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~ Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
Eating to lose weight can seem complicated; no sugar, low fat, good fat, and even… maple syrup and lemon juice. And if choosing your food wasn’t confusing enough, multiple studies suggest that starting a diet is one of the best predictors of weight gain. Is the problem our inability to stick to a diet, or is it the failure of the diet industry to understand us? Is there such a thing as a perfect diet for you?
The science of “let food be your medicine” is more complex than the philosophy conceived by Hippocrates circa 400 B.C. The food we eat impacts our health well beyond the calories, fats, and vitamins we spend most of our time focusing on. We now know that certain foods flip our genes on and off, which can be the difference between experiencing the heritable disease your mother had and bypassing the poor health outcomes experienced by your father. Your food creates your health from the level of your DNA and up.
Though older cultural medicines lacked an understanding of unique genetic makeup, they offer an extraordinary appreciation for the qualities of different foods, and how foods complement particular disease patterns expressed by a person. For example, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, foods and people are categorized by their amount of heat, cold, dampness, and dryness. Accordingly, warm foods can be used to treat conditions characterized by a lack of heat or by excess cold. Meals might incorporate a balanced amount of yin and yang, so as not to cause a health problem.
More contemporary approaches to dieting may include specialized laboratory testing that evaluates your metabolism, hormone status, and food allergens. The corresponding food plan includes foods that support, and excludes foods that hinder, your particular metabolic state. For example, raw cruciferous vegetables such as kale and broccoli, can improve liver and estrogen metabolism which makes a healthy weight more attainable. However, these vegetables can also interfere with the thyroid gland which slows down metabolism! Whether these vegetables help or hurt your ability to attain a healthy weight depends on your particular metabolic balance.
Beyond the biochemical, organ-specific, and genetic impact of certain foods, lies the more complicated aspect of our emotional and spiritual response to food. For many people, food is a social connection, a comforting activity, a method of control, or an escape. (In fact, “comfort foods” may actually make us feel better by supporting serotonin production in our brains.) How each of us relates to food can quite surprisingly reveal how we relate to life in general.
Consequently, your perfect diet incorporates 1) a thorough appreciation for food, and 2) a deeper understanding of your unique biochemical and emotional makeup. With these 2 principles in mind, most any traditional diet plan can be improved. Attaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle, and a philosophy. Support from a knowledgeable health professional will take you further in your search for optimal eating, but the majority of the work occurs in challenging yourself to broaden your understanding of your relationship to food, and of food’s genuine capacity to change your life. You are what you eat
We’d like to welcome Joel Ackerman, Registered Massage Therapist, to the team! Joel is currently accepting new clients.
Joel is a graduate of the Sutherland Chan School of Massage Therapy in Toronto. In addition to offering relaxation massage, Joel is skilled with treating a variety of conditions, including sports injuries, chronic pain syndromes, neurological disease, and pre- and post-surgical states. He has additional training in Shiatsu technique, pregnancy massage, and Positional and Dynamic Release. Joel enjoys working with clients of all ages and stages of health, including seniors.
Joel believes strongly in the effectiveness of massage therapy when applied as part of an integrative approach to health. When appropriate, Joel will conduct functional testing and suggest home care stretching and strengthening exercises. He enjoys educating clients about their bodies and will work with you to support your health goals.
In response to your many inquiries, many of our practitioners are offering immune-focused appointments for the months of November and December. Your health practitioner can help you identify where your body needs support to obtain optimal immune health this winter season.
Cold and flu prevention appointments may additionally include:
Laboratory testing for vitamin D status
Flu vaccine alternatives
Nutrient status assessments with individualized dietary recommendations for boosting the immune system
Flu treatments to keep on hand, “just in case”
Cold and flu recovery strategies
From Integrated Roots e-newsletter, November 2010
I recently worked with a 60 year old gentleman to decrease his high diabetic-state blood sugar and cholesterol levels to normal, without drugs, in 3 months. His triglycerides fell by over 60%, his total cholesterol and long-term measures of blood sugar decreased to normal limits, and he lost more than 20lbs. He reviewed these test results with his Nurse Practitioner and Medical Doctor and was confused by their response: “Great job. Keep up what you’re doing. Start this statin drug Crestor, because your good cholesterol should be a bit higher.” It’s true that his good cholesterol should be higher – it was only 0.73. However, if a few more weeks of effort could demonstrate similarly drastic improvements in good cholesterol levels, isn’t this preferable to using a statin drug?
