It is my goal to educate my patients on the important role nutrition plays in their health. By making small changes in the foods we buy, prepare and eat, we can drastically decrease the amount of systemic inflammation and promote health throughout our body. Obviously with less inflammation, we will have less pain and improved function while potentially healing from injuries in a quicker manner.
What is an anti-inflammatory diet?
“The best way to start looking at the anti-inflammatory diet is from the perspective of fatty acid balance. Research has clearly demonstrated that an imbalance in omega-6 (n-6) and omega-3 (n-3) fatty acids is pro-inflammatory, and a promoter of heart disease; all types of cancer; pain; neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s; and most other degenerative diseases.
Both n-6 and n-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. Research suggests that through the ages, man subsisted on a diet that contained a 1:1 ratio of n-6 and n-3 fatty acids. The goal should be to consume a ratio that is less than 4:1; however, today the intake ratios range from 10:1 to 30:1, which promotes inflammation and disease.
In the past several thousand years, the human diet has shifted from a food-foraging, hunter-gatherer approach, which largely involved the consumption of greens; wild game; fruits; roots; etc., to one that heavily emphasizes the consumption of grains. This shift changes the ratio of fatty acids to which our genes and cells are exposed, favoring n-6 fatty acids. This is because corn, grains, seeds and their oils contain only n-6 fatty acids, which are ultimately pro-inflammatory. So an anti-inflammatory diet is basically low in n-6-rich grains, and starches are high in n-3-rich green vegetables and olive oil (for cooking and salad dressings).” Dr. David Seaman
In addition to increasing healthy fats in our diet and decreasing the rancid omega 6’s, sugar is a massive addictive inflammatory problem in our current American diet.
Sugar is a sweet, short-chained carbohydrate that has the ability to dissolve in water. Sugar as we think of it is typically processed sugar cane or sugar beet plant in a granular form. This common granular table sugar is sucrose, which is equal parts glucose and fructose stuck together. Obvious or not, the craving for and thusly the supply of sugar and all of its artificial substitutes has increased dramatically over the last 250 years. What may have began with periodic enjoyment of a found honey comb and wild fruit (not our modern cultivated varieties) that was far more tart and fibrous than sweet, has evolved to an addictive daily yearning to satisfy our “sweet tooth”. Dare to look at how consumption has changed over the last few centuries:
Refined Sugar Consumption in United States
1750 4 pounds per person a year
1850 20 pounds per person a year
1994 120 pounds per person a year
1996 160 pounds per person a year
1999 peaked a bit over 160 pounds
today 152 pounds per person a year
While we should be excited to finally see a decline in sugar consumption, many artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup has taken the place of refined sugar.
How does our body deal with sugar?
Sugar is metabolized in your body both as a carbohydrate and as a fat. Once in your digestive tract, sugar breaks down into fructose and glucose. Glucose starts out as a carbohydrate, but is quickly stored as a fat. Fructose is metabolized through your liver, and mostly converted to fat. A small portion of glucose is stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver which is used for short term energy needs. The remainder of the glucose goes to the blood stream to make itself available to any and all cells in your body. Every cell in our body requires glucose to survive, which is why our blood sugar levels are so important. Blood sugars have to be held in balance at all times for us not to become sick. Insulin is what allows our blood sugar to stay in balance, as long as we haven’t become insulin resistant, meaning our body has lost it’s ability to control insulin. When we eat carbohydrates, blood sugars rise and insulin is released to put our body into fat storage mode. Our body will stay in the fat storage mode until insulin returns to a normal level. Our fat cells have an enormous capacity to hold triglycerides (fat), similar to an expanding balloon. The more fats they store, the bigger they get, and so do we. Fortunately, this cycle of insulin release and fat storage does not happen when we eat protein, or fat, only when we eat carbohydrates. This process is also slowed down when we eat carbs with fiber, protein, or fat. Our bodies are always burning energy, even at complete rest, and our blood stream is the delivery method for this energy. A release of glucose from our stored fat cells is how we make it through fasting periods, like when we sleep, without running out of blood sugar. Our bodies will first use the short term storage of glucose in our liver and muscles before moving on to the stored adipose tissue in our stomach, organ, or buttocks. However, unless you exercise a tremendous amount or fast for a very very long time, you almost never deplete the glycogen in your liver and muscles. This is one reason losing even a small amount of fat can take a lot of work and shy in our society today, it is probably best to avoid storing fat in your adipose tissue to begin with. This is done by simply reducing the amount of carbohydrates we eat. Our bodies were not designed to repeatedly spike insulin throughout the day, day after day, week after week… This happens every time we eat sugar, starch carbohydrates or grain. Eventually, our body loses its ability to control insulin, this is called insulin resistance, and it leads to type II diabetes.
