Overfed But Undernourished: Why Supplementation Matters

One of the cornerstones of our chiropractic practice is proper nutrition.  Indeed, eating a healthy diet and supplementing for the holes in a healthy diet should be a cornerstone of any health related practice.  Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, however, I’ve found that very few people ever even give rational though to how they are feeding their body.

The truth is, you will only be able to remain well with adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Your body requires a variety of certain nutrients in order to fight of disease and preserve your health.  Too little of certain good nutrients can lead to diseases like neuropathy or cancer.  Too much of the bad stuff can lead to heart disease or diabetes.  The job of the individual looking to become and stay healthy is to find the happy medium that balances nutritional requirements without consuming excess calories or chemicals from their diet.

It can truly be said that, as Americans, we are overfed but undernourished.   The results of this lifestyle are plain.  We now suffer from skyrocketing obesity rates and chronic illness continues to rise.  Despite having one of the most sophisticated “healthcare” delivery systems in the world, we’re not getting any healthier.

One of the ways we attempt to improve the overall health of all of the patients in our office is through improved nutrition.   Some of this comes in the form of nutritional supplementation.  I’ve realized over the years that one of the reasons so many people are overweight is that they are getting so few nutrients from their food.  Food quality is not today what it was 50 years ago.  We’re literally bathed in food that’s high in calories and additives but very low in nutrients.  As a result, we end up eating more and more just to satisfy the minimum nutritional requirements of our body.  So, we eat and eat and eat just to get to the minimum nutrient requirement your body needs to function.  The problem is that the unhealthy foods we are eating are very calorie rich, causing us to literally burst at the seams.

During our patient intake process, I ask patients if they are taking supplements.  Not surprisingly, the few people who do take supplements are largely just taking a ‘pot-shot’ in the dark, offering little if any health benefit.  Often their decision on certain supplements is not based on health, training, or guidance by a healthcare provider, but is based on advertising.  Worse, I’ve had patients who believe or have been told, even by their own healthcare provider, that vitamins are “worthless” or “a waste of money.”  The ironic and sad thing is that many of the patients who mistakenly believe this disinformation are some of the most ill new patients we see in our office, often taking the most medication.  The bad advice they have been given is sabotaging their health.

Here are several reasons why taking a nutritional supplement is critical to maintaining your health:

1.       Many people don’t eat the diet they should – In our busy world, many of us eat a diet of convenience.  Meaning, we eat what we can when we can.   Our diets are nutrient poor, high calorie, and laced with artificial chemicals.  We give little though to what we eat, how we eat, and when we’re eating it.   Worse, many people who think they’re eating a healthy diet have never really sat down and evaluated what they really eat during the day.  Many are surprised at how shockingly bad their diet really is when they do a 7 day diet intake analysis.

2.       General food quality has declined – With an increase in convenience foods, from fast food to microwavable meals, our food quality has suffered.  We’ve moved away from cooking and preparing fresh food at home to “picking something up” or “grabbing a bite.”  Restaurants also include additional salt and MSG to enhance the flavor of their foods and thus generate repeat customers.

3.       Nutrient content of even the good food we eat is on the decline – Think about it.  We are growing enough food in the U.S. to feed the largest population ever, over 300 million people.  That doesn’t even include the food and food supplies we send to other countries.  The problem is that we are growing it on the fewest number of farms in a century.  So, what happens when you grow more and more food on less and less land?  The nutrient content of the food declines.  In other words, a carrot nowadays does not have the same nutrient levels as it did in 1950.

4.       How we cook our foods depletes many of the natural nutrients found in healthy foods – The cooking process can often destroy naturally occurring nutritional and digestive enzymes found in raw foods.  This is particularly true of fruits and vegetables.  Further, cooking and preparing meals often adds undesirable elements such as greases and oils, not to mention chemical additives.

5.       As we age we absorb fewer nutrients from our food – Do you honestly think that a 70 year old will absorb the same nutrients from food as a 17 year old?  Of course not!  As we age, our digestive system ages with us.  Just as our muscles may not function like they used to, so does our digestion.  It’s critical then to supplement those nutrients for which we may have a problem digesting and absorbing as we age.

