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What makes you healthy, and what makes you ill
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Your body is a highly interconnected system of living organs, each of which serves the whole while relying on the others. Your brain is a computer, your heart a pump, your lungs an air filter and your nervous system a communications network.
All are made up of cells, which need water, oxygen, glucose and minerals to survive. These four life necessities are delivered to your cells by the blood that flows around your body, flowing down a series of tubes. The blood collects waste products and dead cells that have broken down, and delivers them to the organs responsible for generating waste.
Your body is a very old design. We think of cars being old at 10 years and houses at 100. Your body was designed millions of years ago. The design brief for your body was to equip you as a hunter gatherer, who would go for periods between meals. We are omnivores designed to eat meat or plants, a function of needing to be adaptable to the foods available.
Your body is designed to operate in two modes, on and off. These maximise the performance of extrinsic activities (moving, self-preservation, getting food, etc.) in the ‘on’ mode, and intrinsic activities (digestion, sleep, repair, etc.) in the ‘off’ mode.
The on mode is all about escaping predators. The body concentrates its resources on the things that matter. Moving quickly, responding quickly. Surviving. During this on mode, or ‘fight or flight’, some of the normal maintenance tasks that your body needs are put on hold. Your body can do this for short periods, but not on a sustained basis without causing harm.
The off mode is vitally important to your health. In this mode, your body recuperates, restores, digests and nourishes. Sleep is used to restore mental and physical balance. If you don’t get enough of the ‘off’ mode in your lifestyle, you will build up trouble. Burn out can happen when the off mode is neglected for too long.
So let’s turn to the topic of disease. We will ignore infectious diseases, which are not your fault, and concentrate on the category of disease which is now the biggest killer in the western world. 95% of disease in the western world can be prevented with good diet and lifestyle choices.
Your body is designed to extract its fuel and nutrients from the food you eat. The diet it is designed to process was the diet of our ancestors, high in fibre, plant based with some meat, and low in saturated fats.
The human body in theory is designed to live for 90-100 years if it is treated well. Just like a well-treated and well maintained car, the more you look after it, the more likely it is to continue to give you good service.
So the question becomes, have you read the operator manual for your body? Like you car, do you get your body serviced every year?
Or do you lead a busy life with little time to think, rest, plan and think.
So let’s understand what causes ill health.
Simply put, the wrong type of foods cause the immune system of your body to go on the defensive. It tries to protect you, but you find yourself in ‘on mode’ while it does it. This is not sustainable. Go too far, and your cells cannot tolerate excessive violation, and will begin to degrade.
What are the bad foods? Well there are simple rules you can follow, and more detailed instructions if you really want to take control of your diet. A good starting point is to avoid anything that has a list of ingredients. If that is not possible, choose products with five or less ingredients.
Processed foods should be avoided, as should added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Sugar is hidden in many foods. You wouldn’t sprinkle sugar over your savoury meal would you? Well if you use ketchup, that is exactly what you are doing. Offer breakfast cereal to kids, and the portion they consume will often have their entire daily sugar allowance in it. A simple rule is for every 50g carbohydrates listed on the food label there should be 10g fibre. The less fibre there is as compared to carbs, the unhealthier the cereal/snack.
Off mode: revisited
And now, lets turn back to the off mode.
Good diet and a structured exercise plan is not enough. There are things in your life that trigger the ‘on’ mode that you may not be aware of. Smartphones beeping at you as you lie in bed at night triggers the ‘on’ mode. Your body’s stress response is activated in the same way as if you were being chased by a tiger. You need to slow your brain down and allow your body to enter a state that facilitates relaxation and repair.
We have kept this guide short and used plain English. We have designed this web site to be your access point. Our resources page opens up more information for you to access, to further your learning. We have collected things from others that we think explain how your body works and how to look after it.
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