Eating The Right Food – Part 4

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Vitamins and Supplements. 

Vitamins are nutrients that our bodies can’t manufacture, so we need them from external sources. There seems to be no difference between natural and synthetic vitamins. The difference seems to be in the fact that when you get them from food they are more effective. It is thought that maybe other chemicals (phytochemical) from the plants are acting with the vitamins to make them more effective; and further we get vitamins from food in the right proportions to these chemicals. To put it in another way; taking vitamins in pill form doesn’t allow our body to use them synergistically with other nutrients under optimal conditions.

The functions of vitamins include acting as a hormone messengers (vitamin D), regulators of tissue growth and cell differentiation (Vitamin A), and antioxidants (vitamin A, C, and E).

You may have heard that people who take supplements and vitamins are generally healthier than the rest of us. That maybe true but it’s not from taking supplements. Michael Pollen in his book “ In defense of food” suggests that these people are healthier not because of them taking the supplements but because they are typically more health conscious, better educated and more affluent. This means they eat healthy diet mentioned in my previous posts, they sleep at least seven hours, exercise and manage their stress more effectively. Studies certainly confirm that taking vitamins in a form of a pill does not confer the benefit. Taking Vitamins in high doses may actually do more harm.

Dietary Supplements are nutrients and chemicals that when added to a diet might lower the risk for some health problems and might improve overall bodily function.

Antioxidants are major category of supplements. They protect the damage to the cells by neutralizing free radicals and their intermediates. The sources of destructive free radicals include ultraviolet and other forms of radiation, toxins, and pollutants. Free radicals contribute to the development of many diseases. We have both internal and external naturally occurring antioxidants. Glutathione is one, along with vitamins C and E and numerous enzymes. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are dietary sources of antioxidants. Recent research suggests that mega-doses of antioxidants taken, as supplements cannot prevent heart disease or diabetes as it was hoped. Large doses may actually be harmful. Rather, it is better to pig out on carrots, sweat potatoes, chard, asparagus, papaya, prunes, oranges. …and the whole vast arrays of foods that are delicious and are good for you

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Calcium is used to prevent osteoporosis, it has also been suggested that it may have value for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention. Conclusive evidence in this regard is not yet available but we do know that too much calcium may actually be bad for your heart. This is unlikely to happen if we relay on food as a source of calcium, such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.

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Fiber is another commonly used supplement, which keeps bowels soft and may help to eliminate toxic wastes.  There is some evidence that it may offer some protection from heart disease, colon and breast cancer, and lower blood sugar in diabetics.

Herbal supplements commonly used include ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and Echinacea; however there is very little science to back up their claims.

Polyphenols are organic chemicals that belong to a family of several thousand compounds referred to as flavonoids. They are found many fruits, berries, pomegranates, grapes, wine, walnuts, olive oil, chocolate, cocoa, coffee, and tea. Their antioxidant properties can reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Garlic has allicin and turmeric has curcumin , both are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Recent studies suggest allicin improves lipoprotein balance and may reduce arteriosclerosis and fat deposition in blood vessels.

Finally, probiotics are active bacteria found in yogurt and are sold as supplements. Their active bacteria is good for you but you may not need it all the time.

There are situations when supplements can be helpful, but not everyone needs a supplement and they may not need them all the time. Probiotics are useful when you take antibiotics or have diarrhea. As we age our ability to absorb supplements, vitamins and minerals from food decline. It is suggested by some that its probably is a good idea and it certainly can’t do hurt to take multivitamin and mineral pill after age fifty.  It would not be a good idea to take more than twice the Recommended Daily Allowance.

This is a very general guideline about vitamins and supplements. The specifics can be different for everyone and one should discuss them with a dietician and your doctor.

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Resources

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

In Defence of Food – by Michael Pollan

Lifelong Health: Achieving Optimum Well- Being at Any Age  – By Professor Anthony A. Goodman.

 

Eating the Right Foods – part 3

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Food allergies and food sensitivities.

