diet

Healing Hypothesis Introduction

You’re ready to change your life. You can reclaim your health.

There is a set of concepts we use to help you change your life. Together, they make up our Healing Hypothesis. Everyone is unique and has a unique protocol. Applying these concepts to your case is what guides me in developing that protocol.

I want to share them with you so that you understand what you need to consider in order to finally get your health on track.

They are:

  • Health begins in the gut

  • Your body is built to heal itself

  • One size doesn’t fit all

  • Food isn’t always enough

  • Your unique biochemistry

  • A holistic approach

  • Your custom supplement protocol

  • Your custom diet

These concepts form our Healing Hypothesis, and they are the outline of the roadmap we use to bring you relief from your health problems, feel better, and help you meet your health and wellness goals.

Each concept helps us move the needle forward, and together they form the powerful, and holistic approach you need.

I know this because these concepts represent the lessons I learned along my healing journey, and are the things I did to get myself, and my health, back on track.

Here’s the deal. Chronic and complex health conditions have root causes. Finding these root causes is where we have opportunities to improve, and possibly even resolve them. My Healing Hypothesis guides us through identifying and addressing these root cause issues.

As a functional and clinical nutritionist I do not diagnose, or treat any condition. My job is to teach you what you can do to heal, feel better, and to help you identify root causes of the health problems you have. The kind of root causes I’m talking about lead to imbalances in your body, and long-standing ones can cause chronic and complex health problems. We can address imbalances with natural means like diet, supplements, and lifestyle interventions, and prevent long-term consequences.

The Problem (Part 2)

Here’s that second part of the issue, your labs are not normal and you are prescribed medication.

How many medications have you been prescribed because of your health problems?

I spent some time on a SSRI (antidepressant medication) in my mid-20s after I had a breakdown. The stress from graduate school, feeling my life was out of control, I was in a severe dietary restriction phase at the time (one of my lowest weights, about 98lbs, and I’m 5’6” by the way), and I’m sure OCD, PTSD and the depression of course didn’t help the situation.

I didn’t stay on the medication long. It did help, but it numbed me and I wasn’t myself. It did get rid of the OCD. I would clean a lot, and when I was on the meds, let’s just say things became very different. Not in a good way, it was gross to be honest.

I still deal with OCD, PTSD and depression, however I’ve found lifestyle strategies to help manage it (I do read self help, motivational books and blogs for example), and so does nourishing my body rather than starving it. Our neurotransmitters that regulate our moods are built from amino acids, and the pathways that make them need vitamins and minerals to do it. We need to put the fuel in, and the best way to do that is with whole, real foods.

Back to my take on medications, what do they do? They help with symptoms, if you’re lucky.

There are medications that save lives, and of course we need them from time to time. Antibiotics do save lives, when they are used appropriately. My issue with many medications that are commonly prescribed is that they mask symptoms. The symptoms you are having are your body’s cries for help, that there is, or are, underlying root cause(s) creating imbalances in your body, that over time, result in chronic and complex health problems.

If you mask symptoms with medications, root cause imbalances are still there, and they can continue to wreak havoc on your body. Now that you don’t have symptoms, you don’t know this is happening so root causes and imbalances are left unchecked and unaddressed. Before you know it, you have more symptoms. Something new and different starts to occur. Your doctor gives you another prescription. And the cycle continues.

Many of these medications mask symptoms by interrupting, altering, and shutting down biochemical pathways in your body. This is a problem because all systems are connected, so when you interfere with one pathway, others will be affected.

My favorite example is the use of statin medications for cholesterol. Statins are one of the most prescribed medications today, and they are one of the biggest money-makers ever for pharmaceutical companies.

Research shows that for some people, statins can be beneficial. They may help reduce blood pressure, and may be useful for secondary prevention of heart attack and stroke (meaning if you’ve already had a heart attack or stroke, statins may help prevent it from happening again), however, research also shows that they can be very harmful for others, and lead to rhabdomyolysis, cognitive loss, neuropathy, pancreatic and hepatic dysfunction, and sexual dysfunction.

