Let Food Be Your Medicine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Eat nutrient-dense real food. Death from infections is often not due to the infection itself but the body’s inability to fight it. Since more than 90% of Americans are deficient in one or more nutrients, we all need to focus on improving the quality of our diet. This would include meat, fish, chicken, shellfish, organ meats, eggs, berries, green leafy vegetables, nuts and healthy fats like butter, ghee, high fat dairy.
  • Try Low Carb. Since diabetics are more likely to die from COVID-19 and one in two Americans is pre-diabetic or diabetic this is a great opportunity to start cutting sugar and starch which suppress the immune system.  Now has never been a better time to reduce or eliminate sugar, processed carbohydrates, starches and junk food from our diet. Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingesting. 
  • Adequate protein intake. While most Americans eat adequate amounts of protein, some do not such as the elderly and vegan populations. Protein is critical for immune function and protein malnutrition is a big risk factor for death from infections. 
  • Add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of spices to your meals! Add these to your soups and vegetable dishes, providing antimicrobial benefits. 
  • Eat the rainbow of fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, and squashes. 
  • Eat fermented foods to support your microbiome and immunity. Eat sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, unsweetened yogurt, kefir. 
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Consuming adequate fluids, including water, tea, homemade soups and broth, supports the immune system. Avoid fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for immunity.  
  • Get enough sleep! Sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible! 
  • Get exercise. Mild to moderate exercise helps boost the immune system. If you are able to exercise outside in less populated areas, even better! If not, find workouts and yoga classes online. 
  • Practice meditation and yoga. Increased levels of stress increase susceptibility to viral infections.  Now is a great time to learn online.
  • Plan a garden. If you live in an area with a lawn or some access to land, grow some of your own food. 

If we all stay calm, avoid contagious fear, and take care of ourselves and our families, we can get through this together, and dramatically reduce sickness and death. 

Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice and any changes should be done in consultation with your healthcare provider.

For more personalized assistance and nutritional guidance please (contact me) Amy Love

Resources and information provided in part by Dr. Mark Hyman.  How to Protect Yourself from COVID-19: Supporting Your Immune System When You May Need it Most  

 

What is Fasting?

Fasting is VOLUNTARILY withholding food for spiritual, health, therapeutic or other reasons.

Used by all cultures for centuries – Break “fast” – it is nothing new  

Alternating between periods of fasting and eating

Powerful TOOL that allows the body to use stored blood sugar & body fat for fuel

Manipulating meal timing to maximize FAT BURNING

 

FREE         FLEXIBLE         SIMPLE

 

What are the Benefits of Fasting?

Weight loss is the most obvious health benefit…..But that’s not all….

Increased fat burning

Lowered blood insulin and blood sugar levels

Reduction is HBA1C – potential remission of Diabetes Type II

Improved mental clarity and focus

Increased energy

Increased growth hormone – maintains muscle 

Reduction of inflammation in all cells 

Flexible – Can be done anywhere – saves time and money

Activation of cellular cleansing – autophagy

Longer fasts:    Clears toxins and rejuvenates the body

 

Fasting potentially Treats & Prevents Disease by Reducing Insulin & Inflammation

OVERWEIGHT & OBESITY

METABOLIC SYNDROME

DIABETES

PARKINSON’S DISEASE

ALZHEIMER’S & DEMENTIA

CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE

ARTHRITIS

FATTY LIVER DISEASE

CANCER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How does Fasting work?

 

 

 

 

A low carbohydrate intermittent fasting lifestyle trains your body to use stored energy, as fat, instead of sugar/glucose for energy.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PROGRESSIVE GUIDE TO TIME RESTRICTED EATING

CONSIDER STARTING WITH LOW CARBOHYDRATE WHOLE FOODS DIET

ELIMINATE SNACKING

12 HOUR TIME RESTRICTED EATING WITH 3 MEALS

COMPRESS EATING WINDOW TO 2 MEALS

16:8  3-5 X A WEEK – Fast 16 hours, eat within a 8 hour window

18-22    3-5 X A WEEK – Fast 18-22 hours, eat within a 2-4 hour window

FAST 24 HOURS EVERY OTHER DAY

FAST 36-42 HOURS

 

