What an honor it was to attend the IHH UCSF Symposium on Nutrition and Functional medicine last weekend. With an all star roster of physicians and researchers, presenting the latest research on preventing and reversing chronic diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and heart disease, and rebalancing hormone function, a wealth of information was provided. The over-riding principle: many chronic metabolic diseases begin in the gut and with what we put in it. Food can heal or harm. Indeed, father of Modern Medicine, Hippocrates expressed this over 2000 years ago, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.
It is always exciting for me to be back on the campus of UCSF. This is where I began my path in the health professions, amongst some of the greatest thinkers and most compassionate people I have ever known, devoting themselves to the healing arts and rigorous research. In the midst of my third year at UCSF School of Medicine, I chose to accept an opportunity to dance professionally in Paris, France, which led to a long, exciting career as a professional dancer.
Ever a student, I am constantly learning from icons in the fields of medicine, health and wellness, and striving to connect the dots of complex systems. I have used these to heal and move myself out of various health crises and grown stronger and wiser in the process. As a movement and health coach, I am devoted to empowering others with skills to reclaim their health, moving out of pain and into high performance through nourishing, non-toxic whole food, intelligent movement, quality rest/recovery, positive mindset and stress resilience.
How can we help turn on the body’s innate healing mechanisms to thrive? This is the philosophy of functional medicine, and health coaching. Rather than treat disease, we focus on cultivating health. Rather than prescribe medications to treat symptoms of a larger imbalance, we look for the root cause. We empower the individual to activate their innate healing power.
Food can either heal or harm. It can be medicine or a toxin. Thinking in terms of blind calories no longer holds validity, as we must consider the chemical reactions that each food will initiate in our bodies. As Hippocrates stated, “Let food be thy medicine”. The quality of one’s digestive function, one’s gut microbiome (bacterial flora), and the integrity of the gut/blood barrier, are all factors in determining the health effect any food will have.
Robb Wolf began the day, addressing the controversies around low fat versus low carb diets and their impact on longevity. A former research biochemist, Robb is the 2X New York Times/WSJ Best Selling author of The Paleo Solution and Wired To Eat. He emphasized how studies must be approached with critical caution, as they are often biased towards outcomes favorable to those funding the study. He cautioned that epidemiological observational studies are a valuable starting point for research, but there is danger in drawing general conclusions and applying them to the population at large. Observational studies are often plagued with confounding variables (factors that influence the outcome of the study, outside of the variable in question) and self-reporting error (For example, in a nutritional study, who can remember everything they ate with exact accuracy?). Be a critical thinker and don’t believe every study you read. Practice skepticism and question everything.
In his discussion of health outcomes of low carb versus low fat diets, Robb stressed that there is no general rule, as some people will thrive on low fat, and others on low carb, as long as the food is of high quality, unprocessed, and includes a moderate source of protein (he recommends .8 g per pound of lean body tissue). Bio-individuality is key when defining optimal nutrition for any person.
With his lifetime of research, Robb boiled down his best strategies for longevity and wellness to this list;
*don’t overeat! (stop when your tank is 80% full!)
*respect circadian biology (regular sleep/wake cycles, meal times)
*be conscious of an appropriate glycemic load (effects on blood sugar and insulin)
*avoid immunogenic foods (lectins, nightshades, autoimmune triggers=no fun!)
*lift weights (yes!!!)
*sauna (increases autophagy)
*live a life of meaning and purpose
*have positive social connections
What about fasting? Robb pointed out cases of long term fasting in animals leading to stem cell loss and sarcopenia (age related loss of muscle tissue). While he does not advocate prolonged fasting, he did suggest benefits to lifting weights in a fasted state, followed by protein re-feeding. And coffee!
Robb was disturbingly clear that diabetes will bankrupt Western societies within 12-15 years. And this will be nothing compared to the costs of neurodegenerative diseases. “It will be a disaster”.
We have no time to waste. We must act now to change our patterns and reverse our trajectory towards chronic disease. The answers include improving our insulin sensitivity and the health of our microbiome. These have a tremendous impact on chronic metabolic diseases such as diabetes, dementia, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, obesity, even cancer. And these factors are completely within our control, through intelligent diet and lifestyle choices.
Thanks for reading! More enriching info can be found in parts 2 and 3 of this series. If you are ready to take action and upgrade your health, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a health coaching session. Here’s to vitality!
Best to all,
Disclaimer; Coaching services include education, guidance and tips on primal living and services are not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for a diagnosis or treatment that a physician, licensed dietitian, physical therapist or health care professional might recommend.