Eating For Flexibility

by Rebecca Huber

All of us at one time or another have gazed in wonder at an infant or toddler as they bend and twist. Their joints, tendons, and bones seem to be made of rubber, enabling them to bend and stretch in ways that to many of us seem unimaginably difficult. They suck their toes, pull their feet behind their heads, or sit in a lotus position with great ease and comfort­­ the epitome of human flexibility. But just as a young sapling eventually acquires a hard trunk, some of us oaks, some of us willows, so also does the body become increasingly fettered by the toughening of connective tissue that arises as a natural consequence of aging. Yet new research suggest that diet may play a surprising role in helping us regain the suppleness of youth.

One of the most common causes of rigidity involves a well-known but poorly understood phenomenon called calcification, a condition sometimes sensed as minute crystals or pebbles lodged in and around one's neck and upper back muscles. This calcification is caused by unnatural deposits of insoluble calcium salts in normally soft tissues of the body. These calcium salts are deposited in the body's soft tissues under certain conditions­­ namely inactivity and poor dietary habits. Such deposits occur first in the smooth muscles lining the arteries and tend to shorten them, causing diminished blood flow and a feeling of coldness in the extremities. This process will extend into all of the soft tissue and begins to interfere with normal cell function. Toxic wastes accumulate and begin to create such disorders as arthritis, atherosclerosis, cataracts and a host of similar maladies.

Among the factors believed to cause calcium to accumulate in soft tissues is heavy intake of vitamin D2, the synthetic form of vitamin D. Americans, out of an inordinate fondness for milk, continue to overconsume this vitamin from an early age. The average American is consuming six to seven times the maximal recommended daily allowance (RDA) and 30-35 times the amount recommended by the National Research Council for non- pregnant adults. It has also been shown that vitamin D2 contributes indirectly to high cholesterol counts.

Why do we have so much vitamin D in our food supply? Well old habits sometimes are the worst. In the early 1900s, public concerns about the risk of rickets in children led to the widespread use of vitamin D-rich products. When the synthetic version came along in 1940 it was then added to milk. A study done by The American College of Nutrition made two valid recommendations based of their findings, one that fortification of foods with vitamin D2 be curtailed and preferably abolished, and two that it be recommended that 15 minutes of sunshine daily, on an average, was adequate to supply the body with a natural form of vitamin D. To date, the National Dairy Council, one of the more powerful forces in the U.S. food business, continues to fight this proposal. So we still enrich our milk with vitamin D2.

Of course, milk and dairy are not the only culprits but many of my clients do feel better and have more flexibility when the abstain from large amounts of dairy. If you are a dairy fan and just can't give it up. Drink an organic unadulterated milk available at Cornucopia.

Of course, there are other factors that cause inflexibility in the body­­ genetic make up, how much we exercise and stress, but once again the connection between diet and health is in the news.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Web page created: October 10, 1996
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