Common Sense Diet

 

Alexander Liss

 

06/15/04

 

           

There are many diet systems; some of them were described even in ancient Egypt. Some of them are so restrictive that suffering they inflict is hardly justified by their alleged benefits.

The fact that there are so many of them and that there is no clear explanation, why we have to eat one way and not the other, shows that there is no definite knowledge in this area. In the same time, many of us at some point in our life realize that some correction in our diet has to be made - either we do not feel well or we do not look pretty and it is obvious that the way we eat has something to do with it.

We need some reasonable explanation how diet affects a body and diet adjustment methods.

Many of diet systems are accompanied with pseudo scientific speculations of "natural" way of eating and "natural" form of body functioning. This is usually obviously primitive - there are social and psychological factors, which have to be taken in account, there is large variety of "normal" diets and body functioning.

Here, we do not describe the "normal" way of eating and the "normal" functioning of the body; we assume that the body is a sophisticated mechanism, which sometimes slightly deviates from normal functioning, and we describe methods or returning it to some normal state (possibly different from an original normal state).

 

Classes of Factors

 

Following aspects of our life affect what and how we eat and how we could change it.

Social aspect is very important, but often forgotten. The society we live in affects what kind of food and when is available, when we could allocate time to eat, under how much stress we are (which affects our eating habits and eating needs), norms of appearance (large belly could be beautiful in some societies) etc.

Psychological aspect is no less important. An assertive, active person needs different diet than a person with depressed personality.

Importance of the state of the body is obvious - when the body is ill, it needs different diet. However, it is often forgotten that the growing body of a child should have needs different from needs of a person, whose metabolism is in a process of slowing down, etc.

Social and psychological aspects have impact even on short-term variations of functioning of digestive system, for example, gas production depends on degree of psychological stress.

To some degree, it is possible to separate influence of factors related to body, psyche and society. Here, we focus on factors related to body, but we are minded of other factors all the time.

 

Sophisticated and Efficient Mechanism

 

A comprehensive approach to diet should start with trust in our body and its ability to manage itself without our conscious meddling. A conscious interference is needed, when something is not working to our satisfaction.

We leave aside the question how reasonable is our evaluation of what is right and what is wrong with our body. In many cases, this evaluation is influenced by some strange ideas, while the observed activity of the body is quite acceptable; but this is too difficult subject to delve into.

The body deploys large resources to manage eating. Results of this management manifest themselves in our eating preferences - what to eat and when. The body digests large variety of foods at conditions varying in large range with essentially the same results. The body is good in managing homeostasis.

Low efficiency of digestive system works to advantage of this management - only small part of consumed food is actually absorbed and converted; the rest is rejected. The body masterfully selects the part to be absorbed.

In spite of all this sophistication and large dedicated resources, the body's management system sometimes does not work as well as we want. We know this from experience.

What could go wrong and what could we do about it?

There are harmful living systems (bacteria, viruses), which could interfere with workings of the body. Some harmful bacteria could live even in stomach. In addition, there are harmful components of food. They have to be dealt with. In many cases, the body needs our conscious help in this area - medication, limitation of foods types, proper cleaning and preparation of food, proper cleaning of the body. Those are discussed at length elsewhere, and we omit such discussion here.

We will focus on a case of relatively normal operation of our digestive system.

 

Digestion System as Chemical Plant

 

We could analyze normal digestion as a chemical plant. The input is a mixture of foods, delivered according to some schedule.

 Mouth crashes food and mixes it with saliva. Hence, lack of good chewing could be a cause of a problem.

Esophagus transports food to stomach, hence low peristaltic of esophagus and flushes of acid back from stomach to esophagus, because of problems with valve separating esophagus and stomach, could be a cause of a problem.

Stomach secrets juices according to a type of food it processes. Secretion of juices is not precise, especially when there is a mixture of different types of food present in the stomach. This could cause a mismatch between foods and juices and undesirable effects as gas production. Food could stay too long in the stomach and be transformed beyond "desirable" stage. This could cause undesirable effects also. For example, when sugars stay too long in the stomach they are transformed into alcohol and harmful byproducts. In general, mismatch between mixture of foods arrived into stomach and speed of their passing through the stomach and stomach's ability to manage secretion of proper juices in proper order could be a cause of the problem.

