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From the Doctor's Desk

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A Central Jersey Neurological Center Blog


How to Eat Well In a Toxic World

If we define Malnourishment as lack of proper nutrition, then malnourishment is increasing world-wide today

 

   
Both of these are malnourished children.  The average American is malnourished but does not know it.  Obesity is the most common manifestation of malnourishment in industrialized nations.  When we eat foods that have been stripped of proper nutrition, we ingest calories without much nutritional benefits.  

In order to be properly nourished, the physical body needs Micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, water) as well as Macronutrients (Carbohydrates, Proteins, Fats).  If the body is lacking a healthy balance of these vital nutrients, it will begin to crave.  When we persists is depriving our bodies of these nutrients (which include healthy fats and sugars that we are so afraid of), the hunger drive will be augmented and we will increase total consumption of calories to make up for the lack.

Therefore, our seemingly healthy “fat-free”  “sugar-free” diets are driving us to increase total calorie consumption. Then, when we fall off the diet wagon, we start to feel guilty and eat even more.

Obesity is defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher.  Body Mass Index (BMI) is the measure of an adult’s weight in relation to his or her height, specifically the adult’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his or her height in meters.

Here are some powerful slides depicting the growing obesity problem in this country:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IEbLZT48bo

  • In 1998, no state had prevalence less than 10%, seven states had a prevalence of obesity between 20-24%, and no state had prevalence equal to or greater than 25%.
  • By 2010, no states had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%.  Twelve states had a prevalence equal or greater than 30%.
We eat a steady diet of processed foods.  It never ceases to amaze me when I shop in the supermarket and teach my kid how to pick out their fruits and vegetable, a small crowd usually congregates around us.  

In traditional China, they view food as not only nourishment but as BENEFICIAL nourishment (what we would call medicine).  Growing up in a Chinese home, food as medicine was such a common concept that I never realized that food could be recreational also.

DECONSTRUCTING CRAVINGS

The body knows what to it needs; animals in the wild do not need doctors to heal.
However, the human mind has its own ideas.  Realizing why eat the amounts and types of food is the first step towards better eating habits.  When we start replacing the foods we crave with foods in the same categories that have better nutritional profile, we will start crowding out the “bad stuff”.  In this fashion, we may achieve a gradual transition

Grow into this concept gradually.  If you want to eat more fresh vegetables but don’t have the time to go shopping, start with canned or frozen vegetables.  Your palate will develop a taste and you will find yourself veering into the farmers market on your way home from work to check out the crop of the week.  The body will then start to crave the better food, usually within 4 weeks

WHY WE EAT

In America, we grow up eating for the wrong reasons.  We use foods as
    Reward – did great, let’s have pizza
    Comfort – oh, Johnny got hurt.  Let’s fix it and have some ice cream
    Distraction – baby shouldn’t do this – have a cookie instead
    Consolation - I’ve had a bad day, I want to reward myself with food – bad choice

Food is a necessity and not a reward, comfort, distraction, or consolation.  When we are taught to use food for all these other reasons, we create the building blocks for obesity and leave ourselves open to all the diseases associated with obesity, such as
    Hypertension
    Elevated sugars
    Elevated cholesterol
    Abdominal fat

These risk factors double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. They increase your risk of diabetes fivefold. Cancers really LOVE fat.

As bad as the statistics are, the incidence of metabolic syndrome is on the rise.  The solution is not a drug but a change in lifestyle.

The purpose of this blog is to provide tools for people to achieve the lifestyle necessary to avoid the Metabolic Syndrome and associated diseases. There are a few basic principles we adhere to:

  • Body knows what it needs
  • Craving = need
  • Deconstruct cravings instead of dieting
  • Feed body what it needs
WHAT THE BODY NEEDS
  • Fresh nutrient-dense Food consumption balanced with expenditure
  • Enjoyable non-stressful exercise routines and proper sleep
  • Nourishing social environment, enjoyment and management of stress
  • Nourishing the spiritual self

NOURISHING FOOD CONSUMPTION BALANCED WITH EXPENDITURE

If we crave sweets, we might have been depriving ourselves of the nutrients associated with sweets:      Eat a fruit instead of refined sugar

One large banana, about 9 inches in length:
  • 140 calories
  • 602 mg of potassium 
  • 2 grams of protein 
  • 4 grams of fiber 
  • Mere 2 mgs of sodium
  • 36 grams of carbohydrates
  • 123 I.U. of vitamin A
  • .07 mg of Thiamine, 
  • .15 mg of Riboflavin, 
  • .82 mg Niacin, 
  • .88 mg vitamin B6, 
  • 29 mcg of Folic Acid. 
  • 13.8 mg of vitamin C.
  • Minerals:
Calcium 9.2 mg,
Magnesium 44.1 mg,
trace amounts of iron and zinc.

