Man (Part 3)
Chapter 2 — The Prescription for Life: Input
As we ascend the mountain on our journey, the ten laws of life will mark our path. Learning these laws will cost us a little time, but we will be well rewarded. Compliance can add years to our life and life to our years.
We will divide our presentation of each law into three simple sections. First, we will state the principle. Second, we will discuss problems encountered in relating to each law Third, we will get our prescription.
Law of Life 1: Pure Air
Principle. Our bodies need air. The blood must be constantly charged with oxygen. The 75 trillion cells of the body perform amazing physical, chemical and electrical feats, but without air these would quickly halt.
Life and health depend on pure air—lots of it. It imparts freshness to the skin, stimulates the appetite, aids the digestion, vitalizes the brain, soothes the nerves and invigorates the whole body
Problem. Millions are deprived of vitality and life because they get neither the right quality nor quantity of air.
Nature has provided an ample supply of pure ail; but man has polluted it.
The entire atmosphere of our planet is now afflicted to some degree. Meteorologists talk about a nebulous veil of air pollution encircling the entire Earth. Smog has been observed over oceans, over the North Pole, and in other unlikely places. Mankind is taxing the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb and to transport away from areas of high population density the enormous amounts of waste exhausted into it. Air pollution is now recognized not only as an agent that rots nylon stockings and windshield wiper blades, that corrodes paint and steel, blackens skies and the wash on the clothesline, and damages $500 million worth of crops annually; it is recognized as a killer of people.1
Major causes of pollution are dust, smoke and fumes of industry and cities, motor vehicle exhaust and overcrowded, poorly ventilated rooms. Tobacco smoke is an especially dangerous form of air pollution. The well-known Framingham study has shown that a man 45-54 years of age who smokes more than 20 cigarettes a day has twice the risk of death from all causes as a nonsmoker the same age.2
A long list of such horrible diseases as cancer of the mouth, throat, lung and urinary bladder; as well as emphysema, heart disease and stroke, is not the only price to pay for this doubtful pleasure. What the smoker loses in present quality of life may be worse. A person who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day reduces the oxygen supply to the tissues of his body by 10% through the inhalation of the lethal gas, carbon monoxide.3 Obviously, this is not going to improve either his mental or physical function.
The body is a beautiful, finely tuned mechanism. But the smoker dulls its sensitivity to taste, smell and touch. He diminishes his enjoyment of life. He loses more time from work and is less efficient in his work.4 A woman spoils her beauty by tobacco-stained teeth, a "granny chin" and prematurely wrinkled skin.5 Those who do not smoke themselves — especially children of smoking parents —are made to suffer also.6 This is because "side-stream" smoke contains many times more tars, chemicals and noxious gases than the smoke which the smoker inhales.7
The quantity of air is also crucial to life. The amount of air we breathe depends on how often we breathe and on the vital capacity8 of our lungs. The Framingham study has shown that vital capacity is associated with length of life. For instance, a middle-aged man with a vital capacity of two liters — which is not uncommon — has at least three times the risk of death as a man the same age with a vital capacity of five liters.9 A low vital capacity not only restricts our length of life, but our quality of life as well. The brain is first to be affected by an inadequate supply of oxygen. The intellect is dulled, the judgment impaired, and we tend to feel impatient and irritable. Moreover, the heart, stomach, liver and other vital organs suffer. Digestion is retarded and waste products are retained in the blood. Muscles become more tense and there may be general depression and sleepiness.
More information about pollution and vital capacity, however; will not change people's ways. Many who know the harmful effects of smoking continue smoking. Their real problem is mental attitude. They have a wrong attitude toward themselves. They are saying, "My life isn't worth much and my health isn't important." They do not value the life and health of others. And they do not value their environment.
Prescription. We all have a communal responsibility to reduce air pollution. And as far as possible we should live in an environment where the air is pure.
The best way to increase our vital capacity is to follow all the laws of life. Compliance in one area encourages compliance in the others. This means we should practice deep breathing10 and speak from full inspirations of air. We should remove excess weight, maintain correct posture, get sufficient exercise, secure adequate rest, practice regularity and moderation and, most important of all, cultivate an attitude which sees value in ourselves, in others and in the environment. All relationships, including our relationship to the environment, deteriorate when we take them for granted.
