Nutrition is preventive medicine

01/22/18

Does your lifestyle promote health?

Too often we start taking care of our bodies when we don’t feel well, get sick or injured, or when something is wrong. Much of healthcare that we know today is actually sick-care. You go to the doctor when you’re sick. You take medication when you’re ill or hurting. You stretch when there is a tightness. Seek help when depressed. Rest when there is pain.

We take our health for granted. Then, when it fails, we rely on doctor visits, medications, the hope/belief that we will be fixed for good, and have to deal with the accompanying costs. While yes, those things make you well, especially when acute illness or injury strike, they do not fix weak immunity. These are just a band aid for a lifestyle that promotes weak immunity.

As we age, our everyday life (eating habits, drinking habits, stress, sleep, exercise, etc.) takes a toll on our bodies. The wear and tear of poor eating and drinking habits, high stress, poor sleep, lack of exercise and living nonstop busy lives influences weight gain and illness. Therefore, our everyday life either promotes health or its demise. More specifically, your lifestyle either prevents or fuels diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, inflammation, pain, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

True healthcare starts with you.

While we cannot change our genetics, we can modify our lifestyle to promote a healthy life. It is fueled by nourishing eating habits, regular exercise, positive emotions, thoughts, and relationships, and proper sleep and stress management. True healthcare is preventative and it’s never too late to choose to live a healthy lifestyle.

While there are many things you can modify to improve your health, eating habits are one of the most important. Food influences our health every time we eat. That is at least 3 times a day for most of us. When you think of it this way, everything you eat matters.

Processes that break down food and beverages we consume actually begins before we even take a bite or sip. Has your mouth ever watered thinking about the meal you are about to eat?  We have an increase in saliva and secrete hormones, such as insulin involved in digestion in anticipation. Our body must breakdown, store, and/or use all the nutrients we consume at every meal. This takes hours and how many hours depends on the quantity and content of the meal. We have a rise and fall in blood glucose, fatty acids, amino acids, and hormones such as insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. Therefore, we are in a state of digestion, or postprandial state most of our waking hours.

Why is what we eat so important? What we eat heavily influences our metabolism, which refers to the sum of the chemical processes that sustain a living organism. These including converting food to fuel and transport of substances between cells. Our metabolism requires certain nutrients (called essential nutrients) that must be obtained through our diet because our bodies do not make them. These nutrients are vital to life and include essential vitamins and minerals (from plants and some animal fats), fatty acids (derived from fats), and amino acids (derived from protein). We get these nutrients from vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, meats, grains, etc. It should be noted that, while there are essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids, there is no essential carbohydrate. Cooking, extracting, and processing foods changes and subtracts the amount of nutrients in a food. For example, a whole apple has more nutrients than apple juice (which is comparable to soda in sugar content). Highly processed foods, such as ramen noodles, breakfast cereals, granola bars, cakes, fruit snacks, sodas, processed meats and oils, etc., have been modified to an extent that they contain fat and carbohydrates, but very few nutrients.

So, what do highly processed foods contribute to the body? Many of these foods have added sugars, oils, and other substances to enhance taste and texture to make you want more. Processed foods contain both fats and carbohydrates. In general, all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (blood sugar) and absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes a spike in the hormone insulin. When glucose is in the blood, insulin is secreted from the pancreas and signals muscle, fat, and other cells to uptake the glucose and store in the cell. Nourishing, nutrient-packed sources of carbohydrates are whole foods (non- or minimally processed) such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.

Habitual intake of highly processed foods contributes to the progression of chronic disease in many ways. For example, they cause the cells become desensitized, or resistant to the effects of insulin. Consequently, more insulin is needed per unit of glucose. Finally, the pancreas fatigues and production of insulin is severely impaired or stops all together, resulting in diabetes. Insulin also tells fat cells to store fat, therefore your body relies on glucose for fuel while storing the fat you eat. Frequently consuming highly processed foods can thus lead to weight gain, inflammation, and development of chronic disease. 

What can do today to improve your diet? Two things. First, add a serving of vegetables to each meal and, second, remove a serving of highly processed foods from each meal.

Now is the time. Tomorrow is not promised. Don’t take anything for granted, especially not your body or your health.

Contact SPINLab to get a personalized program to improve your health and reach your goals.