Some foods, such as meat or sweet and acid foods, are good for certain people - and for these are not 'problem' foods - while on others their effects are adverse. In order to gain a better understanding of this phenomenon and a deeper insight into the food-related causes of diseases, it is helpful to take a closer look at our metabolism.
Our metabolism is the total of all the millions of biochemic enzyme reactions that take place in our body at any given time. Some reactions use energy to build more complex structures from assimilated nutrients (anabolism), while others release energy by breaking down more complex molecules (catabolism).
While there are additional factors and overlapping influences, we may say quite generally that our basic metabolic pathways are most strongly influenced by our nutrition, the glandular system is mainly affected by our emotions and the nervous system responds primarily to brain and mental activity. All three factors - nutrition, glandular system and nervous system - combine to regulate our metabolism.
Inherited or acquired variations of these regulating factors produce a unique blend for each individual and call for different specific requirements for optimal health. However, there are also some common key factors and we can distinguish several groups with similar characteristics; each group represents a metabolic type.
THE AUTONOMIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) has a great influence on our metabolism. It regulates those body processes that usually function automatically without our conscious control, such as heartbeat, digestive processes, nerve reflexes and so forth. It has two branches with opposite characteristics: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).
The main function of the SNS is to prepare the body for action: epinephrine pours into the bloodstream; the muscles tense; blood pressure, pulse and breathing rate increase as well as the rate of catabolic processes in general. The digestion, however, is slowed or interrupted. The SNS is activated by emotions such as anger and fear, by the intention to take some action, but also by certain foods, most strongly by red meat.
The PNS relaxes the muscles, improves the digestion and lowers blood pressure, pulse and breathing. The PNS is dominant during sleep and with relaxed body and mind conditions. The endings of the PNS nerves release acetylcholine when stimulated, while SNS nerves release norepinephrine, an epinephrine-like hormone with opposite effects to those of acetylcholine. SNS action leads to elevated blood levels of glucose and fatty acids (diabetes, coronary heart disease), while with PNS dominance these levels are lowered (hypoglycemia).
THE TENSION-RELAXATION CYCLE
Overall, each body function should be in balance between the opposite forces of the SNS and the PNS. However, at any given moment, one force will usually prevail; during action the SNS dominates and during rest the PNS. A healthy body is not in static but in a dynamic balance like a swinging pendulum.
Problems arise when the tension-relaxation cycle is not centered but remains one-sided. During work there may be too much tension, while the following rest period does not result in complete relaxation. If this condition becomes chronic, also other tension-related symptoms may develop, such as high blood pressure or restlessness. To bring the body back into balance, remedies with a PNS influence may be applied, such as relaxation exercises, a vegetarian diet or magnesium supplements.
On the other hand, if the body generally is too relaxed, too weak and soft for the daily tasks, and mind and emotions cannot be aroused, then tension-producing SNS influences may be applied, such as using flesh foods or calcium supplements.
From these considerations about our ANS we can recognize the existence of three basic metabolic types: the P-type in which the PNS dominates, the S-type with a dominating SNS and a balanced type. Population groups developed over thousands of years predominantly into one of these three basic metabolic types, depending on their climate and available food.
These inherited ancestral metabolic characteristics remain fairly stable during our lifetime and form our basic metabolic blueprint on which acquired metabolic traits are superimposed. The fundamental difference between the P-type and the S-type can be illustrated if we compare the mental picture we have of the classic American Indian with that of a typical desert Arab.
The American Indian is deliberate and measured in movements and speech, stoic and rarely displays emotions. He or she has a powerful body and a broad face, is a hunter and eats relatively few carbohydrates. This is a typical representation of the positive aspects of the P-type. We find the same characterization, only adjusted to a colder climate, in the Eskimo.
The typical desert Arab, on the other hand, is agile, lively, energetic and quick to act on feelings and emotions. He or she is lean and with a narrow face, can (or reportedly could in former times) exist for long periods on nothing but dates and still maintain remarkable endurance. This portrait shows the positive aspects of the S-type.
The apparently unbalanced ANS of each type is actually balanced through the opposite influence of the traditional diet. Thus the high-meat diet of the American Indian stimulates the SNS and epinephrine production, while the predominantly vegetarian diet of the Arab sedates the SNS and epinephrine response.
If the American Indian and the desert Arab would interchange their diets, they would become unbalanced, their energy metabolism would eventually become inefficient and their health would decline. They would then display the negative characteristics of their metabolic types.
Other races and nations that are predominantly of the P-type are the
North Europeans, Dutch, Russians, Polynesians and New Zealand Maoris, also
traditional hunter societies in warm climates. The S-type, on the other hand,
is mainly grouped around the
Most of those with middle-European ancestors are of the balanced type, readily utilizing all three metabolic pathways: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. However, sweet foods were relatively rare and reserved for special occasions.
Table 5-3 lists the characteristics of the P-type and the S-type. Those of balanced type are generally between these opposites. You find the positive characteristics of the P-type described as being relaxed, dependable, quiet, cautious and emotionally stable, with good skin circulation, a ruddy complexion and good endurance. Pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure tend towards the low side.