While intermittent fasting has many proven benefits, it’s still fairly controversial and is not for every body. A potential danger regards medications, especially those for diabetes and hypertension, doses often need to be adjusted. Discuss any changes with your doctor.  I cannot advise, prescribe or diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

 

Tips and Tricks

Increase salt, water, mineral water to avoid “Keto Flu”

Stay busy

Increase fat during adaptation

Acquaint yourself with waves of hunger 

Include leisurely activity, adequate sleep

Optimize home and work environment

Consider not telling anyone

Get support

Try for 1 month

Break “fast” with light snack

Listen to your body

**Discuss with your doctor

 

Where diets can complicate life, intermittent fasting may simplify it. 

Where diets can be expensive, intermittent fasting is free

Where diets can take time, fasting saves time

Where diets may be limited in their availability, fasting can be done anywhere. 

And as discussed earlier, fasting is a potentially powerful method for lowering insulin, inflammation and decreasing body weight.  

Dr. Jason Fung

 

  Free.  Simple. No reading labels. Flexible. Works with any diet.

(Contact me now!)  Learn how to implement fasting into your lifestyle today!

Resources & Graphs:

The Complete Guide to Intermittent Fasting by Dr. Jason Fung and Jimmy Moore.

 

 

 


 

My Mom’s Story

“You’ve got 6-12 months to live”  “We can offer you chemotherapy, which might allow you to live a few months longer, or you can choose Hospice”. This is what we heard from the oncologist as my mother and I sat in her office reviewing the 2 options available. “There is really nothing else we can do.”  
So, at 80 years old, mom decided to do nothing. Her main reason?  She didn’t want to lose her hair.  She also figured, at her age, what’s the point in suffering through the last few months of her life with the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Dad and I supported her as best we could but now I realize the mistakes I made, the same mistakes that many loved ones, doctors, and dietitians do – we encouraged and nearly forced mom to eat and drink anything she could, including the high sugar Ensures and juices.  Although I doubt I could have “saved” her, knowing what I know now, in the least I might have been able to help improve her quality of life. 

Food as Medicine

I believe there is something more we can offer cancer patients, whether they decide on Hospice, chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation. We have a powerful tool, as an adjuvant, or additional therapy, we can use Food as Medicine.  
Healthy whole food does not have the side effects that frequently accompany radiation and chemotherapy – nausea, vomiting, hair loss, diarrhea, skin irritation, fatigue and pain.  What’s more, when used in conjunction with the standard treatment, a Ketogenic Diet and time restricted eating can not only lessen these disabling side effects but it may even improve outcome.

Cancer and the Sugar Connection

Cancer is an inflammatory metabolic disease.  Ketogenic diets have been shown to slow and even halt the growth of cancer cells, especially in those cancers that thrive on glucose.  Breast cancer is one of those. We can essentially  “starve” these cancer cells by eliminating their source of energy, by eliminating sugars and starches. 
Another under-utilized tool is time restricted eating, especially if used appropriately around chemotherapy and radiation.  Radiation and chemotherapy in a fasted state often reduces side effects, especially gastrointestinal, hits the cancer cells when they’re (starving) down, and might allow for lower dosing.
A low carbohydrate healthy fat food plan and time restricted eating can be powerful weapons for cancer prevention and treatment. 

 

 

 

