Archive for tag: food

The Great Food Debate

I've been embroiled in a debate on different eating habits for a few weeks. It's been a heated debate. Information has been passed back and forth, but the science is a hard sell for those that don't know or understand it. I say, science, because it's not just the facts about Paleo, gluten-free, Mediterranean, or whatever eating patterns/diets, but about nutrition in general. It's about how our bodies handle food and what they need to be healthy.

There are a million and one (and probably more) "diets" out there. Right now, Paleo and gluten-free seem to be trending the most. Celebrities are using them to "get healthy." People are using them for weight loss or to control the symptoms of one disease or another. Some are using them to lower their inflammatory levels. But few seem to know the actual science behind any of it.

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Image source: www.towelmate.com

I'm admittedly biased. I've been a diagnosed Celiac, and gluten free for 16 years. The more information that I learn about grains, etc. -- the more I'm glad that I don't eat gluten. But the general public doesn't have the information that I have. In fact, it seems that most professionals don't either. But that's not the purpose of this posting.

When I started out writing this, I thought about my friend and how vehemently she adheres to her beliefs about "nutrition" and eating. She's a registered dietician. We've argued back and forth about grains, about how she thinks that Paleo/Mediterranean is bad for athletes, about how impossible it is to follow, and about how there's a lot of "false" science/claims about that particular eating pattern. The whole experience has been a major illustration on the adherence to beliefs that people have -- not just for her, but for me. It's also been an exercise in frustration.

I can only "recommend" what science (and anecdotal evidence -- but that's another story) shows to be true. For example, I can explain that zonulin destroys tight junctions in the gut, brain, and reproductive organs, and that the main sources of tight junction destroying proteins are grains and legumes. I can quote studies all day long (and all night long) -- and I have. I can distill the science down to very simple words that anyone could understand by using pictures, analogies, and more broad terms. I can do all of these things, but that doesn't mean it's going to change anyone's mind, and it also doesn't mean that they're going to be willing to put it into practice.

We're very steeped in our beliefs. Usually, those beliefs have absolutely nothing to do with evidence. My friend, for example, focuses on athletes and sports nutrition. The concept of carb-loading with pasta or the use of sports drinks is very much a part of her reality. She's concerned about having energy available for use. She's not concerned about inflammation, overall health and well-being, the prevention of disease, or whether or not someone might develop cancer or an autoimmune disorder. She wants to run marathons, or play 4-hour-long matches. Her reality and mine are very, very different. Chances are, that no matter what I say or provide her with, she will always adhere to her thoughts about nutrition. It will always be about the quick fix. My hope is that she'll come across a difficult case and be forced to broaden her concept of what healthy eating is.

Patients aren't any different. Some may have more or less information than my friend. They may be coming in with a copy of some new fad diet book, or a cookbook of recipes that their Aunt Sally said worked really great to help her lose weight. People may walk into the office carrying a well-worn copy of the all-carrot diet, asking what to do about their increasingly orange skin. They'll be emphatic about drinking their diet coke, eating their bowl of pasta, or consuming 3 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before every meal.

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Image source: msmomofosho.wordpress.com

It will be our job to walk them through their questions, hopefully bring some experience and education to the table, and talk them through ideas and possibilities that will help them find some form of healthy, sustainable ground. They may resist with everything that they have in them. As I write this, I'm thinking about how much I struggle with sugar or eating rice, and how hard it has been for me to give them up; I'm not there yet. It's our job to work with them, using their limitations (even if those are beliefs), and our education to help them get to someplace healthier.

My friend and I will probably continue to argue about what we should or shouldn't be eating. The only thing we've been able to agree on so far, I think, is that there's no one single "right" way. There's no perfect way that everyone should be eating. We're all human, and each body is different. The science may figure out that everything we "know" is wrong, and everything must be changed. I may never be able to fully give up sugar or rice. But whatever happens, we'll all hopefully be happier and healthier because of what we learn -- about food, about our relationship with it, and our relationships with each other.

Have a great week, everybody.

Food for Thought

Surely you've heard the phrase: "Eat to live, not live to eat." It seems that our relationship with food is extremely complicated. It turns out, it's not just our mindset right now, but also every attitude that we've had about food from our childhood that affects how, what and why we eat. Did you ever make cookies with your grandmother, or have a special birthday dinner? Was there some treat that you only had on special occasions? Did you go trick-or-treating for Halloween? Unless we've somehow managed to avoid all of those things, food has become a reward and measure of comfort in our lives.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with this. But we have to be aware of it. As we go through our lives running crazy, working ourselves ridiculous hours, studying, going from obligation to obligation, taking on way too much, it's really easy to seek consolation in our food.