When people are allergic to some food, they may experience mild to severe allergic reaction ranging from mild rash, tingling of mouth, swelling of lips or eye, to the other extreme of a severe anaphylactic reaction when the whole face may swell up, with generalized rash, choking, inability to breath and death. This type of reaction happens quickly.

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There are lots of people who may not be allergic to a particular food but are sensitive to them. This causes chronic irritation and inflammation. It may manifest itself by a person experiencing vague symptoms such as fatigue, trouble sleeping, mental fogginess, mood changes, irritability, anger, skin irritation or a skin rash. Joint pain, gas , bloating, nasal congestion, post nasal drip, recurrent ear or sinus infections can also be related to food allergies.

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If you have any or some of these symptoms then there is good likelihood you have food sensitivity. The most common food groups implicated to food sensitivities are: dairy, gluten, corn, soy, peanuts and eggs.

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Elimination diet.

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How does one find out what you maybe sensitive to? There are no good laboratory tests that can identify what you maybe sensitive too. The only way to sort it out by a process called elimination diet. First you eliminate all food groups from the diet for two weeks. Then you reintroduce one food at a time for one day and notice if the symptoms come back when a food group is reintroduced. If the symptoms come back during the following two days then you are likely sensitive to that food group, continue reintroducing new food group every third day until all are tested one at a time.

Those food group identified as causing symptoms are then eliminated from the diet forever and hopefully you feel lot better. One generally work with a dietician when going on an elimination diet.

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Resources:

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

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Eating the Right Foods – part 2.

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Why inflammation matters.

There are some foods that cause inflammation and some food stop the inflammation. Why should inflammation matter? It matters because medical science is starting to understand inflammation maybe the starting point for all diseases. Take heart attacks for example, we are beginning to understand that lowering high cholesterol is only part of the prevention. First the inflammation starts in the walls of coronary arteries, that triggers the cholesterol to be deposited on the walls of the arteries that are inflamed, these deposits build up until eventually the flow of  the blood completely stops and thus causing a heart attack. It is thought Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and Heart Disease are all linked to the inflammation. There are many other diseases in which inflammation is present but it is not clear where in the process of disease formation the inflammation happens, at the beginning or end of the disease process. These diseases, to mention some, are Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, ankylosing spondylitis, SLE,  dermatomyositis, sacroiliitis etc. It doesn’t matter where in the process the inflammation happens, if it is causing harm it makes sense to turn it off.

The causes of inflammation.

There are number factors that cause bad inflammation, these include some foods I have listed below, stress, polluted air, chemical irritants, second hand smoke, pesticides, chronic infections such as Helicobacter pylori, fat around the midline of your body, chronic sleep disturbance and sleep apnea. To turn the inflammation off, correct as many of the above as possible.

Inflammation causing foods.

Avoid or eliminate the following :-

Sugar in the form of corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, golden syrup, maltose, and sucrose.

Oils that is very high in omega-6, such as grape seed oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.

Trans fats, they are found deep fried foods, commercially prepared baked goods, fast foods and they usually appear on the label as partially hydrogenated oils.

Cow’s milk can also lead to inflammation.

Cured meats and red meats contain substance called neu5Gc which causes inflammation.

Excessive alcohol consumption.

Consumption of refined grains, such as white bread and white rice.

Artificial food additives such as monosodium glutamate and aspartame.

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Preventing inflammation with food and Herbs.

Use these foods as much as possible:-

Eat  whole foods and avoid anything processed.

Eat fish high in Omega-3

Eat Kelp ( seaweed)

Eat whole fruits and vegetable.

Use olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil; these all have better ratio of omega-3 : omega-6

Avoid drinking from plastic bottles.

Drink black and green tea

Eat broccoli, shitake mushrooms

Have Tulsi or Holy Basil

Use Tumeric, Ginger, Basil and rosemary in your cooking.

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Resources:

The Science of Natural Healing – by Dr Mimi Guarneri

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Interchange Blog

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