Intestine houses variety of living organisms - bacteria and yeasts, which transform food as it passes through it. The transformation depends on the ratio of different types of living organisms, types of food passing the intestine and speed of food passing through intestine. For example, yeasts produce gases during transformation of sugars. Mismatch between three factors: a) mixture of processed by stomach foods arriving in the intestine b) mixture of living organisms in the intestine and c) speed of intestine's peristaltic could be a cause of the problem.

Final processing and temporary storage of results of food processing is done in lower intestine. When the resulting mass is not removed promptly enough, harmful results of continuing food transformation and slowed peristaltic of the intestine could be a cause of a problem.

 

Rich Food

 

An unintended consequence of rich (processed) foods, which could be processed efficiently by the digestive system, is magnification of various mismatches and imbalances in the digestive system.

When a poor food, which requires a lot of processing by the digestive system to extract comparable amounts of nutrients, stays in the stomach longer than needed, this does not cause a large part of it moving to the next stage in its transformation. A long time is needed to get to this stage. When a mixture of poor foods does not match a mixture of bacteria and yeasts in intestine, this does not cause substantial discomfort, because only a small part of this mixture is actually transformed.

This could explain success of an approach to diet, where each food or drink intake has a poorly digestible food-base supplemented with rich food well mixed with this food-base.

In an alternative approach, food is taken in small portions with large intervals between (slow eating interrupted with conversations, or eating many times during a day of small portions). This increases the speed of passing of food through the system, which decreases effect of imbalances and mismatches.

Both these approaches are well complimented with adding poor liquid foods (water) between portions of food. This has additional benefit of speeding up the movement of food through stomach and intestine and reducing efficiency of extraction of nutrients, which should reduce effects of mismatch between mixture of foods and reactions of digestive system.

 

Body's Forecast System

 

We accept that we make mistakes in our every day predictions. Similar and even more so our body makes mistakes, when it manages food intake. It detects some patterns and applies yesterday patterns to today's situation. The body and its circumstances are in a process of perpetual change and the body's prognostication system is always missing a little. Sometimes, this mistake is repeated, but the body does not have tools to detect this pattern. Here, some conscious help could be appropriate.

Child's growing body often does not "understand", that it needs to eat today a little bit more, than yesterday. Parents come to the rescue seducing children to eat more.

From some point in life, metabolism gradually slows down, and the body needs a little bit less today, than it needed yesterday, but there is no one to come to the rescue and fat accumulates, where it is not needed.

The situation is dramatic, when the digestive system flips into another stable state while its management system tries to apply old patterns. Sometimes, one can observe such situation after treatment with antibiotics, which dramatically changes ratio of bacteria and yeasts in intestine. Eventually, body learns to dislike previously acceptable but currently unacceptable foods and like new foods. This takes time; conscious could help and speed up this transition.

Such dramatic change of stable state could happen without any dramatic external event. For example, natural changes in aging body at one point could result in dramatic reorganization of flora in intestine. The other example is familiar - food preferences prevalent in childhood suddenly change at some point without visible cause.

Such flips from one stable state into anther are "natural" events, and they are not handled well by body's automatic management system. This is where help of conscious is appropriate.

One could try to flip the digestive system back into a state, where it was previously or even into some new desirable state.

Various dramatic short term measures could be used at such attempts: introduction of periods of starving, removal of a particular type of products from diet, adding products without nutritional value feeding particular type of bacteria in the intestine, adding a particular type of bacteria into intestine in the form of foods with live cultures or special food supplements, etc. 

 

Intake Regulation

 

Body regulates food intake based on various criteria: level of nutrients extracted by the intestine and stored in body storage places, degree of fullness of stomach, degree of fullness of intestine, etc.

Body's reaction to stop intake is triggered with a substantial lag between the moment of intake and the moment, when its effects are "measured". If food is rich, this causes excess of food intake.

Different criteria could provide contradicting signals and the body could "vacillate" between cutting the intake and stimulating new intake. This manifests itself as unpleasant feeling during a meal.

Stretching food intake, adding poor foods to food mixture, drinking a lot during a meal mitigates these problems - it gives the body enough time to make a decision.

