Holistic Medicine ( Part 1 ) –Introduction and Definitions
Naturopathic practitioners and other holistic therapists recognize that, if you provide the body with the right physical and psychological conditions, it will be better equipped to heal itself. This is a most important point. It is a fundamental tenet of naturopathic medicine that the body is a very powerful self-regenerating organism.
The human body possesses all the necessary systems for regeneration, rejuvenation and rebuilding. It also has an extremely efficient immune system, which is capable of fending off the most damaging invaders.
If this is the case, why is there such a thing as disease? The very word disease means that the body is in a state of dis – ease. It is in this condition because it is not being provided with the optimal conditions that it must have to maintain itself in a healthy condition. Unless the body is provided with the right conditions, both mentally physically, and spiritually, it cannot and will not function at its optimal level.
The triangle of Mind, Body and Spirit as represented in Figure1. 1 represents the three inseparable components of our being and wellness. None of these factors can be individually affected with out there being an effect on the other two. In the same line of thought, you can not treat one without due consideration of the effect upon the other two. It is, however, fair to say that at a given time it may be appropriate to devote more attention to one area, rather than another.
Our body as an organism always seeks to return itself to a given position nof balance between every aspect of it s complex structure and behavior –this behavioral tendency is known as homeostasis. Good health is about good balance between mind, body, and spirit; just as homeostasis with in the organism is about good balance.
This article is about Nutrition and we are going to be predominantly concerned with the “how’ s and whys” of providing the human body with the right fuels so that it can remain healthy or is enabled to return to a state of health.
What do we mean by “nutrition” ?
Nutrition is the science that studies the process by which living organisms acquire all the things that are necessary for them to live and grow. Nutrition focuses on the role of nutrients, which are defined as substances that the body can not make on its own and include things like vitamins, minerals, and certain macro molecules.
In essence, nutrition consists of: DIET
DIET = the food stuffs that one takes into one’s body METABOLISM = what happens to it, and what chemical changes occur after it enters one’s body.
What must be provided for successful human nutrition?
In order to survive successfully the human body requires, and the human diet MUST provide, the following:
Calories Enough to meet our daily energy needs.
Aminoacids There are 10″essential”out of 20 amino acids that humans need for protein synthesis and that we cannot synthesize from other precursors**.
Fatty acids There are three “essential” fatty acids that we can not synthesize from other precursors.
Minerals These are inorganic ions. The human body needs 18 different ones: a few, like calcium, are required in relatively large amounts; most, like zinc, in “trace” amounts.
Vitamins There are some small organic molecules that we cannot synthesize from other precursors in our diet.
[NOTE: Each of these essentials is discussed in detail later in the article. At the moment we are only introducing them to you.]
[**a precursor is a substance from which other substances are formed.]
It’s easy to get confused about calories and kilo calories since, in a nutrition context, values are actually given for the number of kilo calories in a food, but referred to simply as calories. Figure 1.2 shows how nutrition information is typically displayed on products.
More precisely in scientific terms:
1000 calories =1 kilocalorie =1 kcal = the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1kg of water by1°C.
In nutritional terms, that is to say in terms of the information normally found on food packaging, calories =kilocalories and the terms are used interchangeably.
Food energy can also measured in kilojoules mostly by the scientific community. However, some food packaging also gives kilo joule (kJ) values thus:
1 kilocalorie = 4.2kilojoules.
The dual use of kilojoules and kilocalories can be seen in Figure1.2 above
To sum up, a calorie is not an “object” or “thing”, it is a precise unit of energy. To repeat, it is the energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1kg of waterby1°C.
Some times the word energy is misused – energy (be it mechanical, potential, electrical, chemical, or thermal) maybe described as “the ability to do work”. In the human body it is the ability to move bone and muscle in order to walk, pump blood, breathe in and out etc.
Amino acids play a central role both as building blocks of protein and as intermediates in metabolism. Metabolism is the chemical reactions that occur in the body’s cells and convert the fuel from food into the energy needed to do every thing from moving to thinking to growing.
Humans are capable of producing10 of the 20 amino acids. The others must be supplied in the food. Failure to obtain a sufficient quantity of even 1of the10essential amino acids; that is to say those that we can not make, will result in the degradation of the body’s proteins to obtain the one amino acid that is needed.
This means that the body will attempt to find and consume it internally and this is not a heal thy situation. Unlike fat and starch, the human body does not store excess amino acids for later use —the amino acids must be contained in the food consumed every day.
The 10 amino acids that we can produce are:
- aspartic acid
- glutamic acid
Tyrosine is produced from phenylalanine, so if the diet is deficient in phenylalanine, tyrosine will be required as well.
The essential amino acids are:
- arginine (required for the young, but not for adults)
These essential amino acids are required in the diet. Plants, of course, must be able to make all of the amino acids. Humans, on the other hand, are not capable of making the ten essential amino acids– they must be acquire daspart of the body’s nutritional process.
A fatty acid is a carboxylic acid. A Carboxylic acid is a chemical compound containing a –COOH group. Figure 1.3showsthree typical carboxylic chemical compounds.
C= Carbon: O= Oxygen:H= Hydrogen
Essential fatty acids(or EFAs) are fatty acids that humans and other animals must ingest because the body requires them for good health but can not synthesize them. The term “essential fatty acid” refers to fatty acids are required for biological processes, and not those that only act as fuel.