6.       The medications we take may prevent absorption of certain nutrients and deplete nutrients from our body – There are several examples of medications that affect nutrient absorption.  For example, acid reducers for acid reflux neutralize stomach acid which is required for calcium absorption.  Likewise, cholesterol medication decreases vitamin D production in the liver, which is also critical to calcium absorption.  Cholesterol medication also decreases the body’s production of Coenzyme Q10 which is a critical antioxidant and important for cellular energy.  Antibiotics kill bacteria in the gut that produce vitamin K.  Even the pain medication you’re taking can deplete a multitude of nutrients from vitamin C to Zinc.  And the list goes on…

Not taking a supplement in this age of nutritional decline is a mistake.  Even if you do eat a healthy diet, you may not be getting all the nutrients you need to stay well.

So what supplement should you take?  That depends on your individual health status and your ability to supplement.  I generally recommend that anyone looking to make a serious change in their nutrition consult with a healthcare provider.  That being said, make sure that the people you take your health advice from are in the health business and not the disease management business.  Just because a provider may understand the cause and treatment of disease, does not necessarily mean that they understand what it takes to be healthy.  Managing the symptoms of your disease is not the same as being healthy.  Don’t confuse the two.

Supplementation is a crucial aspect to being healthy.  With regard to which supplements to choose from the infinite choices, we’ll discuss that in a future blog.

Are You Even Willing To Be Healthy?

The great motivational speaker Les Brown once said “The hardest part is getting the person to be an active participant in their own recovery.”  As a healthcare provider, I’m faced with this dogging anathema regularly.  People want health, but are unwilling to do the work and invest in themselves enough to obtain and maintain it.

Participating in our local community is very important to me and our chiropractic office regularly attends dozens of community events every year, from health fairs to senior expos.  Consistently, a regular occurrence during these events are those looking for solutions to the near limitless potential problems that ail the average individual.   I probably speak, at least briefly, with thousands of separate individuals at each of the multitude of venues we associate with annually.  Of issue, is how few of those people are actually willing to pursue any form of solution to their problem.

Recently, we attended a wellness expo for the local school district.  We performed nearly 60 screenings in a single morning, evaluating the attendees for muscular and postural issues.  Most of the people I consulted with during the screening were suffering from various conditions, often for years.  Most had also “learned to live with it.”  What always continues to surprise me about these events is that a person can list a litany of ailments but how very few will actually take any further action to correct them, even when a solution is presented to them.  Often, I can offer my confidence that we may have the potential solution they’re looking for to significantly improve or even resolve their issue, yet the person will refuse any additional commitment to being health.  My observation is that they are more content in their illness than in the potential to be well.

This is a phenomenon I have seen in broad ranges of patients in all avenues of care.  From the person who won’t commit to beginning care to the person who does not follow through with their treatment to completion, there seems to be a generalized non-committal attitude toward being well.  I think that even if I could promise a free guaranteed 100% cure, many people would still turn it down.  Now, I don’t promise cure and nothing is guaranteed, but you get the point.  Many people are unwilling to invest in their own recovery.  Why?  The answer is fear.

I once heard someone say that F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear holds people back.  It keeps the greatness of individuals trapped inside them so they never realize their full potential.  The same is true of health.  You have an amazing healing potential.  The question that should be asked is fear preventing you from living up to your full health ability?  Is fear limiting your willingness to try alternative treatment options?  Is fear stealing your hope?

Fear with regard to health manifests itself in many ways.   Fear is a pernicious multifaceted beast that prevents many from realizing wellness.  Do any of these describe you?

1.        Fear of commitment – Health will never be handed to you on a silver platter.  Health is something you must commit to.   Health isn’t a matter of happenstance or occurrence by chance of fate.  Being healthy is a matter of deliberate intention.  Being healthy requires a time investment.  You have to invest in time to exercise, time to pick the right foods, time to take care of your spine, and time to manage your stress.  The excuse that “I’m to busy” is just that…an excuse.  You have to have health as a priority.

