Nutrition A Hygienic Perspective
The following article by Dr. Ralph Cinque is reprinted from Dr. Shelton ‘s Hygienic Review.
Nutrition has become a popular subject, indeed, a fad. Never before have people been so concerned about being well nourished. The barrage of information that is being promulgated in books, magazines, newspapers, talk shows, etc., about food and nutrients is, of course, commercially motivated. Consequently, the knowledge that most people have about nutrition is a mixture of facts, half-truths, exaggerations and outright fallacies.
Our purpose in this writing is not to discuss all of the intricacies of nutrition. The reader is referred to any of the standard texts on the subject for his information. Instead, our objective will be to investigate nutrition from a Hygenic viewpoint.
We want to consider nutrition not as a sequence of chemical reactions but, rather, as a process of life. We want to put aside, for the time being, the specific role of various vitamins and minerals and consider the overall process by which the body attains nourishment.
Strictly speaking, nutrition refers to the processes by which the cells of the body utilize the components of foods. Nutrition does not refer to the processes by which food is eaten, digested, absorbed, transported and circulated. Nor do all of the changes that the components of food undergo metabolically constitute nutrition. Glycogenesis, for example, the process by which the liver and muscle cells convert glucose into glycogen, removes glucose from the circulation and makes it unavailable to the cells.
Therefore, it must be regarded not as a nutritional process but rather as a process of food storage. Only those processes by which the cells oxidize foodstuffs for chemical energy or utilize substances to manufacture cellular constituents and secretions can be considered nutritional. All of the processes that precede the actual utilization of nutrients by the cells must, therefore, be considered as antecedents to nutrition. They make nutrition possible. They must occur in order to make nutrients available to the cells. They are vitally important, but they do not constitute nutrition.
Nutrition takes place at a cellular level. It results from the diffusion and active transport of nutrients from the tissue fluid that bathes the cells into the cellular protoplasm. At this point, nutrition begins. It is only here that the body derives any real use from the food eaten. Up to this point, there has only been an expenditure of energy in processing and transporting food in preparation for cellular assimilation. But, at the cellular level, there is finally a compensation for the physiological work done previously in relation to food.
Nutrition is not something that we can directly influence. We cannot force it to happen. If the organs of the body effectively perform their roles in relation to food, then, and only then, will optimal nutrition occur. All that we can do is supply an adequate amount of high quality food under favorable conditions. The rest depends upon what the body does with it. We do not nourish the body; the body nourishes itself. No one is a nutritionist; the body is the only nutritionist because only the body itself can accomplish nutrition.
If we recognize that nutrition takes place at a cellular level and that an elaborate and complicated sequence of events must occur beforehand, it should be obvious that the quality of physiological performance is as vitally important as the quality of food eaten. If nutrition is a distant link on a long physiological chain, a break at any point in that chain will suspend nutrition, partially or totally. Hygienists are well aware that food is of no value until it is digested and absorbed.
For example, consider the diabetic, who may be fully capable of digesting, absorbing, transporting and even generating sugar from internal sources. In the absence of insulin, the active transport of sugar is impeded, and, as a result, the abundant supply of sugar is unavailable to the cells. The infant with phenylketonuria (PKU) lacks a specific metabolic enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of phenylalanine into tryosine, and consequently tremendous amounts of phenylalanine and its by-products accumulate in the blood. These disrupt body chemistry and may bring about mental retardation.
Obviously, interference at any point on the physiological assembly line can thwart the final outcome and defeat the ultimate objective, which, of course, is nutrition. Therefore, what can we think of a “nutritionist” who decides that a protein deficiency exists and has the patient take some protein powder dissolved in water every day in order to enhance nutrition? This kind of “shotgun approach” does nothing to enhance nutrition. On the contrary, it disrupts nutrition by adding one more enervating influence to the life of the individual, an influence that stresses various organ functions and biochemical processes.
Our task is not just to provide nutrients but to provide them in a gentle manner that maximize the efficiency of our organic functioning in order to promote the most effective utilization of food. The manner in which we eat, the conditions that prevail at the time of the meal, the state the food is in and the way in which it is prepared, the abundance of nerve energy, the presence of hunger—these factors have as profound an effect upon nutrition as nutrients, per se. We cannot emphasize too strongly that it is not what we eat, but what we appropriate at a cellular level that determines the state of our nutrition.
Therefore, as Hygienists we must recognize that nutrition involves a great deal more than food, that every aspect of our lives affects the state of our nutrition. This would include the manner in which we eat, sleep, exercise, emote, rest, think, etc. Those who ingest large quantities of extracted and concentrated nutrients have a very distorted view of nutrition and show a lack of understanding of the biological facts of life.
Now that we have defined nutrition, we shall discuss its nature and characteristics. We have already stated that the cells of the body are bathed in tissue fluid and that it is from the tissue fluid that they extract nutrients. The cells also exrete their wastes into the tissue fluid. So there is a constant movement of materials across the cell membranes in both directions. This movement is a continuous, fluid and constant process.