Contact me today and find out what you can do to help yourself or your loved ones. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like most compassionate people-pleasing nurse types, I generally keep my thoughts and emotions to myself, hidden, safe in isolation. It’s easier to focus and distract myself by taking care of others – patients, kids, pets, family and friends.  However, I have come to a place where I believe sharing my experiences might provide hope and insight for the increasing number of women and men struggling with the same challenges I did. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For years I experienced brain fog and anxiety.  My spouse often told me I needed “help”, and I believed him.  So, I went to counseling, for as many years as he told me I needed to. I went to four different counselors in total, over several years.  At one point I was diagnosed with adult ADHD, and prescribed drugs not only for ADHD but for anxiety, eating disorders, and depression as well.  Nothing worked for long. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the same time my previous struggles with anorexia and bulimia seemed to be resurfacing, so I was referred to an eating disorders specialist, the fourth counselor. For months I continued the conversations surrounding various childhood issues, but one day she suggested these issues might not be the only thing affecting my problems with food.  She said that although she could not diagnose a person she has not personally evaluated, she wondered if my relationship with my spouse was having a major affect as well.  She wondered if he was a “narcissist”.  “A what?” I asked.  She suggested it was possible the increase in the stress eating, the brain fog, and anxiety might be related more to the verbal, mental, and emotional abuse that generally accompanies a relationship with a narcissist.  “Do some research” she suggested. So I did.  That suggestion was the wake up call I needed to begin my self-healing journey.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we tried marital counseling first, but couples therapy doesn’t really work with someone who has the traits of a narcissist, especially one as smart and covert as mine was.  They also never believe they are at fault or have done anything wrong, ever.  He said he would go to counseling to “help” me though. After a handful of sessions, when the counselor started asking him specific questions about his role in our difficulties, he promptly stormed out, angry, pointing and shaking his finger at our “incompetent” counselor.  

I believe optimal mental clarity is critical to surviving the turmoil, chaos, and confusion that comes when living with, and especially when trying to divorce, a covert narcissist.  The only way to find this clarity is to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally.  I felt old, tired, drained, and most important, I felt I wasn’t being the best I could be with my sons or at work.  Since I am an ER nurse, there is little room for error.  If I was going to survive and thrive the unbelievably confusing and difficult process of leaving a “narcissist”, and be there for my sons, I would need to optimize my health, asap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found great success in focusing on nutrition first and foremost, specifically, an “anti-aging, anti-inflammatory diet”.  Essentially this meant no sugar or processed carbohydrates.  This was not easy.  I love sugar.  I would constantly graze on the red licorice bin all day long.  Bread and chocolate were my friends.  But I was very motivated, especially after noticing improvements in only a few days.  I noticed my ability to focus was better at work, and surprisingly, my joint pain improved as well.  I was calmer day to day and more attentive to my sons. It didn’t take long to start coming out of the fog, to start realizing the reality of the situation I was in, my reality, not what my spouse was telling me.  It’s an amazing feeling to stop doubting yourself and your memories. 

 

 

 

 

I realized I didn’t need to try harder to be a good wife, change what I said or how I said it, change how I looked or acted, find a different counselor, or take more medications. The problem was not me, my ADHD, or anxiety, it was not that I worried too much, that I was forgetful, too sensitive, or needed help.  The problem was the mental and emotional confusion caused by common methods of narcissistic abuse, tactics like gaslighting, projection, distraction, blame-shifting, changing the subject, nonsensical communication, and the silent treatment.  After a time, it becomes impossible to determine your reality from his lies. But it was also the food that was fueling these thoughts.  The key to awareness and healing was first to change what I was putting in my mouth, to stop using food to calm and distract my already confused brain.  I needed to fuel my brain properly.

 

 

Of course, brains function best when nobody is verbally, emotionally, or mentally abusing you. But brains also function best on foods that do not cause inflammation in the brain or the body – a low carbohydrate, healthy fat way of eating. Brains function best when using ketones for fuel, not with the ups and downs of sugar and processed food. 

Did the years and years of talk therapy help? Did separation from an abusive relationship help? Sure.  But I didn’t start truly feeling better, physically and mentally, until I changed what I ate. This is what I’d like to share with others – it really isn’t just about the childhood traumas, the teenage struggles, the lack of self-esteem, the challenges that come with marriage and raising a family, or the social pressures to be thin and perfect.  The problem starts with the food we are fueling our brains with.  It’s literally what feeds our thoughts, our reactions, our feelings. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

   

 

 Learn how to implement a LOW CARB Lifestyle and find a way out of the chaos & confusion.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                        

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Start your healing journey today.  

 

 

There are experts out there –  nutritionists, physicians, concerned citizens – that say a low carb and intermittent fasting (LCIF) approach should not be used as a tool for people with a history eating disorders.  I say those people giving that advise have never had an eating disorder themselves. 