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Of course, there's more to it than that. Eating these things ignites reward chemistry in our brains. Dopamine is produced leading to the sensation of pleasure. Serotonin, which most people recognize as the hormone affecting depression, is dramatically affected. In fact about 95% of the serotonin is produced in the gut. This not only regulates how much food we eat, but how we feel about how much food we eat. It has direct impact on our mood about food.

There are other, seemingly less interesting, hormones involved with food intake. Leptin, produced in adipose tissue, regulates food intake and fat storage. Deficits or defects in it lead to overeating. Another hormone, CCK, which is released from the small intestine while you eat, provides negative feedback about the quantity of food. Deficits in it (or damage to the small intestine) lead to overeating. Ghrelin, insulin, cortisol, and glucagon are also involved. *Whew!*

You see, we treat food as medicine, not just because of the hormones it induces, but because of the nutrients it provides. We can use food to medicate or nourish our bodies.

We need those nutrients to live. They provide the building blocks of everything that we are, the chemicals that sustain us, and the energy that keeps us going.

I've been doing some reading (in all my spare time) about the psychology of eating. It turns out there's a whole Institute for the Psychology of Eating. I've been exploring the ideas of why people eat; how much food we really need to live; and how we can nourish ourselves body/mind/spirit without overindulging. The topic itself is absolutely fascinating, and challenging in ways beyond all of the science.

It's food for thought.

Everybody have an amazing week!

For more information on the psychology of eating and hormonal control of eating, check out:

Week 12 - Breathe

We're nearing the end of the trimester. It's the calm before the storm. Since my classmate Lexxi just reminded me, I'll remind you. Did you: do your FAFSA? Taxes? Register for classes?

This week starts the last minute projects and presentations before practicals and finals. Actually we have part of a practical on Friday for PT. I'm going to rehab a knee with Rheumatoid Arthritis -- which I'm finding as a bit of a struggle. How do you give someone exercises for a degenerating joint, when they have to move the joint? I've been pondering it quite a while. Here's hoping I come up with something good.

This week and next week, our program hosts a cadaver lab demonstration for the nursing, PA, and other health professions programs that we share space with. For those who aren't familiar, we share some campus space with the St. Petersburg College health profession programs and Barry University PA programs. Since some of our classroom space is at the St. Pete Caruth Health Education Center, we see a lot of students from other programs running around -- including RN, PA, EMT, etc. Unlike our program, they don't have cadaver exposure, which always surprised me.

So, since we do, we host workshops toward the end of each trimester to expose those students to what the body really looks like. Several of our students will spend an hour or more in the lab going through some general parts of the anatomy, and explaining function, etc. I've always been surprised that the other programs don't have cadaver exposure. I honestly feel that dissecting has given me invaluable information that there's no way I would have known otherwise. Even still, when someone asks me a part of the anatomy, my mind automatically goes to the cadavers to visualize it. I do this during classes; I've done this during boards. It helps to actually SEE where the origins and insertions are, how the vasculature and nerves surround and penetrate the muscles, and how the muscles layer and invest in each other.

I haven't been in the cadaver lab since I finished that portion of basic sciences several tris ago. I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I think most of the other student-instructors will be from basic science tris. It'll be fun to get to interact with them. That's a privilege I don't often get.

On Saturday, I went to the Gluten Free for Life Expo. Last year Grey and I went, walked through, and received a ton of samples, coupons, and business cards from local gluten free businesses. This year, I was by myself, as Grey was at an FBLA conference. I ran into Julia, my classmate, and her daughter-in-law, Stephanie.

Beyond running into them and seeing my friend who runs a local acupuncture clinic, the expo was a total waste. And it wasn't just because of the samples and coupons -- which I guess were there -- it was because of the quality of products. If you've ever been to a health food store (and I'm guessing all of us have), you've seen that there's just as much junk food there, as there is at any other store. It's labeled as "organic" or "all-natural" or "healthy", but the difference is only that they use sugar instead of corn syrup, organic versus conventional, and substitute refined with less refined. That doesn't make any of it healthy.