Drinking and snacking mitigates body's vacillation about initiation of new major food intake.

 

Dynamic of Sugars Storing

 

The body extracts sugars from the food into blood and stores them into various places. When the level of sugar in blood is low, the body extracts it from storage (with different speed from different storage places).

Low level of sugar in blood causes body to signal the need for another food intake (hunger) and high level of sugar causes body to signal the need to shut of the intake (satisfaction).

Note that at some point, sugar could be extracted into blood from food and from storage. At other point, storing could be so aggressive, that there is a shortage of sugar in blood. Usually, the body stays in such imbalanced states for relatively short period. Otherwise, this is a medical condition, which is beyond our analysis.

Level of hormone insulin in blood and sensitivity of body to it define speed of storage of sugar.

During food intake, level of insulin rises, to support transport of sugars from food to storage. Between meals its level drops and sugar is extracted from storage into blood.

Sometimes, there are some serious problems with insulin production. We do not analyze them here - they are medical cases.

We look here at a milder condition - mismatch between speed of extraction of sugar into blood and speed of its storing. This usually does not cause long-term problems, but causes discomfort at mealtime.

If a meal rapidly triggers high level of insulin, then while body is busy extracting sugar from food and storing it in fat, the level of sugar is low and there is no feeling of satisfaction. Hence, one, who wants to limit fat, has to deploy artificial means: a limit on amount of food to be consumed, large ratio of poor food, mixing food with drinks.

If the level of insulin subsides too slowly after a meal, then the level of sugar in blood drops, when intake of it from food have ended, because the body continues storing it. This causes cravings after a meal. In this case, desert makes matters worse, one would rather eat sugars first and the rest of food later that there is time for insulin level to drop, while a person is still eating.

If the level of insulin rises too slowly in the beginning of a meal, then the level of sugar in blood rises in the beginning of the meal, which triggers feeling of fullness and drops soon after, which triggers feeling of hanger and entire dynamic is confusing and uncomfortable. The solution would be in eating slowly and eating poor foods (with slow extraction of sugar). This gives time for insulin level to rise and match feeling of satisfaction with amount of consumed food.

These three cases of mismatch could be combined and these combinations define classes of deficiency in dynamic of sugars storing. This deficiency causes unpleasant feelings and often attempts of radical treatment or radical diet. However, simple means allow compensation for it.

Note that this type of deficiency could emerge with age, which makes its manifestations confusing, because they were not present before.

 

Artificial Constraints

 

There are storage places, against which the body does not discriminate, but we prefer to minimize their usage (as abdominal fat). There are different reasons, why we do not want them to be used, it could be a genuine concern based on our knowledge of health consequences of excessive fat, socially acceptable body shape, etc. In any case, this provides a challenge of designing a system of eating, where we can achieve our artificial restrictions via natural behavior of the body.

Such system usually includes an initial phase, where "excess" of stored fat is removed, and "maintenance" phase, where artificial constraints are observed, possibly at cost of some discomfort. Discomfort is a virtual assurance that a person will relapse into familiar eating habits and accumulates fat back. Hence, the system should include mitigation of such relapses. It should include also psychological and social support to compensate for discomfort.

To limit body fat, one has to reduce intake of food, from which digestive system extracts sugars (sugars are stored in body fat). These are not only products with added sugar, but also food made with grains.

On initial phase and after a relapse, one have to remove these types of food completely. Replacement for this food varies depending on taste of diet creator. Some make emphasis on fruits and vegetables (it seems that sugars in fruits and vegetables are extracted slowly and do not cause much accumulation in fat), others emphasize meats, with dairy products somewhere in between.

It is possible that different people benefit from forms of diet.

Obviously, quantity of extracted sugars not dissipated by body's activity affect how much body stores in fat. To reduce this quantity, one needs high level of physical and mental activity, high ratio of poor food in a mixture of foods, slow eating, frequent eating of small portions, mixing foods and drinks.

It is important to have a system of eating, which keeps one satisfied, otherwise relapses wipe out gains.

 

Supplements

 

Aging body or body fed with poor food, does not extract or produce sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals. It makes sense to help body with vitamins in a pill, as long the body can extract from the pill what it needs and dispose the rest.

