Great Smokies Medical Center of Asheville

Archive for the ‘Diet/Nutrition’ Category

Eat Your (Organic) Vegetables

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

The well-known admonition of mothers to their nutritionally-challenged, dessert-loving children, "Eat your vegetables," likely still echoes in the psyche of many nutritionally-challenged, dessert-loving adults. Well, guess what? Mom was right. The guys in white lab coats have scientifically confirmed many times over what mothers always knew: vegetables are important for good health.
In January 2005, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2005 Dietary Guidelines complete with updated recommendations that vary based on a person’s age and activity level. The new guidelines call for increasing the number of daily servings of vegetables and fruits from 5-9 to 5-13 servings a day. (A serving is one-half cup if solid, or one cup if leafy.) Some speculate this increase is largely driven by the roles vegetables play in decreasing cancer risk.
A reported decrease of nutrient levels in commercially available vegetables in U.S. supermarkets certainly justifies more vegetable servings. Many of the vegetable nutrient levels published in 2000 were significantly less compared with 1963 levels. For example, the vitamin C level in bell peppers fell from 128 mg to 89 mg (a 31 percent decrease), while spinach lost 45 percent of its vitamin C. Nearly half of the calcium and vitamin A in broccoli apparently vanished. That southern staple of soul food, collards, has lost 61 percent of its vitamin A and 51 percent of its potassium. (Nutritional tables can be accessed online at www.usda.gov.)
Just how relevant is this decline of nutrient levels in food?
For starters, in 1992 a USDA report estimated that if everyone in the United States ate a diet supplying the recommended daily nutrients, cancer, respiratory diseases, and infectious diseases would decrease by 20 percent, heart and vascular diseases by 25 percent, and arthritis and infant and maternal deaths by 50 percent.
In a University of Minnesota study of 14,962 middle-aged adults, those who ate more servings of fruits and vegetables had a 41 percent to 53 percent decrease in the incidence of venous thromboembolism (clot) formation.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study which found that men with the least amount of vitamin C (most abundant in fruits and vegetables) have a 62 percent increased risk of cancer.
The journal Nature published a study showing that onions (the food with the greatest amount of quercetin, a natural plant nutrient) slowed the loss of bone density, which can eventually result in osteoporosis. The vegetables arugula, broccoli, cucumbers, Chinese cabbage, red cabbage, dill, garlic, leeks, wild garlic, lettuce, parsley and tomatoes have also been shown to slow bone density loss.
Imbalances of the hormone estrogen increase the risk of cancer in both men and women. The risk can be offset by eating cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, collards, kale, and kohlrabi, which contain compounds known as indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and diindolymethane (DIM). They are effective in shifting the metabolism of estradiol (the estrogen most associated with cancer risk) by reducing levels of "bad" estrogen metabolites and increasing levels of "good" estrogen metabolites, thus reducing the risk of prostate, cervical and breast cancers, among others.
Vegetables are the single best food source of minerals. Literally every biochemical process in the human body is dependent on minerals, a fact that makes mineral imbalances or deficiencies capable of undermining health in all organ systems.