Committing to a lifestyle change that includes healthy choices forces you out of your comfort zone.  Albert Einstein said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”   Too often, unfortunately, a person will wait indefinitely to magically get well.  As the old saying goes, “If your ship doesn’t come in, you may have to row out and meet it.”  If you’ve been waiting indefinitely to get better, you’ll ultimately have to come to the realization that change may be your only solution.  Change can be uncomfortable but, in my experience, more often change can be extremely fulfilling.  Let go of your unrealized fear and make a commitment now to change.

2.        Fear of trying something new – If the solutions you’ve always done aren’t working for you, why are you still doing them.  It always fascinates me when I talk to a patient who has had back pain for years and has been doing the same interventions they have always tried but they don’t get any better, at least not in any meaningful way.  Again, change can be uncomfortable but fear may be preventing you from growing and improving for lack of trying.  William Shakespeare has said “Our doubts make us traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.”  Maybe the solution you need is out there.  You just haven’t found it because fear has prevented you from even trying anything outside your self imposed comfort zone.  What solutions have you eliminated, not because they didn’t work, but because you were too afraid to try them in the first place?

3.       Fear of financial expenditure – Of course, in our current economy, this can be a very real fear.  Many people are afraid to commit to being healthy because they feel it may be a bad investment.  They’re afraid of sending for their health but not getting a likewise return.  Well, let me tell you, being sick is a lot more expensive than being healthy.  You have to look at your health as an investment for your future.  A little time and money invested now may save a literal fortune later.

I understand that money can be a touchy subject for a lot of people but, like a time commitment, my experience has shown me that money is truly less of a mitigating factor than priorities.  Frequently, we’ll see patients in our office who, once they calculate an estimated cost of their care plan, claim poverty and will completely discontinue care for financial reasons.  Too often however, I’ve found that these same people drive a $50,000 Mercedes, have a personal trainer or a cleaning lady, or even recently remodeled their house.  For them, health is just not a priority.  Their luxury lifestyle is more important and it may eventually cost hem their health.  Do you have your priorities straight?

4.       Fear of hope – One of the things I am seeing more and more often at some of the events we work, and with many new patients who present to our office, is a loss of hope.  Many have been told they are destined to live with pain or disease for the rest of their life.  Many have been told that they are fated for illness or that sickness is inevitable for them.  In my opinion, there is no greater disservice done to a person than to steal that person’s hope.

There is always hope for any condition or disease.  I don’t think there is a condition out there that doesn’t have a documented case of a miraculous recovery.  Too frequently, I’ve seen people with reversible conditions completely give up on the ability to be well because someone foolishly told them it can’t be done.  Just because someone says it can’t be done doesn’t make it true.  Obviously, there are no guarantees in life and you shouldn’t expect or believe absolutes but that doesn’t mean you should give up.  It’s heartbreaking for me to talk to a person who has a condition that we can most likely help, only to have them never commit to wellness because they’ve had their hope stolen from them.  Don’t give up!  Become the inspired healthy individual you were meant to be!

Ask yourself, are you even willing to get well?  Are you willing to commit to you?  My experience has shown me that, more often than not, the answer is no.  That’s why only about 8% of the population will ever see a chiropractor.  That’s why less than 25% of people have a regular exercise regimen.  It’s why so few people take vitamins.  It’s why fast food is a multibillion dollar industry.  It’s why prescription drug sales are on the rise yet, according to the World Health Organization, we’re 37th as a nation in general health.  Unfortunately, my experience is that people expect health but reject commitment but you can’t have one without the other.

No one will ever care more about you than you.  To that end, no one can force you to be well.  Being healthy is a choice.  What you have to decide is whether you can move past your fear and commit to being the amazing, inspiring, and unstoppable individual you were built to be.

Fat and Happy or Fit and Healthy

There is an old expression that describes contentment as “sitting fat and happy.”  Our modern lifestyle seems geared toward having both, often at the expense of your health and longevity.  While the United States has one of the most sophisticated healthcare delivery systems in the world, we rank 37th in overall health according to the World Health Organization.  Why is that?

