Dieting to Support a Healthy Human Spring
In the last post I discussed the effect of mental health on optimal performance of an athlete. In this segment I am discussing the popular topic of choosing the right diet. Personally, I choose to maintain a healthy eating habit, but I also look forward to devouring a double bacon cheeseburger every now and then. Keeping a healthy diet is important to keeping the human spring healthy and performing to its maximum potential. An unhealthy diet can render your digestive system useless, cause an increase in inflammation in the body, and promote unhealthy weight gain that puts more stress on the human spring. For help in choosing a good diet, I will present the Human Engine model created by Dr. Richard Gringeri, a chiropractor and certified digestive specialist. This model is mentioned prominently in chapter 7 of “How I Got My Wiggle Back” by Anthony Field.
Figure 21: Dr. James Stoxen and Dr. Richard Gringeri, Both Featured in "How I Got My Wiggle Back"
Anthony Field is a member of The Wiggles cast and suffered from a lot of digestive and joint pain. He ate a lot of processed foods, had generally poor health, was regularly gaining weight, and had a stressful lifestyle as a performer. His problems came down to the lack of digestion taking place in his stomach and intestines. What he needed was a different understanding of his body, which Dr. Gringeri presented as the Human Engine. The foundation of the human engine is like an engine in a car; just as a car engine needs fuel (gas), air, and heat (spark plug), the human body needs fuel from food, oxygen, and activation by the nervous system.
Diet plays a huge part in the engine because it determines the quality of fuel that the body has available to work with. How well the fuel is used is determined by the digestive system, and central to that are enzymes. Enzymes are found in raw food and naturally produced in the body; when paired together, they make digestion efficient and are able to fight conditions including inflammation, pain, and allergies. All of these conditions are byproducts of cellular processes, but when cells become toxic, they stop producing enzymes. Also, enzymes are destroyed when food is cooked (above internal temperature of 120°F), so our diets have been enzyme deficient since we started cooking. One possible outcome of enzyme deficiency is the recruitment of white blood cells to digest food, also known as “digestive leukocytosis.” White blood cells can’t help for long, so undigested food will rot in the intestines and wreck your metabolism. The immune system launches an inflammatory response, and the immune system gradually weakens along with the damaged digestive system. The result is allergies, aches, pains, and ailments associated with aging and inflammation.
When it comes to oxygen, there has long been recognition that the amount of oxygen intake is vital to our health. Oxygen is a fuel itself in that it mixes with food and is burned off. Researchers attribute many age-related diseases to a lack of oxygen or “decreased efficiency of oxidative phosphorylation,” a process in which hydrogen combines with oxygen and generates the human engine’s energy.
Fun fact: in 1931, German medical doctor and scientist Otto Warburg won the Nobel Prize in Physiology for showing that cancer cannot exist in an oxygen-rich cellular environment; this work sparked decades of investigation and debate. Oxygen is also said to affect joint motion and flexibility.
The third part of the human engine is the nervous system, which controls all the other systems in the body. The human engine’s “spark” comes from the brain and spinal cord. Each system is activated and works in harmony with the others under the direction of the nervous system. From a previous post I mentioned the importance of hydration and the effect of dehydration on the brain. Another factor that can affect the nervous system is the alignment of the spinal cord; if the vertebrae don’t rotate properly, it reduces the sensory impulses to the brain and could cause headaches, fatigue, indigestion, joint pain, insomnia, and more. All the more reason to make sure you see a chiropractor every so often!
Figure 22: Recommendations by Dr. Gringeri
It turns out an athlete’s diet has a large impact on the capabilities of his/her human spring, as inflammation and poor fluid intake will lock up joints, make the brain sluggish, and could cause insomnia and fatigue. There are other factors that affect the human engine, which can be found in chapter 7 of “How I Got My Wiggle Back.” Some dieting tips that Dr. Gringeri uses from the work of naturopathic doctor and herbalist Ian Shillington are:
· Chew your food; smaller food particles are easier to process.
· Eat organic as often as possible; pesticides and chemicals in food and water are the cause of many modern diseases.
· Strive for nutrition, not just calories. Don’t just eat to feel full. Consider taking a daily high-quality nutritional supplement made from whole foods.
· Take a fatty acid supplement; the body needs fat to replenish cell membranes that let nutrition and oxygen pass into the cells.
That is the end of this first blog series! I hope you have learned much that you can apply. The next blog post will be about how different muscles in the body counteract the forces of gravity to keep us upright.
For a more in depth look at what I covered this week, buy a copy of “How I Got My Wiggle Back: A Memoir of Healing” by Anthony Field on Amazon here.
If you’re interested in learning more about the human engine, you can find Dr. Gringeri’s Book “The Owner's Manual for Your Human Engine: The 3 Keys to Total Wellness” here.
The National Athletic Trainer’s Association also has valuable information on diets and finding diet problems in athletes in their position statements, found here.