by: Elysia Arseneau
[This is Part Four of the series called My BCB Journey.]
When a health practitioner told me that my body was improperly metabolizing glucose and instead has been storing most of it as fat, I thought of the adage “you are what you eat”. This saying is thought to have originated in 1826 when French physician and removed father of the Paleo and low-carb diets Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es” (“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”). He wrote that nearly 200 years ago, and yet people – myself included – are still consuming awful foods, feeling awful, and wondering why.
With so many “diet” options out there, it’s easy to be confused about how we should be eating for optimal health. Is the Mediterranean diet better than the Paleolithic one? Does a low-carb diet offer greater results than low-fat or low-glycemic diets? As reported in The Atlantic, the journal Annual Reviews asked Dr. David Katz and Stephanie Meller to compare the medical evidence for and against every mainstream diet. Their results were published in March 2014 in a paper titled, “Can We Say What Diet Is Best for Health?”. Their main finding was that while no diet is clearly best, there were common threads in all of the diets that showed which eating patterns are proven to be beneficial to health. “A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”
Since I’ve been eating mostly plants and minimal processed foods and yet still feel sluggish and can’t metabolize glucose, so I knew that I had to speak to an expert regarding my eating and drinking habits. I know that I’ve been doing many things well, like eating a mostly vegetarian diet and drinking upwards of 120oz of water per day, but I also know that there are improvements to be made. The fact that I crave sweets after dinner is not normal, and neither is the fact that I have belly fat.
Last week, I set up an appointment with Laura Mierzwa, one of NutriChem’s Registered Holistic Nutritionists, to find out how to eat properly for my body chemistry. I had to complete two small packages before our appointment:
This was the first food log that I’d ever used so diligently, and boy was it revealing! It showed me that I eat more processed foods than I realized: out of the 14 lunches and dinners in the week leading up to my Nutritional Consultation, I ate processed foods 6 times. That means that 43% of my lunches and dinners that week were processed. Yikes!!
My meeting with Laura Mierzwa was immensely informative and helpful. She explained the science behind how my current eating and drinking habits have been contributing factors to a variety of issues, including my past depressive symptoms and current anxieties, my flaky scalp and hair loss, and my skin tags and belly fat.
Based on what I wrote in my food log, Laura was able to tell me that I have been the typical “bad vegetarian”: I removed meat from my diet but instead of substituting it with other sources of protein in the same quantities, I’ve substituted with less protein and more carbohydrates. This could be a contributing factor to the issues I now have with improper glucose metabolism. When we consume too much glucose (including starches, which break down into glucose), we end up with excess levels of glucose in our blood. Our body stores the excess glucose as fat for later use. In evolutionary times, it was beneficial to have these fat reserves for when food was not readily available. Today, however, for many (but certainly not all) North Americans, food is always readily available: our body hardly ever has to break down those fat stores, so they keep building up each time we eat more than we should.
Laura also explained how our levels of circulatory glucose (“blood sugar”) should be within an optimal range, but with the modern high-sugar diet we often get glucose spikes that take us out of the normal range, then “sugar crashes”. We can help balance our blood glucose levels by eating adequate protein, good fats, and a healthy balance of simple and complex carbohydrates. Sugar addiction is quite common ever since the food industry figured out how to make us crave their products using salt, sugar and fat to achieve the optimal “bliss point” that leaves us wanting more.
Laura did a lot more than just explain the mistakes that I’ve been making in my eating choices. The Nutritional Consultation includes an informative meeting with an RHN, but also tangible resources that you can use. Within one week of your appointment, you will be emailed:
One of my dietary recommendations is to drink water away from meals so that I do not dilute the enzymes from my mouth to my intestines. When you drink while you eat, it hinders the digestion process, doesn’t make you feel satiated, and you end up eating more than you should. Water should therefore be consumed a minimum of 15 minutes before a meal, and at least 15 minutes after.
Another dietary recommendation that I received was that I should follow NutriChem’s Elimination Diet, which is a modified anti-inflammation diet, for three weeks. By eliminating certain foods and drinks from my diet, including all alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, I will see a number of immediate improvements. Then, by re-introducing the foods one-by-one and watching how my body reacts, I might discover that I have food allergies or sensitivities to some of the foods I’ve been eating all along. Some symptoms of food sensitivities include skin conditions (like eczema, psoriasis and acne), chronic cough and congestion, inflammation, body pain, autoimmune conditions, and being overweight.
Laura told me that “you are what you eat” is not entirely true; many people’s digestive systems aren’t functioning properly, thus they are not actually absorbing what they’re eating. So even though they’re putting good nutrients into their body, the body is not effectively utilizing them. “You are what you absorb” is a more accurate way of thinking of this statement. By supporting the digestive system, you ensure that all of the food ingested is broken down efficiently and is absorbed. You can do this by making sure your gut has enough healthy bacteria to keep your immune system healthy, ingesting enough fibre to regulate bowel movements (minimum of once per day is optimal), and consuming the right nutrients to restore and repair your gastrointestinal system from any damage.
Laura Mierzwa is hosting a digestion webinar tonight at 7:30 and will email it tomorrow to everyone registered. "Keys to Optimal Digestion: Unlock to Power of Your Gut" will help you learn more about what might be causing your digestive issues, and how to solve them. Register by clicking here or by calling our Richmond Road Clinic at 613-721-3669.
Next week, no matter how difficult I think it will be to cut out (among other things) sugar, caffeine and tomatoes from my diet, I will start the Elimination Diet in an effort to get to the bottom of my food allergies and sensitivities. One of my colleagues even lost 20 lbs while doing the Elimination Diet because her body wasn’t used to such clean eating combined with the fact that she removed foods that she had sensitivities to!
So, tune in every Monday until the end of March to follow “My BCB Journey” to better health!
In Part Five, I will:
[Part One] Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired!
[Part Two] Don’t Just Survive… Thrive!
[Part Three] The Results Are In! Here’s What’s Really Going On
[Part Four] Are We Really What We Eat?
[Part Five] What The Elimination Diet REALLY Looks Like
[Part Six] Optimize Your Health by Balancing Your Body's Chemistry
[Part Seven] 7 Ways My Health Improved in 1 Month
[Part Eight] When it Comes to Supplements, YES Quality Matters!
[Part Nine] Is Your Food Making You Miserable?
[Part Ten] Be Healthy Again / For the First Time!
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We all need treats. The good news is that treats don’t have to be bad for you! Here are some delicious homemade chocolate covered oat and nut clusters.