By Kim Blend, ARNP –
Nutrition or nourishment is the supply of materials – food – required by organisms and cells to stay alive. What we put into our bodies acts as fuel. If you feed your body garbage it will not work well. The better you fuel your body, the better it will behave for you in the future. Blah,Blah, Blah…………We have heard it all before.
While this is true, today we have a much broader appreciation for the importance of nutrition. For the young good nutrition will affect the growing body, but for most of you reading this article you probably have done most of your growing. So how does good nutrition or lack thereof affect you as you are attempting to not only live longer but mitigate some of the inevitable changes that occur as time passes.
In an attempt to provide a clearer message let me digress and ask you to humor me for a few sentences.
If you receive an injury your body will react to that injury with redness, heat and swelling. These symptoms indicate your body is protecting you through the process of inflammation by sending out inflammatory markers or cytokines to fend off potential infection. In the short run this is good and protective but if an inflammatory reaction continues over a long period of time, you are in for problems. That is to say that a chronic state of inflammation is damaging rather than protective. These markers travel through the body and are associated with heart disease, some cancers, osteoporosis, kidney problems and Alzheimer’s disease. We see many people today who have healthy cholesterol levels and yet have a heart attack, that is because cardiac disease is caused by more than just cholesterol. It is believed that inflammation is the major offender. This is why many experts today report that your state of inflammation is the strongest indicator of how well your body is aging. By taking the right steps you can mitigate some of the problems of chronic inflammation and therefore avoid some of our most common chronic diseases.
For a very sophisticated and individualized approach you can be tested for specific biomarkers that give you an indication of how your body is navigating the aging process, such as telomere length (the aging of your cells), your specific intracellular vitamin levels and very specialized genetic risk factor testing. However without doing any of this testing, and just making a few simple changes you can improve and build up your own anti-inflammatory army, thus extending life but more importantly extending health.
Now back to nutrition, because some foods promote inflammation and others tamp it down, what we eat makes a surprisingly significant contribution to our individual level of inflammation. A variety of foods fall into either the pro- or anit-inflammatory camp, through informed nutritional choices you can not only supply your body with quality fuel but also decrease inflammation and subsequently elongate health.
Lets get started.
1. Load Up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fatty acids are one of the most effective dietary weapons against inflammation. Found in some fish (such as salmon) and plant oils (walnuts are a potent source) these fats have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, breast and colon cancer. Janice Kiecolt-Glazer, PhD at Ohio State College of Medicine found that overweight adults who took 2.5 grams of Omega 3 supplements a day for four months lowered their inflammation levels by 10% compared to a control group. This indicates that not only do Omega 3 fatty acids keep inflammation from going up but also push levels down. You can take a supplement as in Kiecolt-Glazer’s study or according to a Harvard researcher as published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology consuming at least two servings (about 3 ounces each) of oily seafood every week is connected to lower levels of inflammation.
2. Cut Down on Omega-6 Fatty Acids
Omega 6 fatty acids are beneficial, protecting our body from potential invaders by making inflammation producing cells. However the typical western diet is far too high in omega 6’s (dairy, meats, potatoes, rice, vegetable oils such as sunflower and corn) therefore instead of eating these fats in a healthy ration of 3:1 omega 6’s to omega 3’s; we are eating an inflammation promoting ratio of 25:1. The obvious advice is to cut down on these pro-inflammatory foods while increasing your consumption of foods that are richest in Omega 3’s. Less obvious, if you are going to eat meat switch to organic. Conventionally farmed animals are feed grain, this increases the omega 6 content of their meat, organic and free range animals eat grass, nuts and other plant life that have a higher omega 3 content. Also remember some fish farmers use corn in their feed, so choose wild fish when available, not farm raised fish.
3. Reduce Insulin Surges
When the body detects a rise in glucose, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that causes cells to absorb glucose in an effort to keep blood sugar at optimal levels. Glucose is inflammatory, so ideally you want your body to produce insulin at low levels. This is accomplished by eating foods that the body breaks down slowly, thus signaling a low release of insulin as opposed to a large surge of insulin. It is believed that we can keep insulin levels in check by eating whole grains. Whole grain foods are rich in fiber which slows the rate at which glucose enters the blood stream. How much is enough? The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating 7.5 to 10.5 servings of whole grains a week produced the biggest reduction in inflammation-related deaths. Eating an equal amount of protein along with your carbohydrate load also slows glucose release.