So, I talked with the reps for a company (that I won't name), because they recently reformulated their products. They are dedicated to having gluten free, GMO free products. I respect this tremendously, however, they still have some pretty big problems. Previously, they were using sorghum flour -- which has been a staple in gluten free cooking for a while. Even I have used it on a regular basis (although not for several years). The rep mentioned that they were having problems with their sorghum flour becoming contaminated with GMO soy. So they changed formularies and started using buckwheat and millet instead. The problem is, that these other grains contain lectins, in very high quantity. Lectins, in brains, beans, and potatoes, cause disruption of the tight junctions in the gut -- leading to leaky gut. Leaky gut leads to food intolerance, inflammation, and lipopolysaccharide invasion (toxins from gram negative bacteria that naturally live in the gut). Big problem. Check this out: The Lowdown on Lectins. And if you're a real glutton for punishment Dietary Lectins as Disease Causing Toxicants for far more in depth information.

So, I talked to the rep about how the choices they've made in substitutions are likely to affect their customers. The lady didn't have a clue what I was talking about. But she seemed pretty scared in response and said she'd pass it on to their recipe people. I'm sure it won't go any further. I looked through the ingredient list on EVERY product they had there. The few that didn't have millet or buckwheat had TONS of sugar. *sigh* Gluten free isn't always healthy.

Since my "conversion" to mostly Paleo, I just can't look at food the same way. I'm always thinking about the grain or carbohydrate content, how much I'm allowing my gut to be exposed to the lectins and sugar, and what it's doing to me. I'd say I'm about 80% Paleo now. I go back and forth -- trying to only have rice a couple times a week, and sugar maybe once. It IS a struggle sometimes, especially when I'm stressed out. But I feel SO much better.

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And before I go, I've wanted to share this guy with you all for quite some time. He stands outside a defunct mini-golf turned car dealership parking lot. I often wonder why he's still here -- maybe it's because he's so awesome. I haven't come up with a name for him yet. I'm willing to entertain suggestions. There are lots of oddities around St. Pete.

Have a great week everybody.

A LOOOOO–NG Weekend!

Did everybody enjoy the long weekend? Wow! What a weekend?!?

First, I need to say thank all the powers of the Universe for days off. I've been sneezing my fool head off ever since, but I spent most of the day cleaning. Having a clean house is Zen. I can now sit in the middle of my living room in the lotus position holding my fingers together. I won't (because I don't have time), but the important thing is -- I CAN.

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(Image source: http://blogs.studentlife.utoronto.ca/lifeatuoft/)

I spent some time out in the world this weekend, when I wasn't cleaning or studying. We get so sheltered, living in academia, that we forget how different it is. I came across a lot of stigma about chiropractic. Education helps fix that. Sometimes people just have to be exposed to what we're doing, what we're learning and practicing, and the basis for our practices in order to step beyond the conditioning they've received. Some won't. And that's OK. We'll love them anyway.

I received a big reminder about how difficult it is to practice "lifestyle medicine." We spend a lot of our time talking about changes that have to be made to the diet or lifestyle. I honestly don't know how many times a week that I tell someone something like, "Well, that could be fixed with removing XYZ from the diet." Here's the thing though: People don't want to remove XYZ from their diet. We're all familiar with people who continue to eat fast food or candy or soda and their effects on the body. We're also familiar with how many of those people end up injecting insulin or taking metformin. People do not respond well to change. The prevailing opinion is that it's easier to either accept the condition they have (and the symptom management) rather than to prevent or cure the issue by making change.

I'm honestly not sure where this mentality comes from. Perhaps it's the American adage that a pill fixes everything. I have a hard time believing that people are that *bad word alert* lazy (sorry). For some that I've talked to, they can't believe that making a change to their diet or activity levels will make them feel better, or that they've tried everything and nothing has worked. After all, they're dealing with complex health issues like autoimmune disorders, diabetes, and heart disease. Some will listen to reason and participate in education and others won't. Age doesn't seem to have a bearing on this -- people of all ages fall into this grouping. Perhaps I'd be the best physician ever, if I could figure out what would get through to people that have this block. But for right now, I'm struggling with the acceptance (which really sounds like defeat) that people have of their dysfunctions, and the lack of willingness to do anything about it. On compliance with lifestyle recommendations -- what do you think?

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Since stress management is a big part of lifestyle, here is a sunset picture I took on Monday. Remember. Zen.