It is not sudden. It does not occur in starts and stops. It is happening all the time, at mealtime and between meals, during the day when we are active and at night when we are sleeping. It speeds up under some conditions and at other times slows down, but it never stops. It is completely controlled, determined and regulated by the body.
The body is like a food store with a large cold storage room in back. As the consumers remove items from the shelves, the owner replenishes the shelves with wares from the storeroom. The owner may also be receiving a delivery of fresh goods daily, but these are used to replenish his reserves in back and not to stock his shelves directly. The food that he makes directly available to his customers comes from his storage room, so that if by chance a delivery fails to arrive one day it will have little or no effect upon the availability and selection of foods in his store. His own reserves are more than ample to supply his needs for several days.
A similar situation exists within the body. The body is constantly drawing upon its reserves to maintain the chemical constancy of its tissue fluids so that at no time are the cells subject to being depleted. The body is not directly dependent upon raw materials to accomplish nutrition because it is constantly living upon its reserves. Eating replenishes these reserves. The body is much less dependent on food than most people think.
The common notion is that the only thing that maintains normal blood sugar levels is the frequent ingestion of food. The tremendous magnitude of the body’s ability to make sugar available from glycogen and certain amino acids, and its capacity to rely more heavily on fat combustion, if necessary, is often overlooked. Most hypoglycemics think that the distress that they experience between meals is the result of an inherent need for infrequent meals. They fail to recognize that their symptoms are manifestations of impaired organ functioning, enervation and toxemia. What they require is not more food, but more rest.
It is a well-known fact of physiology that stored food within the body is in a constant state of flux. Fat stored within fat cells, for example, is constantly being consumed and replenished. Obese individuals with vast midrift bulges think that they have been living with the same fat for years. They don’t realize that they have been continually using and replenishing their fat, and that this year’s fat is entirely different from last year’s fat.
If the body is not directly dependent upon meals to accomplish nutrition, what affect does eating a meal have on nutritional processes? We have already stated that the availability of nutrients depends upon the composition of the tissue fluid and that tissue fluid is a filtrate of the blood. Therefore, the composition of the blood and tissue fluid must remain constant in order for the fluidity of nutritional processes to be undisturbed. When we ingest a meal, the products of the meal are obviously markedly different from the composition of the blood. The body constantly seeks to nullify change in its blood chemistry as a result of the ingestion of a meal.
Converting excess glucose into glycogen and gradually releasing it into the bloodstream in response to the body’s constantly fluctuating needs for sugar is one way in which the liver “buffers” the effects of eating a meal. Taking a large quantity of Vitamin C may temporarily achieve “super-saturation,” but the body will immediately go about excreting the excess and re-establishing normal tissue levels of ascorbic acid. This requires usually no more than several hours.
The liver also removes excess carotene (provitamin A) from the blood and stores it, but, as we all know, people have varying capacities to do this. Some turn orange after one glass of carrot juice, while others car drink a quart at a time without a noticeable affect. All of the food materials that are absorbed into the blood are first transported via the portal circulation to the liver where they are processed before entering the general circulation. The body seeks to minimize the impact at a cellular level that would otherwise occur from eating food.
Quoting Ian Fowler from his excellent article, “Fundamentals of Feeding” which appeared in Dr. Shelton’s Hygienic Review in June 1978, “Consuming extracted and artificially concentrated items results in a sudden influx of nutrients which necessitates rapid accommodation and adjustment of blood nutrient levels, of liver metabolism, adrenal, pancreatic functions, and so forth.
This is debilitating, inefficient, wasteful and enervating.” This profound and explicitly stated fact of physiology will never be taught by vitamin manufacturers, health food store owners, “metabolic nutritionists,” or “orthomolecular psychiatrists.” All they will ever teach people is how wonderful calcium is and how much Vitamin X the body needs.
The fact that taking their products exerts a tremendous stress upon the body, that it is a shock to the system to be suddenly overwhelmed with “megadoses” of vitamins, that taking unnaturally concentrated nutrients tends to disrupt and not enhance nutrition, is not the kind of knowledge that promotes vitamin sales. Even eating whole natural food constitutes a slight stress that requires internal adjustments to restore homeostatis. Why magnify this stress by consuming large quantities of concentrated nutrients? Nutrition is not a matter of violently battering, dosing, saturating or treating the body with nutrients. “Nutritional intensity” is not our objective. Our objective is to gently supply needs.
Let the body establish its own blood levels of Vitamin C, calcium, etc. Eat a simple diet of whole natural foods with a preponderance of raw, succulent high-fiber foods. This will minimize the rate at which nutrients are introduced into the blood and thereby minimize what Dr. Alex Burton, a well-known Hygienic practitioner in Australia, refers to as “nutritional shock.” Why not make the process of appropriating nutrients as easy as possible for the body? Why not harmonize with the body’s internal processes instead of trying to thwart them?
We might also consider that when we consume isolated nutrients, we offset rations of various nutrients and that this constitutes an additional stress. It is known, for example, that the body requires ten times as much niacin as it does thiamine or riboflavin. Therefore, when we consume a large quantity of extracted thiamine, we produce a relative deficiency of niacin. We should note that the proportion of various nutrients in natural foods parallels the body’s needs for different nutrients. Natural foods contain many times more niacin than thiamine, which is in keeping with the body’s needs.