 

When I refer to disordered eating behavior, I refer to someone with a dysfunctional relationship with food. This can include binge eating, bulimia, anorexia, or simply using food in any way for emotional regulation. A compulsive relationship with food can affect a person’s day to day ability to function both physically and mentally, the ability to focus at work and at home, and can limit quality or life and general health. 
 
I believe, for people with food addictions and disordered eating, the standard “everything in moderation” as long as “calories in equal calories out” approach simply doesn’t work. Instead, eliminating foods that trigger the blood sugar and insulin roller coaster – sugars and processed carbohydrates – and adding healthy fats and proteins, has the potential to end the constant mental and physical obsession with food, chronic dieting and fear of eating. In addition, time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, is key to reducing the constant battle of what to eat when.  Let me give a couple of examples of how the standard advice has backfired.
 
“Patsy” just joined Weight Watchers, again.  Throughout her adult life, she has gained and lost 50 pounds many times.  Weight Watchers has worked for her before, temporarily, but she has quit just as many times as she has joined.  She is convinced this time, it will work.  All she needs is more willpower. She goes to the meetings, starts counting her points and spends much of her day thinking about food -what she can eat, when she can eat it, and what she will use her next point allowance for. No food is off limits as long as she has enough points, so she often chooses the quick and easy WW snacks instead of preparing a meal. She is often hungry, even if she uses her freebie points to snack throughout the day, but knows hunger is a temporary sacrifice.  After about 5 weeks, she has lost much of the weight but she tires of counting and tracking points. Thanksgiving is coming up and she doesn’t think her points will work well with the busy holiday season so she quits for now. She will start dieting again in January.
 
“Sheri” signs up for Nutrisystem.  The packaged meals and shakes are expensive, and she has to cook separate meals for her family, but decides she needs to give it a try, just this one last time. She goes to weekly weigh-ins as scheduled, follows the plan, and loses weight, but is having difficulty continuing the program due to cost. She decides just to buy the shakes, limiting herself to consuming one or two shakes a day, until weigh-in.  After each weigh-in she can’t wait to hit the drive through on her way home to finally give in to her cravings.  She tells herself one day of cheating won’t matter, all she needs to do is return to the shakes, distract herself from hunger by keeping busy and journaling, and try to exercise more.  Maybe she can add an hour at the gym before the kids get up in addition to her hour aerobics class after work. She doesn’t understand why it’s getting harder and harder to lose weight.  She is eating 900 calories a day and exercising for two hours a day.  She feels exhausted and hungry but doesn’t know what else to do. 
 
“Rachael” was admitted into an eating disorder clinic for bulimia.  She is of normal weight but struggles with binge eating and purging several times a day and is in poor health because of it. The nutritionist at the program arranges an food plan with 3 meals and 2 snacks a day and gives her a handout on the food pyramid.  Rachael is told she needs to fit 8-10 servings of complex carbohydrates in the form of whole grain bread, pasta, rice, potatoes and fruits into her day. When she tells the nutritionist she is starting to feel tired, bloated, constipated, and hungry following this diet , her concerns are dismissed.  She is told she just needs to follow the program given to her and things will fall into place.  Rachael gains 10 pounds while in the facility and leaves feeling helpless and alone.  When out of the inpatient setting, she tries to follow the dietitian’s advice, but overwhelmed with gaining weight and craving sweets, she starts binging and purging once more. 
 
All of these women have a dysfunctional relationship with food and all of the diet programs and standard advice offered only seem to worsen the negativity and obsession surrounding food and body image. Pills, powders, potions, shakes and diet programs don’t work long term. “Everything in moderation” does not work for people like Patsy, Sheri and Rachel. For women like this, for those who are stuck in the never-ending toxic cycle of dieting and calorie restriction, there is a better way.  
 
