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The Role Of Food In Your Health

Why is the food that we eat so important for good health?

It is widely accepted that a small tablet containing the right ingredients can have huge effects on the body, either beneficial or harmful depending on how it is taken. When administered correctly, this very small, concentrated source of chemicals in the right proportions, can relieve pain, destroy bacteria, reduce cholesterol, alter blood pressure, increase metabolism, or reduce allergic reaction and we accept that these concentrated doses of chemicals can influence our health and wellbeing, sometimes quite dramatically.

However, the largest amount of chemicals that we put into our body on a daily basis comes from our food, but less recognition is given to the effect that these choices can have on our wellbeing. Our food contains complex combinations of vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, sugars, enzymes, bacteria, alcohol, and other substances, all of which interact with the systems in our body to create different effects.  It is no coincidence that as the UK diet has changed considerably over the last 50 years, so has the pattern of disease, such that Type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer are amongst the biggest threats to health in this country. Similarly, food allergies and intolerances were virtually unheard of in the war time years, but now, whole aisles of the supermarket are devoted to foods suitable for allergy sufferers. 

Specialist in Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine
Specialist in Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine

Can't the body use any foods to meet its needs?

The body has a great ability to be resourceful with the nutrients that it receives,  and an immeasurable capacity to compensate during times of poor food supply, famine or when presented with foods of low nutritional value. However, it can only do this for a limited length of time before things start to go wrong. Many of us form our dietary habits from being very young, and we stick to similar patterns of eating throughout our lives. If our habitual diet is lacking in the nutrients needed for vital processes, eventually we will start to notice symptoms of ill health. Most of the time these symptoms are just annoying things that we learn to live with such as headaches, joint pain, tiredness, dry skin, constipation, low mood, and we become accustomed to them. Sometimes, these symptoms develop into more debilitating illnesses over time, but often we assume these are just part of life.

There will always be serious illnesses where genetics and other factors play a significant part in their progression, and changes in diet only offer small influences, but sometimes we can manage the symptoms of these conditions by making some very simple changes to the food and lifestyle choices that we make. Have you noticed how some of the conditions that you have learned to live with, appear to have 'good days'and 'bad days' but for no apparent reason? Outside influences can affect these things to some extent (weather, stress, environment etc.) but the other major influencing factor can be your diet, which can have a significant effect on inflammation, immune response, sensitivity to pain, hormone production, vascular response and mood. 

How Can Food Act Like A Medicine?

Many of the common drugs that are used today were originally developed from natural substances that were found to have a significant effect on certain symptoms. Aspirin, for example was originally created from willow bark, and it was discovered that the active ingredient that was responsible for the anti-inflammatory effect, was something called salicylic acid. It is known that many fruits and vegetables are also rich in salicylic acid, such as olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, blackberries and blueberries and it is thought that this may be one of the reasons why a diet high in fruits and vegetables can have a significant anti-inflammatory effect on the body. A synthetic version of aspirin is now produced, but synthetic forms of a natural substance often carry additional side-effects with them, which is why many people prefer to take a natural approach that involves choosing a diet rich in nutrients to meet their health needs. The difficulty is that many people do not know which nutrients they need, and in which foods they can be found. This is where Nutritional Therapy can help.

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