I know you’ve heard this before, but it is SO important that it bears repeating: CHEW, CHEW, CHEW. This means both slowly and thoroughly. To be totally graphic about it, you want anything you swallow to be a soupy consistency. Especially meat. For starters, digestion starts in the mouth. There are thousands of tiny neuro-receptors in the mouth that send messages to the brain about what is about to come down the pike. These messages “prep” the entire digestive system to gear up for the meal or snack that’s on the way. Fatty foods will trigger the liver to produce extra bile, and cause the gallbladder to contract. The gallbladder is a handy little sack that hangs just under the liver, collecting an extra repository of bile in case you have a Mac-attack. Bile is extremely potent stuff (so precious to the body that 95% is recycled — the other 5% is responsible for the wonderful deep brown color of a healthy poop. Excuse me, I mean bowel movement). Bile is the main agent for digesting fat. But I’m getting...

First World Wide Rights to Let’s Live Magazine, 2004 More than 5,000 Americans die every year from food poisoning. Airport security has received lots of press attention in the past few years, but perhaps we should be paying closer attention to our food and water supply. Admittedly, the people that die from food poisoning are usually in the under 5 and over 65 year old crowds. Nevertheless, a nice case of E. coli, Salmonella or Shigella can definitely keep you housebound for a week or so. Food poisoning is often due to one of these bacteria, but viral infections, such as the Norwalk virus, are increasingly common. The “stomach flu” is the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in the US and viral epidemics are spread through contaminated food or water.

From Women’s Health, January 2005 Q: I’m a 70-yr old female. What can I do naturally to improve my bone health and vertebrae deterioration? (H.G., Schooleys Mt., NJ)

Please print and affix with thy most favorite refrigerator magnet: Thou shalt honor thy health and good spirits above all else. Thou shalt not go on crash diets; there lieth the way of madness. Thou shalt not clean thy neighbor’s plate. Thou shalt not eat when thine eye lusteth but when thy stomach doth supplicate for sustenance. Thou shalt sup chiefly on the fruits of the earth, the grains and vegetables thereof; on the fowl of the air and the fish of the seven seas, whence donuts cometh not. Thou shalt not eat when thou art miserable, for food is not a medicine unto the soul. Thou shalt take exercise daily; for why hast thou sinew and bone, legs and sneakers? Thou shalt be patient but not forgetful of meal times. Thou shalt take delight in every good friend and good song, in every good walk and good day; for to enjoy them more is why these commandments are given unto you. Thou shalt not knit thy brow if thou transgress a commandment, but forgive thyself; for it is written,...

Despite its prevalence, constipation is often not understood, nor mentioned to doctors and thus may go untreated for years. While perhaps not the most scintillating topic for polite conversation with new friends, I personally, as a naturopathic physician and mom, am fascinated with digestive health and, well, poop. Constipation means all or any of the following: difficulty passing stool, incomplete passage of stool, or infrequent bowel movements. Ideally people would poop shortly after each meal, just like cats. The two main reasons few Americans have 3 easy-to-pass, formed, darkish brown, half-floating/half-sinking poops daily (the ideal) is because of chronic dehydration and a low-fiber, high refined-food diet. “Sinkers” mean the fecal matter has been in there too long and has become compacted, dense and heavy. The optimal “transit time” is 18 to 24 hours. Beets or corn are useful foods for evaluating how long it takes to go the several dozen feet from your mouth to your anus.

You may have heard the aphorism “You Are What You Eat.” That’s true, to a certain extent, but perhaps it would be even more accurate to quip “You Are What You Assimilate.” In other words, you need to extract the nutrition from your chow, and successfully eliminate the rest, for the food to have been truly useful. Some basic tips on maximizing your chances of healthy assimilation and proper elimination are:

The standard definition of high cholesterol is having an excess of cholesterol in the blood, usually more than 200 mg/dl, although many doctors are now citing 180 mg/dl as the maximum of the reference range. The reason you have “high cholesterol” is probably because you have eaten too much saturated fat (from animals) over the years. Some people, however, have an inherited type of high cholesterol. For more information on familial hypercholesterolemia please see the conventional diagnosis section.

ALLERGIES is a word we hear a lot these days; everybody seems to have them, especially kids. Atopic children — those prone to allergies — have chronic runny noses, red itchy eyes and a little crease just above the tips of their noses from constantly swiping off a drip. This gesture is ruefully called the “allergic salute” in naturopathic pediatrics. Often when people say they have “allergies” they actually mean they have “sensitivities” to certain foods. An allergic reaction has many different manifestations, most of them quite profound. These reactions range from anaphylactic shock and death (for example an extreme reaction to a bee sting where the bronchial airways swell shut) to chronic fatigue, malaise and foggy thinking from constant exposure to the allergen. Besides foods, people can be both allergic to, or have sensitivities to, pollens, danders, molds, preservatives, pesticides, various building materials, and even to their own hormones and tissues (as in auto-immune diseases).

Q: I can’t understand living in Alaska and being purely vegetarian. Is there something wrong with eating meat or fish?

Fats, or lipids, are essential to good health. Fats serve as a concentrated source of energy. Each gram of fat supplies 9 calories, whereas protein and carbohydrate supplies 4 calories each per gram. Fatty tissue in the body helps to hold the organs and nerves in place and protects them against traumatic injury. The layer of fat just below the skin insulates the body and maintains a steady temperature. Fats allow for the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). In the stomach, fats depress enzymatic activity thus slowing the emptying of the stomach after a meal and providing the felling of fullness (satiety) after eating. Fats are also terrific carriers of flavor, so add to the good taste of foods. Having said all that, Americans tend to consume way more fat calories than is necessary for optimal health. Most of the increase in fat consumption in America over the past 25 years represents an increase in the consumption of salad dressing and fried foods. The average American diet consists of 40% fat, 30% protein and 30%...