Though research studies vary considerably in their results, a common finding is that some statin-type cholesterol medications will lower risk of death by 12%. Compare this to studies that evaluate the risk for survivors of a heart attack who made only modest dietary changes: 56% reduced risk of death. And they weren’t even required to exercise! If we additionally consider the possible side-effects of cholesterol-lowering medication, the financial cost of using a pharmaceutical daily for years, the intangible health benefits acquired for other family members eating an improved diet, and the environmental benefit of eating more local produce, the comparison hardly seems fair.
Heart disease is reversible for many people. The lifestyle changes required can be challenging, but they’re simple, and rewarding. We have a whole team of health professionals at KIHC who can support you in your effort to achieve these desired changes.
For those interested in some more technical information, please review these referenced websites here, and here. I’ve included a summary of some very interesting recent research pertaining to heart health, below.
Thanks for reading!
Dr. Sonya Nobbe, BScH, ND
Naturopathic Doctor, KIHC Clinic Director
Unless otherwise noted, all workshops are held free of charge at Kingston Integrated Healthcare, located at 541 Palace Road, near the Kingston Centre.
Kindly call to register early! We request 24 hours notice if you must cancel.
Please contact us for detailed information about our workshops. We welcome your suggestions for workshop ideas and improvements.
Facilitated by Dr. Christina Vlahopoulos, ND
Kingston Integrated Healthcare
Wednesday, November 24th, 7 to 8pm
We all know we should take the time to relax during the holidays… But few of us actually do. Please join Dr. Christina for some helpful, realistic, tips.
Facilitated by Dr. Jennifer Wheeler, ND
Kingston Integrated Healthcare
Tuesday, November 30th, 7 to 8:30pm
Know your risk of developing cardiovascular disease! Create a unique plan that addresses your particular risk factors. Dr. Jennifer will lead a discussion of various risk factors and advanced laboratory testing that can help to put your heart health potential into perspective.
Facilitated by Carol Belanger, BA, RM
Kingston Integrated Healthcare
Wednesday December 1st, 7 to 8:30pm
Many wise medicines teach that every disease has a physical and emotional component. Whether you’re familiar with reiki or new to the concept, this is your chance to explore the kinds of therapies that excel at supporting the emotional component of physical illness. Carol has studied with many advanced teachers and brings more than 10 years of experience to her practice.
A recent Canadian study was published in the American Heart Journal that evaluated different methods of expressing anger in 785 men and women, and the associated outcomes for heart health. Anger expression was evaluated by trained health professionals who conducted detailed surveys and video-taped interviews with participants. Types of anger expression included constructive, goal-oriented expression, and destructive expressions that included self-justifying behaviour (e.g. removing oneself from blame for the angering situation), and brooding behaviour (e.g. where an individual might hold a grudge and feel more anger over time).
Relative to participants who had high constructive anger expression scores, participants with low constructive anger scores were more likely to feel depressed. Those with high destructive anger scores were more likely to be hostile and have diabetes. Both types of people were more likely to smoke, and both genders in both categories of poorer anger expression had increased risk (31% for those with high destructive anger scores), for developing coronary heart disease in 10 years.
Interestingly, of participants demonstrating a high ability to express anger constructively, only the men were benefited by a reduced risk of for coronary heart disease of 41%. The authors of the study suggest that this gender difference might be societal, given that women and men are taught to express anger differently. Regardless, the end result is clinical evidence that emotions do impact heart health, and that learning to express anger in a healthy way may benefit your heart in a measurable way.
From Integrated Roots e-newsletter, October 2010
Multiple studies demonstrate the relationship between vitamin D deficiency and increased susceptibility to catching the cold and flu. In fact, one recent study found adequate vitamin D levels to be more protective against the flu than the flu shot! The Canadian Health Measures survey by Statistics Canada estimates that only 35% of Canadians have adequate vitamin D levels. Are your levels adequate?