As a self-reported "lifestyle change queen", I'm all too ready to make changes in my own life with the goal of feeling better. Dr S. tells us, as students, that we need to try things in order to be able to recommend them to our patients (speaking of dietary changes). Given that one of my own issues is Celiac disease, a change in lifestyle was the ONLY option for becoming healthy. I can't even begin to express how drastically my life changed in response to that.

Some changes are harder to make. Cutting down my rice consumption has been one of them. I'm down to only 2-3 servings per week at this point. But others are so much easier. For me, it comes down to the information, and hope. How will I feel once this change has been made? What are the possibilities? What information can I find that supports this decision?

Is there a change that you need to make? What's stopping you? What if you felt a million times better, increased the quality and quantity of your life, and it only took a short period of adjustment?

Maybe these are the questions we should be asking our (future) patients.

Have an amazing week, everyone.

Fall Is Here

The calendar says it's fall. I never would have known. I'm honestly ready for the weather to be cooler. It's about this time that I start missing Home. Around this time of year the leaves would be falling, it would be sweater weather, and somebody, somewhere, would be throwing a hayride in a pumpkin patch. Surely the scents of firewood and burning marshmallows waft through the air somewhere on this planet right now.

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(Image source: timeatthetable.org)

Midterms have already started. So far there's been one. There are two this week and the week after and I don't even want to look at my schedule after that because I know it's UGLY. Things are going so fast. My fellow students are already making plans to go Home on Thanksgiving break. I'm inclined to bake and sew and do all the things I used to do when the weather would normally cool off. One of these days I might have to turn the AC down to 60º in the house and curl up in a blanket just to get the same effect. I guess there's something that I'll never get used to about being here in Florida.

We're coming up on Halloween and there's a big Halloween potluck sponsored by the Motion Palpation Club. We're all discussing costumes for the event. I don't want to ruin it for anyone--so I won't drop ideas or tell what I've heard. I imagine we'll have some amazing costumes. We've got some crafty and creative people--especially in my tri. So, I can't imagine what they'll come up with.

I'm still working on my marketing project. I present right before Thanksgiving and I have so much work left to do. I'm inclined to go off the deep end and jump headfirst into my most ideal practice's business plan. I've got some pretty lofty ambitions with a pretty broad scope. Some may not even be feasible. I don't know that it will ever happen, but a girl can dream, can't she? My classmates and I have traded ideas in the hallway, while waiting for class to start, and in the parking lot - but I don't think that anyone has actually laid everything down in some type of practical form.

Special thanks to Dr. Jourdan, who is letting me exercise my baking muscle and have someplace to share my baked goods (so I don't eat them all myself). We've been having "Breakfast Friday" or this next week "Coffee Monday." This week it's cheesecake (gluten free, of course). I'm hoping to convert more of my recipes to Paleo--including this one. It shouldn't be too hard.  This recipe is VERY simple--few ingredients and easy to adapt.

Andrea's Favorite Simple Cheesecake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 packages of cream cheese of your choosing, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 eggs (or equivalent egg replacer)
  • Crust items of your choice (cookies, graham crackers, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
  2. Crush up the crumbs and mix with the butter. Press into a springform pan.
  3. Mix the cream cheese with the sugar, eggs/egg replacer, and vanilla until smooth.
  4. Pour cream cheese mixture into crust.
  5. Bake for 50 minutes or until set. Cool for an hour or so. Place in the fridge to chill.
  6. Serve with garnish of your choice (or plain).

The conversion to Paleo will probably start with using coconut sugar in place of regular sugar. I'm not sure that vanilla is Paleo friendly, but I could probably use powdered vanilla bean instead of liquid vanilla (never use imitation vanilla--it contains hepatotoxins).

The crumbs could be anything. I'm sure I can come up with a Paleo friendly cookie of some sort. I've made cheesecake crusts with everything from brownie crusts to homemade graham crackers. Hopefully by the end of the year I'll have accomplished this. I've also made this recipe gluten free and vegan before. Just substitute Tofutti cream cheese or rice based cream cheese (if you can find it) instead. It was actually richer than the dairy based version. You can also add an orange oil or lemon oil to the cheesecake to make it more flavorful.

Good luck on all the midterms coming up, everybody. I'm planning a series of blogs with something unique for all of you--maybe starting next week. We shall see.

If you make the cheesecake, drop me a line and let me know how you like it and what ingredients you used. Enjoy!