 
 
   
I would suggest changing what we eat, and how often we eat. Eliminating sugar and processed carbohydrates is key to eliminating the constant sugar and insulin spikes and drops that cause the cravings, binge eating, and obsession with food. The mental and physical sugar-induced brain fog disappears. The constant hunger disappears. Life becomes more simple with LCIF.  Instead of planning and worrying about what to eat every 2 hours, 3 meals and 2-3 snacks a day, there is more time and energy to enjoy life, to focus on work, school, your health, your kids, projects at home. There is hope, something that is sustainable.  There is an alternative approach to the temporary solutions found in pills, products, potions, shakes, calorie counting and diet programs. Food is medicine.  Food does not have to be feared..  Learn how to heal your brain and your body with a low carbohydrate real foods approach and time restricted eating.
HOW MANY CARBOHYDRATES SHOULD I EAT?

Ketogenic low carb    Ketogenic < 30g/day

moderate low carb     Low Carb 30-50 g/day

Liberal low carb      Reduced 50-120g/day

 

How many carbohydrates to eat depends on your current level of health, activity level and weight loss goals.  

Currently those eating the typical Standard American Diet are eating somewhere between 200-300 grams of carbohydrates a day.

A Reduced Carbohydrate diet, generally considered anywhere between 50-120 g/day, is for those who are generally healthy, maintaining their weight, or have symptoms of adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism or other stressful mental or physical issues that need to be discussed with their provider.  

A Low Carbohydrate diet is considered anywhere 30-50 grams a day.  This might be a good approach for weight loss, blood sugar regulation, mood issues, digestive problems, anti-aging, or general health.

A Ketogenic diet is considered under 30 grams a day. This is often used to address neurological issues (Epilepsy Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc), and severe blood sugar problems.  Others may find success using this approach short term for various other personal reasons.

For those with Diabetes Type II, or obesity, under 30 grams of carbs a day, or incidental, is often recommended (under a physician’s guidance).  Essentially don’t even eat carbs unless vegetables.

Hopefully that gives you an idea of where to start.  Reading labels or using an app might be helpful in the beginning to get an idea of where the carbohydrates hide.  Many ask if you should count net or total carbs, especially when considering vegetables.  Personally, I advise counting total carbs.  The food industry makes labeling very tricky and this is just one thing they are using to sell their products – “Only 4 g net carbs” etc.  Be cautious!  I would love to help you sort out a plan that might work best for you and sort through the confusing labels and gimmicks.  This can be a very individual issue, and not everybody responds equally to carbohydrates, fats and proteins.  It may take some trial and error.  

 

 

 

Eliminate Sugar – Agave nectar, syrups, corn syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin, honey, fructose, maltose, sucrose, cane sugar, etc.  

Eliminate Hidden Sugar and Starch – Foods made with processed flour, grains, wheat, corn, rice, cereals, some fruit, fruit juice

Eliminate Seed Oils – Vegetable, soy, corn, sunflower, canola, safflower, cottonseed, margarine, most salad dressings

Add Healthy Fats – Saturated fat from animals – high fat dairy eggs, meat, seafood, butter, ghee, and healthy oils including avocado, olive, coconut, palm

Eat Low Carbohydrate –  Leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables, berries, low-glycemic fruits

Eat Moderate Protein – Fish, beef, lamb, poultry, high fat dairy, eggs.

Keto food pyramid chart. Nutrition and diet infographics. Vector illustration.

Note :  Individual needs, goals, levels of health and fitness, as well as beliefs should be considered and appreciated

 

    Image result for dieting

Now I’m not saying Keto is necessarily easy, and you might fall off the wagon a few times, but it doesn’t have to be complicated and can be gradually adopted as needed. For some this food is an addiction problem, a substance abuse problem, and eliminating carbohydrates and sugar is like losing a good friend.  Some people will need slow, small changes, and some people may need to go cold turkey.   It is a personal decision.  Stop struggling with the next great packaged meal, point system, powdered drink, or starvation diet that won’t last, start making the lifestyle changes you need to start living again!  Many people need support in order to succeed with significant change.  Please contact me if you feel you need the guidance and support I can offer, as a nurse, a physiologist, and a person who understands chronic dieting, over-exercising and carbohydrate addiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may be asking yourself why try another diet, why would Keto work when all other diets have failed. Isn’t it just another fad diet?  Despite what critics say however, the Ketogenic way of eating is a lifestyle change, not just another fad diet.  Other than the catchy name, it is really nothing new – it is the way we ate before 1960 and It is the way our ancestors ate for centuries before that.  Over the last 50-60 years, the average American has gone from eating about 5-15% of their calories in carbohydrates to 65-75%, most of it coming from refined and processed foods.  Our bodies have simply not adjusted and we have become sick and fat because of it. 

