Feb 23 2014

The Postural Diet

By: Jhesika Menes

Bryan_Davis-2Bryan Davis works at his standing desk - Bryan Davis

Gravity, the natural phenomenon that gives weight to physical objects, described eloquently by Monsieur Einstein in the General Theory of Relativity as a consequence of the curvature of space-time. The strength of gravitational fields can slow the passage of time and, much to the chagrin of the female sex, sag things once perky. When applied to the science of diet, posture has an effect on digestion. The gut pains one experiences post meal are a direct result of poor gastrointestinal function partly, if not solely, caused by the physical positioning when dining.

The guts are by design a compact bundle of pipes in the human torso extending to the lower pelvic region. Bending at the waist, the action performed when seated, imposes a structural hindrance often leading to the obstruction of pathways within this bodily 'highway system.' Sitting up straight while eating can drastically reduce gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) which is the dysfunction of the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus. Similar to acid reflux, it is a common medical condition where stomach acid moves upward into the esophagus during digestion. Pregnant women have common problems associated with intestinal restriction, as the growing fetus applies pressure to the stomach and intestines. As the uterus swells, the intestines are pushed upward leading to chronic acid reflux, better known as heartburn. Other symptoms often include bloating, a bubbling sensation, and sharp pain, all attributed to trapped gas.
If you ask any Doctor, scientist, or physical therapist you'll hear the same response- the human being was not designed to sit, at least for extended periods of time. The act of sitting was imposed by man's coming of age and desire for comfort. With the lazy luxury of indoor living came space to fill, spawning a new trade in interior and furniture design. With sitting in an office for 8 hours a day came the promotion of products such as the standing desk and society's drive for alternative forms of physical fitness.
Vibram's five finger shoes, the flat bottomed, barefoot-simulated slip-on gained popularity immediately upon hitting the market. I bought my first pair at Massey's on Carrollton per the suggestion of my cross-fit training husband. After using them during my own cross-fit sessions I could tell my posture had slightly corrected, however taking a jog around the track, particularly a black-top, my calves were thrashed in the shoes. I'm not saying that I'm opposed to the new age way of thinking- that barefoot (or Vibram clad) is better and is probably the way we were intended to trek about, but I'm not that hippie dude that roams the forest on the Discovery Channel nor will I rid myself the pleasure of a great high heel. Standing, on the other hand, is something I am willing to try while at work. I've occasionally created a makeshift desk to facilitate this out of file boxes and my briefcase. Perhaps it is not the most sturdy contraption, but it does the job. I've realized I have more energy on those standing desk days, and the idea of sitting never crosses my mind, even when wearing dress shoes.
Bryan Davis, an avid runner and fan of the standing desk provided some insight about the benefits he's personally experienced with the lifestyle change. "I've been using the standing desk for over two years now. I've been a vegetarian and cut processed foods out of my diet for about the same amount of time. I have this idea that I'd like to live forever (or at least try to), so along with the diet change I started standing at work, on the bus, any place where I had the option. To avoid becoming a social outcast, I sit when it's appropriate. It would be totally awkward to watch a movie with my girlfriend and be hovering over her while she sits on the couch, or be the only person standing at a work meeting."
Bryan also told me something I never knew: Winston Churchill had a standing desk, and apparently Ernest Hemingway preferred standing to sitting whilst writing. "If it worked for those guys I figured it would work for me. It's certainly conducive to my habit of pacing while brainstorming. And I've noticed I have more energy when I am running. A fun fact is that people who stand during the day tend to burn the equivalent of running three marathons a year." For someone that is as health conscious as Bryan and actually does run marathons, he has no problem with his metabolism. If there were settings, I'd say his would most probably be on Power Ranger. His last marathon resulted in his fastest time, however satisfied, he's determined to beat it.
While Bryan and I covered detail regarding when he chooses to sit (i.e. at dinner, during meetings, etc.), we skipped the more intimate, behind-closed-doors particulars. I recall when visiting China how odd I thought it was that toilets were basically built into the floor. The Eastern population may have the right idea, as squatting instead of sitting when going to the bathroom can help heal constipation and hemorrhoids, among various other issues, negating the time tested American custom of remaining seated for the entire performance. For females, squatting puts less pressure on the bladder. In men, the prostate cancer rate in Americans is 30-50% higher than that of Asians. David Ling, a Singapore native and contributing Medical researcher of toilet related ailments explains, "The pelvic floor is a hammock of muscles which supports the bladder, intestines and (in women) the uterus and vagina. In the sitting position, the colon is not properly prepared for waste evacuation. On a conventional (sitting) toilet, a person is forced to strain, while holding the breath, and pushing downwards with the diaphragm, in order to evacuate. This action is called the Valsalva Maneuver. In the sitting position, the pelvic floor is also unsupported by the thighs. As a result, each time one strains, it is repeatedly forced downwards working against the natural requirements of waste elimination. It is responsible for the growing epidemic of colon, bladder, pelvic and prostate problems in Westernized countries." So, standing while working and squatting while going to the bathroom is very good for you. I never thought I would be writing this. Now the trick is finding places that accommodate those that would prefer to stand while working, drinking, and eating. The bathroom part, now that's going to be difficult.
The original stand-up bar in New Orleans can be found at Tujagues in the French Quarter. This legendary bar survived prohibition, and as it gracefully ages well into its second century, the bar itself has seen little to no change at all. The stand up bar is fitting considering the date stamp on the establishment. Next time you find yourself watching an old movie or Western, take note of how the bar patrons are on foot while table service applies to the seated guests. Felix's Oyster House is one of my favorite standing service restaurants. Patrons can be served from the 'cold' bar if standing in front the shucking station, however it is a first come first serve limited space. Evangeline bar is a sophisticated little spot on Decatur Street with local brews on tap and a sleek, cozy atmosphere. The vast outdoor courtyard is fashioned with patio furniture, however standing is certainly acceptable at the bar or outside.

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