One of my favorite ways to show different conceptions and the relations between them are Ven diagrams. Each of the circles in the diagram, shows a different conception and the point where they cross, leads to a new idea or a new conception. So while I was waiting in line the other day, I was thinking what is health? What constitutes physical health? Thus, after some contemplating I came to the conclusion that there are four components which combination is the base of good health: food, sleep, mind and physical activity.
First of all let’s see what the word “health” truly means. It comes from the old English word “hale”, which means “whole”, i.e. healthy means completed! In order to understand why I consider exactly these four components, to influence our health the most, we will take a look at each one of them.
1. Food– the body uses food to produce the energy needed so we can move, work and function better. Each nutrient, which the foods contain provides our body the micro and macro nutrients needed. By definition energy is the ability to do work. By a bunch of complicated biochemical processes, the body uses the food we consumed and breaks it down so it can use it for energy later on. As I mentioned a lot of biochemical processes take place in the body and in order for each one of them to function properly- the right nutrients should be available. When one of the needed nutrients is deficient, things go wrong and the proper functioning of the body is being disturbed. Although our body is “smart” and has back up plans- meaning it finds ways to keep functioning-this doesn’t mean that everything is going the right way! That is exactly how diseases occur.- when the macro and micro nutrients needed are deficient, the digestion, absorption and secretion are disturbed. Besides that consuming junk foods- with lots of sugar, sweeteners, corn syrup, trans fats and etc basically we rob our body by not giving it what’s needed. It keeps on functioning but it is slowly eating itself from the inside and this leads to abunch of diseases. Because I don’t want to bore you with complicated explanations I will give a simple example. I and my sister have the same cars– by the same I mean exactly the same- color, model, brand, even the registration numbers are the same besides the last number. The only difference is that mine runs
on gas and hers runs on diesel. One day I took her car and I stopped at the gas station. Without even giving it a thought I put gas in it instead of diesel. Right when I was leaving the gas station it hit me that I made a huge mistake. I turned it off immediately. If I had not remembered that it was her car, probably my sister wouldn’t have a car anymore. So what is the conclusion? Both cars need the same thing-fuel. But the fuel is different- the fuel that makes one of them run good, could harm the other one to a point where it wouldn’t be able to function! It is the same with our body. That’s why we should consume real food- otherwise if we eat junk, undereat or overeat we risk blocking our body’s functioning and get sick.
2. Sleep- sleep is an anabolic, building process, which main purpose is to restore the body’s energy supplies which have been depleted during our daily activities. We couldn’t maximize our mental or physical capacity if we don’t let this restoring process to happen.
Everything comes down to Circadian cycle or in other words the 24 hour cycle of sleep and wake time. We are programmed to get up and go to bed with the sun. Besides that in our body there are two hormones that also follow the Circadian cycle- growth hormone and cortisol. While we are asleep the growth hormone is released in our body and what it does is let the restoring process happen. On the other hand, cortisol is released after light stimulation. Its levels are high in the morning and slowly decrease during the day.
Nowadays it is impossible to wake up and fall asleep with the sun, but we could try to do the optimal, in order to get the amount of sleep needed- about 8 hours. Instead what we do is try to ruin our health by consuming lots of energy drinks and coffee, which rises the levels of cortisol, keeps us awake longer and thus we do not sleep enough. This interferes with body’s restoring process and we get to the point of exhaustion, which reflects bad on our physical and mental health, lowers our physical capacity and our productivity. Do you get it now why it is not good watching TV till midnight, drinking energy drinks and so on. The worst thing is that most of us do both- drink energy stuff, sleep little and it slowly destroys us!
Stay tuned for the second part tomorrow, where we will find out how physical activity and mind, influence our overall health!