Other important nutrient ratios include: sodium/potassium, calcium/phosphorus, iron/copper, Vitamin E/selenium, zinc/molybdenum and Vitamin C/bio-flavinoids. The proportion of these nutrients within natural foods accurately reflects the body’s needs; thus, the greatest synergy of nutrient utilization is achieved. The body requires many times more potassium than sodium, and this is exactly what we find in natural foods. Processed foods that are loaded with sodium disrupt the delicate balance between these two mineral elements that exists at the neuronal membrane, thereby impairing the function of the nerves.
Diets that introduce excessive amounts of phosphorus into the system may produce a relative deficiency of calcium even though an adequate amount of calcium may be consumed. A deficiency of copper prevents a thorough utilization of iron.
The important point to realize is that nutrients are utilized in concert and that it is the total ensemble of the diet that determines the state of our nutrition. Consuming isolated nutrients is more likely to do harm than good. This is true even in relation to proteins and amino acids. It is now known that the body has a limited tolerance for sulphur-containing amino acids and that excesses can be very taxing on the liver. Plant proteins, which contain a lesser proportion of methionine and other sulphur-containing amino acids than do animal foods, are not only less burdensome on the liver but they more accurately supply the body with the proportion of amino acids that it was designed to process.
Understanding the physiology of nutrition will quickly dispel misconceptions that exist about the role of foods. One common misconception is that foods (or nutrients) have specific effects on different organs and tissues. “Vitamins for the hair” are a popular drugstore item, and glandular extracts that supposedly “feed” specific organs are peddled by practitioners of all the various so-called “schools of healing.”
If we consider that the cells obtain nourishment from the tissue fluid and that tissue fluid is a filtrate of the blood, then it should be obvious that all of the different organs and tissues are on a mono-diet of blood. The blood supplied to the kidney is virtually the same as the blood supplied to the big toe, which is identical to the blood supplied to the left elbow. The cells are capable of extracting from the tissue fluid (hence, the blood) nutrients in the proportion that they require, but all of the cells are fed from the same table. The differences that exist in the chemical composition of different tissues come about as a result of active processes of the cells themselves in selecting the nutrients that they require.
It does not result from any assumed differences in their food supply. Therefore, eating fish because it is “brain food” or taking adrenal gland extract because “it has the exact proportion of nutrients required to rebuild the adrenal gland” flaunts ignorance of the most fundamental laws of physiology. Health food notions that “beet juice is good for the kidneys,” or “wheat grass juice cleans out the liver,” are equally as ridiculous. All a food or juice can possibly do is contribute to the blood nutrient pool. It can not have specific effects on specific organs. Remember also what was mentioned earlier, that the body constantly seeks to nullify any changes in its blood chemistry as the result of the ingestion of a meal.
The rationale of “nutritional therapy’ is as much a fantasy as the rationale of any other form of therapeutics. Foods do not act on the body. The body acts upon foods. Nutrients do not act on the body or perform roles within the body; they are used by the body. The body itself is the only active agent in nutrition.
Nutrition is an autonomic function, that is, it takes place below the conscious level. Just as digestion, absorption, circulation, glandular secretion and other autonomic functions take place without conscious perception or awareness, so also do the processes of nutrition (at a cellular level) occur without our direction or participation. Everyone will admit that stomach function will only produce symptoms when it is impaired. No one will deny that under ideal conditions we are totally unaware of the functions of our livers, intestines, etc. These are autonomic functions and they do not produce symptoms.
Nutrition is the same way. It is an autonomic function. Just as the digestion of food does not produce symptoms, the appropriation of nutrients, internally, should not produce symptoms. However, when digestion is disrupted symptoms arise and, likewise, when nutrition is disrupted symptoms arise. Russell Thacker Trail stated in 1871 that “Pure and perfect nutrition implies the assimilation of nutriment material to the structure of the body, without the least excitement, disturbance or impression of any kind that can be properly called stimulating.”
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Here is a profound statement to come from a man who lived over 100 years ago, before the explosion of knowledge about nutrition and biochemistry began at the turn of the century. Yet he realized then what few people realize today, that any specific effects that occur from the ingestion of foods or nutrients are the results of stress and irritation and are not the result of an enhancement of nutrition. If a person is manifesting the symptoms of a cold, and taking vitamin C aborts those symptoms, this effect can no more be regarded as nutritional than can the effects of taking aspirin.
The vitamin C is having a pharmacological effect (that is, a drug effect), not a nutritional effect. If a woman has severe menstrual cramps and taking dolomite relieves her symptoms, it is foolish to think that a need for calcium has been satisfied. The calcium is exerting a pharmacological effect. Crude calcium was one of the first drugs used as an anesthetic in surgery because it impairs the conduction of nervous impulses and thereby reduces sensibility. To call this nutrition is a shame, a travesty, an outright lie.
Any food or nutrient that “suddenly gives you pep,” “makes you feel warm all over,” “cures your headache,” “helps you sleep” or has any other specific effect should be avoided like the plague. It is obviously irritating, disrupting and enervating.