The Ketogenic lifestyle, also called low carbohydrate, healthy fat (LCHF), generally involves eliminating processed and refined sugars, seed oils and starches and adding real food in the form of healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables.  When people talk about the benefits of a LCHF lifestyle,  it almost sounds like it’s the next snake oil.  It just might be.  Many people start Keto for weight loss but along the way have found multiple secondary health benefits as well.  Keto works by decreasing blood sugar and insulin spikes and reducing inflammation, the drivers of most disease processes today.  Some of the conditions that have been shown to improve, and even reverse, include diabetes, obesity, arthritis, metabolic syndrome (hypertension, belly fat, high triglycerides, insulin-resistance), autoimmune conditions, PCOS (Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome), Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, neurodegenerative disorders like epilepsy, Ahlzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, ADHD, and most recently, as a successful adjuvant therapy for many types of cancer.  Direct benefits include but are not limited to:

Decreased INFLAMMATION  – Inflammation affects our whole body, not just our joints.  Reducing inflammation helps our brain and body function better.

Improved MOOD – LCHF been shown to improve anxiety, depression, ADHD and even those along the autism spectrum.

I

mproved MEMORY – The “brain fog” is lifted and the ability to focus improves.

Improved INSULIN sensitivity – Insulin is the fat storage hormone. Eliminating the carbohydrates that raise blood sugar and insulin allows for fat loss.

Decreased FATIGUE – Improved sleep and increased energy. appearance and texture of the skin.  Acne, psoriasis, rosacea and eczema improve.

Increased METABOLISM – Burning fat instead of sugar/glucose as the main fuel source improves overall metabolic health.

Decreased CRAVINGS and HUNGER – Less desire to constantly snack due to blood sugar regulation and improved satiety.

Prevention of BONE loss and MUSCLE wasting that accompanies aging.

Is SUSTAINABLE for life.  

A low carb healthy fat lifestyle is not another fad diet. It is a process of learning to use real whole food as medicine to heal our bodies and mind and achieve optimal health. Used in conjunction with time-restricted eating or intermittent fasting, the many benefits can be even more powerful.  If you’d like to know more, shoot me a text, give me a call, let’s talk!

I would love to help you on your health journey!  

 

AN ER STORY

“It seemed like I started getting sicker when I stopped eating processed foods”.  Maybe I shouldn’t have gone cold turkey”, she said.  “Everything seems to be going right through me”.

I work in the ER.  I see people struggling with their health every day.  I see people suffering, when most of the time, they shouldn’t be.  This patient, I will call her Susan, was one of those struggling unnecessarily.  She was 52, same as me, but seemed much older.  She had called 911 because of a cough and weakness.  We moved her from the ambulance stretcher to the bed using a “disposable” slider sheet our ER had recently acquired for every room.  They were back-saving devices which were becoming commonplace and necessary. Susan was obese, and, as is often the case, diabetic as well.  She had hypertension, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure and lymphedema.  She was on multiple medications that didn’t seem to be helping her health.  I noticed she already had one leg amputated and had lost most of her fingertips.  Then I saw her “good” leg which she hadn’t even mentioned as a concern – this leg was literally rotting away.

I removed the soaked through ace wrap and gauze from her leg wound that she told me she had changed a week ago. Her wound was greenish black and was one of the worst odors I’ve encountered, and I’ve been a nurse a long time.  We immediately placed two IVs, put her on the heart monitor, started fluids and antibiotics. She started talking more about her attempts at improving her health. Following her doctor’s suggestion to cut out processed food, she indicated she made the transition in one day, “cold turkey”, going from what she had been eating for years, to whole food. She indicated that what came next was diarrhea, vomiting and coughing up blood.  With tears of frustration and despair in her eyes, Susan told me “I just don’t know what to eat anymore”.  More accurately though, her body simply didn’t know how to digest real food anymore.