4. Minimize Sugar
Every sugar molecule is made up of half fructose and the other half glucose. Fructose goes directly to the liver. If you routinely eat a lot of fructose the liver becomes overtaxed and through a complex set of chemical reactions creates fatty liver tissue, similar to the organ damage caused by overindulging in alcohol. Since fat cells release proinflammatory molecules known as cytokines, eating or drinking sugary foods contributes to our overall inflammation level. Most Americans eat 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily. What you can do instead is focus on eating a diet rich in whole foods and eliminating processed food. So shop only the periphery of the grocery store where the fresh food is displayed. Stay away from the aisles in the center of the store. Try sugar substitutes like stevia, xylitol or agave.
5. Get Plenty of Antioxidants
Inflammation is the body’s reaction to free radicals, unstable oxygen containing molecules. Antioxidants that are able to neutralize free radicals or prevent their creation are found in plants. So it is best to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Which fruits and vegetable you might ask. The darker the color (think kale, eggplant, beets) and smaller the size (think blueberries, pomegranate, goji and acai) the stronger the antioxidant effect. And because color variety offers antioxidant variety, all of which have differing benefits; eat a spectrum of color.
6. Keep Tabs on Food Sensitivities
When your body produces an antibody reaction otherwise known as an allergy or sensitivity to a food previously considered benign, your body is sending out an immune response. The body’s reaction to this “friendly fire” is—- you guessed it, inflammation. Inflammation from foods you eat is not always obvious. Most often the inflammation occurs several hours to days after ingestion. Also the foods we eat most often are usually the culprits. If you suspect you’re not feeling well as a result of something you’re eating get a “food allergy” test. Remember even healthy grains and organic foods can cause inflammation in some individuals. Then eliminate them, get your gut healthy again and rotate them back in.
While these recommendations may not be new to you, perhaps the reasons behind them are. Making changes is frequently easier when we understand the reasons why those changes are important. Education is power and we aim to educate you in new ways to enable you to take control of your health.
Tim Blend, MD, is the Medical Director at The Blend Institute. He has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and has an extensive background in both traditional and alternative healthcare. Dr. Blend is a graduate of Ross University Medical School. He completed his Internal Medicine residency at Downstate Medical Center & Kings County Hospital. Dr. Blend was a fellow, instructor and attending physician at both Bellevue Hospital and NY University Hospital Dept. of Emergency Medicine. In 1993 he and his family moved to Bradenton, FL where he joined the Manatee Memorial Hospital Emergency Medical team. Dr. Blend still practices 1 day at week in the Manatee Memorial ER and assists in the clinical training of LECOM medical students. In addition to being board certified in Internal Medicine, Dr. Blend is a board certified Nutritional Specialist and has completed a fellowship in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging and Medicine.
Dr. Blend is the only Board Certified Internist and Anti-Aging physician in southwest Florida who is also a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS).
Kim Blend, ARNP, is the Mental Health Director at The Blend Institute. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Nutrition and an Associate of Science degree in Nursing. She has also earned a Masters of Science in Nursing degree with a specialization in psychiatry from the University of South Florida. Kim is a national board certified nurse practitioner. Over the last 10 years Kim’s focus in her private practice work combines her nutrition background with traditional psychiatric treatment practices, including psychotherapy and psychiatric medication management. Her expertise in bio chemical diagnosis allows her to provide patients with targeted, natural treatment options as well as pharmaceutical options. Kim is also a national speaker on the topic of neurotransmitter testing and amino acid treatment and often travels teaching other clinicians on the utility of neurotransmitter testing and efficacy of amino acid therapies.
The Blend Institute is an age management medical practice that provides a blend of specialties to help individuals achieve and maintain optimal physical and mental health.
1911 Manatee Avenue East, Suite 102, Bradenton FL 34208