Are You What You Eat?
by Benedict Freudenmann
You need nutrients to survive. They’re the building blocks of all matter within your body. However no other topic on earth seems to have as much controversy as nutrient intake (your diet). It’s complex, it’s messy and no one seems to have all the answers.
A nutrient deficiency is when the body is lacking in one or a group of nutrients. The major nutrient groups are macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats and protein; and micronutrients – our 13 vitamins, 16 different minerals and over 8000 pholyphenols. We immediately associate deficiencies with our diet and the food we eat, yet what we eat is only a small piece of the puzzle.
You Are What You Eat
What you put in your mouth will affect your nutritional status. If you eat a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and polyphenols, your body has the potential to function optimally. The same applies in reverse. If you feed your body junk, your body only has the potential to become junk. What distinguishes good food from junk is that it’s REAL WHOLE food and not heavily processed!
You Are What You Absorb
The food you eat relies on your digestion to break down and absorb nutrients into your body. Most nutrients are a series of small components chemically bonded together. The bond holding them together must be broken to allow absorption into the body. For this we need a properly functioning digestive system – chewing, stomach acid, bile acid production, enzyme function, motility and even the bacteria living in our gut. It’s possible to experience nutrient deficiencies even if you’re eating the right food.
“What you put in your mouth will affect your nutritional status.”
You Are What You Demand
Your demand for nutrients changes for many reasons, such as age and exercise. Elderly people have higher requirements to maintain vitamin D levels and athletes need more electrolytes to combat dehydration. A bacterial or viral infection will increase your demand on nutrients such as zinc, selenium and vitamin C. Stress is one of the most potent causes of increased nutrient demand. When stressed, you burn through a range of amino acids (proteins), vitamins and minerals. Magnesium and water-soluble vitamins such as B vitamins can be quickly depleted.
You Are What You Metabolise
Your body completes a complex series of chemical reactions which modify and adapt the nutrients to perform specific tasks. If you have a genetic abnormality in your DNA, you might not be able to complete these tasks, leading to pseudo deficiency where your body can’t use what it has. These genetic abnormalities are best investigated with a Nutrigenomic test.
You Are What You Excrete
You eliminate waste via your digestive and urinary systems, through skin and via lungs. When more is going out than coming in we see deficiencies. For example, patients with kidney disease may excrete more potassium, phosphate, calcium and bicarbonate. The most common cause is persistent long-term diarrhea, which leads to a massive loss of nutrients.
Deficiencies can be at the root cause of any disease or condition because they’re required for all biological functions. Even psychological diseases such as depression and anxiety can be caused or worsened by nutrient deficiencies. Due to the complexity of nutrient deficiency, seeking the help of a health professional in the field is always advisable. ■
Benedict is a clinical nutritionist who practices at www.learntonourish.com in Hobart.