We have forgotten how to nourish our bodies and our bodies have adjusted. Our bodies have forgotten how to function.  We have epidemic rates of diabetes and obesity, and along with the accompanying chronic illness and autoimmune disease, our health care (sick care) system has become overwhelmed.  The only way to shift this paradigm is to teach our patients how to take care of themselves better.  Like many patients, Susan needed our help, she needed our guidance, patience, time and empathy.  We had let her down.

Most doctors today are allotted an average of 7 minutes for each patient.  This obviously isn’t enough time to address every question or every problem the patient has let alone time to teach, inform and provide resources. Susan’s doctor had told her the right thing, to give up sugar and processed food, but it seemed she really didn’t know how to put that advice into action.  Susan had multiple chronic disease processes, she was on a long list of medications, was an amputee with a prosthesis she had outgrown, lived alone and had no support.  She had just put her dog down because she could not care for him.  She was doing the best she could.

I asked her more about what “going cold turkey” meant to her.  Usually that was a term people used when giving up alcohol or drugs.  To her, however, food was her drug of choice, so giving it up was no different.  She was addicted to sugar and processed food.  She went on to tell me more about how she had tried to change her eating habits.  “I am eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and a little meat”.  “I even tried apples and tomatoes but still can’t keep it down”.  With the amount of confusing and contradictory information available today, she didn’t know how to make a smooth transition to real food.  Her definition of healthy eating was simply “fruits and vegetables”.  Trouble was, her body didn’t know how to process this food anymore, how to process the fiber and bacteria that are in real food.  In short, her gut needed to heal and it wasn’t going to happen overnight.

Changing her diet was not simple or easy for Susan, but she did try.  I’m sure this was not her first attempt at changing her diet, and likely would not be her last, and without support she would continue to feel frustrated and hopeless.  It was not her fault.

So what the heck are we supposed to eat? Plant-based?  Vegan?  Vegetarian?  Carnivore? Keto? Paleo? And what is Paleo anyway? Are we supposed to hunt mammoths?  High fat, low fat, no fat?  What’s the deal with eggs and bacon?  What about saturated fat?  Where does vegetable oil fit in?  And now we are supposed to fast too?  It can confuse anybody.

Unfortunately there is no one size fits all when it comes to optimal nutrition, or a healthy eating plan.  But there is a one size fits most and like Susan’s doctor indicated, most of us will do well to cut out processed foods and sugar.  But what does that mean exactly?  The easiest way to look at it is that anything in a package, or with a label, especially with a label that has more than 3 ingredients, is usually processed.

“But I don’t eat sugar” is one of the most common things I hear people say.  We often think of “sugar” as just the white stuff that’s added to coffee and baked goods, but there are over 50 different names for sugar now.  Since the food industry wants to keep selling products,  they are getting very creative with their labels. When looking at labels, think of them as warning labels. They sneak these hidden sugars into everything, including breads, pastas, muffins, bagels, waffles, pancakes, cereal, and even items labeled “no added sugar”. Sugar from natural sources or not, whether in fruit or fruit-eos is still sugar, your body knows no difference, so some people may have to eliminate fruits, it depends on personal goals and levels of health.  Most beverages should be avoided, but especially beer, fruit juice, soda and wine due to sugar content. Sweeteners are a bit controversial but can generally be used on occasion or as a transitional item.

One last point.  As mentioned, the biggest first step to improving health is to cut out processed food, with its sugar and seed oils, but the second step, almost as important, is to replace these items with more than just fruits and vegetables, like Susan did.  It is simply not sustainable or healthy.  Replacing these items gradually, with nutritiously dense foods, including non-starchy vegetables, protein and healthy fat, will allow your body to heal and will allow for satiety.  There is no need to suffer or deprive. 

Susan ended up being flown out by helicopter to see a surgeon. Two weeks later, I heard she lost her life, she chose not to have her rotting leg removed because she could not face having both legs amputated, and along with it, her independence.  Cases like Susan’s are unnecessary and completely avoidable.