Law of Life 2: Clean Water
Principle. Our body is about 70% water; our blood nearly 80%. Blood carries the food, enzymes, hormones and other chemicals to every part of our body Watery fluids lubricate the joints of our body Water removes body wastes and keeps our system internally hygienic. It is also useful in maintaining external cleanliness.
Our body needs about 1,500 gallons of water every day Fortunately, it recycles most of this water. Otherwise we would have to drink at least 24,000 glasses a day Some water is lost, however; and because of this we do need about six glasses a day in cool weather and more in hot weather or when doing vigorous exercise. Health depends on good, clean water, and lots of it.
Problem. Most of us do not drink enough water. Thirst is not always an accurate indication of our needs. A sedentary lifestyle and poor habits have accustomed many of us to a state of partial dehydration. This tends to cause fatigue, impairment of intellectual function, and constipation. The system also tends to collect impurities, which place a strain on the kidneys. Severe dehydration may seriously impair the heart and even cause death.11 Dr. G. C. Pitts and colleagues, of the Fatigue
Laboratory at Harvard University, conducted some fascinating experiments with athletes exercising in a hot environment. When given enough water to quench their thirst, they could continue the same exercise nearly twice as long as when deprived of water. However; the athletes still drank one-third less water than they lost in sweat. When they drank the same amount of water as they lost in sweat, they showed no signs of heat exhaustion and felt they could continue exercising indefinitely.12
The quality of water is also a problem. Man seems bent on polluting the water in his environment. He pollutes the rivers, streams and water catchments with industrial wastes, herbicides, pesticides and other chemicals. In some countries, by poor hygiene and sanitation, he contaminates the water with dangerous bacteria which spread disease and death.
But the principal pollutants are those we ourselves add to water — like sugar; caffeine and alcohol. We would rather not accept the gift of pure water as man's best beverage. We insist on polluting it or changing it or making our own substitute. So again, the greatest problem is our attitude to the environment, to others and to ourselves.
Prescription. We should drink at least six glasses of water a day, and more in hot weather or when working hard. It isn't good to drink water at meal-times. Diluting the digestive juices retards the process of digestion. So it is best to start the day with one or two glasses of water about half an hour before breakfast, with another generous amount at midmorning and mid afternoon. That "all gone," exhausted feeling between meals might not be from lack of food. We may simply need a glass of water.
The ten laws of life are interrelated. Compliance with one tends toward compliance with the others. Exercise, for instance, will prompt us to drink more water. Drinking more water; however; is largely a habit. And developing this habit depends on a right mental attitude.
Law of Life 3: Good Food
Principle. Our bodies are sustained by the products of the earth. The principle of a good diet may be simply stated: Food needs to be of the right kind, eaten in the right amount, at the right time and in the right frame of mind.
The ideal diet is composed of foods as near as possible to their natural state. This includes a generous variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If we eat an ample variety of natural foods, we won't have to measure vitamins, minerals, fiber or protein. Our body will extract just what it needs for maximum strength and endurance.
The right amount of food is that which maintains our body at its desirable weight.13 Studies have shown that it is better to be 10% overweight than 10% underweight.14 Nature allows the comfort of a little leeway, so there is no need to be obsessed with acquiring a lean, hungry look.
In normal circumstances food should be eaten no more than three times a day and at regular intervals. It is better to eat a substantial breakfast15 and a light meal in the evening. In this way more calories are burned during the day, and the body is better able to maintain its blood-sugar level under stress. Furthermore, a person sleeps better when his stomach is resting.
Food should be eaten in the right frame of mind. A sour mind can make a sour stomach. A poor mental attitude often accompanies poor digestion. On the other hand, if a person believes his food will do him good, it probably will. Peace, contentment, thankfulness and love should be our companions at the meal table. The social, cultural and esthetic atmosphere for eating is also important. Eating should be a pleasant social occasion. Food should be attractively served. It should not only look good but taste good.
Problem. We do not always eat the right kind or the right amount of food, and we often eat at the wrong time and in the wrong frame of mind.
Most dietary problems in developed societies stem from eating too much refined and processed foods, fatty foods, stimulating or intoxicating foods, and food additives.
