Other than your thumbprint, what aspect of your body is unique to you?
Here’s a hint, I often mention it in my articles, and it’s a concept that scientists are discovering plays a huge role in the way that our bodies assimilate all sensory, nutritional, and physical input.
Yes! It’s bio-individuality.
Many questions that you’ve sent boil down to the different ways that our bodies respond to nutritional influences.
For example, a friend recently asked why her dad and his identical twin have different reactions to peanuts. A reader asked why she can only drink one glass of alcohol and experience a blinding hangover the next day, while her roommates can drink the whole bar and still function afterwards. And my editor recently shot me a good question, too; several of her friends voice this common complaint: “It seems like I’m lactose intolerant… but only sometimes. One day I drink milk and I’m fine, the next day I have the same milk and feel awful.”
As both annoying and intriguing as it is, there are specific answers for everyone’s questions yet they all reduce to bio-individuality.
Everyone has a natural biochemical calibration that influences our unique personalities. Our individual calibration impacts our health and the way that our cells are nourished. Like our individual thumbprints, our bio-individuality results in diverse nutritional needs that are specific to our genetics, gender, activity level, neurotransmitter production, absorption, environment, age, blood type, glucose control, metabolic activity, body shape, and physical size.
Because of these differences, everyone experiences a deficit in certain nutrients and an abundance in others, and a perfect nutritional balance elsewhere. This is the calibration that I refer to; all of us have a specific balance of nutrition and calories, which makes it impossible for any diet to be a one-size-fits-all generic prescription for health.
The changes in our diet have outpaced evolution. Our bodies can’t keep up with the environmental influences that humans take on in the race to survive and succeed.
The most influential factors of bio-individuality are genetics, which play a role in determining our metabolic activity and how our bodies process different foods. A sudden influence to the calibration of an indigenous culture’s diet can take hundreds of years of evolution before the body begins to utilize the nutrient. However, it’s not a collective evolution within the general public of that culture; each person who makes up the whole of the group will have a different reaction to the introduced influence.
For example, North American indigenous cultures were not exposed to fermented alcohols until Europeans arrived on the continent. Studies show that the modern bio-individuality of the Native American Indian is still missing the enzyme that helps the body process fermented alcohol. Some Native Americans still struggle to assimilate alcohol, while others have developed a better digestive tolerance to fermentation.
And people of African descent were calibrated to thousands of years of a diet that consisted mostly of beans, grains, animal protein, and root vegetables. Dairy wasn’t an easy nutrient to attain, nor could it be stored well in hot regions. The African bio-individuality hasn’t evolved fast enough to accommodate the increase of dairy in the diet, hence the theory of why many Africans, worldwide, have an intolerance to dairy.
On the other hand, people from Scandinavian descent have digestive systems that are well calibrated to all things lactose since that region of the world had a diet heavy in dairy.
Those of us whose families have been in America for more than five or six generations may still experience a genetic or ethnic propensity for nutritional absorption that is similar to long-ago ancestors, while others show no sign of any nutritional similarities.
Another factor that influences our bio-individuality is our metabolic rate, the rate at which our bodies convert food to energy. Simply, our bodies either quickly convert nutrients to energy, or store the extra calories. For example, because teens are growing at a faster rate and are often more active than adults, they traditionally have higher metabolisms.
Scientists have categorized humans into three metabolic activities: The “Fast Burners” prefer diets higher in protein because they quickly burn through carbohydrates; they are also often hungry and crave salty fatty foods. The “Slow Burners” require more carbohydrates in order to speed metabolism, which provides energy; they are usually challenged with weight control and are keen for sweet-tasting foods. The “Mixed Types” require a balance between protein and carbs, have an average appetite, and don’t often crave salty or sweet foods.
A vegetarian diet is perfect for some people, while others require support from nutritional supplements, and some function well on diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein.
A suggested approach to exploring our own bio-individuality is to ask, “Who am I nutritionally?
Finding our own calibration takes time and exploration to know which nutrients to emphasize, which ones to minimize, and which to eliminate altogether. Taking into account our genetics, gender, environment and body differences it is important to consider Shakespeare’s quote, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison,” when experimenting to identify our personal bio-individuality.
Learning to pay attention to our fullness levels and distinguishing between boredom, stress, and authentic hunger will establish a better relationship between our mind’s cravings for comfort and our cells loud call for fuel.
And if interest lies in answering the question about who we are nutritionally, our best approach is to begin to listen to our body. It’s always communicating, every second of the day. Through trial and error, tracking and experimenting, we can begin to learn our body’s language so that we can better provide what it requests for balanced performance.
Have a health-related question for Kris even though you now know it just comes down to bio-individuality? Send it to the firstname.lastname@example.org.