The relatively sudden change in western culture from eating mostly organic, home-grown produce to eating primarily commercially-grown produce may be at least partially offset by year-round availability of fresh produce. However, for food to be transported across the nation (or planet) before it spoils, it must be picked before Mother Nature can ripen it naturally. In foods that are allowed to ripen on the vine, plant chemicals called flavonoids form. The media have recently brought one flavonoid, lycopene, to the attention of the public. Lycopene is found in red fruit and vegetables, most notably in tomatoes, and is especially beneficial to prostate function. While flavonoids function as sunscreens for plants, they protect those who eat them from DNA damage (which could otherwise result in cancer) and deterioration of brain cells, and also provide other health benefits.
Not allowing vegetables to ripen outdoors in the sun decreases plant levels of folic acid, precursors of vitamin A, and anthocyanins (chemicals that give mature plants their bright colors and are a source of life-sustaining, whole food antioxidants).
Vegetables also add high quality fiber that supports immune, digestive, and general health.
Maybe you have brought home produce that looks beautiful (huge, bright red strawberries, or off-season tomatoes and cantaloupes) only to discover it tastes like flannel. Such "food" may be hybridized to look appealing, is likely grown on artificially fertilized, depleted soil, and may even be genetically modified.
In America, where vegetables are considered a side dish (incidental to meat and grains), and little time is relegated to meal preparation, the average person is unlikely to get nutrients from vegetables in levels adequate to deter, much less treat, diseases of nutritional deficiency.
Though many people who eat organic produce do so for what they don’t get (chemical fertilizers, genetic modification, pesticides, antibiotics, herbicides, growth enhancers, etc.), sufficient data now provides motivation for eating organically for what is present: more nutrients.
A 2001 article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reviewed 41 published studies that compared the nutritional values of conventional and organic produce. According to the article, organic produce has 27 percent more vitamin C, 21 percent more iron, 29 percent more magnesium, and 14 percent more phosphorus than non-organic produce.
All is not perfect in organic-land. However, even when factoring in the politically-based lowering of organic standards, the difficulty monitoring compliance to standards, and unavoidable factors such as drift of airborne chemicals from stack emissions and agricultural sprays that indiscriminately affect all crops, eating organic produce still translates to lower toxin levels and higher nutrient levels. Eating organically grown food remains a healthier choice than eating food that is conventionally grown.
GSMC doctors have taken thousands of dietary histories and, though our "average patient" gets enough protein, fat, starch, and calories, inadequate intake of fresh vegetables is common.
Interpreting the current glut of dietary information and misinformation in the media becomes nearly impossible for the general public who wants valid, sound advice. Here’s some: Eat a minimum of five to seven servings of a wide variety of raw or cooked, fresh, organic vegetables daily, most of which are brightly colored. Moms everywhere would approve!