Note that one should be careful with vitamins or minerals in the pill, which the body can't remove easily. They could accumulate and harm the body. Vitamin C is removed easily, iron can't be easily removed.

 

Need for Experimentation

 

It would be nice to enumerate different stable states of body functioning, which affects its digestion. Unfortunately, there is no such knowledge available. There are attempts to use some other classifications, as blood types, but there is not much supporting information that they could be used for this purpose.

Fortunately, such classification is not important from a practical point of view.

With exception of medical cases, where there are wrong patterns of eating for a long time, there is a previous experience of normal functioning of the body and an observation of deviation of the functioning starting at some point. We could analyze and experiment to detect what particularly have changed and what works.

There is not much could be done with diet, and it is easy to find, which change to diet leads to comfort and desirable results.

Removing particular types of food from diet allows detection, which type of food started causing discomfort, increased accumulation of fat, etc.

Varying psychological and social circumstances of meals one could detect factors affecting digestion adversely.

The first step should be removing types of food and psychological factors unacceptable to the body at this particular moment. After, through a careful experimentation, mixture of foods and psychological factors should be adjusted to comfort level.

 

Radical Changes

 

 Sometimes, our digestive system flips into a new state as a result of drinking different water, being exposed to different bacterial environment and eating new types of food, for example because of traveling. If we do not like a new stable state of our digestive system, then we could try to flip it either to a previous one or to a new less restrictive one. Flipping the state is similar to treating of an illness in an acute form - it requires radical combination of measures for a short period. There is no theory on the subject, and it is important to do this cautiously - the set of measures applied to the body should not be harmful to it.

Other times, our troubles with stomach manifest deep problems in our life manifested also in depression, social conflicts, etc. In this case, we could start with changes in lifestyle - vacation, exercise, dropping bad relationships, enjoying meal time, etc., which could flip functioning of digestive system without additional measures.

 

Affecting Cardio-Vascular System

 

            There are cases of imbalance in Cardio-Vascular System, which manifest themselves in build-up in walls of blood vessels of material, which can't escape walls into the blood stream. This increases rigidity of walls and their rupture and scarring; this causes narrowing of blood channels and creation of large blood clots, which do not dissipate fast enough.

            There is a consensus in medical community that these symptoms are correlated with high level of low-density cholesterol in the blood stream.

            High level of low-density cholesterol in the blood stream should correlate with high level of low-density cholesterol in walls of vessels. In the case of high level of low-density cholesterol in the blood stream, it stays in walls longer, before it moves back into blood stream.

While it stays there, it is oxidized and gobbled by macrophages called to remove it. For some reason, these loaded macrophages do not escape back in blood fast enough, which consequent buildup, rapture, inflammation, creation of large clots, etc.

            It is possible to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood stream through exercise and changes in diet. This reduction does not necessarily cures problems of Cardio-Vascular System, but there is a hope, that it improves this system.

            This is an example of radical changes in the diet aimed to flip the state of other systems in the body.

            To cause such flip and to maintain new state, if it is achieved, one needs to reduce drastically consumption of fats. The only fats allowed in such diet are low saturated fats of likes of olive oil.

 

Available Measures

 

            Following is a partial list of measures one could take to affect functioning of digestive system:

            Drinking large amounts of water in the morning (4 caps) to clean digestive system and reduce constipation.

            Infrequent enema to clean the system, especially in case of constipation.

            Reduction of foods made with sugar, grains, rice, potato and corn to reduce amount of extracted sugar. This should reduce stored fat and gas production.

            Reduction of foods delivering animal fat to affect cardio-vascular system.

            Consuming of probiotics (prebiotics) - source of some kinds of intestinal flora, for example Acidofilus.

            Consumption of FOS (fructo-oligosaccharides), which are not consumed by the body, but feed some useful types of intestinal bacteria.

            Not letting sugar stay long in the stomach and being converted into alcohol and toxins (allowing eating sugar rich foods only with large interval after previous food intake that these foods do not stay long in the stomach).

            Mixing rich foods with poor foods and mixing them with drinks of various liquids to harmonize dynamics of digestion system and body's management of food intake.

            Slow eating and frequent eating of small amounts of food to reduce load on digestive system and another way of harmonization of dynamics of digestion system and controls of food intake.