Body Wisdom

body wisdom

A common story that I hear when speaking to clients is how their body is “broken”. That they are angry with their body or feel let down by it.

Or online, I see more people talking about “bio-hacking”. Finding ways that they can tweak or manipulate their body to increase “muscle gains” or speed up “fat loss”.

The problem with these various narratives is the lack of credit given to the body for what it does. The constant focus on “fixing” or “hacking” is an analogous to a magician’s power misdirection; you focus on what you think is important, but miss the actual explanation for what’s going on.

But more than just believing that the body is hard working or is doing a laundry list of tasks people don’t appreciate, I believe that the body has an inner wisdom. That it’s doing things to help us out that we can barely understand.

Over the last decade or so it has become very trendy to do lots of testing in nutrition. Everyone wants to label themselves as being an “integrative” or “functional medicine” practitioner. And synonymous with this style of practice is running many (expensive) tests to (supposedly) get to the “root cause”.

But while more information is helpful, if we just take this on face value and don’t ask the questions “why might the body be doing this”, then not only can we miss what’s going on, we can potentially make things worse.

Let me give two examples to demonstrate.

For a while now, vitamin D has been making headlines. There is lots of talk about how many people are deficient in it and why people should be supplementing with it to protect their health.

Vitamin D is largely produced in the body when sunlight hits your skin. Yes, there are dietary forms of vitamin D, but the action of UVB rays on your skin is most important for vitamin D status in the body.

But it becomes interesting when you start to look at vitamin D levels amongst populations that live in warm and sun rich location. Even within these areas, large chunks of the population can have low vitamin D levels.

If sunshine creates vitamin D when it hits the skin and yet people who are living in these environments often have low vitamin D (despite spending long periods in the sun), why is this happening?

The reason could have to do with vitamin D’s action in the body.

One of vitamin D’s big jobs has to do with calcium absorption. It affects the intestines so that more calcium is absorbed.

Now calcium is important for many functions. Most people know it as that thing that is needed for bone and teeth health, but it’s also needed with cell signalling, blood clotting, muscle contraction and nerve function.

Unfortunately, calcium isn’t always helpful and in certain situations can cause damage. You can have a situation where instead of being stored in the bones, it is being stored in tissues and it’s leading to the calcification of organs or arteries.

And the reason that this is happening can be linked into a whole host of other substances and hormones in the body. And maybe these are things that the body can’t change given the current situation.

But what it can change is the absorption of calcium. It can limit the amount of new calcium coming into the system and the way it does this is by lowering vitamin D.

In this situation, your body is intentionally lowering your vitamin D levels protect you.

But when you go and get a blood test and see that vitamin D is low, rarely is there the thought or discussion about “why might my body be doing this?” Instead you are just recommended a vitamin D supplement to increase it.

Another common issue has to do with the thyroid gland.

Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits in your neck. Via a feedback loop with your brain it produces a number of different hormones that have a body wide affect.

Most often when people talk about the thyroid, it is referenced as the master gland for your metabolism. This is because the hormones that it produces have a direct impact on your cells’ ability to produce and utilise energy.

And this energy isn’t just so you can run and think, but also energy to run your various systems and organs.

What is fairly common these days is for people to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Hypo means low, so this means low thyroid function. And while the “solution” is often a medication to provide more thyroid hormones, again I think we should be asking the questions “why might the body be doing this?”

Now there can be many different reasons for thyroid issues and it’s beyond the scope of this piece to deal with all of them. But let me just offer up one reason.

As I mentioned earlier, the thyroid gland is your master gland for metabolism. It dictates how much energy is produced and used.

Despite the current alarmism around the “obesity epidemic” and the narrative we are told, most people aren’t gorging themselves on processed foods. And actually, because of the alarmism, most people are participating in dieting behaviour.

Your body is a feedback mechanism, it wants to keep you alive. If you reduce the amount of calories that come in, it notices this change. And if you start to keep this up, it takes action.

If you keep using energy at the same rate, despite now eating less (and possibly exercising more) your body recognises that you are going to run out of energy. It doesn’t comprehend your desire to look a certain way or that you think eating in this way is “healthy,” it just sees that less food is coming in and imagines the future problems this could cause.

So to keep you alive, it reduces the amount of energy you are producing. It makes changes so that you feel less inclined to move your body. It also starts to partition off a little bit more of the energy coming in and storing it in savings for a rainy day.

And these changes come about, in part, by your body changing the levels of your thyroid hormones.

But if you then go to the doctor, get your thyroid checked and it shows low thyroid function, what happens? Rather than asking, “why might my body be choosing to doing this,” the recommendation is to take medication to increase your thyroid hormones.

Please let me clarify something here. I’m not at all against people using supplements or medication, that’s not what this is about. I know plenty of clients who’ve had their life turned around for the better because of thyroid medication or vitamin D supplement, or a myriad of other medical and supplemental interventions.

What I’m suggesting is that we don’t give enough attention to the phenomenal job our bodies are doing everyday. And when things do go “wrong” we are quick to intervene to reverse the symptoms without asking why this may be happening in the first place.

It’s so common these days to talk about dealing with the “root cause”. To be “holistic” and to treat “the whole person”. But for this to happen, at the core we have to honour body wisdom. Because when you can truly support your body and provide it with raw materials for what it needs, it will take care of the rest.



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Chris Sandel is the founder of www.seven-health.com. He is a nutritionist, working with clients on a one-on-one basis, as well as creating online trainings and products about health and nutrition. He is the author of The Health Trap: Why "Healthy" Eating Isn't Always Healthy which is available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

Chris has three free emails series. One is on how to quit dieting. One is on simple tests you can do at home. And the other is his take on the world's healthiest foods.

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