The start of a New Year is a time for resolutions. It is a time for making new plans and setting goals, a time for putting your ideas into action. One of the most common resolutions people have is to improve their health. They look to eliminate bad habits, start a new diet, eat better, or exercise more. Although well intentioned, people often neglect the number one factor to consider when trying to improve health and achieve lasting weight management: despite the food you put in, it’s what happens inside that counts.
The Problem with Most Weight Loss Programs
Many diet programs today are based solely on calories. Yes, even those that call them “points”, “blocks”, “menu exchange items”, or something else, are essentially based on calories IN (food) versus calories OUT (exercise). While it is true that the balance of caloric intake and output is important for proper energy usage and metabolism, it does not offer the whole picture. Proper weight management (and more importantly overall health and vitality) rely on more than just food and exercise.
What you put on your plate is not necessarily an indicator of caloric intake and health. Weighing and measuring food, watching portion sizes, and choosing the “right foods” doesn’t guarantee proper levels of nutrient uptake. They are only a measure of the weight and type of foods that you put into your body. What does matter is what happens to the food once it enters into your system.
Forget “You Are What You Eat”, You Are What You Digest, Absorb, and Assimilate
In order for an organism to thrive, it must be able to efficiently digest and absorb nutrients and effectively excrete waste products. Once the food enters your body, a chain of events must occur for that food to be broken down into individual components to provide nourishment and energy to the body.
Each of the organs of the digestive system must play its role. Stomach, small intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and colon all play a part in this symphony. A kink in any part of the chain weakens the whole process and can lead to some disastrous results.
In Canada, millions of people suffer from chronic gas, bloating, stomach pain, and other digestive complaints. In the past 20 years it has been recorded that about 1 in 5 people suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Pharmacies and grocery stores are full of antacids, laxatives, fiber supplements, pain relief pills, etc. Yet, every day, more and more people suffer from these types of issues.
Low moods, joint pain and stiffness, and weakened immunity are all the result of a weakened digestive system. How does digestion relate to depression, arthritis, and the common cold? Here are some lesser known (though incredibly important!) facts about your digestive system:
- The greatest number of serotonin receptors (upwards of 65%) are housed in your intestinal tract – NOT in your brain. These are the chemicals that are often low in people with depression. Selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are some of the most commonly prescribed drugs for mood disorders.
- Approximately 60-70% of your immune system is housed in your digestive system. Your digestive system is the first line of defense for invading microorganisms. A weakened digestive system means a greater occurrence of disease and infections
- Proteolytic enzymes (protein-digesting enzymes) produced in the pancreas are powerful anti-inflammatories. A decreased production of these enzymes due to poor digestion means more aches and pains
- Your greatest organs of detoxification are those of the digestive system – the liver and large intestine. Compromised digestion means that these organs have to work overtime, and can become clogged and overworked. This leads to a backup of toxins in the body, which weaken the immune system, decrease energy production, and can affect every organ and system in the body.
Experts believe that the number one cause of internal toxicity is undigested food.” – Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, The Detox Solution
Until digestion is normalized, optimal health and ideal weight cannot be achieved. A weakened digestive system means that the body will be unable to receive all of the nutrients it needs for healthy metabolism. In addition, the body will hold more weight in the form of undigested food if it is unable to break down and eliminate the food.
Reestablishing nutrient uptake through a strong digestive system is the key to lasting weight loss. A good flow of nutrients and essential factors for metabolic balance will ensure that the body receives the correct amount of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other factors required for metabolism and energy usage, as well as the elimination of wastes, of which the buildup leads to accumulated weight gain.
If you have resolved to improve your health in 2009 think of your digestive system. A strong, well-functioning digestive system if the secret to health, vitality, and weight management!