Many of us spend quite a bit of time indoors and aren’t surprised to learn that our vitamin D levels are low. However, many people who work regularly outside are still vitamin D deficient. Some of this may be explained by our avid avoidance of sun and use of sunscreen given well-known cancer risks associated with increased sun exposure. Some research actually blames sunscreen use for a greater incidence of Rickets disease, in which vitamin D deficiency causes poor bone development in children.
Low vitamin D levels may also be explained by how often you… bathe! Some research suggests that natural oils on our skin are essential for efficiently absorbing vitamin D from sun exposure, and daily bathing may put us as increased risk of vitamin D deficiency by washing away these oils. Possible solutions to this problem though understandably create other challenges!
Because vitamin D levels are poorly correlated with dietary intake and sun exposure, blood tests are a favourable method for assessing vitamin D status. Vitamin D can be measured with a simple blood test called 25-hydroxy vitamin D that costs $51.70, and may be covered by your extended health insurance plan if ordered by your naturopathic doctor. The test is fortunately covered by OHIP when requisitioned by your medical doctor… but perhaps not for much longer. New legislation was recently proposed that will de-list OHIP-insured vitamin D testing for most people in Ontario, in part because of a 2500% increase in OHIP billing for vitamin D over approximately 5 years (i.e., it’s considered too expensive for our healthcare system to manage). This is of concern not only because of the importance of vitamin D for immune health, but also because vitamin D is an essential nutrient for bone and heart health, cancer prevention and treatment, and treatment of some forms of autoimmune disease, asthma, muscle pain, and mood disorders. If Canadians were to have adequate vitamin D levels, estimates include cost savings in the billions. The proposed legislation has been criticized as another indication of how a politically-oriented healthcare system is incapable of exercising true disease prevention.
If your vitamin D levels are low, discuss with your health practitioner how much vitamin D supplementation is recommended to bring your levels back to a healthier range. Many practitioners recommend supplementing with at least 1000IU of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) daily. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is best taken with a meal.
~ Dr. Sonya Nobbe, ND
1. Ensure adequate daily intake of Essential Fatty Acids.
If including EFAs in your family’s diet is a challenge, consider purchasing a high quality omega 3 supplement that guarantees purity. Some good brand names include Nutra-Sea, Nordic Naturals, and Genestra. Please read our article below for more information about how EFAs are essential for young brains.
2. Manage blood sugar.
Low and high blood sugar spikes in children are surprisingly common and can be responsible for fatigue or angry outbursts that are not conducive to learning. To help maintain balanced blood sugar levels, send your child to school with healthy low-sugar snacks, such as vegetables with hummus or guacamole (avocado) dip, organic plain yogurt (if not intolerant) with added fruit and cinnamon, and an apple (with the skin) with cheese slices. Older children may enjoy lentil salad or green salads with leftover chicken or fish, nuts and seeds, and feta cheese.
3. A healthy breakfast improves learning.
Avoid sugary cereals and baked goods, and choose breakfasts that include protein, whole grains, and good fats. Good breakfast options include homemade oatmeal with berries, yogurt with fruit, eggs, and whole grain toast with almond butter or avocado spread. Adequate protein in the morning makes learning easier throughout the day.
4. Encourage routines.
Not only is routine important for a child’s happiness and sense of security, it is also very important for growth and development. The body has a built-in biological clock called a circadian rhythm that coordinates sleep, wakefulness, body temperature, and more. Research suggests that routine positively impacts mental performance.
5. Encourage good sleep hygiene.
In addition to maintaining a good sleeping routine, rejuvenating sleep happens when light in the bedroom is minimized. Light interferes with the body’s ability to produce melatonin, an essential sleeping hormone. Avoid turning on the overhead bathroom or hall light when your child wakes up in the night. Nightlights in the bedroom could be put on a timer, and older children who are afraid of the dark might be comfortable with a bedside flashlight instead of a nightlight.