Food versus Stimulants

Food intake stimulates processes of bodily regeneration which are happening below the level of our conscious life, especially in the period of sleep. Stimulants enhance various nuances of our consciousness which are all necessary for the full spectrum of soul-spiritual activities performed throughout the day – at the same time causing partial destruction of the physical organism. Thus two polar streams of life are continually flowing inside us – spiritual life and organic life – which are affecting our physical body in the opposite directions. Our task is to achieve a healthy balance between the destructive and rejuvenating processes with the help of proper nutrition, wise use of stimulants and the right amount of good sleep.

POLARITY OF ORGANIC LIFE AND LIFE OF CONSCIOUSNESS

One of the most important polarities in the human being is the polarity between the organic processes of growth, maintenance and regeneration of his physical body, and his inner life of consciousness, that is his activities of perception, sensation and reason.

There are two organs which manifest this polarity: liver and brain. The liver is the organ which of all human organs has the greatest power of regeneration: it can grow back to its normal size even if three quarters of it are destroyed. Other organs and body tissues can only be regenerated by constant replacement of old cells with new ones. We can designate these unconscious processes of renewal as human organic life.

On the other side we have the brain. Here we find nerve cells which have lost the ability to regenerate. [1] The brain with its associated sense organs is the seat of mental activity and sensory perception. In spiritual science these activities are characterised as human spiritual life or as consciousness.

If we look at a newborn baby, we can see that these two organs are the most dominant. The liver is the largest organ in the trunk. This is not surprising because the child's main activity is to sleep and grow.

Organs of the newborn: 1 Thymus, 2 Heart, 3 Liver, 4 Stomach [2]

It can be also seen that the head of a baby is very large in relation to the rest of the body. This makes sense if we know that a child has very important tasks in his waking life: he needs to get to know the world around him, and he needs to learn to speak and think. For this purpose he uses his sense organs of vision, hearing, taste and smell, as well as his brain – all of them found in the head.

The polarity between organic and spiritual life is expressed in the following manner: By day we are awake in our head and our conscious life is very active. Even if we don't move a lot, we feel tired in the evening. Then we go to sleep and lose our consciousness. However, in the morning we feel rested and refreshed. This is the effect of organic processes of regeneration in the body active while we sleep. [3]

We become tired because our conscious activities of perception, sensation, and reason cause destructive processes in our body – they stimulate breaking-down processes. These processes are an integral part of our organism, but they need to be kept in balance with up-building, regenerative processes. This balance is achieved by means of rhythmical exchange of waking and sleeping, by breathing and by rhythmical intake of food.

"The chief characteristic of ordinary thinking is that it injures the nervous system, and above all, the brain; it destroys something in the brain. Every thought means that a minute process of destruction takes place in the cells of the brain (neurons). For this reason sleep is necessary for us, in order that this process of destruction may be made good; during sleep we restore what during the day was destroyed in our nervous system by thinking." [4]

ESSENTIAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FOOD AND STIMULANTS

Food enters into the digestive tract where it is gradually broken down before being absorbed. [5] When food substances enter the body they stir up manifold metabolic processes where the liver plays a major role. Thus food stimulates regenerative processes of the physical body.

Stimulants can be absorbed directly through the skin, sense organs and breath, or even injected into the blood. If taken through the mouth, they are not broken down in the way food is; all they need is to be dissolved in bodily fluids. Then they are absorbed through the walls of the digestive tract into the bloodstream. Stimulants work through changing our brain chemistry; they have a stimulating effect on our state of consciousness. [6] This is evident in the case of drugs like heroin, cocaine, etc., which change human consciousness to a dramatic degree. But there are numerous more or less subtle types of stimulants, all of them capable of affecting our brain chemistry. This is the reason why they are so attractive and why people become easily addicted to them. But the price of addiction is that it causes our physical body to become too exhausted. If stimulants are used to an excessive degree then we need a lot of life forces to repair the damage done to the physical body.

Substances with a stimulating effect on our nervous system are minerals. Often these are in the form of white powder or in the form of pills or tablets. There are a few exceptions, like alcohol [7], coffee, and tobacco, which we consume as liquids or smoke. However, scientists have also found in these substances specific chemical compounds with proven stimulating effects on the brain (e.g. caffeine in coffee is the main stimulant).

We have various groups of stimulants with various degrees of stimulating effect (from more to less strong): [8]

The presence of medicines on the list might surprise some people, but the fact is that they are mineral compounds which change the brain chemistry as other forms of stimulants do. We can easily see the effect they have on our consciousness in the case of antidepressants or anti-psychotics, but not so easily with other medical drugs. [11]

Besides, their presence in the list demonstrates that stimulants are not always just negative. Medical drugs can be beneficial if they are used when real need exists, if they are used in the smallest doses as possible, and if people do not get dependent on them. Some stimulants, such as herbs and spices, are even part of our daily diet. For sure, it would be senseless to avoid them just because they have stimulating effect on our brain. Sometimes we need stimulants to be able with their help to do what life circumstances demand from us. In the end it is a question of having the right balance between the conscious activities which cause partial destruction and our individual power of regeneration.

