Friday, 4 October 2013

1st Survival Summer Course - Basic Survival Medicine - Food

As part of the basic survival medicine I will cover today Food. we all love it, we all need it, be without it and you'll freak out! Food!! Ooooohh Food, Glorious Food!

Even though we can maintain our bodies functional without any intake of food for weeks, it doesn't mean it's going to act properly in order to maintain us healthy. Food is a source of numerous important elements that are needed to keep our optimal state of mind and bodily functions. The natural basic sources of food to consider are plants and animals - not an option for me as I'm a vegetarian, but I'm not a vegan so bring me those free range eggs and I'll make you an omelet! Because it is not easy to find free range eggs or easy-whatever in the wild, we need to look at this chapter with great attention.

An adult man needs around 2000 calories a day to function properly at a normal level. I think women need 500 less, I'd say. In order to replenish our organism with everything necessary we need to consider in our food intake. In our diet, the presence of carbohydrates (our fuel), proteins (our building blocks) and fat (our reserve fuel that) is of great importance. When in starvation, our body will metabolise our fat, our reserve energy (glycogen) and our muscle, forcing a cannibalistic approach that only exists to prolong survival and avoid death.

Therefore, when lost in the wild our survival rate is enhanced if we know where to look for food. 

Plant foods:

Look for nuts and seeds to re-balance you protein levels and oils that augment the reserve energy in your body. There are many edible roots that are also a good source of energy. Bear in mind that if you need to store food you have to avoid fast degradation, a natural process after you rip it from its natural substrate. This can be done by drying the plant food by wind, sun or fire. You can then restore it for when you need it once again.

Animal foods:

Meat is more nourishing than food. Even for a vegetarian like me it is an acceptable truth. But plants don't escape from you when you try to hunt them, they won't bite when you try to grab them and apart from environmental issues that we always need to consider (even when concerned about our own survival) plants will not look us in the eye with the saddest face ever. But if you still want to go for the meat, then mind that you should always first go for the most available sources, insects, crustaceans, mollusks,  fish and reptiles. Then, with a full belly, you can think of preparing traps for later on.

Because it is extremely important to avoid plants and animals that can be harmful to you or make you violently ill I embedded a video to give you a few hints on how to discern edible from non-edible plants. Obviously, I wouldn't advertise hunting edible animals, mate. In this video you will learn about an edibility test that makes use of poisonous characteristics as:

- the shape, as it is so very well presented on the video, but specific to the United States, some shapes are common to poisonous species and some are not. In this sense, get familiar with edible plants in your region before you go wild on the wild!

- the aspect of the leaves (waxy leaves are to be avoided);

- presence of thorns or hairs, is an immediate sign to keep away for gastrointestinal irritation will occur; 

- containing a milky sap - usually a concentrated soup of enzymes that will make you wish you were never born after you've tasted it;

- The rubbing test, rubbing it on your hand, if possible the back of your hand, and wait at least 20 minutes to verify the emergeing of any allergic reaction (burning sensation, swelling, numbness, etc);

- The tasting, by breaking a teaspoon of leaves in half and let it settle in the mouth without swallowing it for a good half an hour. Again paying good attention to allergic reactions of any kind that might indicate they are not to be consumed. If nothing happens swallow the test amount and wait for 8 hours. During these 8 hours try to understand any signs of diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps and/or aches; anything out of ordinary.

- The cup full, after those 8 hours you took to understand if the plant is edible or not, if no reactions appear then we can go for a meal of a cup full of those leaves. If you get poisoned it will be by traces of toxic substances that even though might be harmful, their concentration will allow you to initially fight it until you can find professional medical help. Do not forget that these are survival techniques that are passed onto you for your survival when in desperate need of nutrients, not as a hobby or as entertainment.

The second embedded video goes through the top five edible plants the author chose that are actually very easy to recognise. Obviously they cannot be eaten without performing an edibility test. The new and old shoots of the Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) [raw or boiled]; the Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) - preferably the top six leaves of the shoot; Goose grass (Galium aparine), Smooth Sow-Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) avoid old leaves as they are irritant to the stomach and boil the new young leaves); Ribwort Plantain: as to the Plantago Major chew the broader leaves that are very tasty and for the Plantago lanceolata go for those which are 2 or 3 inches long.

Moreover, fresh new sprouts from a Pine Tree, the rhizome of the Wild Calla (Calla palustris) is edible after drying, grinding, leaching and boiling, pine sap is a good source of energy and easy to chew also.

Next week, Personal Hygiene!

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