Sugar-Coated Health: Anything But Sweet

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006

An Age-Old Problem
In 1910, George M. Gould, M. D. of Ithaca, NY wrote the following:
“For several years it has been growing clearer to me that many patients do not get well because they live too exclusively on sugary and starchy foods. With greater activity and the resisting power of youth, children exhibit the morbid tendency by excessive nervousness, denutrition, ease-of-becoming ill, and by many ague and warning symptoms. I have asked the parents of such children to stop them in their use of all sweets, and most starches and almost immediately there was a most gratifying disappearance of the ‘nervousness,’ fickleness of appetite, colds, and vague manifold ailments.”
Dr. Gould went on to say, ” . . . the evil effects of sugar-drowning will sometimes be recognized as still more important and varied than I have said. Among others, I have had two cases in which it was clear that a too exclusive or an exaggerated diet of sugary foods was a cause of epilepsy. The first was that of a boy of nine years of age in which correction of eyestrain brought no relief of both petit and grand mal attacks. Then by diligent inquiry I learned that the boy (who was morbidly nervous…almost insanely active) ate no meats, eggs, vegetables, etc., and lived, practically, on cakes,’a little breakfast food, etc., with enormous quantities of sugar, syrups, etc. Recovery followed a diet list which excluded the sweets.”
Not-So-Common Common Sense
Without knowing it by name, Dr. Gould was likely describing diet-related cases of what is now called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We have grown so accustomed to large amounts of sugar in our diets and culture that we can no longer see the problem that was obvious to Dr. Gould.
History Repeats Itself
Nearly 100 years later, the same dietary scenario is still being reenacted across America. The nutrient-deprived caloric excess of dietary sugar may be the most significant contributor to the peculiar type of malnutrition in our land-of-plenty that underlies poor health of Americans of all ages. Different from 1910, much of the sugar currently consumed is in the form of beverages–the omnipresent cans of soda, fruit drinks, and the trendy sugar- and caffeine-laced designer energy drinks.
A Dark History
White sugar has a dark history. Sugar cane is thought to be native to Southeast Asia. Alexander the Great imported it from India around 325 B.C., and it reached Egypt about 1000 years later. Christopher Columbus brought sugar cane to the Americas. The resulting sugar refining industry became the primary motivation for maintaining the African slave trade in the Caribbean, Mexico, Brazil, and the United States. Processing this “white gold” was hot, exhausting and dangerous, and it claimed many lives.
Liquid Candy
Japanese researchers perfected the extraction of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) from corn in the 1970s. This “liquid candy” would prove to be 1.4 times sweeter than table sugar, easily soluble, versatile, and inexpensive.
In the United States, table sugar is usually derived from sugar cane or sugar beets and is comprised of sucrose, a 50/50 blend of glucose and fructose. HFCS can be up to 80 percent fructose. Corn is a significant allergen in human health, a fact that can contribute to HFCS’s adverse health effects for some.
HFCS has saturated the prepared food market and has become difficult for even astute consumers to avoid. Few people would eat 11 sugar cubes in one sitting, but they find it easy to drink its equivalent in a single can of soda many times a day. In 2000 alone, U.S. consumers drank 17 billion gallons of aggressively-marketed sodas containing HFCS.
No One Culprit
Because all sugars (sucrose, glucose, dextrose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, honey, maple syrup, agave, turbinado, Sucanat, etc.) have the same basic metabolic effects, each can detract from health if eaten in excess. Fructose is unique compared to most sugars in that it must first be metabolized by the liver. Animal studies link the use of fructose to fatty deposits in the liver, fibrotic scarring of the liver, and intestinal bloating. The packaging of sugar in foods with additives (e.g., caffeine, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives) creates an additive effect that can uniquely undermine health.
Insulin
Insulin is a stress hormone that causes cellular growth and, as such, is linked to some cancers, obesity, and heart disease.
Glucose is the only sugar that can be burned as fuel inside cells, and it requires insulin to transport it across the cell membrane to be burned. Many of sugar’s adverse effects on health are related to elevated insulin levels that can result from a diet high in sugar.
The Real High Cost of Sugar
In addition to promoting harmful high insulin levels, excess sugar in the diet results in oxidative damage from Advanced Glycosolation End products (AGE) that interfere with collagen and elastin, structural components of (over) the skin and other vital organs. Excess intake of dietary sugar can cause or contribute to fatigue, gouty arthritis, cancer, tooth decay, clot formation, diabetes, rickets, osteoporosis, scurvy, obesity, degeneration of blood vessels and circulation, yeast overgrowth, immune dysregulation, behavior and mood disorders (ADD, ADHD, anti-social behavior, depression), increased risk of infection, elevated bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides, gout, adrenal stress, pancreatic cancer in women, mineral imbalances and deficiencies (e.g., copper, magnesium, zinc, chromium, manganese, calcium, etc.), diseases of nutritional deficiencies, high blood pressure, kidney stones, cataracts, visual disorders, premature aging, and acidosis.
Sugar Feeds Cancer