The basic traits of the S-type are that individuals have plenty of drive, freely show their emotions, are lively, assertive and quick to make decisions. The body tends to be lean; pulse, breathing rate and blood pressure may be elevated.
Inherited and acquired changes, especially those related to our deteriorating health, may cause far-reaching changes in our metabolic characteristics, sometimes requiring a diet that is similar to that of the opposite basic type. The actual cause of such changes may be an over-stimulation or weakening of the SNS or the endocrine glands; it may also be a partial blockage of a metabolic pathway because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Most frequently, however, our metabolism has deteriorated because we overuse problem foods.
Few individuals in our society still display all the positive characteristics of their basic metabolic type. Many of us live in a stimulating social environment and use stimulating food at the same time, such as red meat, spices, alcohol, coffee, tea, tobacco or drugs. All these factors stimulate the SNS and our endocrine glands. We become nervous, restless, sleepless, quick-tempered, over-aggressive with raised blood pressure and permanent muscle tensions. These individuals are now negatively SNS dominant and may be classified as negative S-types, even if they originally had a balanced or even PNS-dominated metabolism.
Other negative characteristics may develop, such as underweight, a dry mouth or yellowish skin, poor appetite with a weak, slow digestion, emotional instability and an uncontrolled temper. Deteriorating liver and kidney functions in combination with a high-meat diet may lead to a build-up of uric acid and cause gout and rheumatism. Irritation or ulcers of the digestive tract may be present, sometimes also migraine.
If such over-stimulation persists for a long time, especially in combination with a diet high in red meat and fat, then the liver and glandular system gradually become weak and the metabolism slows down. This is the condition of slow oxidizers.
Main characteristics of slow oxidizers are raised blood pressure and alkaline body fluids. Together with a raised calcium blood level, this frequently leads to stone formations, such as kidney stones. Often slow oxidizers originate from the P-type and are hard manual workers, such as farmers and builders with a heavy body and bone structure. They usually eat large amounts of meat.
The skin of slow oxidizers is usually insensitive to cold and irritants. Emotionally they are stable and even unresponsive and undemonstrative; they do not show or experience much in the way of strong feelings and emotions. They are slow, dependable and reliable. If they originate from the basic S-type, they are lean and show more emotional response. Common health problems are hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, chronic infections, degenerative liver and kidney diseases, stroke and cancer.
The opposite path is followed by those of the balanced type and the P-type who live on a low-protein vegetarian diet or who are protein deficient because of malabsorption or liver problems. They become negative P-types, displaying the traits of negative PNS dominance. They lose their normal aggressiveness, enthusiasm and self-assertiveness and become sluggish, listless and underpowered. They may become unemotional and lose interest in the happenings around them. Cannabis makes this condition infinitely worse.
This type is widespread in many underdeveloped countries, but also in alternative life-style groups in our society. Women are more prone to this condition than men as they quite naturally have lower epinephrine levels. Other negative features that may develop are low blood pressure with a lack of energy, the weight becomes too low or too high, the individual easily becomes sad, melancholic or depressed and has difficulties making any decision. Anemia may be present. Pregnant women naturally acquire PNS characteristics, but not in a negative sense.
While S-type individuals may become diabetic on a diet high in sweet foods, P-type individuals tend to become hypoglycemics. Glycolysis - the breakdown of glucose inside the cells - is sped up; this is when an individual is called a fast oxidizer.
Fast oxidizers usually have low blood pressure with low energy levels, especially after eating sweet foods and fruits. Often there is a craving for sweet food though they feel much better after eating proteins. Allergies, addictions and overacidity are common, as well as susceptibility to acute infections and inflammations. The circulation tends to be poor with cold hands and feet. Respiratory tract infections and other mucus diseases are common, also rheumatoid arthritis and a tendency towards leukemia.
The fluctuating blood-sugar level in combination with allergies causes emotional instability. Individuals may be irritable with occasional bouts of temper and even violence, but more often they are resentful, shy and frequently worry or feel guilty.
With advancing age or deteriorating health both branches of the ANS tend to become weak and all aspects of the metabolism become inefficient. This is the condition of sub-oxidizers, and is common to all metabolic types whose health has degenerated.
It appears to be rare for our health to degenerate in a straight line from a positive balanced type to the negative balance of the sub-oxidizer. It usually includes the condition of the fast or slow oxidizer and sometimes conditions of both, first as fast oxidizer and then as slow oxidizer.
Sub-oxidizers represent the typical condition of old age in our society. The endocrine system is nearly exhausted, the immune system weak, digestion inefficient with malabsorption and lack of gastric acid and digestive enzymes. Because the metabolism is inefficient, the body usually is too alkaline. The blood pressure may be too high or too low. The circulation is extremely poor and there is a pronounced lack of energy and even debility. There are many chronic health problems and frequently a serious degenerative disease, such as the deformative stage of arthritis, senility or cancer.
See Figure 5-1 for a diagram of the relationship between the various metabolic types. The opposite directions to those indicated in the diagram are traveled during health improvement. For the purpose of selecting your metabolic type you may regard a blood pressure of 120/80 and a pulse of about 70 per minute while sitting as being normal for an adult. Children have lower blood pressure and a higher pulse rate.
Fig 5-1: DIFFERENT METABOLIC TYPES