Look around you.  We live in an age that is designed to sabotage our health.  Cheap, poor quality food is readily available at every turn.  Our jobs are slowly moving away from physical labor toward a computer driven economy that inhibits exercise.  We even have moving sidewalks.  So, the question becomes is “sitting fat and happy” the picture you had for your life?

Let’s look at the results of a sedentary lifestyle.  There are endless known effects of lack of exercise and poor diet, including:

1.        Increased risk of heart disease

2.       Increased risk of diabetes

3.       Increased risk of cancer

4.       Increased risk of stroke

5.       Decreases immune system

6.       Sleep difficulty

7.       Depression

8.       Digestive problems

9.       Decreased life expectancy

10.   General decline in health

The “fat and happy” lifestyle is a recipe for disaster.  While you may enjoy temporary satisfaction, you are setting yourself up for long-term failure.

Unfortunately, many people are led to believe that being healthy is out of their reach.  They’ve been told that illness is just inevitable and they are destined to suffer the rest of their life with some form of chronic infirmity.  Worse, many of the people telling them this are the very people they trust with their health decisions.

The truth is exactly the opposite and you have more power than you know.  Being healthy is a choice as much as being sick is your decision.  Your body is a self healing machine and functions optimally with adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Further, where you are in your health right now is more likely a reflection of the decisions you have made up to that point rather than an accident of genetics or fate.  The biggest detriment to being healthy may be you.  Lack of exercise, poor diet, high amounts of stress, and poor nervous system health all contribute to a decline in your overall well being.

If we’re told that as we age getting sick is normal, does that make the 90 year old healthy individual on no medications abnormal?  When did sick become the new normal?  Where you are in your health is a product of the choices you make, a cause and effect.  If you choose to exercise or not, there will be an effect.  If you choose to eat junk food or vegetables, there will be an effect.  If you are able to manage your stress or not, there will be an effect…and so on.

Disease does not occur in a vacuum.  It’s the deliberate result of years of poor decisions and neglect…years of “sitting fat and happy.”  You need to understand that the decisions you make now about your health may determine whether you spend the later years of your life sick and tired or fit and healthy.  The decisions you make now may even shorten or prolong your life.

Even if you are sick, there are ways to restore your health.  No, taking ibuprofen for pain, an acid reducer for acid reflux, or an antibiotic for a sinus infection does not make you healthy.  You can’t get health from chemicals in a bottle.  Medications are only designed to alter body functions in order to manage a disease process…cause and effect.  They are not vital nutrients.  In other words, you’re still “fat” (or, more appropriately, sick) but at least you’re happy.  Health can only come from one place…from inside you.  The decision you have to make is whether you are willing to make the good decisions to take care of yourself as an insurance policy for your future.

The ironic thing about health is that most people know what they need to do to be healthy.  They know they need to stop eating the junk.  They know they need to eat more fruits and vegetables.  They know they need to get more exercise.  They know they should take care of their spines.  Many of the patients I talk to even know that the medications they take are not the solution they are looking for.  Still, they choose not to do anything about being well and prefer to live “fat and happy.”

Each day is a new cross-road in your life.  Each day, you have the option to take care of yourself or not.  Keep in mind that every day you choose not to act builds upon the next.  Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself whether you are going to live each day “fat and happy” or fit and healthy.

You Are What You Eat

Anything you put in your body that’s not food is a poison…period.  While this fact is lost on the masses who shovel chemically laced food and medications into their mouths without a second thought, the truth is the truth.  From a genetic and developmental standpoint, your digestive system is designed to process food.

So, what is food?  You probably remember.  No, it’s not a microwavable burrito, curly fries, or a bag of potato chips.  Food is a carrot.  Food is a piece of grilled chicken.  Food is an apple.  Food is a salad.  Essentially, if it comes from a plant, but doesn’t grow on a plant, a lot of what’s in it is not food.