In addition to our inability to control insulin with prolonged high blood sugar levels, ongoing high blood sugar is not being looked upon as a big factor for many inflammatory illnesses that decrease our vitality.
“Glucose (and other sugars) in the bloodstream auto-oxidizes, which in excess, produces potent free-radical activity that damages arterial walls and forms cross-links with proteins called advanced glycosylation end products (AGEs). AGEs are known to accelerate the age-associated declines in the functioning of cells and tissues and to cause mutations in DNA.”
“Aging is now being understood by people researching longevity as essentially a gradual process of glycation of all tissues, including the brain. The lower we maintain our blood sugar levels, the slower this process occurs and the longer and healthier we live – and the more gracefully we age.”
These were quotes by Nora Gedgaudas in her outstanding book entitled Primal Body, Primal Mind.
Getting back to how rapidly our diets have changed in regards to sugar consumption, this is how Gary Taubes describes the effects of introducing sugar and flour into non-Western cultures in his book Why We Get Fat:
“…when isolated populations start eating Western foods, sugar and white flour are inevitably first, because these foods could be transported around the world as items of trade without spoiling or being devoured on the way by rodents and insects. The Intuits, for example, living on seals, caribou, and whale meat, begin eating sugar and flour (crackers and bread). Western diseases follow. The agrarian Kikuyu, living in Kenya, start eating sugar and flour, and these diseases appear. The Maasai add sugar and flour to their diet and move into the cities and begin eating these foods, and the diseases appear. Even the vegetarian Hindus in India, to whom the fleshpot was an abomination, ate sugar and flour. Doesn’t it seem a good idea to consider sugar and flour likely causes of these diseases?”
Typically, removing processed foods and sugar from our diet will dramatically reduce inflammation and increase vitality. However, if we want to take a step up and consider adding nutrients that may be missing in our diet, we may think about vitamins.
Why would we need to take vitamins if food contains the nutrients necessary to build body tissue and keep it healthy?
“Most people are willing to admit that the foundation of health is adequate nutrition. Few people, however, have studied the subject of nutrition sufficiently to recognize the fact that most of our ill health today is directly the result of malnutrition, by which we are actually starving to death among plentiful supplies of supposedly good foods.” Dr. Royal Lee
Easily said, our highly processed food typically bought in convenient supermarkets and fast food stops do not contain the nutrient rich building blocks of health that our bodies need. In the past it was more common to cook simple meals at home from produce grown in our own garden or bought locally. Understandably so, we are all not able to grow our own fresh garden produce and we are supplementing with high calorie, preservative spiked, and nutrient devoid food.
“We have drifted into this deplorable position of national malnutrition quite inadvertently. It is the result of scientific research with the objective of finding the best ways to create foods that are non-perishable that can be made by mass production methods in central factories, and distributed so cheaply that they can sweep all competition from the market. Then, after there develops a suspicion that these “foods” are inadequate to support life, modern advertising steps in to propagandize the people into believing that there is nothing wrong with them, and that they are products of scientific research intended to afford a food that is the last word in nutritive value, and the confused public is totally unable to arrive at any conclusion of fact, and continues to blindly buy the rubbish that is killing them off years ahead of their time.” Dr. Royal Lee
“The soil must be in good health if the animal is to remain in good health. The same is true of man. Soil science is the foundation of protective medicine, the medicine of tomorrow.” Andre Voisin
It was the advent of soil chemistry that set agriculture on its industrial path. Crucial to plant growth are three chemical nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium – commonly known as fertilizer. Initially, it was thought that the science of soil fertility was figured out: feed NPK into the soil and get yields of wheat or corn. However, it naturally isn’t this simple. Soil is also composed of many other organisms such as humas, bacteria, fungi, phages, earthworms . . . All responsible for providing nutrients, binding the small particles in soil together (so that rainfall remains instead of sweeping away with soil run off) and the decomposition of other organic matter. In addition to not providing necessary substance to the soil, synthetic nitrogen makes the crops/plants more attractive to insects and vulnerable to disease. It is then seen as necessary to turn to chemical pesticides to fix the broken industrial path. As you will read later in regard to synthetic vitamins, science has reduced a complex system to a few isolated elements/variables.