Refined and processed foods include sugar; white flour; polished rice and refined oils. These are not poisonous, and there is no evidence they cause harm when eaten sparingly The real problem is threefold:
1. These foods are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals. Their excessive use can cause serious illness.
2. Foods high in sugar may have an unusual effect on eating patterns. Because they taste good and because they lack the bulk which helps appease the appetite, it is easy to eat too much of them. This tends to obesity,16 to tooth decay and can contribute to other health problems.
3. These foods lack fiber —roughage— essential for healthy bowel action.
It is estimated that the average American secures 24% of his total calories from sugar.17 This is much more than desirable. The average American also secures about 42% of his total caloric intake from fat.18 Evidence indicates that this is much too high as well. Furthermore, the proportion of saturated fats and cholesterol is too high.19 Red meats, butter and certain cheeses are high in saturated fats. Egg yolk, brains, kidneys, liver and butter are high in cholesterol.
A high fat intake reduces physical endurance and contributes to the problem of obesity20 In addition, a high fat intake, particularly of saturated fats and cholesterol, has been linked to a higher risk of death from heart and artery disease.21 Excessive fat may also be a factor in the development of bowel and breast cancer.22
Perhaps the most common stimulant is caffeine in coffee, tea and cola drinks. Caffeine is a potent stimulant of the central nervous system, but the sensation of alertness which it generates is not genuine. It can also be harmful to the heart, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle action and coordination, as well as to the stomach, digestion and kidneys.23 We would be better off without dependence on caffeine.
Although alcohol can be regarded as a food because of its high caloric value, it is in reality a mind-altering substance and therefore a drug. Taken in excess, alcohol plays havoc with the individual drinker and with the community. Not only does alcohol create enormous mental and social problems, but it is also a significant factor in cirrhosis of the liver; in cancer of the throat, mouth and liver; in certain forms of heart disease and in malnutrition.24 Unborn infants of drinking mothers also suffer great risk of severe and permanent injury Alcoholism has become a terrible curse to modern society
Rats placed on a good diet preferred water to alcohol. However; given the poor quality of food found in a typical American diet, they began drinking alcohol. When spices and coffee were added to this diet, the rats doubled their alcohol intake. Returned to a good diet free of spices and caffeine, they abandoned alcohol within a week. But three weeks after recommencing an "alcoholic" diet, the rats were back to their old habits.25 How many alcoholics are created at the meal table?
Food additives are another problem. Hundreds of preservatives, fortifying agents, colorings, flavorings, moisturizers and texturizers are added to processed foods. Some additives have been shown to be a health risk and have been banned by government action.26 Others are suspect.
Common table salt is the food additive causing the greatest problem in many countries. Some salt is necessary, but most of us eat far too much.27 Excessive salt intake has been linked to an increased incidence of high blood pressure.28 This is a major factor in heart attacks and strokes as well as in other serious health problems.29
Some food processing is necessary, and a few additives are perhaps better than stale or moldy foods. But most of us would benefit from eating much less refined, processed and fatty foods, stimulating or intoxicating foods, and food additives. These should be replaced with more fresh vegetables and fruits.
Obesity increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.30 Obesity is often associated with eating too much sugar or butter; margarine, oils and other fats. It may also be related to eating at the wrong time and in the wrong frame of mind.
Too many persons eat just one meal a day all day. Between-meal snacks disturb the regular digestive process and often contribute to overweight.
Many people would lose weight if they simply ate their evening meal for breakfast and their breakfast in the evening. More calories would be burned during the day instead of being stored as fat at night. As one wag has said, "Breakfast is golden, lunch is silver; and supper is lead."
What eats us is often far more important than what we eat. Worry, guilt, hostility fear and hate can turn good food into poison. They may also turn us into compulsive eaters. While some console themselves with alcohol, others console themselves with food. Lack of self-respect and of a true sense of self-worth makes us indifferent to our health and reckless in our habits. But it is just as bad to become obsessed and preoccupied with food. We aren't all stomach, and neither is life.
Prescription.31 The main dietary recommendations have already been suggested. Man's ingenious technology has not been able to improve upon the products of the earth. Most people need to eat much more fruit, vegetables and whole grains containing starch and fiber; and much less refined sugar.