Cancer cells have a big appetite for sugar to fuel their rapid growth. These rapidly growing cells have ten times more insulin receptors than non-cancerous cells, allowing them to readily utilize glucose for energy even in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic glycolysis), a metabolic situation that results in an unhealthy accumulation of lactic acid. Animal studies suggest that normal or, optimally, low-normal blood sugar levels result in improved cancer treatment outcomes and boost immune function.
Super-Sweet, Super-Sized
Not all of sugar’s potential to cause obesity is related to a simple excess of calories. After the body’s caloric (energy) needs are met and the liver’s stored energy reserves of sugar, glycogen, is untapped (as it usually is in sedentary people), sugars are converted to another stored form of energy called fat. When blood sugar levels rise, so do harmful insulin levels. Elevated insulin levels have historically protected the body during times of famine by forcing sugars into fat storage instead of being burned for the body’s energy needs, helping protect the body’s critical fat stores.
Is Sugar Addictive?
What we call a “sweet tooth” has its basis in brain chemistry. Endorphins are the feel-good chemicals responsible for the well-known “runner’s high.” In particular, alcoholics, women, and obese individuals may share similar disadvantageous brain chemistry that gives them a “sugar high” from eating sweets. Women tend to have more sugar cravings (often before menstruation or during menopause) than men.
People with lower than normal levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter whose deficiency is seen in depression, insomnia, and migraines, may experience a euphoric rush when they eat sugary foods, different from the mildly pleasant feeling experienced by people who have normal serotonin levels. Measuring neurotransmitter levels in the urine can reveal imbalances of these powerful determinants of mood and behavior and also suggest actions to take to help restore balanced brain chemistry.
So SAD
Those who don’t “get” the impact of sugar in health need look no further than the examples of the sudden introduction of our highly-refined, nutrient-deprived Standard American Diet (SAD) into native cultures. The Pima Native Americans and Inuit peoples, for example, both suffered increases in degenerative diseases (gout, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity) upon adopting the SAD. Many Americans today are unknowingly participating in a similar dietary experiment that is undermining their health.
Supply/Demand
Sugar production in 2000 topped $3.5 billion, according to the Agriculture Department. Americans consume more sugar than any other nation and also spend more on healthcare than any other nation. Sugar manufacturers would have the public believe that sedentary lifestyles and overeating are necessary for consumers of sugar to succumb to poor health. While this rhetoric may contain seeds of truth, it takes focus away from what is likely the most effective strategy to improve health while reducing risk of chronic degenerative diseases through dietary manipulation: limiting the amount of sugar in the diet, the same pragmatic approach that Dr. Gould used successfully in 1910.
Benefits of Sugar
Is there a positive side to sugar? Yes. Adequate blood sugar is essential for life, particularly as an energy source for the brain and muscles, including the heart. Sugar has antiseptic properties and has been used topically to treat bedsores. Physicians once used sugar to enhance uterine contractions of women in labor. Sugar is a preservative and helps retain color in canned foods. It is in the form of black strap molasses (the dregs of the final extraction of cane sugar), however, where sugar has it greatest redeeming value. Black strap molasses is rich in minerals and vitamins, likely accounting for its reported health benefits.
A Blood Sugar Balancing Act
Blood sugar needs to be in balance. Low levels can result in coma and death, while high levels (as seen in poorly controlled diabetes), given enough time, have proved to be a reliable, if often silent, killer. The fact that blood sugar is essential for life should not be interpreted as a reason to eat or drink sugar. Quite the opposite. Eating refined sugar to maintain blood sugar (other than possibly a very small amount during an acute hypoglycemia episode) assures an unwanted ride on a blood sugar roller coaster. Relying on non-processed, fresh vegetables and, to a lesser extent, fruit (if not diabetic) as nutrient-dense sources of complex carbohydrates rather than the nutritionally-deficient calories from refined carbohydrates (sugars) is a far healthier choice. All refined sugars are separated from the vitamins and minerals found in the natural ancestral whole food from which they were derived. The resulting lack of nutrients requires that the body rob (deplete) its own nutrient stores to function.
Aaaw . . . Naturale?
HFCS made the news earlier this year when Cadbury Schweppes, manufacturer of 7-Up, used the phrase “All Natural” in its marketing. Some health advocates consider HFCS to be natural like, say, crack cocaine, another refined natural product. Many concerned citizens across America aren’t waiting for the courts to define “natural” and are taking steps to get HFCS-containing foods out of school lunch menus and vending machines.
A Return to Common Sense
Legal opinions aside, defending sugar as being even remotely healthy is becoming more and more difficult. If you feel confused when the sugar industry’s economic interests prevail over truth in the media, use the tool employed by Dr. Gould: common sense. Don’t wait for a whitewashed consensus from the government or from sugar refiners to define sugar’s health impact. Instead, take charge of your health by proactively limiting the amount of refined sugar in your diet.

