nutrition

Keep Up

Keep up and you will be kept up - Yogi Bhajan

When I was first going through yoga training I never fully understood this quote. It seemed so arbitrary to me - keep up with what? who will keep me up?

It wasn't until I was fully immersed in my career as a chiropractor and nutritionist that I finally had a light bulb moment: maintenance now = prevention later.*

When we're young, we tend to think we're invincible and can do whatever we want to our bodies and they will continue to move and breathe and feel ok. Unfortunately this is not the case.  When we're feeling good we tend to take movement and breath for granted. We forget about maintaining our health and our joints. That is why maintenance is so incredibly important. Take care of yourself now and you prevent serious health issues down the road. (Plus, you get the added benefit of actually feeling good now. )

It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but keeping your nervous system healthy through a proper diet, regular chiropractic adjustments, and daily movement is worth so much more than the initial cost or effort that you perceive it to be now. Yes, things like getting adjusted, getting dental checkups, spending a little more for quality foods, or paying for that studio/gym/personal trainer may seem like big expenses now, but in the end the savings are innumerable. Plus - I'll say it again - YOU GET TO FEEL GOOD. How awesome is that??

*I know there are more spiritual interpretations of this famous quote. 

 

anti-nutrients: what you need to know about phytic acid

You may have heard the recent news about nuts - that they're actually lower in calories than originally thought! In a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, almonds were found to contain 129 calories per 28 gram serving as opposed to the current calorie value of 170. Now that healthy nuts like almonds are lower in calories, some of my patients have been asking if they can incorporate more into their diet. As a recovering peanut butter addict, I wish I could in good conscience tell them yes, but I cannot. I found I've been explaining frequently to patients that while nuts (and some grains and legumes) are healthy in moderation, they contain a compound called phytic acid that causes issues when consumed in excess. Allow me to tell you about this sneaky little antinutrient. 

Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorous that plants use to grow once they sprout. It is found in the hull of grains, nuts, and seeds. While ruminant animals (cows, sheep, goats) can digest phytic acid, humans cannot. This is significant for two reasons:

once the seed sprouts, phytic acid is degraded to phosphorous which the plant uses to grow.

once the seed sprouts, phytic acid is degraded to phosphorous which the plant uses to grow.

1) because it is not digested, phytic acid binds to minerals (especially iron, zinc, and calcium) and prevents us from absorbing them. Over time this can lead to deficiencies in these minerals, causing serious health conditions. 

2) It interferes with enzymes that help us digest our food including pepsin and trypsin (required to breakdown protein in the stomach and small intestine, respectively) and amylase (required to break down starch). When your food does not get digested properly, it backs up into your intestines and causes all sorts of havoc on your organs and lymphatic system.

Now that I've caused you to be thoroughly terrified of phytic acid, let me tell you that the average human can tolerate low levels of phytic acid (400-800mg a day), and that by sprouting your grains and legumes you can reduce the phytic acid level by up to 50 percent. Soaking and roasting nuts will also significantly reduce the amount of phytic acid. 

I do really like phytic acid's chemical structure though. so pretty. 

I do really like phytic acid's chemical structure though. so pretty. 

Bottom line: even though nuts may have fewer calories that previously thought, it is a good idea to stick to one to two 1 oz servings a day due to the phytic acid content (as well as high levels of omega 6 fatty acids... we'll save that for another discussion). It is especially important for people with iron deficiency anemia, vegans, and vegetarians to watch their levels of phytic acid intake and consider sprouting or soaking beans, grains, and legumes prior to consumption.

Should You See a Nutritionist?

The amount of nutritional information available on the news and web can be overwhelming and often the information is conflicting, Every day there is a new diet or superfood making,  it difficult to know what foods and diets are best. Should I cut carbs? what should I eat before exercise? Do I need supplements? are some common questions people have. Seeing a nutritionist is arguably one of the best things you can do to prevent disease and feel better overall, and we will clear up all of the confusing dietary advice you may have gotten in the past. Here are some reasons you may want to schedule a visit with a nutritionist at TCA.

  • You are suffering from information overload:  

We will help find the best foods for your body so you can ditch the fad diets and eat healthy for life. We will help you solve the problem of information overload, so you don't have to use the potentially detrimental method trial and error to see what diets, foods, or supplements work best for your body.

  • You have a health or fitness goal you are working toward:

A nutritionist will work with you to help you meet your health and fitness goals and keep you accountable for what you're eating. We will likely recommend weekly check-ins in the beginning to get you started on the right path and make sure your new meal plan is working for you. If you have a fitness goal like running a marathon or you just want to tone up, we will help you achieve those goals with a meal plan that is right for you.