Most people also need to eat much less fat and cholesterol.32 Fats should preferably be eaten as they occur naturally rather than in fatty spreads, dressings and oils. Unsaturated fats may well be preferable to hard fats.33 But even polyunsaturated vegetable oils should be used in moderation.
Such foods as potatoes and plain wholemeal bread are not fattening. A person would have to eat more than 20 potatoes or 30 slices of wholemeal bread a day just to maintain normal body weight. It is the dollops of cream, butter; margarine and oil added to these foods which make them high in calories. A teaspoon of butter or margarine contains nearly as many calories as a slice of bread but is not nearly as filling.
Added salt and salty foods should be restricted. Caffeine beverages, and alcoholic beverages in particular; should be discouraged.
Above all, the whole diet question must be viewed in the setting of the other laws of life. We must remember the principle that compliance with one law of life tends to compliance with the others. Exercise has a moderating effect on the diet. Regular and moderate habits are also important to diet. But a right mental attitude is most important of all. In eating our food, there is no better advice than that given long ago by Solomon, "Better a dish of vegetables with love than the best beef served with hatred."
Law of Life 4: Adequate Sunlight
Principle. There can be no life without light. Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight converts certain natural oils in or on the skin to vitamin D. This is rapidly absorbed into the blood. Vitamin D then helps the body use calcium, which is necessary for the bones, teeth, muscles and nerves. Ultraviolet rays may also benefit a number of skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne, boils and impetigo. Each year thousands of infants are successfully treated for jaundice of the newborn, with light as the only therapy.34
Research suggests that sunlight helps synchronize the fundamental biochemical rhythms of the body35 Natural sunlight has a relaxing effect on the nerves. And it does something for the spirit as well.
Problem. Artificial light is not an adequate substitute for sunlight. We need natural sunlight.36
We injure our health when we get either too much sunlight or not enough. Without adequate sunlight people are more prone to depression. On the other hand, too much sunlight can cause premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. In addition, excessive exposure to sunlight is often associated with skin cancer.
Prescription. We should try to get at least a few minutes of direct sunlight on the hands and face each day By exercising in the open air we can secure necessary sunlight and practice several laws of life at once. We need, however; to protect our skin from too much harsh summer sun, particularly in the middle of the day This is especially important for people with fair skin who live in tropical areas.
The rooms of the house should be exposed to sunlight — nature's antiseptic— especially during periods of warm moist weather and in winter. This will help eliminate house mites, molds, bacteria and other causes of respiratory allergies and infections.
Sunlight is an appropriate symbol for a cheerful spirit. Let's make good use of both.
1 P. R. Ehrlich and A. H. Ehrlich, Population, Resources, Environment: Issues in Human Ecology, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: WH. Freeman & Co., 1972), pp.146-47.
2 D. Shurtleff, "Some Characteristics Related to the Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease and Death: Framingham Study, 18-Year Follow-up," Section 30, The Framingham Study: An Epidemiological Investigation of Cardiovascular Disease, ed. WB. Kannel and T. Gordon (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1974), Table 12-9.
3 P-O. Astrand and K. Rodahi, Textbook of Work Physiology (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1970), pp.588-89.
4 U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, The Health Consequences of Smoking: 1975 (Atlanta: Center for Disease Control, 1975), p.5.
5 Department of Continuing Education, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Medical School Health Letter 3, no.2 (1977): 1; L. E. Lamb, ed., "Tobacco: Cigarettes, Cigars, Pipes," Health Letter 2, no. 6 (1973): 3.
6 A. Brody and B. Brody, The Legal Rights of Nonsmokers (New York: Avon Books, 1977), pp. 13-42.
7 U.S.D.H.EW, Health Consequences, p.89.
8 Vital capacity is the volume of air that can be expelled from the lungs after taking a maximum breath.
9 D. Shurtleff, "Some Characteristics Related to the Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease and Death: Framingham Study, 16—Year Follow-up," Section 26, The Framingham Study: An Epidemiological Investigation of Cardiovascular Disease (1970), Tables 12-9-A, B.
10 See Appendix, "Healthful Deep Breathing," p.57.
11 Food and Nutrition Board, Division of Biological Sciences, Assembly of Life Sciences, National Research Council (prepared by the Committee on Nutritional Misinformation), National Academy of Sciences, May 1974, "Water Deprivation and Performance of Athletes," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 27 (1974): 1096-97.
