Do you remember the occasional chemistry lesson from school where you had to mix two or more chemicals together to create something new? It used to involve heating over a bunsen burner, mixing or filtering…or possibly all three, perhaps even some other actions?...and quite often involved a potty teacher.
At the time it didn’t seem to be of any importance to many of us as we would never use any of it again (wait, haven’t you ever made chocolate cake…or fudge…or…ok, perhaps not quite the same!). If you are like me you probably went home and managed to forget about most of it pretty quickly with just a minor(?) panic when exam time came around.
Well this is where it comes home to roost, sort of. When preparing to write this article I stopped to look up how many chemical reactions take place inside each and every one of us on a daily basis but even Wikipedia didn't have an answer for that one! By digging a little deeper (well, looking at the top search results) the outcome was simply mind boggling. It is actually hundreds of billions or more per day. This is largely down to the vast number of cells that make us what we are and the fact that they just seem to be in love with test tubes and bunsen burners!
On the larger scale we have to produce hormones (around 50 different types), enzymes (an estimated 75,000 types!!!) and neuro-transmitters (a paltry 10 primary ones but a total of 30 to 100 depending upon how you define them) to name only a few. In order to keep this process going and to provide the energy required to drive the processes we have to take in fresh resources on a regular basis mostly through the usually pleasurable process of eating and drinking. These materials provide nearly all of the necessary building blocks for the chemical reactions that occur inside us.
Let's try that again. When you think about it, it's a lot like one of these...a chemical plant. A complex plant that produces many different types of products simultaneously as does this one has similar requirements to the human body. It needs a regular supply of pure high quality input materials and a source of energy in order to drive all of the processes that are taking place. The reactions that occur within its various tanks, chambers etc not only produce a commercially the desired end result but also lots of unwanted and often unusable by-products. The plant has to be designed so they can be extracted from the system and eliminated somehow. Imagine how quickly the plant would come to a grinding halt and the type of potentially catastrophic results that could ensue if either the wrong materials were fed into it or the equipment used to extract the unwanted by-prodcuts failed. All of the carefully balanced internal procedures that combine the input products together at the right times in the right sequence would soon go completely awry.
I guess that by now you have twigged as to where I am going with this. The food and drink we take into our bodies is directly analogous to the chemical plant above. There are specific elements, minerals, compounds etc. that we simply must take in on a regular basis so that our bodies are able to keep all of those cells functioning correctly and to create the required amounts hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters etc. that it needs to keep our bodies running within its tolerance limits.
To be honest there is a probably a whole book that could be written from this basic outline but for now I have to keep it short and simple. If you don't put in sufficient types of the right quantity of food then there will be a lack of some essential product within the body, for arguments sake let's say its a hormone. If the body detects a shortage of a hormone in one part of the body then one option option is try and divert some away from elsewhere where it is less important. In many cases this can't be done because the chemicals are frequently created close to where they are required and there is no mechanism for moving them around the body. A second option is to accept the shortage and ration what is available whilst a third is to use what is there at the normal rate and then accept the consequences of the shortage, whatever those may be.
The body has a very efficient system for collecting and eliminating waste by-products as well as rejecting useless input material but these too can become overwhelmed. Even if there is too much of an essential item in the what we eat then the body frequently has no way of storing it in case of a future shortage (fat is an obvious exception to this rule!) and so the excess is eliminated. In certain cases the body has no way at all of eliminating an unwanted compound or element from the body because it simply wasn't designed to expect them as an input. Mercury poisoning is an example of this but there are many others.
The result of all of this is that over time something, somewhere, in the body will start to fail if a severe imbalance is allowed to continue. The stress on individual glands and other organs will lead to one or more of a wide range of conditions that we generically call 'illness'. They go by names such as diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, high/low blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancers, anaemia to name but a few.
When you start to think of it from this perspective you will, perhaps, begin to get a better view of why our whole approach to food matters. It's not to for me to say what you should or should not eat. My aim here is to get you thinking more about what you eat, why you eat it and what it contains. When it comes to weight management your mindset is very important whether it is down to simply maintaining motivation, getting help with some of the issues that willpower alone cannot handle or simply help determining how to bring it all under control.
If you would like to find out how to get your mindset working for rather than against you then CLICK HERE.