Nowadays, we live in a society of convenience.  Quick and easy meals are everywhere.  Why cook dinner when you can just pick it up on the way home?  Even illnesses have become more convenient as there seems to be a treatment for just about every sort of symptom.  Our lifestyles abound with chemical exposures, the most direct of which is what we ingest.

The United States Food and Drug Administration allows thousands of non-food chemicals into the food supply.  This includes everything from artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers to preservatives and colorings.  Much of the meat we consume is tainted by hormones and antibiotics and even some of the chemical additives we regularly ingest are sold to us as “healthy.”

Let’s take the example of margarine.  For years, margarine was sold as a “healthier” alternative to butter.  Lo and behold, after years of consumption, it turns out that the exact opposite is true.  It really shouldn’t have been any surprise.  Look at the back of a package of margarine versus a package of butter.  Margarine is a chemical soup of up to 20 different ingredients, most of which are unpronounceable, and in my opinion not fit for consumption.  Butter’s ingredients are simple: milk, cream, and salt…all food.

Artificial sweetener is another example of a chemical alternative that’s been sold to the masses as “healthier” for them.  Never mind that there is some research that suggests that saccharine is a potential carcinogen, and aspartame and sucralose are both potential neurotoxins.  Your body is designed to process sugar not the reasonable approximation of sugar.  The problem is not the sugar itself, it’s the copious volumes we as Americans consume per year.

Even the vitamin supplements you take may not be all they are cracked up to be.  Many of the larger vitamin suppliers provide their vitamins as a “chemical isolates.”  Meaning, the vitamin has been mass produced in a laboratory from simpler chemicals to manufacture a reasonable approximation of a natural vitamin.  The problem is that many of these chemical vitamins are missing key enzymes and cofactors that make the vitamin usable by your body.  So, some of the supplements you take may actually be worthless.  For instance, many supplement manufacturers list vitamin E as ‘alpha-tocopherol’ but this is only one component of a larger vitamin E complex.  To get the complete vitamin, you need beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol along with selenium, xanthine, and lipositols.  I know that sounds like a chemistry lesson, but what you don’t know about your supplements may be costing you money and even affecting your health.   Go with a whole food supplement manufactured from food.  After all, that’s what you’re built to digest.

Last, but certainly not least in the chemicals we regularly ingest, are the medications we take. Your body is not a chemistry set.  It’s a finely tuned biochemical producing machine.  Medications are not vital to life and are not essential nutrients.  Granted, for a person suffering from acute and chronic illness, their effects can be miraculous, but no one ever died of an aspirin deficiency.  Still, patients routinely list aspirin in their vitamins on our new patient intake forms.  That’s the effect of marketing and deficient patient education.  Medications are designed to produce a desirable effect within the chemistry of the body.  Often, this comes with a barrage of less than desirable effects (side effects).  The medications you ingest will chemically affect the tissues of the body in specific ways and your body will respond to those effects based on your individual health.  Your liver then has to process and package those chemicals for excretion out of the body.  Well, what happens when your medication consumption becomes greater than your body’s ability to excrete them?  You become toxic.

Now, you may be so ill as to need the medications you take just to stay alive.  As a chiropractor, I’ll be the first to say that I would never tell a patient to take or not take their medications.  That’s between the patient and their medical doctor.  I have no objection to required medications as a life preserving and improving methodology.  You just need to be aware of the positive and negative effects of regularly ingesting significant amounts of artificial chemicals.  It does not come without a price.  What I will encourage, however, is the patient to become better informed about the treatments they receive, both positive and negative, and ask their doctor better questions.  Your physician works for you, after all.

You see, illness is not an accident.  Illness is the result of neglect and exposure.  Not eating correctly, feeding ourselves convenience foods laced with chemicals, and even intentionally ingesting non-natural chemicals are all factors that can make us sick.  The most overlooked aspect of this scenario is that you ultimately have near full control over your chemical exposures.  If you want to be healthy, make better decisions, ask better questions, and make health a priority.   When you decide to take charge of your own health and be conscious of the good and bad decisions you make on a daily basis, that’s when you have true power over your health.