Weight management is an ongoing issue for the health care profession worldwide. Today’s fast paced lifestyle needs plenty of discipline to keep digestive patterns functioning properly. Fast foods, eating on the run, eating too quickly, missing meals, foods with poor nutritive value and processed foods with chemical additives are just some of the factors keeping our digestive processes under attack. The staggering fact is that up to 56% of people in the developed world are overweight and this figure is growing yearly. Being overweight not only brings health risks but can make everyday activities difficult. Weight management and health can be achieved through some simple and specific life style changes including proper diet, a correct exercise regime and, most importantly, being able to identify patterns of digestive disharmony/stress before they arise.
Three areas that have a big say in digestive harmony/health are the liver, the gut, and Ph values.
The Liver’s main function is to ensure the smooth flow of energy assisting the Stomach and Spleen’s digestive processes. If liver energy flows smoothly then the stomach can complete its function of ripening and rotting or composting the food. The spleen can then extract the pure food energy. If the liver’s function is impaired it may invade the Stomach causing belching, sour regurgitation, nausea, and vomiting. A classic example of this happening is when the body ingests too much alcohol. If the liver invades the spleen’s function of transformation and transportation of food essence then this results in loose stools, flatulence and diarrhoea, which happens when the body has been overloaded with too much rich food. Behind the saying “you are what you eat” lies the liver, so a healthy functioning liver is important for ensuring smooth digestive processes.
Good gut health ties in with immune health, feeling good and the body’s ability in keeping the baddies at bay. In the gut, hydrochloric acid is the main Stomach acid and it is necessary to breakdown and absorb protein, activate enzymes, and absorption of carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins. The acids’ presence also assists in muscle contractions that push food through the intestines while simultaneously destroying any harmful bacteria, parasites, and other baddies that may be present. Without acid, micro-organisms can build to dangerous levels causing a huge range of gastrointestinal problems. The gut should have 85% of healthy bacteria to keep the 15% of dangerous bacteria at non harmful levels. A course of antibiotics does not differentiate between the good and bad bacteria, killing all the good and bad gut flora causing feelings of fogginess, lethargy, and as a consequence, digestive patterns of disharmony can arise after a course of antibiotics. It is important to restore the balance of gut flora after antibiotics with a course of good probiotics recommended by a health professional.
Ph values of acidity and alkalinity is another important area and one that is rarely discussed. If you swim in a pool with low or high Ph values, it would not be comfortable as the water would sting the eyes. It is the same with the body, which is 80% fluid. The Ph value is a standard measure of acid/alkaline balance, on a scale of one (extremely acid) to 14 (extremely alkaline) with seven being neutral. Most of our vital fluids and tissues should be slightly alkaline; blood for example has a slightly alkaline ph between 7.3-7.4, exactly the same as seawater, and almost all forms of internal toxicity cause a state of acidosis in the body. In turn, excessive levels of acid residues in the blood and tissues suppress immune response, interfere with normal metabolism, inhibit digestion and assimilation, promote fungal and bacterial infections, and cause a range of other malfunctions and ill health.
So how do we alkalise the system? Generally speaking most vegetables and fruits have an alkaline forming effect on the body. Most grains, animal foods, and highly processed foods have an acid forming effect. Your health is best served by a good mix of nutrient rich, alkaline and acidic forming foods. Ideally you want to eat more alkaline-forming foods than acid forming foods to have the net acid-alkaline forming effects of your diet match the slightly alkaline Ph of your blood. The following list gives us an indication of which common foods have an alkaline-forming effect and an acid forming effect.
The above list is a small example but gives a fair idea of what food groups are alkaline or acid forming within the body. If the system is acidic then weight loss becomes difficult. Many health practitioners site a surprising number and variety of physical problems and diseases they believe are caused by acidity. It is a common theme amongst health practitioners believing that the vast majority of the population in industrialised nations suffer from problems caused by acidification because both modern lifestyle and diet engenders acidity within our internal environment. Supplements such as spirulina, barley grass and wheat grass act to balance and alkalize the system.
A balanced diet combined with regular exercise should keep the body at peak performance for many years. “Health and wellbeing can be achieved only by remaining centred in spirit, guarding against the squandering of energy and promoting the constant flow of chi and blood, maintaining a harmonious balance of yin and yang, adapting to the changing seasonal and yearly macroscopic influences and nourishing one’s life preventatively. This is the way to a long and happy life.” Quote from Nei Jing the classic of internal medicine.
In summary, be gentle with your liver and gut as they may need a rest. By exercising a diet with nutrient rich alkalising foods, and keeping the gut flora active and being mindful of the quantity of acid forming foods we eat and the effect on Ph values, then weight gain will not become an issue.