Compare that to an Organic Granola bar
  • 140 calories -     30 cal from fat
  • Sodium 125 mg
  • Total carb 25 g
  • Dietary fiber 1g
  • Sugars 10 gm
  • Protein 2 gram
  • Not significant source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Calcium.
Conclusion: Avoid food in wrappers.

NOURISHING SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND LOWERING STRESS

How many of you eat when under stress?

Stress is the condition that results when person-environment interactions lead to perceive discrepancy between the demands of a situation and the resources of the person’s biological, psychological or social systems. Stressful stimuli can be mental, physiological, anatomical or physical reactions.

Persistent stress that is not resolved through coping or adaptation (distress) may lead to escape (anxiety) or withdrawal (depression) behavior.

The body cannot defend itself against the damage that emotional stress creates quietly over time.  Anxiety, anger, frustration, dissatisfaction, malcontent, tension all result in physiological changes which are at first adaptive, but when chronic, cause permanent damage to our bodies.

Stage 1:  The body reacts to stress first by releasing
  •     Catecholamines: epinephrine, norepinephrine
  • Glucocorticoids: cortisol, cortisone
  • Cytotokines

Stage 2: Resistance
  • Coping mechanism when stress persists
  • Body tries to adapt to strains and demands of environment
  • The body’s resources are depleted gradually and the chemical release takes its toll
Stage 3: Exhaustion
  • All body’s resources are depleted
  • Body unable to maintain normal function
  • Autonomic nervous system dysfunction: sweating, elevated HR
  • If this stage is protracted, long term damage may result as the capacity of glands, especially the adrenal gland, and the immune system is exhausted and function is impaired resulting in decompensation. 
  • The result can manifest itself in obvious illnesses such as ulcers, depression or even cardiovascular problems, along with other mental issues.

Given these changes, one of the most powerful steps we can take to improve our health is to manage stress, dissatisfaction, conflicts, and all negative emotions.

This is a broad generalization but in Western Society, we have a life-expectancy of between 73-82 years.  But some of us start to need medications for hypertension and cholesterol in our 40’s; we have our first heart attack in our 50’s; our first stroke in our 60’s; and then, our minds begin to dwindle in our 70’s.  We then spend the next 8-10 years in a nursing home

I want to live like my uncles did in China:  Live to late 80’s/90’s or more, go work in the fields and die in my sleep with my boots on.  But even in China, this is changing as industrialization is occurring.

So, how do we stop this downward spiral?

  • Nutrients to support the nervous system: Omega-3 FA, B vitamins and Alpha Lipoic acid.  But don’t obsess over food. Obsession will result in negative neurotransmitter release.  Let the change occur naturally: given a chance, the body knows how to heal itself.  Therefore, when exposed to good foods, you will start to crave for them.
  • Mindful Exercise – releases all the “good” neurotransmitters
  • Adding stress management to your daily routine.  This will improve mood, ability to sleep, and health:
  • Journaling – a great way to “know thyself” and “to thine own self be true”
    • Be honest with who you are, how you feel, and learn to accept and love yourself.  Only in doing that can we learn to love others.
  • Have a buddy – verbalizing your frustrations frequently result in solutions
    • If nothing else, it allows your neurotransmitter balance to change
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – improved oxygenation and increase parasympathetic tone while decreasing sympathetic activity.   Promotes relaxation and digestion
  • Positive thinking – releases “good” neurotransmitters and inhibits negative ones
    • Studies have also shown that people with positive attitudes tend to achieve their long term goals more frequently, are more satisfied with life and lived longer

Optimism Adds Years to Life Expectancy: the glass is half full rather than half empty
December 2006 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings studied more than 7,000 students given personality test in mid-1960s, at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They answered questions measuring their tendency to be optimistic or pessimistic. RESULTS
  • Most of the participants fell somewhere in the middle,
  • 1,630 were considered to be pessimists
  • 923 to be optimists.

Tracking them over the next four decades, researchers discovered that the most pessimistic study participants had a 42% greater likelihood of dying from any cause than the most optimistic participants.

Charles S. Carver, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Miami and co-author of Perspectives on Personality (Allyn & Bacon): pessimists can learn to put a more positive spin on their lives, and thus health overall. He said that cognitive therapy which focuses specifically on changing outlook, is effective for many people and acknowledged that practices such as meditation, yoga and keeping a "gratitude journal" may be useful.  Daily prayer or meditation may also help achieve good health by reaching the “Relaxation response”.  In this state, blood pressure and heart rate HR decrease, while circulation increases.  Music and aromas can help achieve this but may also distract – find your preferences.

In summary, “Eating Well” entails not only food and exercise for your body but also social relationships for your mind, and meditation of just a respite to feed your body.
    



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