By Erica Rivers, MA, LPC, CPT, MBA

Photo credit: Dollar photo club

Photo credit: Dollar photo club

When I started on my journey in the fitness and wellness world, I was in my undergraduate program at Virginia Tech.  At that point, as an Exercise Science major, I was largely focused on the impact of exercise on health and paid very little attention to dietary concerns.  It wasn’t even on my radar to eat a wide variety of vegetables or to minimize sugars.  As a college student, ramen noodles, pizza, and mac and cheese were staples with a token serving of broccoli thrown in there from time to time.  Looking back, I’m really not quite sure how I survived.  With time in the medical and health industries, though, I’ve grown to realize the impact of the food we eat on our moods, energy, weight, and well-being.  I’ve learned that getting enough nutrients and minerals can help with keeping our bodies in balance and to reduce risk of disease.

Doctors Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis in their book Ultra-Prevention state the following:

“Genes do provide a set of directions that help our body function, but it is a misconception that the expression of our genes cannot be changed.  This may be true for the few traits that are controlled by a single gene.   However, most of our physical and biochemical characteristics are controlled by many genes.  Our height, our weight, our metabolism, our tendencies, and most illnesses, as well as our aging process, are affected by multiple genes in concert with our environment.  Many of these genes are also affected by nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that are involved in the chemical reactions within our cells (p.93).”

Consider this point:  Our lifestyles influence how our bodies work!  The food we eat influences how we feel and how our bodies survive.  Why then do we shrug off what we know we need to eat and keep getting drawn to the junk food that can actually hurt us?

In Healing the Gerson Way by Charlotte Gerson, the book points out that, “it should be clear that the two main enemies of good health – toxicity and deficiency, which the Gerson program attempts to tackle as a first priority – add up to a single vicious circle.  If our food were truly nutritious, our bodies would be better able to deal with toxicity, but it is not.  As a result, sooner or later the degenerative process sets in, opening the door to serious chronic disease.  Obviously, both enemies of health have to be dealt with in order to initiate healing and to restore the body’s natural defenses (p.20).”  The Gerson program involves treating ill clients with a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to several other activities that are used to help de-stress and de-toxify.   Of course, if we can come at things from a prevention mindset and start working on building our healthy habits in the now, we may be able to avoid some of the ailments that are influenced by our unhealthy lifestyles.

Because systemic inflammation is such a major issue in our day, much of which could be attributed to our diets and high stress levels, it is wise to also look at what is irritating our systems.  Diane Sanfilippo, BS, NC in her book Practical Paleo writes,

“Since anywhere from 60-80% of your immune system is located in your gut as GALT (gut associated lymphoid tissue), if your system is constantly bombarded with foods you don’t tolerate or digest well, your ability to fight infections, allergies, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and more will be impaired.  This means that when a cold is going around the office or the pollen count skyrockets, your body may only have the ability to use about 20-40% of your potential immune response to fight it off.  The rest of your immune capabilities are busy responding to the irritation from food particles in your digestive system.  This leads us to chronic inflammation in the body’s systems (systemic inflammation), which is like being in a constant state of low-grade infection….  This chronic, constant inflammatory state underlies all chronic disease and suppressed immunity.  Essentially, it’s at the root of just about every disease imaginable (p.79-81).”

This is motivating for us to steer clear of foods that make us feel bad and mess up our systems and to input foods that nourish and fuel our bodies in such a way that we can feel good and energized.  It’s amazing to me how a few days of unhealthy eating can really hinder my energy levels and how a few days of healthy eating with lots of real, whole foods in addition to exercise can make me feel really good.  I find that quality supplementation has been beneficial for me, also, in staving off illness and feeling healthy.  Specifically, I find that taking a quality probiotic, an omega-3 (either krill or purified fish oil), and a pharmaceutical-grade, non-GMO, no junky fillers morning/evening multivitamin has been beneficial.

The above authors don’t all have the same exact plan for health but they all agree that real food – fruits and vegetables from quality sources in abundance – are very important and that avoiding processed, fake foods that include a lot of preservatives and chemicals is best.  In essence, let’s eat real food and focus on getting as many nutrients, minerals, and vitamins as possible!!

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