Lymphocytes and Your Health

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Few people would check their car’s speedometer once a year and think that doing so would protect them from getting a speeding ticket later that year.
Yet, that is exactly what many people do with their health if they rely on the laboratory serum tests routinely performed during annual physical exams to screen for health problems. Just like a speedometer reveals a car’s speed at a particular moment in time, serum testing that is routinely done in physician’s offices measures the biochemical status in a narrow window of time.
Routine serum testing is useful in detecting some acute health problems and to monitor chronic diseases. But, serum testing is not useful in assessing nutrient status, in large part because nutrients aren’t necessarily in the serum. For example, 50 percent of the body’s total magnesium is in bone and 49 percent is inside cells. Only one percent of the body’s total magnesium is in the serum.
Scientific research originating in the 1950s eventually led to the development of more sensitive laboratory assessment of nutritional status using white blood cells (lymphocytes) instead of serum.
Since the average life span of lymphocytes is four to six months, functional testing of nutrients in lymphocytes reveals a person’s nutrient history over a far longer period of time than serum testing can.
An overwhelming amount of scientific evidence documents the ability of deficiencies of vitamins, minerals, and other essential micronutrients to suppress the function of the immune system. Suppression of the immune function has been shown to contribute to chronic diseases such as arthritis, cancer, and heart disease, to name a few. Nutrient deficiencies also contribute to millions of people becoming the "walking wounded," going through life not ever feeling or functioning well.
Causes of nutrient deficiency include poor dietary quality, decreased absorption, and genetic defects. Certain stages of life (such as adolescence, pregnancy, lactation, and aging) and circumstances in life (such as overly strenuous or prolonged exercise, stress, prolonged or extreme dieting, and many illnesses) can create a temporary exaggerated need for specific nutrients.
One need look no further than nature for everyday examples of how people become sick or age. Oxidation is a natural process by which all matter decays. Examples of oxidation in nature are iron turning to rust, a cut apple turning brown, and a newspaper turning yellow with age. Oxidation in the body has been shown to cause cellular damage that results in heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and virtually all chronic illnesses. It has been said that we don’t age, we rust.
Some nutrients function as antioxidants to keep oxidation in check. These nutrients include the vitamins A, C, and E; the minerals zinc and selenium; glutathione, and many others.
SpectraCell Laboratories, Inc., of Houston, specializes in functional assessment of a select group of nutrients and antioxidants in lymphocytes that play vital roles in health and disease.
Virtually everyone could benefit from knowing their glutathione and antioxidant status and taking appropriate steps to correct any deficiencies.
SpectraCell’s Functional Intracellular Analysis (FIA) can be used preventively to tweak and promote good health over a lifetime or to monitor the effects of a particular nutritional regimen.
People who take prescription drugs may find that identifying and correcting their nutrient deficiencies may enable them to decrease or even discontinue their drugs under medical supervision.
People facing an inherited pattern of disease may find that risk can be minimized by correcting nutritional deficiencies. Many inherited health problems need nutritional deficiencies for the risk to manifest, such as elevated homocysteine levels associated with heart disease that is fueled by deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12, and folic acid.
The nutritional recommendations based on lymphocyte testing is very individualized, unlike the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) which are merely intending to avoid a blatant deficiency state and not optimize health.
SpectraCell’s functional nutrient and antioxidant laboratory tests are covered in part by Medicare. In our experience, private insurance generally follows Medicare’s precedent, but we cannot speak for any specific insurance company’s decision as the specifics of their contracts with members vary from policy to policy.
Established GSMC patients who would like to be tested for underlying nutrient deficiencies should make an appointment for a routine non-fasting blood draw by GSMC’s lab staff, and schedule a 30-minute appointment about three weeks later with their GSMC healthcare practitioner to get their test results and recommendations based on their specific deficiencies.

If You Were Stuck on a Remote Island

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Q: Drs. Wilson and Wright recently put their heads together to answer this question: Excluding a multiple vitamin/mineral formula, what five supplements would you choose to have with you (and why) if you practiced on a remote island?

