tongue, saliva, gut, kidney, adrenal, immune cells, the list is endless and are all part of who you are. You need just the right nutrients to make say, your eye cells function optimally so you see well. Despite what our bodies are subjected to, it is extremely good at adapting and keeping all the body systems in balance, however, sometimes one or many of these systems can become unbalanced and can lead to health issues.
A Day in the Life of a Cell in our Bodies
Each cell has a set life span ranging from days to months depending on what type of cell it is. Throughout its lifetime it may experience stress from pollutants, infections, physical trauma, psychological stress and inadequate diet to name a few. The memory of these experiences passes on to the next cell resulting in general life wear and tear over the years.
How Does this Affect Me?
There are 1000s of studies on diet and lifestyle factors that can impact our health, however, here we will take a look at just one of our every day food choices that may impact health. The WHO report that there are over 1000 pesticides used globally for food and that each pesticide has a degree of toxicity (3). A review of several studies on pesticides and health effects concluded that there was significant evidence to show that pesticides may have dermatologic, neurologic, reproductive and genotoxic effects (4). With ample studies to support the potential adverse effects of pesticides and the potential benefits of organic food consumption, The Soil Association’s Organic Market Report 2018 reveal that the UK has now the highest level of sales of organic produce in 6 years and is continuing to grow (5).
How Do I Make a Start?
“The dirty dozen and the clean fifteen” is a well-known list of fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticide residues (6), however, this list was based on US studies compiled by the Environmental Working Group. The Pesticide Action Network published a report in 2013 giving a list of 12 worst and best foods with pesticide residue levels that can be bought in the UK (7).
What Choices Will You Make for Your Health Today?
- Choose a variety of vegetables to provide your body with a variety of nutrients to help all the different biochemical reactions and tissues in the body.
- Choose organic when you can especially if eating raw fruits and vegetables.
- Check your local businesses to see if they provide delivered seasonal organic vegetables to make shopping easier.
- Check out the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy to find your local nutritional therapist to help you with an individualised recommendation for your health (8).
The next article will look at the roles of different food groups, so you start to see the incredible mechanics of the body that work to keep us healthy and happy, followed by a third article on stress and health.