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What If Food Is the Best Medicine?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

About 6 years ago, I was 'fit-fat'. I exercised regularly (about 1hr/5x week), eliminated processed foods, and ate 'healthy'. Yet my bodyfat still hovered around 32%. Still 'overweight' despite my activity level.

My blood pressure was 135/85. This was 'pre-hypertensive', but my doctor didn't worry about it because of my age. Relative to her other patients who were clinically hypertensive, this was very good.

I liked my doctor. I think she was very progressive for her profession, often recommending natural remedies before trying the prescriptions. Yet despite that, modern medicine still doesn't address the prevention aspect.

What if my 'pre-hypertensive' blood pressure was a sign of inflammation? What if I wasn't doomed due to 'genetics'? Modern medicine seems to treat that as an inevitability. Can't stop it, so we'll treat it when it happens.

Perhaps my genetics are more sensitive to the conditions that lead to hypertension. Shouldn't that mean I take action sooner, rather than later?

What if I can control my genetics through food? We are what we eat, as we say. Am I made of unprocessed foods as nature made them, or am I made of manufactured chemicals packaged as something vaguely food-like?

What if my genetics doesn't like artificial foods or lab made chemicals? Possible. I'm allergic to all non-penicillin based antibiotics. Tetracyclines are lab created synthetics. My body rejects it as a foreign invader worse than the bacteria it is supposed to treat.

Eliminating processed foods was only part of the equation. I still had 'pre-hypertension' that medicine wasn't going to address until I had full blown hypertension. Hypertension often goes hand in hand with metabolic syndrome, so that likely wasn't far off.

I took an extra step, on my own. I cut back grains and starches. This dropped my blood pressure to 122/75 in about 3 months. According to the medical community, this puts me in the 'low-risk' health category, cutting my risk of metabolic syndrome in half. All I did was make one change to my diet.

What if my doctor had told me that all I had to do to reduce my risk of metabolic syndrome was to eat less bread and pasta? What if my particular genetics doesn't handle grains well? Is that so hard to believe? I am lactose intolerant, after all.

I was active biking, hiking, and kayaking about 1 hour per day, and 8 hours on the weekend. I have never smoked cigarettes. Yet I had pre-hypertensive blood pressure and excessive fat levels of a chain smoking couch potato.

Maybe it is genetics, but perhaps it isn't an inexorable march. Doctors put people on medication at 140/90. I was at 135/85 before I changed my diet. I narrowly escaped.

Obviously, we are all different. Our environments make our health needs very different. Maybe cutting out grains and starches won't work for you the way it did for me.

I believe that excessive bodyfat is a message from our bodies telling us something is out of balance. For some lucky people, maybe extra exercise is all they need. Maybe it's too much exercise, driving up cortisol and stress on the adrenals. Perhaps too much processed foods and refined sugars are the culprits. Others still, maybe they have wheat or dairy sensitivities.

Maybe if our bodies aren't getting what they need, they'll let us know. Or maybe if they're getting something they don't want, they'll let us know. Tricky, tricky figuring it out.

Maybe it is genetics. Shouldn't we try to work with it, rather than against it?

This becomes more challenging as we age because our bodies change our biochemical balance. As I near 40, I find that my body is more sensitive to abuse than it was at 20. If it doesn't like what I'm feeding it, my body lets me know a lot faster.

In some ways, that makes me better than I was in my 20s. I gunked up my body with crap back then. I probably wouldn't have listened anyway. Well, actually, I didn't. Hah! Drinking 32oz Big Gulps was beyond stupid.

But now? Now I have to listen, and I have to make a choice.

If the toast at breakfast, sandwich loaf at lunch, and plate of pasta at dinner pushes my inflammation markers and body fat up, then I'll skip the toast, loaf, and pasta. Or I can eat Diovan with my breakfast.

I'm choosing to take 2 servings of food and a glass of water with my breakfast.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    i have heard a lot of circumstantial evidence how people used food to cure ailments instead of pills. it may not follow scientific methods, but when you think about it food is naturally digested by our bodies and provides it with the energy and nutrients to protect it. Unfortuantly when our bodies get damages we may often have to be on some man made medicines. although i am trying to learn more about the natural medicine cabinet in my garden.
    2141 days ago
    Being someone who tries to ear "real food" as much as possible I can relate to this. I do think though, that not everyone has to cut out all grains to be healthy, it really does depend on how your body reacts to them. I recently watched a youtube video of the author of the "A to Z" study, it is worth a look if you can find it, from that study he concluded that a certain percentage of the population does really well on the low-carb/Atkins diet (and he is a long time vegetarian) and others will do well on any calorie restricted plan you put them on. So I think it comes down to figuring out where you fall in this, and what works for you.
    2145 days ago
    Hippocrates once said,"Our food should be our medicine".

    Unfortunately, I ate my fair share of fried bologna sandwiches when I was a kid. Gotta tell you, those were great ! Don't want to think about how much of that saturated fat clogged my arteries. eh-hem.

