Foundations First

So as previously mentioned, there have been a myriad of reasons for my radio silence over the past year, but two of the biggest contributing factors have been 1. working on home renovations and 2. my nutritional therapy course. Thankfully the house is FINALLY in order. Sure, there are and will likely always be little things to add or adjust as time goes on, but for now the demolition and construction aspects have ceased. Not only that, but everything has a fresh coat of paint and has been furnished and decorated for the most part. And although I am not the biggest fan of (or very helpful when it comes to) grinding concrete to make sure the floors are level or framing with an unending supply of 2x4s, the design and décor part has been SO much fun. My only complaint is how long it took to get to that phase of process, but I (begrudgingly) acknowledge that it is a process. Even though I would have liked to skip ahead, it’s obvious that failing to address the foundations first will only lead to headaches and heartaches in the end. Interestingly, this is also a key concept when it comes to the NTA’s approach to nutritional therapy.

Renovating our health has many parallels to renovating our homes actually. For one, what works for me, just might not work for you. I’ve become increasingly aware of interior design choices over the past year and have found that I have somewhat palpable preferences when it comes to style, colors, and fixtures which seem to not always be exactly what someone else would have decided on. Similarly, the NTA stresses the importance of acknowledging our unique, bio-individual nutritional and health needs rather than falling into a dogmatic one-size-fits-all nutrition paradigm. Fueling for function is important and each of us have different genetic and geographical requirements in addition to varying lifestyles, activity and stress levels which should be taken seriously. Also, when undertaking a house project I’ve learned to seek and respect the advice, wisdom and experiential knowledge of others.   Although something should turn out a certain from a purely mathematical or scientific standpoint, there is a lot of value in learning from those who have renovated before me. The same is true for nutritional guidelines, which is why my course consistently stresses the importance of extended epistemology, or multiple ways of learning and knowing.

And perhaps most importantly, is the idea that it’s imperative to address the foundations first. When it comes to updating a home, there is a clear order of operations which should be observed. Structural and literal foundational issues must be corrected before anything new is built. Although hanging the pictures is far more fun, the walls must be painted first. And before that the walls must be built, insulation added, drywall hung, taped, mudded and sanded. Sigh. It’s involved and often not glamorous, but its essential. This is also the case when it comes to renovating our health. The Nutritional Therapy Association takes a food-first approach which always focuses on balancing the foundations of health as opposed to following every other trendy diet fad or nitpicking infinitesimally nuanced elements of each individual nutrient. According to the NTA, these foundations include:

  1. A properly prepared, nutrient-dense, whole food diet – meaning that consuming minimally processed, unrefined foods should take priority on our plates and we should attempt to eat things which are as close to how they should exist in nature as possible. We should strive to incorporate a diverse range of local and seasonal organic fruits and vegetables along with grass-finished meats, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, and wild caught seafood.
  2. Digestion and Elimination – As I mentioned before, we are what we absorb! The digestive process allows for the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food and the absorption of nutrients essential for fueling the body and building cells, tissues, and organs. Believe it or not, digestion starts in the brain and continues all the way through the elimination process and along the way, there are A LOT places where things can go awry from a foundational perspective.
  3. Blood Sugar Regulation – Most carbohydrates breakdown into glucose which circulates as blood sugar, providing fuel for our body. Blood sugar is regulated by the brain, central nervous system and peripheral organs which are very sensitive to changes. With too low blood sugar, we become lethargic, cranky and ravenous, but with too much we are risk damage to our cells and tissues. The brain treats either scenario as an emergency with some pretty serious impacts to our overall wellbeing. Therefore, it is important that we attempt to eliminate spikes and drops in blood sugar by ingesting the right quality and quantities of macro and micronutrients, reducing our stress, and getting the right amount of sleep and exercise.
  4. Fatty Acid Balance – Fats are my personal favorite, but frequently maligned macronutrients. They provide the building blocks for cellular membranes and hormones and act as a calorically dense energy source which decreases inflammatory responses, increases our satiety and makes food taste better!
  5. Mineral Balance – Minerals make up about 4-5% of our overall body weight and are required by virtually every system to function properly. Many are essential, meaning we cannot make them on our own, but must consume through properly prepared, nutrient dense whole foods and mineral rich water (see point one 🙂 ). Minerals are required to transfer nutrients across cell membranes, build healthy bones, enable nerve signaling, and enable contraction and relaxation of muscles.
  6. Hydration – Although, drinking more water has certainly become a popular topic in the media over the past 5 plus years, dehydration remains one of the most common nutritional deficiencies, especially since absorption can be hindered without sufficient electrolytes (minerals). Water makes up an astonishing 60% of the human body mass and is required for countless bodily processes.

As I have seen firsthand, whether it comes to renovating your home or your health, addressing the foundations first is the best way to go. It can be tempting to skip ahead or ignore something major because it seems mundane, but inevitably the costs far outweigh the benefits in the end. And even less glamorous than focusing on the foundations is REWORK… not that I have any personal experience with that over the past year 😉

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