How Much Is Enough?

by Lynitta Karley, L.C.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics estimates that an average American adult female requires around 2000 calories a day, and the average American adult male requires around 2500 calories a day. This number also varies depending on the activity and fitness level of the individual. However, these numbers are often an over estimate of daily caloric needs. If we look at regions of highly active people, such as the Tsimane people of the Bolivian Amazon, many of them would be considered nutritionally deficient by American standards, based on the calories they consume daily. The Tsimane eat predominantly of carbohydrates, consuming smaller amounts of fat and protein. Yet they thrive, while also having some of the healthiest arteries ever studied. How can this be? In reality, much of the American population is consuming more calories than their bodies actually need. The question, then, arises--how much is enough?

The connection between the stomach and the brain provide us our guideline. It takes time for the brain to send the signal that the body is satiated, so it is important to eat slowly and chew thoroughly. The amygdala can then send the signal of fullness before much food is too quickly stuffed into the stomach. This also aids in proper digestion of food. Another principle to keep in mind is to eat a wholesome diet to satisfy hunger, not appetite. Eat until you feel like you could still comfortably eat a little more, and stop. Do not eat until you are very full, because you will have over eaten at this point. A wholesome diet consists of plant-based, whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Many diseases and debilitating conditions are created due to chronic overeating, including gastritis, acid reflux, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a small bundle of muscles at the end of the esophagus and beginning of the stomach, prevents food and gastric acid from returning to the esophagus during digestion. Prolonged and sustained abdomen expansion, often due to overeating, weakens the LES muscle. Frequent overeating and consuming large portion sizes, prolonged bloating and stomach pressure, and excessive belly weight can lead to acid reflux, along with a host of other problems. Individuals who experience acid reflux on a prolonged basis may develop GERD.

A common mistake most people make after eating a large meal is lying down, because they feel overfull and have a lack of energy. This occurs because digestion requires a large amount of energy in itself. The brain becomes dull and one becomes lethargic. This moment, however, is the worst time to lie down. Due to the position of the stomach, it makes it difficult to properly digest while lying down, and encourages the onset of acid reflux. A simple digestive walk would be much more beneficial to the person.

During your next holiday meal, keep these principles in mind and persevere to making good choices for lasting health. If you do so, your stomach, and your body will thank you in the long run.

Source: From the December 2017,
Uchee Pines Newsletter, "Emphasis: Your Health". You may subscribe to the Uchee Pines Newsletter here.