Being holistic versus (holistic) critical thinking.

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Is being 'holistic' an advantage to holistic critical thinking? It’s relatively easy to get drawn into a naturalistic fallacy of consuming all foods in their most raw natural state. Perhaps you’re someone who went from a fast food diet, where you didn’t feel your best, to consuming more whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables? It’s easy to see how a switch and positive changes can occur in the short term. The next step is to start preaching to the masses how sugar is bad, how your life will be saved with green smoothies, nuts, seeds and coffee butt cleanses. For the record this is a waste of coffee and not to far from what I was preaching a decade ago. So what does it mean to be holistic?There’s a large movement within the health fitness and wellness industry (and lay people) that are drawn to  'holistic' thinking, and their definition is often enforced by the fallacy that everything in its most natural state is better for human health. This appears to include foods like nut milks (yes you can milk a nut), kale smoothies, seed oils like flax and undercooked broccoli and other greens, despite their negative effects on human health when consumed in substantial amounts. It’s a religion, and much like religion and with this mind-set it isn’t going to make you any healthier. I’ll make reference here to the late, great Beastie Boy, MCA who despite being a vegan and a Buddhist died far too early from throat cancer.

It is true that eating plenty of foods in their most natural state f(or some foods) can be important for health. But the image on the right highlights the faulty narrative of being holistic without thinking about the consequences. Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats and the like require minimal processing but in the quest for longevity, taste and profit, adding preservatives and flavour enhancers causes our food sources to become problematic. The so called ‘holistic’ folk get lost in this narrative urging your diet to become abundant in the rawest, greenest and brownest foods, that are most indigestible and contain potent inhibitors of biological function.

To integrate a level of holism into nutrition and function requires a level of critical thinking. What do these foods contain? How do they affect physiology? It’s well known that the brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and sprouts contain potent compounds that decrease energy output. These goitregens inhibit thyroid output and isothiocyanates found in cruciferous vegetables affects TPO or thyroid peroxidase, both of which are exacerbated when iodine uptake or restriction is present. Research tends to support these problematic effects (Choi & Kim, 2014)(Truong, Baron-Dubourdieu, Rougier, & Guénel, 2010), but much attention is focused on the smaller compounds that seem to work well in test tubes, rather than its global effects. As the environment becomes more stressful for biology do we need more building or reducing factors within our control?

The environment can be a harsh place. There are plenty of pollutants that have a negative effect on fertility, metabolism and other key endocrine aspects of health, some of which are industrial, others purposively added to food (arguably another form of industry) (Rajpert-De Meyts, Skakkebaek, & Toppari, 2000)(Upson, Harmon, & Baird, 2016). We can argue that the environment has always been a harsh place and adaptation has taken place as a response to selective pressures at the heart of evolution. Yet currently we are heading towards a tipping point, as environmental stimulants appear to be at the heart of acquired biological damage that is inherited by offspring. Cancer, fertility and other metabolic diseases are more common than ever and yet the approach is to keep seeking the magic bullet to ameliorate the fate that awaits many of us.

If we were to ask:

What enhances biological function, makes us more robust and allows us to have a stronger conversation with a stressful environment?

Rather than succumb to its stressors.

 The highway to health

The highway to health

A biological system in its best working order could be represented, as an infinite road stretching into the  distance, perhaps with the odd bump along the way or a slight deviation but an ability to get back on track is available. Compare that to the inhibitory T-junction where the body cannot function as the clear straight road, it deviates from its true organised direction. The journey is laboured and restrictive. The ability to flux and respond to stressors is key and adequate energy is an essential component of reorganisation.

Nutrition is an important factor for such conversations with the environment. Eating a diet that is dominated with foods that are difficult to digest, decrease energy availability and create more stress are not going to make chatting any easier. If we make the effort to understand what keeps a cell and its mitochondria functioning at its most efficient state, we can understand why aspects such as sugar, adequate protein, moderate exercise, light and other factors, can play a role in overcoming current stimulus that decrease function and increase disease states.

The following article is definitely worth a read for an understanding of the concepts that I have talked about. http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/vegetables.shtm

References:

Choi, W. J., & Kim, J. (2014). Dietary factors and the risk of thyroid cancer: a review. Clinical Nutrition Research, 3(2), 75–88. http://doi.org/10.7762/cnr.2014.3.2.75

Rajpert-De Meyts, E., Skakkebaek, N. E., & Toppari, J. (2000). Testicular Cancer Pathogenesis, Diagnosis and Endocrine Aspects. Endotext. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905224

Truong, T., Baron-Dubourdieu, D., Rougier, Y., & Guénel, P. (2010). Role of dietary iodine and cruciferous vegetables in thyroid cancer: A countrywide case-control study in New Caledonia. Cancer Causes and Control, 21(8), 1183–1192. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10552-010-9545-2

Upson, K., Harmon, Q. E., & Baird, D. D. (2016). Soy-based infant formula feeding and ultrasound-detected uterine fibroids among young African-American women with no prior clinical diagnosis of fibroids. Environmental Health Perspectives, 124(6), 769–775. http://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510082