DIETARY CONCLUSIONS & PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS

In the Western world there is a trend towards excessive mineralisation of food. This is evident in conventional food production with use of food additives: artificial preservatives, flavourings and colourings. In most cases they are either mineral compounds extracted from various organic sources, or made artificially by means of chemical engineering. Usually they are sold in the form of powder. Whenever we use such food additives we add more mineral compounds to the food.

This is also the case with food supplements in the form of white tablets. It makes no difference if they are made from organic sources or not, in each case we have mineral crystalline substance acting as stimulants. [12] However, there are available natural food supplements such as plant elixirs, herb mixtures, seaweeds, fish oil, etc. Also dried herbs, spices, and herb teas are all traditional forms of natural ‘food supplements’. If there is a need for additional essential minerals and vitamins, then the best way is to obtain them in natural form – as much as possible.

In the developed countries there exists a new trend called functional foods. These are foods which have been ‘enriched’ with a particular substance regarded as beneficial for human health (for example, orange juice with added calcium). This is just another attempt to change food into medicine – but not in the right way, for the outcome is less food and more minerals on our menus.

The final outcome of this trend is that people in affluent societies are eating an ever increasing amount of stimulants – that is, mineral substances – either in their food, or in addition to it. The way out is the consumption of organic-natural-wholefoods. Organic food has more naturally occurring trace minerals, but much less added minerals in the form of food additives. Natural food – such as vegetables, fruit, grains and legumes – are more authentic food than food which has been highly processed, adulterated, ‘enriched’ by chemical additives, etc. The former we can still call food, but for the latter one the term junk food is really a very appropriate expression, for it is food of very low quality and full of stimulative substances with an addictive character. [13] Wholefoods have more essential trace minerals than refined foods. In the case of highly refined sugars such as white sugar, we indeed get only sugar crystals, while all other essential trace minerals and vitamins are lost.

NOTES

  1. New research in neuroscience has discovered that brains can generate new neurons well into old age, and not just when we grow up. This is something which had previously been thought impossible. But it is still true that existing neurons do not regenerate themselves as is the case with all other cells in the body and to the greatest extent in the liver. For more information about recent advances in neuroscience see The Plastic Mind by Sharon Begley (London, 2009).
  2. Sources: Atlas of Human Anatomy, Cobham, UK, Taj Books, 2005; Anatomski atlas (Atlas of Anatomy), Ljubljana, Tehniška Založba Slovenije, 2006
  3. Organic processes are also active in our body during the day, but we are not conscious of them. However it is only when we sleep that they get fully active, for then they are not hindered by our conscious activities.
  4. Rudolf Steiner, source unknown
  5. For a description of the complex processes of breakdown in the digestive tract see Activities of Refining in the Digestive Tract.
  6. Stimulants can have various effects: sometimes they stimulate, sometimes they relax; sometimes they uplift, sometimes they depress, etc. Their effect depends on which part of the brain they stimulate.
  7. The stimulative effect of alcohol is not surprising when we know that it come from the fermentation of the sugar which we know the best in the form of the white crystals used as sweetener.
  8. This list of stimulants arranged by the power of their effect is made only for the purpose of recognising the existence of various types of stimulants. The effect of any stimulant is dependent also on the individual person (as it is generally known in the case of alcohol) and for that reason this list cannot be regarded as absolute one.
  9. Nowadays there is considerable scientific evidence on the stimulating properties of sugar and salt, as well as their strong addictive nature. You can find very good summary of this evidence in The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler (Penguin Books, 2009).
  10. Mineral food supplements have crystalline substances as their key ingredient. Usually they are available in the form of pills or tablets. Whenever we have crystalline substances, we are dealing with minerals, regardless of whether the substance is called ‘magnesium’ or ‘C-vitamin’, and regardless of whether the substance originated from the mineral, plant, or animal kingdom. One can find a proof for the addictive nature of food supplements in the book by Elizabeth Wurtzel, More, Now, Again (Virago Press, 2003), when she describes her addiction with snorting powdered Ritalin, a psychostimulant drug. On one occasion, after running out of Ritalin, she tries to get high on Fen-Phen, a food supplement for losing weight. Her comment is: "It's no substitute for Ritalin, but it's a little speedy, like all diet aids."
  11. A more detailed explanation of how medicines influence our consciousness is given on the advanced level of this website (see Supersensible Effect of Mineral Medicaments).
  12. The question of food supplements needs more detailed explanation. For now it is sufficient to be aware that mineral food supplements work in the same way as all stimulants: they produce changes in the chemistry of our nervous system. For that reason we should use them with caution, as is the norm with medical drugs.
  13. For the evidence of the addictive nature of junk food see note 9. In last years they were also published many articles on this topic. For example, see the article Junk food ‘is as addictive as heroin and cigarettes’ (Daily Mail, 29.03.2010)