Tag Archives: Nutrition

Not settling

Hi everyone!

Times have been wild since I have last written. I have been working at the same primary care medical practice, went backpacking solo through Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru, completed a part time post-bachelors program, and have been experimenting with some other projects and goals. ;)

My two year anniversary at the practice is coming up soon, and I have been thinking a lot about what I have learned. My role has been something similar to a health coach, and I have worked with patients with a wide variety of conditions, goals, and personalities. These are people that are both just like you, and not at all, coming from every stage and experience of life.

I am fortunate to be able to get to know patients on a very personal level. I learn their stories, understand their environment, and listen to their struggles, triumphs and goals. This is one side of the equation of their reality. The other side is genetics and epigenetics (the nature in nature vs. nurture). All of these factors converge into a complex web that determines their health and disease state at the present moment.

You cannot know 95% of these things when you look at a person on the street or meet them at an event. It would be hard to know most of this stuff even if you had been known them for years, unless you have a medical background and ask a lot of personal questions… Being able to see how each side of a person, including their genetic and environmental history, lifestyle choices, motivators and challenges, interrelates with their medical pathophysiology has increased my compassion for others and understanding of the amount of power that people actually have to change.

It isn’t just medical conditions that have complex roots; it is every aspect of a person. Their personality, quirks, habits, and choices are all influenced by a multitude of factors. For example…

  • Mood disturbances and mental disorders are tied to neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain, which could be genetic, environmental, chemical, or even nutrition related (not adequate intake of necessary precursors)
  • People have varying levels of pain perception and stress tolerance due to stress exposure in utero
  • Overweight people may be more susceptible to overeating due to low dopamine or altered gut bacteria (ex: h. pylori in excess results in stomach ulcers, but a deficiency leads to a lack of leptin, which is responsible for satiety)
  • Sexual orientation and gender identity is influenced by the hormonal exposure in utero (and theoretically there are external factors that can alter this hormonal environment)
  • It is theorized that some mental issues, including chronic anxiety and poor self esteem, are related to lack of parental attachment in early life
  • Our diets play massive roles in our mood, energy level, sleep, immunity, health, weight, and daily choices. And our diets are massively influenced by our geography, early life experiences, parenting, and socioeconomic past and status.
  • Habitual drug or alcohol use can create a cycle involving neurotransmitters that makes it very difficult to break free of (but also- what spurred the first use? )

I think recognition of the influential unknowns also has huge implications for how we interpret and interact with others. With the understanding that each individual is the outcome of an extremely complex web of factors and events, we can have a bit more compassion for our fellow human beings . We are constantly being influenced and changing, and we can’t know what all of those factors are for ourselves (let alone others). More compassion from the acceptance of our ignorance and the complexity of nature v. nurture interactions, in combination with efforts to change what we aren’t content with, could bring about some seriously positive change in the world. Instead of judging other people (and ourselves!), we should try to be more accepting, while empowering others to make the changes they desire.

I have emphasized the complex roots of personalities and medical conditions in order to bring about compassion, not hopelessness. Most days, I hear someone somewhere saying that they have ‘always been’ a certain way. Whether it’s being overweight, anxious, depressed, or whatever, they appear resigned to this particular trait. It seems logical to me that the best way to change something is to get to the root of the problem, and so I have tried to trace back to the start of a certain problem, habit, or quality. Things quickly turn very murky, as there is not usually one answer.

What I have realized though, is that it does not matter.  There are countless elements that influence who we are that we cannot change. While you can’t change your early life development, genetics, or what others do to you, you can change what you do and how you think. After all, our bodies are made of the foods we eat, and our personas are made of  our actions, words, emotions and thoughts. We do not need to feel resigned to our condition. There are so many things (mental, physical, emotional, personality traits, habits, spiritual) that we can change and the tools are great and varying:

  • Sleep
  • Diet
  • Addressing medical conditions properly, proper medications
  • Probiotics (this can be complicated, different strains do many different things)
  • Supplements, herbs (with medical advising)
  • Therapy of all types
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction
  • Meditation
  • Yoga, Tai Chi
  • Introspection, brain storming, goal setting and planning
  • Calendars and list making
  • Positive self talk, positive affirmations
  • Regular reminding self of values
  • Life coaches, health coaches, career coaches, advisors
  • Education, books, reading, studies

In summary, you are awesome. People are complicated with incredibly different life situations. Better to have compassion than pass judgement on others, and  focus on making the changes you wish to seek in yourself – because you can. I hope you all have an awesome Friday and weekend!