A: First, Vitamin C. Unlike nearly every other mammal, fruit bats, guinea pigs, and human beings have lost their ability to make vitamin C due to the lack of the enzyme L-gulonolactone oxidase. In fact, any pamphlet on caring for guinea pigs comes with precautions to include Vitamin C in their diet to keep them healthy. Unfortunately, people don’t come with such pamphlets to guide their care and feeding. Vitamin C has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties, and assists mercury detox. In high doses, Vitamin C has anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. It helps prevent platelets from sticking together, making clot formation less likely. Vitamin C is inexpensive and can be taken orally or intravenously. It also is supplied in a liposomal base that can be given topically to dramatically help skin conditions ranging from burns to conditions of aging to mysterious rashes.
Second, magnesium. More than 300 of the body’s enzyme systems require magnesium. Add the fact that 85 percent of the population is estimated to be deficient in magnesium and you have one effective and useful therapy: magnesium replacement. Magnesium regulates muscle response, heart rate and rhythm, bone formation, bowel function, helps prevent kidney stones, and protects against radiation exposure. Dr. Wilson earned the title "Dr. Magnesium" when he regularly administered magnesium intravenously for asthma, PMS, high blood pressure, headaches, heart failure, etc., when he started practicing at GSMC in 1991.
Third, Vitamin B12. People with deficiency of hydrochloric acid (HCl) produced by the stomach are more likely to be deficient in B12. The use of prescription drugs that block HCl production in patients with reflux or heartburn can result in deficient B12 levels, as can long term vegan diets, and aging. These facts give this special B vitamin a place in our docs’ top five list. Though the biggest impact is obtained through giving vitamin B-12 by injection, our testing reveals that oral or sublingual forms of B-12 can also correct less severe deficiencies, though they do so more slowly. Deficiencies of vitamin B-12 result in fatigue, anemia, asthma, menstrual problems, heart disease, diabetic neuropathy, hives, bursitis, poor memory, confusion, and various neurological problems. Many people report an energy boost from B-12 injections.
Fourth, EPA and DHA fish oil: Our docs find that a day does not go by that they don’t recommend the use of these important oils. Eicosapentacoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are found in oilier fish (salmon, herring, and mackerel) or can be supplemented in capsule form. Fish oil fights heart disease three ways: preventing clots, improving lipids, and decreasing formation of atherosclerotic plaque in arteries. Other conditions that benefit from fish oil include retinal problems, ADD/ADHD (the brain is 60% fat), autoimmune disorders, inflammatory conditions (notably arthritis), and cancer (in particular breast, prostate, and colon). High quality fish oils such as those recommended by GSMC doctors are tested by independent third party labs to assure they are free from oceanic environmental toxins, notably mercury.
Fifth, Co-Enzyme Q10. If you were a carburetor, CoQ10 would be your spark plug. CoQ10 provides a spark of energy that facilitates oxygen transport to cells. CoQ10 is used to address problems associated with aging, including memory problems, and all sorts of heart problems including heart failure, angina, arrhythmias, and valvular heart disease. In addition, CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant. Research suggests that CoQ10 may be beneficial when used in high doses in treating breast cancer. It is also useful in treating allergic diseases, chronic fatigue, and any condition that would benefit from enhanced oxygenation. Some classes of drugs lower CoQ10 levels, including cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins), beta blockers, and sulfonylureas that are used to treat diabetes.
Sixth, (The docs snuck in an extra one!) Vitamin H. One of the requirements for a substance to be designated as a vitamin is that it must have a deficiency state. Vitamin H is also called hope. A deficiency of hope leads to feelings of discouragement and high stress levels that can interfere with recovery. In fact, just five minutes of even recalling a past stressful situation has been shown to result in six hours of immune system suppression. That’s one little negative nostalgic indulgence with a pretty big price tag. All thoughts have a downstream consequence in the physical body. Vitamin H synthesis starts gradually with awareness of habitually stressful thoughts. Once identified, (we all have them), move away from them and toward what brings you happiness. Then, simply do more of the happy thing and less of the stress thing. Use your brain . . . for a change.

Got Zinc?

Monday, September 12th, 2005

Signs and symptoms of zinc deficiency include impaired senses of taste and smell, skin problems, recurrent or chronic infections, hair loss, cracks at the corner of the mouth, hangnails, vertical ridges in fingernails, inflamed cuticles, chronic diarrhea, fatigue, low sperm counts, and delayed sexual maturity in addition to neurological symptoms.
Because zinc is required for normal cell division, signs of zinc deficiency can start early in life, resulting in impaired fetal growth and abnormalities. Later in life, zinc-deficient children can develop retarded physical and mental development.
Zinc is important to immune system function and protein synthesis, hence its use in treating skin and mucus membrane infections and wounds.
Because semen is especially rich in zinc, boys entering puberty and sexually active men require more zinc than the rest of the population. Over seventy enzymes in the body are dependent on zinc. Zinc also has antioxidant properties in the body.
Zinc aids in the detoxification of lead and cadmium, and protects from mercury toxicity by supporting the production of the protective antioxidant glutathione.
Zinc is found in meats, seafood, dairy products, beans, yeast, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), and cereals. Vegetarians are at increased risk for zinc deficiency when compared to those who eat meat. The need for zinc may be increased in areas with high copper content in their drinking water. Long term zinc supplementation requires physician monitoring.

What’s For Dinner?

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

What’s "right" to eat seems to change as quickly as the next diet book hits the bookstores. GSMC physicians use the following basic guidelines when determining what to eat. These recommendations are further individualized for specific medical conditions.