“Artificial manures lead inevitably to artificial nutrition, artificial animals and finally to artificial men and women” Sir Albert Howard
Recently it has been reported that plants grown in synthetically fertilized soils are less nourishing than ones grown in composted soils; such plants are more vulnerable to disease and insect pests; polycultures (growing more than one plant) are more productive and less prone to disease than monocultures; and civilizations that abuse their soil eventually collapse. We can easily see the symptomatic state of health our soils and fields are in by taking a look at the run-off of the Mississippi River. Nutrients from fertilizers create water-quality problems in the river itself and contribute to an annual oxygen-deficient “dead zone” in the northern Gulf of Mexico, our backyard. The zone this past summer of 2015 is at 6,474 square miles, above average in size and larger than forecast by NOAA in June. The larger than expected forecast was caused by heavy June rains throughout the Mississippi River watershed. The measured size this year — an area about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined — is larger than the 5,052 square miles measured last year, indicating that nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed are continuing to affect the nation’s coastal resources and habitats in the Gulf.
. This can be caused by pollution from farm fertilizer, soil erosion and discharge from sewerage treatment plants, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Excess nutrients can spur the growth of algae, and when the algae die, their decay consumes oxygen faster than it can be brought down from the surface. As a result, fish, shrimp and crabs can be forced to move or die. This is another example of how or health is directly related to the health or dis-ease of our soil, fields and waterways.
Is there a difference between synthetic and natural vitamins?
“In a laboratory, chemists can duplicate sea water that is chemically identical to natural sea water, but if you put fish in this synthetic water they will die. Obviously, there is a life-supporting difference between natural and synthetic.” Jerry Morrison, N.D.
Synthetic vitamins are isolated vitamin fractions manufactured in chemically ‘pure’ form in high concentrations – “high potency”. Natural vitamins are complex and come with other substances in a synergistic nature. If taken apart they cannot operate in their intended organized and functional manner. Whole food supplements contain the total complex family of micro-nutrients (known and unknown) just as they are found in nature. Synthetic vitamins (isolates) lack this wonderfully marvelous supporting family. Anyone qualified in nutrition that uses isolated vitamins/minerals will tell you that giving a single vitamin for long-periods is not recommended as it causes imbalances and deficiencies of other vitamins/minerals. When you combine a single vitamin with a vitamin/mineral complex, the risk of overdose symptoms is reduced. Over 70 university studies have concluded that supplements containing natural food complex nutrients are better than USP isolates. These studies have concluded that natural food complex nutrients may be better absorbed, utilized, and/or retained than isolated USP vitamins and minerals. In addition, chemically pure vitamins taken in the body have to be recombined, if possible, with the other components missing from the chemically pure vitamins. This could lead to “using up” the body’s reserves of those missing natural factors.
In conclusion: the majority of Americans have very poor diets; processing removes most of the nutrients of the base food; nutrients that are added back in to “fortify” the now depleted product are synthetic fractions of the originals; a certain amount of the whole foods we do eat are also nutrient depleted from being grown on nutrient depleted soils. In addition, eating an anti-inflammatory diet can dramatically decrease pain, improve function and promote health in our bodies for the entirety of our lives.
For more information about New Orleans Chiropractor, Dr. Nick Thompson, email him at [email protected] or call 861-7167.