Eating trains every part of your body. Except most of that education is not conscious. When you bite down into a juicy hamburger and watch your vegan friends turn their faces away, the effects of your taste preference are far greater than than just social and psychological. Food is more than taste, politics, culture and tradition. It’s training every organ in your body, from your toenail to your teeth.
Food educators rarely see how food truly educates. So let’s follow that burger.
Down the Chute
You bite down, and feel the juices spread down your tongue, linger over your palate, softly course down your throat. You’re probably thinking about taste and smell, texture and touch and pleasure.
Your mouth experiences things differently.
Submandibular glands excitedly squirt enzymes converting tasty starches into tastier sugars, eagerly taken up by the bacteria of throat and teeth. Plaque bacteria use the new nutrients to grow and support their building program. Ask any of them – the goal of each bacterium is to become two bacteria. Their renewed growth eventually produces the cavity your cavity your dentist discovers next year. Quite probably the plaque bacteria also signal their colleagues further down the gut.
Because what’s in your hamburger can provoke a war.
It’s not one declared through considered congressional intent. It’s between the 10,000 or more major bacterial groups and their 40 trillion citizens, duking it out for control of your gut.
Different bacteria like different foods. Because some foods make them differentially grow faster. Which helps them take over territory from rivals.
Recent studies show that high levels of meat materially change which bacteria take control. And different bacterial populations are associated with different diseases, from GI problems to autoimmune disasters to depression. Watch future research to see how preferences of these bacterial populations focus your food choices.
Depressed people often crave sugar. Does eating more sugar change your mood?
Lots of people emphatically say yes. But sugar does a lot more than provoke a sugar high.
Moving On to the Liver
Your delectable bun, composted of the finest durum wheat and contented yeasts, quickly sees its starches shattered by massed armies of gut enzymes. Polymers of sugar pop out, zipping over quickly to the liver and pancreas.
These zooming blood sugars meet the special cells of the Islets of Langerhans. Immediately, insulin and insulin growth factors spurt forth. Blasted whole into the bloodstream, they jump start changes in most any cell type you can name, plus many you probably don’t worry about much, like the glia in your brain. One of their thousands of effects is to increase the fat deposition around abdominal organs.
That’s just one of the reasons the WHO is considering declaring exogenous sugar a carcinogen. Sugar effects far more than blood sugar. Fat filled bodies experience more inflammation. More heart disease and tumors. Eating that bun has begun some serious, systemic training of your body.
Coursing through the brain, the sugars pulled out of your hamburger and bun may well provoke a sugar high. The brain and red blood cells deliciously suck up the new energy. Sugar is the only fuel they can use until you starve.
There are reasons humans like sugar, salt and fat. And your hamburger possesses lots of delectable fats.
From Heart to Mind
The brilliant chef who makes the “best” burger in town has basted his beef with scintillating sauces whose fabulous fats make your meal sensationally savory.
Freed by the gut of unnecessary encumbrances, those lipids get to work training you.
A few fats will provoke your gratified brain’s arteries into simultaneous spasm. Similar short shocks may briefly hack the heart. Combined, they may deny oxygen long enough to maim, even murder a few random brain and heart cells.
Yet ordinary fats profess far longer term engagements. A few will provoke immune cells around the arterial wall to engulf and devour their tentatively toxic forms. But if the panoply of fats is plentiful, the immune cells can’t make it out. They stop, immobilized. Stuck in the arterial walls they create crusts of plaque, far more problematic than the sticky bacterial plaque now creating cavities. Crunched into tight corners, they may cast off parts of themselves, blocking arteries like avalanches halt highways, converting the pleasure of dining into cries of pain that emanate directly from the heart.
Food is more than fuel. Its intimate information possesses deep unconscious intent.
Everything we do is a teaching moment for the body. Whether juicy burger or branched broccoli, every cell in the body, particularly the trillions of non-human ones, responds individually to food. What we do is what we become. In more ways than one, we are what eat.
But treat the body as intelligent, and it becomes more intelligent. Biological intelligence takes in food as fuel, food as nutrition, and perhaps most powerfully, food as information. Your meals educate more than your palates. Most of their unconscious work will make you bigger or smaller, weaker or stronger, more immunologically robust or easily infected.
Treat the body as intelligent and it becomes more intelligent. An intelligent body makes for a more educated mind.
You can start with your own food education. Do a thought experiment. Every time you dine, you might ask, how does this meal train my brain? My heart? My bones? My immune function?
Smart food choices make for smarter bodies in the most unconscious, useful ways.