Last week I wrote about the tremendous jump in average human life expectancy that occurred just in the last 200 years. It went from 30-something to 70-something. The thing is, this change was almost entirely due to a reduction in child mortality. If we compare people who survived childhood several hundred years ago to adults today, there hasn’t been much improvement in how long we can expect to live. Now that we’ve diminished the risk of dying as a child – due mostly to better hygiene, medicine, and safety – it’s time to focus on what we can do to help adults live longer. Especially because we’ve got a hell of a lot of aging baby boomers.
One of the most valuable things we can do to improve our lifespan is to eat better. There are certain natural limits on human tissue, such as the number of times a cell can divide, but it’s possible to get more life out of this vehicle by treating it well. You know this is true of your car – if you drive it hard and put crappy gas into it, you’re going to run into problems sooner – so it shouldn’t be hard to understand that this pertains to bodies also.
Nutrition is about a lot more than fuel quality. The way the fuel is introduced (how frequent, how much, what time, whether it’s warm or cold, etc.) and the functionality of the fuel processing mechanisms (digestive membranes and muscles, secretion of gastric juices, gut flora, etc.) can make a huge difference in our health. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have thrown up after drinking a shot of wheat grass juice or a handful of vitamins. High octane fuel isn’t everything.
Engines don’t do well with cold gasoline or oil, and they don’t like being flooded either. In the same way, our bodies do best with food that’s prepped a bit before it enters the stomach, and the food should be introduced at a rate and quantity the body can keep up with.
Cold food and drink aren’t great for the digestive organs. Twelve years ago, I met a beautiful woman at a spa where we both worked, and one day she told me that for years she had suffered from digestive upset. Without a chance to do any investigating, I asked her, “Do you drink cold things?” and she confirmed that she did. I advised her to stop, not really expecting it to be a solution, but hoping it might help. A few weeks later she reported that ever since cutting out cold drinks, her digestive upset was completely gone. A couple years later, we got married. Need I say more?
So, fuel prep step one is to make sure most of your fuel is room temperature or warmer. A bit of cold stuff here and there is ok, especially when the engine is already warm (i.e., in warm climates). Second, most of your fuel should be cooked. Your body assimilates cooked food better than raw. This varies somewhat, based on how strong your digestion is and what your climate is like. Stronger people can handle more raw food, as can those who live in warm places. Winter is a good time for cooked food.
We all have a built in fuel conditioner, AKA “mouth,” and it’s worth taking full advantage of it. The mouth part of digestion is often undervalued. It does so much: It warms food up. It pulverizes food into a tiny bits that will be easy for the stomach and intestines to work with. It moistens dry food by mixing it with saliva. It exposes food to antibodies and enzymes that help kill bacteria that may be present. And it introduces enzymes that break down starches and fats. If we don’t chew much, we miss out on these vital elements of the digestive process.
So, step three of the fuel prep process is to chew everything thoroughly. It’s important to do this with liquids, too, like juices and smoothies, which are otherwise easy to dump directly into the throat, skipping the mouth part entirely. Also, don’t talk while you’re chewing. Besides disappointing your mother and ruining your chances if you’re on a date, it makes you swallow air, and most gas comes from swallowed air. Really get into chewing and savoring. The stomach can’t savor, so if you like the way your food tastes, let it hang out for longer in your mouth.
I’ll cover more on vehicle maintenance next week, but rather than give you too much to digest at this point, your homework is just to focus on these three easy steps of fuel preparation.
Dr. Peter Borten