The choices that you make about what you eat and drink as a young person have a profound impact on your health, your long-term performance and your longevity. Learn about the forces arrayed against you in your quest for health, happiness and wealth.
Are you driving your biology or are the ads on soft drinks like "the real thing" influencing your choices about what you eat and drink?
I was born with a cleft palate and cleft lip and started having surgical interventions from six months of age. From then on, I had surgery every few years because of repeated infections. I was to spend the next twenty year having multiple surgeries and being on multiple courses of antibiotics yearly. I was also to spend most of the twenty years from mild to excruciating pain as a result of those interventions.
At 6 years of age, I was speech handicapped, hearing handicapped and brain damaged (maybe because of the birth trauma, infections and surgery). I was not to discover the extent and severity of the damage until I was in my late thirties.
When I was attending a post graduate training program on Autism when I was about 44 or so, I listened to another doctor describe the life progression and she was describing my life, complete with the emotional disconnection, the ability and facility with specific skills sets and obsessive focus.
I recall watching my mother dying of cancer when I was fourteen. That experience created a determination that I would do something to make a difference.
At 19, I had the last (or what I thought was my last) surgery. I decided that I was going to take control of my physical health. I started on a regime of avoiding potential allergens that began to change my physiology and neurology.
My allergies and frequent infections began to reduce and my brain started turning on. I started asking myself at 25, the following questions;
1) What is the secret of how we become ill on a cellular level?
2) How did our emotional state affect us on a cellular and molecular level?
I set out to answer the above questions. It was to take 15 years of undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral study and research and almost two million dollars of personal investment before these questions got answered .
When people become ill with chronic disease they actually lose or significantly abort their financial potential and become liabilities on their families and society. When life spans were short, this was not a major issue. But with extending life spans, the world is designed to become a massive nursing home for the sick and slowly dying unless something major happens.
When I was about 38 my father died and my two best friends died. The sad part was that none of them needed to die when they did.
They all died of modifiable risk factors for chronic disease. The leading risk factors globally for non-communicable diseases are raised blood pressure, tobacco use, raised blood sugar, physical inactivity as well as being overweight and obese.
In prehistoric times, the physical changes in response to stress were an essential adaptation for meeting natural threats. Even in the modern world, the stress response can be an asset for raising levels of performance during critical events, such as a sports activity, an important meeting, or in situations of actual danger or crisis.
If stress becomes persistent and low-level, however, all parts of the body's stress apparatus (the brain, heart, lungs, blood vessels, and muscles) become chronically over-activated or under-activated. Such chronic stress may produce physical or psychological damage over time. Acute stress can also be harmful in certain situations, particularly in individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
By contrast, my paternal grandfather who died at just before 100 maintained a diet and lifestyle pattern that avoided all the above risk factors. He continued to be ambulant and lucid, giving after diner speeches in his nineties.
My father by contrast started off with no illness, but by dint of 30 years of smoking, drinking and overworking developed hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and cancer in that order. For twenty years I went on after him to change his ways and having worked as a pharmacist, his answer was that his symptoms were ‘perfectly” controlled by his drugs and his obesity was not a problem.
Studies by experts at St. Georges University, London, have proven a link between teenage consumption of sugary drinks and impulses towards fatty and salty foods. They found that the stomach’s gut lining absorbed these food types more quickly and activated the brain’s pleasure center quickly. The brain then also dampened its impulses for the intake of vitamins and minerals. These cravings or impulses driven by the brain create an addictive effect: addiction to sugary drinks and salty or fatty foods.
Other UK research on rats has shown that sugar is as addictive to the brain as cocaine, and sugar intake plays a role in the creation of addictive impulses in humans.
Adults do not suffer significant sugar-addiction withdrawal symptoms; children, however, have been found to react more strongly, getting more intense withdrawal symptoms. Tantrums, restlessness, sweats, and distracted attention are noted behaviours. Longer-term studies are
underway to explore the implications of these observations and findings.
Fruit and sports-energy drinks are not excepted from this category: many have higher sugar levels than some fizzy drinks, and also may also contain addictive amounts of caffeine and related substances. Weight gain was determined as being the only likely outcome.
Many USA-based health organisations are reviewing the research and are calling for regulation as well as a review of all the drinks-industry guidelines. Medical groups are linking the obesity crisis in the western world in part to the habit-forming roles around food and diet that soft drinks play in shaping the health outcomes of recent generations.
Obesity is the new smoking crisis in these circles. The average adult woman is supposed to have a daily intake of ninety grams of sugar in her diet while a man can absorb 120 grams per day.
Children are supposed to have a far lower intake. Many soft and fruit drinks provide that daily intake in one can or bottle.
The images of happiness, fun, and health which dominate the marketing themes of the drinks industry are not supported by the research findings emerging from numerous types of studies being conducted on human health. These billion-dollar industries are not likely to change their
products or admit concerns willingly.
Coca Cola paid Olympic organizers more than one hundred million pounds to become the official provider of soft drinks to the Olympics.
The association between health and sporting achievement on one hand, and soft drinks on the other hand, becomes entrenched by such opportunities. The burden on regulating these drinks falls on families and individuals.
The role of emotions and stress in creating the impulse for sugary food and drink intake is also revealed by several studies.
In body mind science, we note that addictions and emotional issues including depression seem to accompany sugar cravings in many people. A soft drink can be an easily-obtained crutch when the impulse strikes.
The answer lies in education and discipline. The declining mental, emotional, and physical health of wider and wider cross-sections of the population has some of its roots in our choice of foods and drinks.
We should be mindful of our choices. For instance, the assumption that sugary drinks offer any benefit or are harmless choices for ourselves and our children, is simply programming we got as a child — and there are several others, pertaining to food, that we received. This is true about
food; now think about the conditioning about the work ethic, being able to say “No”, etc., that we were also subjected to.
Then one day you wake up asking yourself “Where does this extra ten or twenty kilos come from?”, “Why am I finding it difficult to love my spouse?”, “Why am I living here or in this job?”, or “Why do I feel like something is missing?”
Well if you can relate to any of this, I have got good news: you’re normal. It doesn’t however have to stay this way. Both my brother and I by the process of precise dietary modulation, exercise, nutrition and stress management are reaching our fiftieth year with only worn out knees and without the other markers of Syndrome X. So we know this is possible.
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On this podcast I’m going to help you design a life that works. So you are able to say yes to the things that matter and eliminate everything else that slows you down. The more clear you can be about how to organize your daily life to support your bigger vision, the more you’ll step into your true potential, stay on track and accomplish all that you want and deserve. Are you ready to make that happen?
Feel free to reach out to me to ask your questions at AskDrSun.com. Your life is a gift. Design it. Do what matters and join me each week as we get closer to designing the life of your dreams. I am Dr Sun. Join me next week on Your Life by Design.