A grain of salt: Getting back to the basics

By Ammi Midstokke
Reader Columnist

“Do you believe in those IV infusions as a hangover cure?” a family member asked me as he loaded some hotel pancakes onto his plate. I recommended some bacon and eggs to replace his electrolyte levels and increase those anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids. Then I explained that science is not a belief. There is as much science behind the efficacy of a $50 bag of nutrients pumped into our veins as there is behind the reasons why we shouldn’t binge on cocktails in the first place.

Ammi Midstokke.

I spend half of my time with patients debunking the myths of cures and diets and single-pill solutions to a lifetime of poor habits and ignoring the basics. I get it, it’s confusing. Butter used to be the devil, now it’s the super food. But are we being distracted by infinitely tiny details of our habits just so we can ignore the big picture? 

Absolutely, we are. 

Whether we have been eating butter or margarine our entire lives is not the defining factor in our current state of (un)health, but rather the myriad other habits that support or detract from it and how they add up. We’re going to get a few things wrong, not because science has intentionally misled us for generations in some scheme to ruin humanity, but because we are processing an incredible amount of data to reach new conclusions. Those will probably change again, too.

The issue is not butter or margarine. It’s not processed sugars or fresh fruits, meat or plant-based, cardio or weight lifting. Allowing ourselves to sum up each other in these eternally debatable questions — and biologically diverse answers — is both a cultural and individual problem. It is an avoidance of basic truths we know: The donut is not the problem. The regular donut in lieu of a meal that offers some nutritional value is. 

I would argue that we often know the answers about what serves our health but just as often prefer to bury our heads in the minutiae and become victims of misinformation instead of empowered by accountability. The answers might be different for each of us. But a multi-billion dollar health industry is drowning out your internal voice with its promises of easy weight loss, determined erections, stress reduction without lifestyle change and ageless skin. And, oh yeah, those hangover cures.

Our general health and vitality precedes the past 50 years of the chemical revolution and amassing of empirical evidence. Eat whole foods. Sleep. Move your body. That was it. Somehow our big brains have decided we need to outsmart millions of years of evolution with biohacking, B-vitamin cocktails and nano-knowledge of biology (where words like “interleukin” and “inflammatory” are common jargon among unqualified professionals, but the basic understanding that we need to eat at regular intervals is challenged with fad diets).

Our list of simple health rules now also needs to be expanded to the ever-enlightening consciousness of our society. We must include our mental and emotional health as we recognize how important things like human relationships and trauma-informed education are. This expands our list to: eat, sleep, move, love and heal. 

I would add, “Don’t do blatantly harmful stuff when you know better.” Don’t watch your screens too much. Don’t drink too much caffeine. Don’t eat too many pesticides. Don’t do yards of tequila, read the news before bed or consume energy drinks (ever).

The overwhelming likelihood of failure is omnipresent and thus we bargain by seeking cures to willingly acquired illnesses. If we didn’t do those things in the first place, we wouldn’t need all the quick solutions to long-developed problems. While that might not be possible because donuts sometimes call to us with their siren song, a balance between donuts and healthier fare is achievable.

We would best serve our health as individuals by simplifying our lives and inquiring within. Opt out of that which does not serve your health and choose the basic things that do. If you’re hung up on or confused by the minutiae, just take a look at the basics and try to get those right most of the time.

Ammi Midstokke is a local nutritional therapy practitioner and author.

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