Does our environment afffect our metabolism?

I was asked on twitter whether our external environment has an impact on our metabolism.  I feel that the answer is YES.  Our health and wellbeing is made up of numerous factors which includes physical.  Physical not only includes our internal environment and the numerous biochemical reactions which are occurring every second of every day but also our external environment, the ecosystem, altitude, weather etc.

I live in a quaint little county of England called North East Lincolnshire – our weather is usually wet and cold, last year there was no real summer but it rained and rained.  I am aware of a number of people within the area who experience chronic otitis media (water trapped behind the ear drums), colds, coughs, sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome and many other health issues which can all be described as wet and cold in nature.

Let me explain, as a herbalist I was trained to understand the six tissue states. I was taught about the body from a biochemical level upwards but in order to offer holistic health care you have to understand and identify the different patterns that the body presents to you in order to reveal the underlying imbalances.  One of the reasons why it is fantastic to become more in tune with your own body!! Peope can be so disconnected from what their body is signalling to them…. are you one of these?

From the historical origins of Greek humoral medicine four qualities were identified: hot, cold, dry and wet, these qualities can be used to describe the tissues within the body.

Hot, excited tissue states benefit from sedatives which can cool the tissue and restore balance.  Heat disperses and makes things lighter, thinner and more porous.

Dry, atrophic tissues within the body require moisture.  Dryness hardens things reducing pliability and preventing things from passing through them.

Too much moisture in tissues can cause a damp congested state which need the fluids to be reduced to restore balance.  Dampness and moisture can soften things making them more pliable; water also flows which can take up substances.

Cold tissues can show depressed activity and may need stimulant herbs to restore heat. Cold aggravates, condenses and packs things together.

People can be understood by their qualities, personality traits in relation to the four qualities have been developed any include: Powerful Choleric (dry and hot), Phlegmatic (moist and cold), Popular Sanguine (hot and moist) and Melancholy (cold and dry).  From the micro to the macro everything can be looked at having different degrees of these qualities.

These qualities can even be used to study inert objects, a new dimension is therefore introduced when looking at living beings such as ourselves.  The four states are complicated by the degree of tension ranging from constricted to relaxed.

If tissue is over-relaxed, astringents can be utilised to constrict and tone the flaccid tissue.

Constricted tissues show a lack of movement, relaxants can release the tension in the tissues and restore the flow of fluids around them.

When we think of our metabolism we think of how well we burn up our food and whether or not it is easy or hard for us to lose/gain weight.  Metabolism actually relates to the biochemical transformation of one substance into another form.  Most transformations within the body are helped by enzymes which are produced within the body and are specific molecules which work like a lock and key to support metabolism.

Factors which can affect our metabolism include the quantities of enzymes present, our body is maintained at a certain temperature through a process called homeostasis.  Without this many cells would die and the enzymes in our body would not work well.  There is an optimum range of pH and temperature in order to ensure that the enzymes are efficient in their role within the body.  Both have a minimal range without having drastic consequences on our health but our pH levels can vary depending on the foods which we eat (preferably they should be in season) and our organs.  The stomach is more acidic but the intestines function better in an alkaline environment.

Certain food additives, dyes, herbicides, insecticides, alcohol and cigarette smoking all affect metabolism.  Depending on where you source your food your could be contributing to a change in your metabolic rate.

When a herbalist looks at the body, it is as a whole; how the patient relates to the environment around them is taken into account, this includes the tissue states.  Our health is the culminative result of our actions and our environment.  Cold foods such as salad which are in season in the summer cool our bodies when it is required (depending on where you live) due to the hot nature of summer. In the winter our instinct to warming hearty dishes helps to heat our body and is supportive of the season.  Hot steaming stews, mulled wine, cinnamon and spices meals and puddings are prefered in the winter.  Eating out of season puts added stress on your body – eating salads in the winter is only going to make the body work harder (requiring more nutrients) to heat the body (because of the season) and also because of eating food which naturally depresses activity.

What do you think about this subject?