Stress is a notion that’s close to the heart of natural nutrition. Put simply, all causes of disease can be traced to an unreasonable level of stress being placed on your body. The kind of stress I’m talking about is not necessarily the daily stress we all know from our hectic and demanding life style, although this kind of stress can certainly be a contributing factor to illness. Stress can and does also result from unbalanced and inappropriate nutrition; excessive use of socially acceptable intoxicants; suppressive drugs and vaccinations; environmental toxins; negative emotions; lack of physical exercise; genetic factors; and improper body alignment.

Our body is endowed with in-built mechanisms to throw off the toxins caused by such stresses, which is why it will always attempt to reduce stress levels either by throwing a fit (for instance, a high fever) or, when suppressed over a long period of time, by repeatedly signalling that its needs are being ignored (for instance, a chronic condition). Eventually, however, if stress levels are prolonged and/or unreasonable, the body loses its ability to rid itself of the rubbish and rebalance. It becomes a toxin dump, and a perfect breeding ground for viruses and bacteria.

Some individuals are able to tolerate and function through higher levels of physical, mental and emotional stress while others succumb to its effects more quickly. By and large this will depend on one’s vitality, that special gift we’re endowed with on birth, probably even on conception. Our vitality levels possibly being pre-determined does not, however, mean that we can relinquish all responsibility for our well being. On the contrary – we have a major role to play in keeping stress levels to the minimum that enables our body and mind to function optimally. Such a minimum is very individual, but unless you’re a monk tucked in the hills and living on a bowl of rice a day, you’re going to have quite a bit of de-stressing work to do no matter what.

When it comes to nutritional stresses, which are the focus of this article, the list can be very long indeed. Modern diets and eating habits are far removed from the natural model we were likely designed for, considering we are creatures of nature and supposed to be an integral part of it. It’s unlikely we were created with cheese sticks, hamburgers and coke cans in mind, much to the regret of some. On the other hand, it is also unlikely we’d survive if we had to roam around the heaths in search of food, so somewhere in between balance must be struck.

To strike such balance, it’s important to understand that food, too, can create or reduce stress. Every type of food has its own vibration in your body. Consider for example the way you feel after eating an apple as opposed to a Sunday roast. Food can be light and relatively unstressful, or it can be heavy and challenging. Not all foods fall into neat categories, yet some foods are clearly more challenging than others.

A quick scan of common foods – refined breakfast cereals, white bread, burgers and fries, pizza and pasta, fizzy and sugary drinks, frozen vegetables, ready meals, chocolate bars, candy and all manner of cakes and treats – is sufficient proof that the Western diet is high on foods with little nutrient and high stress value. Such foods make the body’s work of digestion and elimination much harder. Over time, if the stress is relentless, such foods can literally erode our internal organs (adult-onset diabetes and heart disease are good examples).

Typically, the ‘high stress’, challenging foods are the highly processed, unnatural, refined and pesticized varieties that have come to constitute much of our current diet. The fact that such foods are so acceptable makes it harder to drive the truth home – the stress that these foods cause is the source of many of the illnesses our society experiences.

By contrast, the ‘low stress’ foods give the body more than they take, and in the process do not require undue effort on the part of the body. These are the whole grains, vegetables, fruit, pulses, seeds and nuts of this world, commonly termed ‘health foods’, and chucked aside in favour of convenience. These are the foods with life enhancing, health sustaining qualities. These are the foods that should be high on your list if good health is of any interest to you. If you eat plenty of these, you know you give your body the tools it needs to work with without making unreasonable demands.

To be sure, even some of the healthier foods can be challenging for some more than others – ask those sensitive to bananas, nuts or tofu. It is really up to you to establish a close dialogue with your body so that you can clearly tell the effect different foods have on you. Sadly, most people are so far removed from their body, they have little notion of what their body can and can’t take in. They can be heard boasting that “they can eat anything and nothing has an effect on them”, failing to realise they are so toxic and over-loaded, they wouldn’t be able to tell if something did or did not agree with them even if it jumped right in their face. One of the very first things I do as a nutritionist is help people establish this relationship and understand the effect the food they’re so used to has on them. You will be amazed with the discoveries people make when they start experimenting.

The premise I work on is thousands of years old – the body is fully equipped to balance itself and maintain its harmony and integrity; it just needs to be allowed to do its job without overdue stress. Nutrition is one area where stress can be reduced most effectively, because we eat every day at least 3 times a day, so even the smallest of changes could bring about significant benefits. Granted, the stress of polluted air, long working hours or an unhappy marriage, for instance, is not always avoidable or changeable. But in the realm of nutrition, you are king. You may not be able easily to change your partner, but in your kitchen you can choose to replace junk with goodness, at least some of the time. You can from time to time choose to eat less rather than more; have a wheat-free week or replace some of the meat you eat with fresh fish. It is entirely up to you how little or how much you do, but the important thing is you can do, and your body will be grateful for any small change you make for the better. This is the beauty of working in harmony with your body. This is the beauty of natural nutrition.

© Vardit Kohn, September 2005.   No part of this article may be copied or reproduced without prior written consent.

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