* The optimal diet is: vegetables, vegetables, vegetables, protein, and fat.
* Eat foods that can rot and eat them before they do. Eat fresh.
* Minimize sugar intake.
* Buy local free-ranging or organic, grass fed meats and eggs.
* Use butter, and cold pressed olive, nut, safflower, or sunflower oils.
* Drink at least two quarts of pure water daily between meals.
* Cook at home to control the quality of your diet.
* Avoid processed foods with chemical preservatives and additives, artificial colors and flavors, artificial sweeteners, sodas and designer drinks, excess caffeine, processed or damaged fats, fast food, deep fried foods, and known allergic foods.

Trans Fats: Facts and Fallacies

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Trans fats occur naturally in very small amounts in animal meat such as beef, pork, and lamb, and occur in very large amounts as a result of the conversion of vegetable oils into margarine and shortening. To avoid a complicated biochemical definition, suffice it to say that trans fat molecules are straight in shape and are a danger to human health–the opposite of the naturally curved, healthy “cis” fat molecule. Trans fats are found in margarine and shortening, which are “hidden” in manufactured baked goods such as crackers and cookies. Trans fats are called partially hydrogenated oils on food labels. Like plastic, trans fats decay or turn rancid slowly, so foods that contain trans fats have a long shelf life at the grocery store.

Much confusion exists around which fats are healthy and which are unhealthy. And that confusion is not surprising, as the oil industry has created confusion by shifting the media focus from the danger of trans fats to the alleged danger of saturated fats, including cholesterol.

Fallacy: High dietary fat intake contributes to cancer.
Fact: Diets high in trans fats contribute to cancer.

Dr. Mary Enig, PhD, a highly credentialed nutritionist and researcher with a career-long interest in the impact of fats on human health, challenged the speculation concerning the relationship of dietary fat and cancer causation in 1978. Her report is as valid today as it was then. Enig studied the increase in dietary fat intake and total cancer mortality over a sixty-year period. She found that total fat and vegetable fat intake contributes to cancer, but found that animal fat intake is associated with decreased cancer occurrence. This finding can be difficult to understand after years of being fed a steady diet of media based misinformation that is fueled by the economic interests of the oil industry. Americans eat too much “bad” trans fat and not enough “good” essential fatty acids (EFAs) found in raw nuts and seeds and their oils, and in oilier ocean fish and fish oil (EPA and DHA) supplements.

Fallacy: Fat is bad for you.
Fact: Fat is essential to health.

All hormones are made from fat, the brain is 60 percent fat by weight, fat is an important energy source, and all cells are protected by a membrane that is made of fat and protein. Long-term low fat diets can weaken the protective cell membrane and thereby increase cancer risk.

The Carb/Mood Trap

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Are carbs really comfort food? “Yes,” temporarily, but “no” in the long run. Eating carbs can quickly result in increased serotonin, a neurotransmitter known for its role in depression. Your body associates the resulting “high” with eating carbs, but doesn’t associate carbs with the “low” that occurs a couple of hours later. A carb craving is born as your body simply tries to recreate the high, and you are in for a ride on the mood roller coaster. The solution? Cut the carbs! Ask your GSMC physician for strategies to increase serotonin naturally for a more stable mood.

What Are Carbs?

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Carbohydrates consist of starches, called complex carbohydrates, and sugars, called simple carbohydrates. All carbohydrates turn to glucose through the process of digestion. Starches are found in all grains (wheat, rice, corn, rye, oats, barley, spelt), all hot and cold cereals, pasta, white and sweet potatoes, breads, crackers, bagels, etc. Sugar is found in many beverages including tea, sodas, alcoholic drinks, and sports drinks; plus, desserts, fruit juices, fruit, cakes, cookies, muffins, candy, ice cream, and many processed foods.

Diet and Thyroid

Sunday, September 11th, 2005

Kelp is seaweed and is rich in nutrients, including the mineral iodine, a necessary cofactor for the production of thyroid hormone. If you are not iodine sensitive, consider including seaweed in your diet.

Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), also known as medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). It offers benefits to sufferers of hypothyroidism by increasing the metabolism as well as promoting weight loss.

Food allergy is thought to play a role in hypothyroidism, especially those with autoimmune disorders. Food sensitivities are suspected to interfere with endocrine function through antibody formation.

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