Saturday, December 29, 2007

Healthy Eating I

So what do you make of this: A society that has obesity rampant also has thousands of young women who are starving themselves with eating disorders?

Food can feed us or it can make us sick! It is one of those things that too much is as bad as too little! Where is middle ground? Who determines the middle ground?

It is not surprising that what we do with food makes a huge impact on our health. If we are sick, it's a near certainty food will be a factor. If we are unhealthy, food is a factor. If we are healthy, food is a factor. The problem stems from two obvious facts: 1) Eating is a necessity for living. 2) We have to confront eating multiple times every day.

Food is like a profound life-long friend/foe. It is symbiotically bound to you by virtue of its necessity to your life; and like a true person, food takes on a personality and has a living relationship with you. The diet you live (not the one you impose artificially for some weight purpose) is set by a huge number of psychological and experiential moments from that first bite of baby food that was put into your mouth. Every act of eating carries powerful reminders of other past and present experiences in your life. Through food experiences most of us develop a set of about 20 foods that comprise more than 80% of our diet. If we are exceedingly fortunate those 20 foods will be the healthiest ones on the planet: lean protein, dark green leafy vegetables, high fiber, low sugar, natural whole foods. Sadly in America, we are not likely to have these be the 20 selections we live. Compound what we eat with the situation that through eating we connect with others in the human community (e.g. family, friends, acquaintences...) and eating/food becomes a extraordinarily complicated act.

Dieting does not only entail changing WHAT is eaten, it also involves addressing all the activities, thoughts, and emotions that are wrapped up in and connected with eating. Not too surprisingly, when one's life gets crazy and out of control sometimes the only thing that can be controlled is what goes in one's mouth. Depending on your coping experiences this might mean putting MORE food down or it may mean removing food altogether. Hence we see lots of overweight people eating themselves into early graves trying to feel good about a life out of balance, while others slip into anorexia trying to feel better about who they are.

Healthy eating involves what food you eat certainly, but just as important it involves HOW you eat. The how takes into consideration what present experiences of interacting with this life-long friend/foe you want foster. A rushed slam dunk of a cheese burger and a sucked down pop loaded with artificial sweetener from the Hip Hop Zoom Through is much different than making a careful plan of finding the most nutritious food, quietly eaten in a contemplative moment with a good friend. Which of those options sounds healthier to you? Why choose the other?

Might you have an eating disorder? Take this screening quiz

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Naturopathic Practice Changes in WA

Just spent the morning at a continuing education event for naturopaths in WA. Due to changes in our licensing law, naturopaths can now prescribe all legend drugs plus two controlled substances: codeine and testosterone. How do I feel about this change.

First, it's reassuring to have access to the "sledge hammers" if they're needed. Pharmaceutical medications are like sledge hammers: they overwhelmingly create the physical reality in the body that we choose to enforce. It's a good thing to have access to such extreme means when life is in the balance. What has happened, however, is that the sledge hammers are coming down hard on a lot of people, and they're not living to see tomorrow.

While there may be an emergency that requires quick forceful action from a drug -- the majority of health issues are far more chronic and have longer time lines in cases of acute health problems. Why use undue force to slam a body where I want it to go? What if I don't know enough -- which is true of nearly every health concern. Medical knowledge is changing nearly every 4 years. Does anyone really know enough EVER?

Naturopathic Medicine has held the following 6 principles up for over thirty years:
1. Do no harm.
2. Work in cooperation with nature.
3. Find the cause.
4. Heal the whole person with individualized care.
5. Doctor as teacher.
6. Insure prevention of illness is being worked toward.

None of these principles say anything about "throw drugs at all the problems." In fact, "do no harm" could be a challenge to every pharmaceutical company in business.

As I said, I am grateful to have them available in a pinch, but generally speaking, naturopaths do not need them... our principles and our natural cures are incredibly powerful and we would all do well to depend on them a little more.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Vitamin D

December is a good month to talk about sunshine. It's a good month because, at least here in Western WA, there is so danged little of it! Most of the northern half of the USA is in the belt of deficient sunshine in the winter. What does this deficiency mean? No Vitamin D is getting produced.

Vitamin D gets made in one's skin as a result of exposure to the UV light in sunshine. It takes the body about 15 minutes of full exposure to sunlight to get Vitamin D levels into optimum range. In the winter FEW of us even SEE the sun for 15 minutes, let alone get to "bask" in it! So, the majority of people in northern latitude are running Vitamin D deficiencies. How do you know? The most accurate way is to have blood drawn and test for it. HOWEVER, the test is a pricey one (over $200). A less accurate way (but perhaps reliable way) is to look at your symptoms:

Low levels of Vitamin D are associated with:
1) Osteoporosis -- the loss of bone -- especially in older women.
2) Depression -- seasonal affective disorder. That winter time dole drum/depression that supposedly perks up with expensive full-spectrum light bulbs.
3) Increased risk of cancer: colon, prostate, and breast cancers have all been found less commonly in those carrying higher levels of Vitamin D.

Ways to increase your vitamin D include supplementation or tanning. My observation has been that while supplementation helps, it does not do nearly as well as tanning regularly. "Well doesn't tanning increase skin cancer?" My belief is, NO! What causes skin cancer is over-doing it -- getting burned over and over again. Once more, MODERATION is the key. A carefully done tanning regimen where burning is religiously avoided raises Vitamin D levels and does not increase skin cancer risk.