Statins work by shutting off a step in the pathway that makes cholesterol in your body. The problem is that we need cholesterol, and that pathway does other things, including make CoQ10, an essential nutrient needed for energy production in your body.

 What do we need cholesterol for? Just for example, it is necessary for making steroid hormones including your stress hormone cortisol, and your sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), and cholesterol makes up a good part of the structure of cell membranes in your body. If your body can’t function at the cellular level, you certainly won’t be able to.

I’m not saying to stop taking your prescription medications (statins or others), I am saying make sure you ask your doctor questions, and educate yourself. Often there are natural ways to better manage your health issues that have no risk of adverse side effects.

You can start by exploring the root cause(s) of why you are having symptoms in the first place. Remember, symptoms are tied to systems and all systems in your body are connected.

If you’ve been struggling with health issues, you need a different approach to resolve them. Our Healing Hypothesis is that approach, and what I used on my own health journey.

Food Isn't Always Enough

Food isn’t always enough. This is part of our Healing Hypothesis because we aren't just what we eat. We are what our bodies can do with what we eat.

We need to make sure your body can digest, absorb and use nutrients from the foods you eat. You can have the perfect diet, but if your body can't use those nutrients, your perfect diet doesn't matter much, and won't help you meet your goals, and it certainly won’t help you heal from chronic and complex health problems. This is where gut health comes into play.

If you eat a diet of whole, real foods, and a variety of them from all sources, and suffer with health issues, a deeper look at your gut health is in order.

If you are on a restrictive diet because of your health problems, and it’s not helping much, or at all, a deeper look at your gut health is needed.

If taking foods out of your diet does give you some symptom relief, again, we need to take a closer look at your gut health.

Do you sense a theme here?

Food isn’t the problem.

This was all happening to me when I was experiencing my GI issues.

My diet at the time included healthy foods, and nothing processed. In all honesty it wasn’t balanced between all food groups, I was fearing carbs at the time. I was also restricting certain other foods, like certain fruits and vegetables because symptoms were worse when I was eating them, but my symptoms were still pretty bad even without those foods.

Here’s the problem, reactions to food are a symptom and not an underlying cause. We need to find out why you are reacting to foods (hint, your gut health is impaired). If we don’t, your diet will become even more restrictive over time, and this can lead to nutrient deficiencies and imbalances, and make your health status even worse. On top of that, dietary restriction can lead to disordered eating behaviors, as I experienced first hand.

I’ve talked a lot about exploring your unique biochemistry. There are important differences between conventional, standard lab tests and functional tests. The latter are what I use to get to know you better, from the inside out, and they allow me to develop a plan that is customized for your needs to help you meet your goals, and feel better.

Your custom supplement protocol

All of the concepts that make up our Healing Hypothesis are important and make a difference in helping you feel better and heal, and this one can truly have a significant impact.

I firmly believe that supplements are an important intervention as part of an overall protocol.

In functional medicine, we focus on natural ways to improve your health. That means food first. The functional medicine approach looks for the underlying causes of disease and illness and addresses it in order to improve health status.

The core of functional medicine is functional nutrition, and we use diet, lifestyle and supplements as primary tools of addressing your health problems.

I've been asked, can't food be enough? After all, as a clinical nutritionist the expectation is that I'm going to create a diet plan to make you feel better. Yes! This is part of what I do. 

Sometimes, food isn't enough. This can happen as we age and bodily processes slow down and need a little extra help, when we have a functional deficit in a metabolic pathway, when our hormones become imbalanced, and when our guts aren't functioning the way they're supposed to.

These are just some examples of when we may need a little more than what even the best, most thought through food plan can provide. And this is where supplementation can help restore your metabolic processes to an optimal state, which is important, especially when you’ve had long-standing imbalances.

We are exposed to stress, environmental toxins, and lack of physical activity (for most of us) daily. We also don’t get enough exposure to sunlight, and have many other problems associated with the 'conveniences' of Western society.

These are reasons why you can benefit from supplementing your healthful diet with extra nutrients. Some supplements help support metabolic pathways and therefore the biochemical reactions that make your body run. Others help support your immune system and combat oxidative stress and inflammation, two causes of chronic and complex disease. These are just some examples.