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me, the salt flats in Bolivia 

 

 

Aside

I read the awesome article Bariatric Medicine: Seven Exciting Developments” by Sean Bourke MD on a flight from NYC to San Francisco last weekend. I identified with it enough feel compelled to summarize my favorite points for you all. Dr. … Continue reading

Aside

My blog is typically me putting my best face forward. I avoid complaining and revealing my negative emotions. Not because I want to fool anyone into thinking I am always happy and perfect, but because writing positive posts makes me … Continue reading

Botox, MSG, Salmonella – OH MY!

Happy Monday everyone! I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging much lately – life has been hectic with midterms and whatnot. Meals have been pretty repetitive and and rather visually unappealing (but still tasty!). If you are interested in my breakfast recipe for savory pumpkin-tahini oatmeal, let me know… And this weekend I went to Fresno to see all my housemates homes, so I didn’t cook at all! It was fun though; I got to meet all of their families and friends from back home.  I also attended a Japanese post-funeral gathering with lots of food and ate many things without knowing what they were. Twas interesting.

This week though, I plan on posting delicious recipes! At the moment, I am studying for my Food Chem midterm that is in two hours and I want to share some of the highlights of what I have learned in the last month. I’m actually just looking for an alternative way to study and am going to abuse y’all…. Continue reading

Why does everyone eat crap?

I am studying for my Food Chemistry midterm and I thought this would be the perfect time to share a bit of what I have learned.

For the vast majority of human existence, until the last couple hundred years, humans have relied on plants and animals for food. Everything was in its native form; no extractions, genetic modifications, or purifucations. Food was food, and people developed knowledge of food through experience through trial and error. They learned what to eat from their native land to sustain themselves and to treat illnesses. This information was passed down orally from generation to generation (think about all the weird-sounding old remedies you hear about for ailments), which is responsible for what we now think of as ethnic foods or cuisines. Humans survived and accomplished all of that without the slightest concept of fat, protein, or carbs, let alone vitamins and minerals.

Bison

In the 1900’s, science and technology made great advances. We began to look at molecules and then the atoms that make up the molecules. John Dalton created atomic theory.

This is when we started to reduce food to its constituent properties. We began to tear it apart and stare at it in a microscope. We learned about the differences between lipids, amino acids, and carbohydrates. We discovered all of the essential nutrients.

Mucci fungus

What did we do with this knowledge?

Scientists began to connect certain diseases and illnesses with nutritional deficiencies. Even some mental conditions were not mental conditions at all, but simply severe malnutrition of a particular nutrient. Curing the sick and saving lives through diet was a huge success.

And then

We began to mildly overdose the entire population.

Iodine in salt, fluoride in water, enriched wheat flour, the list goes on.

“What better way to protect the people from illness and death than to add nutrients to their food and water supply? So what if not everyone has a nutritional deficiency, lets just take care of them all by overshooting a little bit! As long we stay within the safe range, giving them a bit extra isn’t going to do any harm.”

Except it has.

By invisibly adding nutrients to food products, the government and regulatory agencies have invisibly cured many diseases. No one in the US now is worried about getting a fat goiter on their neck or having their teeth fall out (from scurvy). We don’t even need to think about diseases related to nutrition because most of it has been taken care of for us. Adding nutrients to our food supply has taken nutrition out of our consciousness. It is elective, optional even. Now, we eat for taste. Companies sell their products for taste. As my professor puts it: “The food supply competes on an almost purely hedonistic (delicious) functionality axis.”

Goiter

Of course, this has also been very good for us. The average life expectancy is now over 90 years. That is 3x longer than just over a century ago! (However, since just 1985 we are also 3x more obese.)

Even though we are no longer at risk of dying due to lack of vitamin C or protein, we now have a responsibility to take our health, education, and nutrition into our own hands.