Finding the Right Balance
-- Tips from our experts
Finding balance in life can take on many different aspects and usually means different things to different people at different times. From a health perspective it is one of the most important concepts but also one of the most difficult to achieve. Many people associate proper balance to mean focusing on macro balances such as work/life or exercise versus being sedentary. From our perspective it is often just as important to focus on more detailed balance concepts. There are many types of smaller balances in daily diet routines that contribute to overall health. One primary example is related to starch intake. Starches are a type of carbohydrate that can be used by the body to make energy. Different starches, however, are absorbed differently which can have different effects on health. Complex starches, like those found in processed and fast food, are more difficult for the body to break down. Starches that are not broken down are not digested so they end up being food for bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms living in our digestive system. This creates an 'imbalance' because certain types of potentially harmful microorganisms are able to proliferate, living off of the abundance of this undigested food substance.
Our digestive system is a vast frontier for these micro communities who are sometimes at battle with each other and other times living in communal relationships. Generally millions of years of evolution has worked out how these different organisms interact keeping each other in balance so that one particular type doesn't cause health problems. When one does it can lead to many different types of common disease. The troubling part is an imbalance doesn't always lead to a specific disease but works as a catalyst for other more serious diseases. For example, certain types of bacteria can damage the sensitive lining of the digestive tract when they are able to reproduce in mass quantities. Our body tries to protect us against from this in the short term by covering the digestive lining with a thin coating to buffer the damage. A repercussion of this over the long term is it can inhibit our ability to properly absorb key vitamins and minerals. This impairs our immune system which can lead to damage or disease anywhere in the body.
Part of the challenge is this type of digestive damage may not have immediate symptoms so you may not even know it is happening. This is described as the 'vicious cycle' by Dr. Elaine Gottschall, who spent her career understanding more about the effects of bacteria in the digestive tract. Her findings were key to helping many people with digestive disorders. In today's world where processed meals have become the norm it is easy to disrupt this balance in our digestive system.
There are other balance considerations in our everyday lives that can also play an important part to overall health and vitality. Input of source fuel for energy as compared to output is one of the most obvious imbalances. When we consume potential energy (coined as calories) our body expects to use this energy as part of the natural job of maintaining cells and creating life. Most people do not create near enough energy to justify their consumption of calories. This means that the energy has to be transformed into a storable format and put somewhere until we need it. For many that 'somewhere' is in their bellies, hips and thighs. Companies make billions off of this mismatch between input and output. It should be a simple problem to address: Determine how much potential energy you should consume as compared with the amount of energy you will use. But because of marketing and being consistently bombarded with foods to consume (most of which are not healthy and high in calories, sugar and processed ingredients) we let ourselves get out of balance and stay that way. Unfortunately simple problems do not always have simple solutions. Addressing this is an important focus in our approach to health.
Managing pH levels is another important step towards better health. Our body strives to remain pH neutral but we tend to consistently disrupt that balance by consuming high amounts of acidic foods. In order to stay in balance the body has to draw nutrients from bones or other organs which can lead to longer term damage. Simple daily changes can help us work with our body chemistry and not against it. Having a glass of water with squeezed lemon or lime first thing in the morning is a good example of how a small change can help. Although lemon has citric acid, the acid is actually alkaline in the body once it is consumed. This helps start the day with a slightly alkaline pH level.
Our bodies have evolved to be efficient at keeping us in the proper state of balance across many dynamics. This ranges from simple temperature maintenance to more complicated systems such as pH levels. The more we understand these balances and work with our body the easier it is to maintain them. Maintaining balance relieves stress to our systems and leads to better long term health.