There are three major ways in which we can affect our bodies to a degree that is noticeable immediately; exercise, food and sleep. The first two are fairly obvious. If we run a marathon, we become tired. If we overindulge, we become lethargic. If we don’t get enough sleep, we drink a coffee and everything is all good…at least until 2pm. We are a people who don’t generally place enough value on getting a normal amount of sleep.
Let us define normal sleep. Some experts have prescribed a sliding scale based on age. I personally subscribe to the Ayurvedic definition of normal sleep. Sleep should take place between the hours of 10pm to 6am. During these hours our bodies slow down so that healing and regeneration can take place. From 10pm to 2am, the physical body is metabolizing, replenishing and repairing cells and tissues. From 2am to 6am the mind is digesting the days thoughts and emotions while restoring and preparing for the next day. This is why when you stay up too late, feel lethargic during the next day when you don’t sleep well in the early morning you wake up foggy in the brain.
The reasons we take sleep for granted are as subjective as shoe size however it is my opinion that one common factor comes in to play when we decide to sty up and make a dent in that DVR library at 10pm. The consequences of abnormal sleep are more subtle than the consequences of over-eating or over-exerting oneself. We are opportunistic beings from our brains all the way down to our mitochondria. We will prioritize our actions by weighing the pros and cons. If we can stay up a little later and finish that report that we could have started earlier, it may mean a promotion and a nicer car in due time. A mentor of mine, Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar often says, “We first spend our health on our wealth and then spend our wealth on our health”. Eight years in the pharmacy biz has made this abundantly clear to me.
When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies make sacrifices in other areas. This is the noticeable change in the way we feel that I was talking about in the first few lines of this post. Consider this; nothing in our bodies is not constantly breaking down and being replenished. We “use up” a certain number of cells everyday in order to carry out the most basic functions. The body can not heal if it does not rest properly. Normal sleep is vitally important and necessary just to maintain the status quo. If anybody wanted to make any sort of improvement or change to their bodies, they would have to at least get normal sleep on a regular basis.
Many people turn to soy products for health reasons. Read any health magazine on the newsstands and you will undoubtedly find a recipe or advertisement for soy. Soy milk has become increasingly popular for those who are lactose intolerant. Many soy advocates even say it will lower your cholesterol. Soy has taken our culture by storm. This very second, there is a commercial for a “health-food” containing soy on TV. Why are they forcing soy in to our diet?
The answer is money, money, money. The soybean is subsidized by the government because it is such a hearty crop. They are easy and therefore inexpensive to grow. The soybean is a very cheap way to get protein and carbohydrates on the shelves of your local supermarket. Now think back to your last trip to the supermarket. Didn’t seem to see a lot of soy products? Well you were fooled. If you look at the ingredient list on anything in a box or can, chances are you will see that it was made with soybean oil. Most baby formulas have soy protein. In fact, most “health-foods” that advertize higher protein content most likely have fortified the product with soy.
Soy is a plant that was initially used not as food but for crop rotation. During the Chou dynasty in ancient China, soy was used to fix the nitrogen levels in the soil before a food crop like millet or barley was planted. In fact, soy gained its foot-hold in America after the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s. Soy was planted to revive the land in Middle America. We then found out that if we could only market this crop as food, it would be a lot easier than growing grains or vegetables. The sad fact is that the only way soy can be beneficial to a human is if it is fermented and consumed in low levels as a condiment or side to meat. This is how the Asian cultures have consumed soy for centuries. The early American soy moguls knew that westerners would not embrace fermented soy as a new staple to the American diet. They began hiring scientists to find ways to process the soy. The result is two main forms of soy that we consume today; soybean oil and soy protein. Soybean oil is high in essential fatty acids however, the ratio is all wrong. It is rich in Omega-6 and not Omega-3. Omega-6 promotes inflammation in the body. Because soy is so ubiquitous in our SAD diet, it is estimated that we consume Omega-6 and Omega-3 on a ratio of 20:1 and sometimes 50:1. The optimal ratio is 1:1. This highly inflammatory diet keeps drug companies busy producing Vicodin, Motrin, Mobic, and other poisons with which we dull our daily aches and pains. One other step to soybean oil extraction is a hexane bath. Yes hexane is a kin to gasoline. Once the oil is extracted, there is a left over sludge. This sludge is taken and processed in to soy protein isolate. If not soaked in a number of alkaline solutions, this protein isolate contains high levels of Trypsin-inhibitors. Trypsin is a substance that is essential to the digestion of protein. The presence of such soy enzymes leads to digestion problems of varying degrees. Another harmful substance in soy is phytic acid. This blocks the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc. This is not much of a problem for men (no iron loss from menstruation) but can prove very harmful for women who are trying to absorb all the iron and calcium they can to fight osteoporosis and anemia. This does not mean that it is ok for men to consume high levels of soy. Countless cases of elevated estrogen levels in men have been linked to soy-rich diets.