It's National Nutrition Week. OK, great … but like me, is diet advice sometimes a turn-off and more like 'a big stick' for you? I've been receiving a constant stream of advice about the latest nutrition research via my Twitter stream and RSS media feeds: give up sugar completely; hang on a minute … sugar's not addictive after all; we need to take omega 3 (which by the way has been disproved - see The Conversation); food additives cause ADHD (also disproved); and, so on.
If you're turning instead to vitamin supplements because of the conflicting information, think again. Research studies are inconclusive about the usefulness of vitamin supplements and the evidence increasingly suggests that they may not work at all or they can actually hurt you instead of help.
What to do?
While I love reading new recipes (especially for chocolate cheesecake) and enjoy the odd episode of Masterchef or Nigella, it seems that a constant focus on what we eat or don't eat isn't all that helpful for our health. Of course, a balanced diet in line with general guidelines like those from Nutrition Australia makes sense.
But many health practitioners now believe that it's not all about what we eat that makes for good nutrition. Our thoughts also have an impact on our health.
Until recently the health professions have largely followed a medical model, which seeks to treat patients by focusing on food, exercise, medicines and surgery, and gives less importance to our thoughts and spirituality-in healing, in the physician and in the doctor-patient relationship. This reductionist or mechanistic view of patients is no longer satisfactory. Patients and physicians have begun to realise the value of elements such as faith, hope, and compassion for radiant health.
"Compare spirituality with nutrition; neither is a subject that healthcare providers can take for granted. Inadequate nutrition is costly. If people are not fed properly, resistance weakens and wounds do not heal. Evidence is growing in volume and quality that this holds for spiritual sustenance too," writes Dr Larry Culliford, Royal College of Psychologists in his British Medical Journal article Spirituality and Clinical Care (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1124896/).
Another healer, Christ Jesus, ensured that no-one, ever, went hungry but he was quick to point to the need for spiritual sustenance and the accompanying outflow of inspiration and action that flowed from this vital nutrient.
Many are now willing to dismiss the debunked platitude that 'we are what we eat' and accept the importance of spiritual nourishment to our make-up.
Don't be surprised if your health practitioner suggests one day that something's missing from your daily diet. Here's what she might prescribe next visit:
"You're suffering spiritual malnutrition. As well as this healthy diet and 30 minutes of exercise each day, just add 30 minutes of meditation or prayer".
Queensland resident and regular visitor to Rockhampton, Kay Stroud is a health blogger who frequently writes about the relationship between spirituality, consciousness and health. You can read more on her website at www.qldhealthblog.com.