Keep in mind, for supplements to work, recommendations need to be customized for the needs of your body. If you’ve tried a variety of supplements based on Google searches, and haven’t had any results, the reason is because your unique needs are not accounted for.

I do believe that most of us can benefit from taking certain supplements. There are some standards I keep in my toolbox.  To get access to professional grade ones, click here (you’ll be prompted to create a free account).

So, are nutrient supplements necessary, and can't we get everything we need from food? Yes, and maybe not.

Speaking of getting what we need from food, we also need to address fad diets and calorie counting, and this is a concept of our Healing Hypothesis.

Your Custom Diet

Our Healing Hypothesis is personal to me because it helped me feel better and heal. This concept however, this one is big for me. 

This isn’t about implementing the latest fad diet to get results.

I have personally fallen victim to this practice, and because of it, my health has suffered and I ended up in urgent care.

Your biochemistry is as unique as your fingerprint. That means your roadmap to better health will be as unique as you are, and your diet plan needs to be customized for the needs of your body, rather than worrying about if you are paleo, keto, vegetarian, vegan, or what your blood type is.
 
Any diet that restricts any food group long-term has the ability to cause nutrient deficiencies, and health problems. I don’t consider processed foods, fast food, and the like food groups by the way, but I think you know this.

Let’s address calorie counting too. There is WAY more involved in maintaining a healthy body composition than calories in versus calories out, and not all calories are created equal. Calorie counting and obsessing about it can lead to disordered eating habits and eating disorders. Calorically depriving your body also can backfire and actually prevent you from losing weight. You cannot outsmart biochemistry. Trust me, I’ve tried.

I want to share my take on some popular diet trends, and some standards, based on my personal and professional experience, and the research I’ve done on these subjects.

Gluten: Some people of course (most I believe, if not everyone) should not consume gluten. Gluten has no health benefits, is inflammatory, and there are much better options when it comes to healthy carbohydrates you can eat.

Dairy: Dairy is also inflammatory. If you do eat dairy, sparingly is best.

Vegan/plant-based diets: Diets that are 100% plant-based often lack important nutrients including B12, iron, zinc, essential amino acids, and a range of other nutrients. Plant-based diets tend to be higher in carbs, and depending on your source of carbs, this can put you at greater risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems.

If you are on a 100% plant-based diet, it is important to supplement appropriately to make sure your nutrient needs are met.

Plant based diets are often recommended for cancer, where research shows a diet that’s high fiber, low fat and includes lots of fruits and vegetables may be preventative.

Ketogenic diet: This is the latest craze. A standard ketogenic diet is high fat (75%), moderate protein (%20), and very low carb (%5).

Research has shown benefits of keto for neurological disorders (epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s), weight loss, diabetes and pre-diabetes, among other conditions. In these cases, the diet is used for therapeutic reasons and should be implemented under the supervision of a qualified professional.

A keto diet may have some cons. For weight loss, or because it’s the latest fad, we really don’t know what the effects of it long-term are. Based on what I know about biochemistry and how the body works, I’m going to defer to my earlier comment, that any diet that restricts any food group long-term has the ability to cause nutrient deficiencies, and health problems.

Mediterranean diet: A Mediterranean diet is the only one that has been scientifically validated, again and again, with benefits for health. The diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains (non gluten is best in my opinion), legumes and nuts, and healthy fats like olive oil. The only downside may be the recommendation to include red wine, which may not be advised if you are on certain medications, or have certain health conditions.

There are so many more, and not enough time for me to touch on them all here. These examples represent the ones I am asked about most often.

If you’re wondering what I eat, my diet consists of whole, real foods, from all food sources. I don’t define it any other way, nor do I wish to categorize it to fit under a particular fad or trend. I prefer to spend my time living and enjoying my life, rather than obsessing about what I am going to eat, and if it’s ‘ok’ for my diet. I’ve spent most of my life obsessing over what I ate, and suffered because of it.  Food is necessary to fuel our bodies so that they work. Restricting fuel leads to functional impairments, and poor health. I’ve been there. It happened to me. It doesn’t have to happen to you too.