    I'll admit it. I ate too much junk as a kid and even as an adult. I'd like to think I've "reformed" my eating habits. I'm not perfect. never will be, but I am eating much more healthfully today, than I ever have. As a result, I hope that I too will live a longer more productive life.

    We get to a point when we start thinking about our own mortality. We don't want to end up like the sweet little old ladies and gents in elder care facilities. We want to be independent as long as possible. How to do that ? By taking better care of ourselves while and when we can.

    There have been a lot of studies that have shown that changing your diet can decrease rates of diabetes and heart disease.

    That old cliche is true,"you are what you eat".

    2146 days ago
    I'm 47. Two years ago I got off the processed foods and rarely eat out. While my BP was a normal 120/80 then, it's 105/65 now. Even as a runner and triathlete, I don't eat as many carbs as prescribed; usually about 45% and most are vegetable sourced. I have suspected a wheat sensitivity for awhile and decided to test cutting grain servings down to average less than 5 per week. Based on how I felt after a grain, I think it is just the processed wheat -oatmeal, farro and rice seem ok. This did reduce my carbs to 38-40% so I'm not sure if the little bit of weightloss I experienced was from the lack of wheat or the slightly lower carbs. In any event, I will continue on this test to see if I continue to lose whereas I had been completely stalled for months. I believe we all have to find what our bodies respond to. Some people are dysfunctional on less than 50% carbs. Others have a lactose trigger. Glad I don't!
    2146 days ago
    Well I am coming around to think that body chemistry has a big role to play. I haven't fashioned out my theory on this yet, and I certainly don't have the organic chemistry or physiology background to speak definitively about it, but I think our bodies get into an equilibrium based on what we eat. With lots of starches, we are in a state where we retain fat, water, sodium due to the increased insulin. You need to keep injecting other drugs & chemicals to counteract the effects on BP, cholesterol, inflammation, etc.

    Cut out the carbs, lower the insulin, and your body chemistry resets at a different equilibrium level, one where you don't need to add another chemical cocktail to bring your metabolic indicators to normal.
    2147 days ago
    BALLOUZOO: Very well said. :)
    2147 days ago
    I think "love yourself" is the first key...getting rid of those things that aren't loving to our bodies.

    I have the genetic markers for diabetes, had gestational diabetes with my four kids. So I'm trying to march a different path too!
    2147 days ago
    BESTMEICANB80: I have been maintaining well with one serving of grain, pasta or starch per day. I've become motivated to start shredding fat again, so I am going to cut it back to one time per week, and treat it just like I would a sugary dessert. Once I hit my new goal levels, then I'll re-evaluate and see what I can tolerate.
    2147 days ago
    I think i'm in the same boat as you, I have found in the past when I cut out or way back on wheats I loose weight. I just have a hard time sticking with it. I love spaghetti, sandwiches, toast, cereal...

    What is your definition of "cutting back?" how many serving of it do you have?

    I truly think this is my answer to losing the weight I want. I am at that "fit fat" point, I love to exercise and have been doing it for years, yet i'm the same weight I was if not a more as when I had my 2nd baby.
    2147 days ago
    CTTAGENT: I think there may be a point of diminishing returns where damage is done and maybe full reversal isn't possible. But even so, maybe med reduction is possible. When I started on my journey, I didn't fully realize that I was dodging a bullet. It is contrary to what everything I've been told about good health.

    WOUBBIE: Too true! I think I'm going to have to dig through some of my old blogs, because I think I said something very similar to this. Yes, I was one of those people. ;) I very much believed that grains were healthy, and I wasn't going to give it up. I could not imagine that was holding me back.

    NAYPOOIE: I'm the generation that was raised on trans-fat margarine because it was supposed to be 'healthier' than butter. Who knows what metabolic quirks that stuff might have done to my DNA. Perhaps that is part of the problem. They have already backtracked on margarine and eggs. Rolling back saturated fat and healthy grains is essentially admitting every advice they've given for the past 40 years is wrong.
    2147 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/3/2012 1:28:45 PM
    So many people could do so much better if they'd just open their minds and try something different.

    I suppose it's easier just to accept what they authorities are saying this week. Then when it goes wrong, you can always say "I did what I was supposed to!" and lay the blame somewhere else. Too bad you can't lay the real cost there too.
    2147 days ago
    "Oh but how can you live without bread and pasta I could never give up wheat it's good for you because we need the good carbs and I'll never stop eating pizza pie crust potato french fries there's no way grains cause heart disease that's just silly you just didn't exercise enough..."

    Pity the poor doctors, even the progressive ones. Can you imagine hearing a version of that litany every few hours for the rest of your career?
    2147 days ago
    A very good blog, and so true. Western medicine is based on treating the symptoms after they get to a certain point, but I would rather work on the cause before getting drastically out of whack.
    2147 days ago
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