The human race has become fascinated and awe-struck by the phenomenal research and findings of the past century. From improved sanitation to prescription drugs for every cough or ache, technology makes life simpler and healthier. Humans are living longer, experiencing better health and suffering from illness and disease less. Right? On the contrary, in the United States, one in three people die of cancer, one in five suffers from mental disorders and one out of every five pregnancies result in miscarriage (Fallon, 1). Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, dyslexia, hyperactivity, ulcers, obesity, arthritis, multiple sclerosis and diabetes are only a few of the ailments that hinder the American population.
Chronic disease afflicts nearly half of the population of the United States and causes an astonishing three out of four deaths. Although such physical and mental problems once characterized the elderly, more and more children and teenagers are struck by chronic illness than ever before (Fallon, 1). In light of every medical advancement and scientific breakthrough, why is it that more people than ever suffer from chronic illnesses, obesity and heart disease?
The human body is a complex, living organism that has taken thousands of years to comprehend and fathom on the simplest level. Today, most Americans view the human body as something constantly rebelling, breaking down, aging or malfunctioning. With every ache and pain or cough and sniffle, the body demonstrates its downfall and weaknesses. In combating these ailments, the majority of our powerless nation depends on prescription drugs, shots, surgeries and other medical treatments for any chance of recovery or improvement. All the while wondering about the source of such diseases and health disorders. Meanwhile, the average diet consists of fast foods, candy bars, and carbonated beverages loaded with preservatives, artificial sweeteners, salt and empty calories. Although the consumption of certain foods cannot account for every chronic disease and illness one hundred percent, the nutrition derived from food plays an important role in how the body functions.
First and foremost, the view of the human body must change in order to comprehend the purposes and intricate workings of its components. In its natural state, the human body is a picture of beauty, wholeness, balance and vitality (Fallon, 1). Thousands of years ago, Galen sought to grasp an understanding of this magnificent creation through experiment, dissection and research. For Galen the body was a detailed masterpiece waiting to be unraveled. When describing the birth and life of an animal or human, he says “after it has been born, an affect in which all parts share is the progress of each to its full size, and thereafter its maintenance of itself as long as possible” (Galen, 169). In order to describe this process of life beginning at conception, he describes the three activities or principal effects of Nature involved, including “Genesis, Growth and Nutrition” (Galen, 169).
In genesis the actual parts of the body take shape from the veins and organs to the fingers and toes. Next, growth increases and expands for the maturation and development of the animal. In order for these processes to come about, there must be nutrition. If a body does not intake nutritive material, the body will be hindered from growth or take on a false appearance o growth. Therefore, nutrition is absolutely necessary for the maintenance and growth of animals and human beings. According to Galen, nutrition occurs when “the inflowing material becomes assimilated to that which has already come into existence” (Galen, 171). The inflowing material is the food eaten by the animal, which is then assimilated into bone, blood and anything else the body needs. The animal or human cannot eat just anything in order to receive correct and suitable nutrition. The body can only break down those materials that can be assimilated into what already exists in the fibers and make-up of the body. When the body cannot properly receive nutrition or process food for nutriment, diseases such as leprosy and dropsy.
To completely understand the ideas expressed by Galen, the modern digestive system must be analyzed. The digestive system is simply “the process of preparing food to enter the body” (Sullivan, 89). From the point the food enters the mouth, it is being broken down into smaller and smaller particles in order for the body to use the proteins, fats, nutrients and minerals properly. The chewed-up food mixes with saliva in the mouth, and after being swallowed it travels down the esophagus. Here, no actual digestion takes place, but muscles in the esophagus help to push food throughout the process.
When food arrives at the stomach, the food is churned into a soupy paste while chemicals break down the proteins (Avraham, 44). The food is stored in the stomach until it moves on to the small intestines where most of the digestion takes place. The small intestines completes the breaking-down of the food into usable particles for the muscles, organs and bones. In the large intestines, waste is transported out of the body. Then, the digested, broken-down nutrients go to the liver in order to be used by individual body cells (Avraham, 58). The liver processes absorbed materials and sends the final nutrients out to the body. All of the organs involved in digestion play a vital role in the overall process. Just as Galen said, “there are so many organs concerned in the alteration of food” (Galen, 179).
Although the digestive system involves numerous organs and intricate processes, it is incredibly efficient and productive. When the body is not given proper nutrition either in the quantity or quality, how can it be expected to function and deliver the nutrients the body needs for survival? Galen understood the vital importance of good and sufficient nutrition in the body both for growth and genesis. Surprisingly, in a nation with so much technology and advancements, Americans are unable to see this truth. This is evident through the food consumed and promoted.
Not only are fast food and soft drinks to blame for the poor nutrition of Americans but also products used in most everything consumed such as white four, processed sugar, preservatives and vegetable oils. These foods actually strip the body of nutrients and in some cases can hinder future nutrition (Adams). The ill-effects of these food may be slow and invisible to the eye, but they are there. With every bite of processed foods, Americans are poisoning their bodies little by little, leading to the chronic diseases and problems experience by the majority of the American population today.
Jordan S. Rubin experienced chronic illness that could not be explained by a number of doctors. He tried everything from various treatments to different diets. Finally, he completely removed processed foods his diet and changed his lifestyle. Today, he is vibrant, healthy and illness-free. In his book, the Maker’s Diet, he challenges Americans to remove their mindsets about nutrition and food in order to see what the body actually needs. He is just one example of how our nation can be transformed by changing what we put in our mouths.
In an era of time with such an abundance of resources, knowledge and technology, Americans should be thriving, living longer and enjoying healthier lives. If chronic disease did not have such a gripping hold on each and every American, not necessarily in body but always in fear, how much more could we actually accomplish? The means to healthier lives exists and is attainable for every person. Galan’s understanding of the body’s nutrition speaks to the ailments that hinder today’s generation from truly experiences the joys of health and well-being. Nutrition is a necessary component for all growth and development in the body, so wholesome foods should replace the hamburgers and fries of this dying generation.
Adams, Mike. White Four promotes nutritional deficiencies and chronic disease. 2005.
Avraham, Regina. The Digestive System. Chelsea House Publishers, 1986.
Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. New Trends Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC, 2001.
Galen. On the Natural Faculties.
Sullivan, Robert J. Digestion and Nutrition. Chelsea House Publishing, 2004