12 G. C. Pitts, R. E. Johnson and F. C. Consolazio, "Work in the Heat As Affected by Intake of Water, Salt and Glucose," American Journal of Physiology 142 (1944): 253-59.
13 See Appendix, "Healthful Weight," p.58.
14 N. B. Belloc and L. Breslow, "Relationship of Physical Health Status and Health Practices," Preventive Medicine 1 (1972): 409-21; N. B. Belloc, "Relationship of Health Practices and Mortality," Preventive Medicine 2 (1973): 67-81; Shurtleff, "Framingham 18-Year Follow-up," Table 12-6; G. V. Mann, "Obesity—The Affluent Disorder" Southern Medical Journal 70 (1977): 902-3.
15 WW Tuttle and E. Herbert, "Work Capacity with No Breakfast and a Mid-Morning Break," Journal of the American Dietetic Association 37 (1960): 137-40.
16 "obesity. . . an increase in body weight beyond the limitation of skeletal and physical requirement, as the result of an excessive accumulation of fat in the body" (Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary, 25th ed. [Philadelphia: WB. Saunders, 1974]).
17 United States Senate, Dietary Goals for the United States, prepared by the staff of the Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1977).
20 R. Passmore and J. S. Robson, eds., A Companion to Medical Studies, vol.1, Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology and Related Subjects (Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1968), pp.42-3; T. S. Danowski, S. Nolan and T. Stephan, "Obesity," World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 22 (1975): 270-79.
21 R. Masironi, "Dietary Factors and Coronary Heart Disease," Bulletin World Health Organization 42(1970): 103-14; WE. Connor and S. L. Connor, "The Key Role of Nutritional Factors in the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease," Preventive Medicine 1 (1972):
49-83; K. P Ball and R. Turner, "Editorial: Realism in the Prevention of Coronary Heart Disease," Preventive Medicine 4(1975): 390-97; F Young, "Diet and Coronary Heart Disease: Report of the Advisory Panel of the British Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (Nutrition) on Diet in Relation to Cardiovascular and Cerebrovascular Disease," Nutrition Today 10(1975): 16-27.
22 E. L. Wynder, "The Epidemiology of Large Bowel Cancer," Cancer Research 35 (1975): 3388-94; B. S. Reddy, A. Mastromarino and E. L. Wynder, "Further Leads on Metabolic Epidemiology of Large Bowel Cancer," Cancer Research 35 (1975): 3403-6; P Stocks, "Breast Cancer Anomalies," British Journal of Cancer 24 (1970): 633-43.
23 L. E. Lamb, "Coffee, Tea, Cola, Cocoa" Health Letter 1 (1972): 1-4.
24 M.E. Chafetz, Alcohol and Health: Second Special Report to the U.S. Congress (Rockville, Md.: Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Administration, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1974); idem, "How Alcohol Affects Your Health," Medical News 1, no.20 (1977): 10-11.
25 U. D. Register, S. R. Marsh, C. T. Thurston, B. J. Fields, M. C. Horning, MG. Hardinge and A. Sanchez, "Influence of Nutrients on Intake of Alcohol," Journal of the American Dietetic Association 61 (1972): 159-62.
26 N. Sapeika, "Food Additives," World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics 16 (1973): 334-62.
27 L. E. Lamb, ed., "Salt Linked to High Blood Pressure," Health Letter 9(1977): 1; idem, ed., "Salt: Your vital Sodium and Potassium Balance," ibid. 10 (1977): 1-4.
28 G. R. Meneely and L. K. Dahl, "Electrolytes in Hypertension: The Effects of Sodium Chloride," Medical Clinics of North America 45 (1961): 271-83; L. K. Dahl, "Salt and Hypertension," American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 25 (1972): 231-44
29 Shurtleff, "Framingham 18-Year Follow-up."
31 See Appendix, "Healthful Diet," p.59.
32 U.S. Senate, Dietary Goals, pp.30, 37.
33 I. S. Wright and D. T. Fredrickson, "Primary Prevention of the Atherosclerotic Diseases: Report of Inter-Society Commission for Heart Disease Resources," Circulation 42 (1970): A84-A87.
34 R. J. Wurtman, "The Effects of Light on the Human Body," Scientific American 233 (1975): 68-79.