  • You have a pre-existing health condition that you want to manage (maybe even get off medication)

Prevention is always the best medicine, but if you have pre-existing health conditions such as high cholesterol, acid reflux, or diabetes for example, we can help you manage and potentially resolve these issues.

  • You don't know if you need supplements

We will always try to get you to obtain your nutrients through real foods, but we may recommend supplements - even temporarily - based on your current health situation. We carry only top-of-the-line supplements that can only be purchased through a healthcare provider. Most of the vitamins and supplements available at the drug store are not in a bioavailable form, meaning your body can't absorb them well. Additionally, when you take just one mineral or vitamin, it can throw off the balance of other checks and balances in your body as it attempts to maintain homeostasis. Our supplements are in the form of whole foods and not isolates of chemicals, so your body can absorb them.

  • You have run out of healthy recipes or meal ideas

When we develop a meal plan for you, we take into consideration foods you like and dislike, and come up with meal plans and recipes that fit your nutritional needs as well as your lifestyle needs. Whether you love to spend hours in the kitchen preparing meals or need quick and healthy dinner ideas - we tailor the plan to your lifestyle making it easy to follow as well as delicious.

  • You are tired of being tired

The foods you eat fuel your body. When you eat the wrong things at the wrong times, you develop a buildup of toxins and your GI system becomes sluggish, causing fatigue.

We will teach you how to eat for life, so you can feel and look your best and stay healthy. Your diet is the key to preventing health issues down the road like diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity just to name a few. If you are ready to take control of your health, its time to make an appointment!

 

Healthy Holidays

 

The end of the year is once again upon us. While it is a season of celebration and joy, it can also be stressful. You may feel pressure to host a stellar holiday party, give the perfect gifts,  and entertain family and friends while still finding time to stay healthy and exercise. How can you find a good balance between giving and receiving this season? Below are some tips to help you stay healthy and happy this winter.

Practice Compassion. Overindulging is ubiquitous this time of year and it is ok as long as you don't make it an everyday occurrence. When you do have a high-calorie or high-sugar setback, find an attitude of compassion for yourself. If you forgive yourself for one setback, you will be less likely to keep eating. So if you lose control on one dish, instead of thinking, I've blown my diet, might as well eat more, just forgive yourself and move on.

Be a food snob. If you don't love it, don't eat it. At parties and gatherings, look for foods you truly like and skip the dishes that are available all year long. Go ahead and indulge in your personal holiday favorites, then find a seat and slowly and mindfully enjoy your food. And prior to the party, eat normally. If you skip meals to "save up"  calories for your party, you will have a tendency to overeat once you get there.

Protein and healthy fat are your friends. If your holiday go-to treats are of the sweet variety, it is important to understand that consuming extra sugar gives you more than just an excess of calories. Simple sugar leads to a cascade of hormones causing your blood sugar to spike and crash, sending a signal to your brain that you are still hungry even though you just consumed a lot of energy. But if you eat lean protein and healthy fat (avocados, nuts, full fat dairy), hormones are released that tell your brain that you are full and satisfied. Aim to minimize your consumption of extra sugar and keep yourself satisfied by eating healthy fats,  protein, and fiber.

Eat your fruits and veggies. Aim for 7 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. The fiber content will keep you feeling full and the vitamins and nutrients will nourish your body helping you stay healthy during the winter.

Schedule Your Exercise. Your schedule will likely be hectic this season. Schedule your workouts just as you would any other appointment. It's ok if you can't make it to class, but make sure that you work up a sweat at least three days per week.

Get Adjusted. Whether you're traveling or staying home, maintaining your spinal alignment will help you feel and function your best so you can stay healthy and reduce your stress level.

Rest easy. It is always important to get adequate sleep, but during this busy time of year (and cold and flu season) it is especially critical. To get the best quality sleep, avoid foods that are high in fat or protein and alcohol 2-3 hours prior to bed. Fats and protein require your body to work harder at digestion which interferes with your sleep. And while alcohol helps you fall asleep quickly, when your body starts to metabolize it your sleep is disrupted. You may wake up frequently (even if you don't remember doing so) and you will miss out on restorative sleep. If you’re still hungry close to bedtime, have some complex carbohydrates like whole-wheat crackers, popcorn, or fruit.

Boost your mood. This time of year is typically cold and dark for us in the metro DC area. For many, this can lead to seasonal mood changes. Due to the lack of sunlight, I recommend supplementing with vitamin D3 (400-1000IU/day). You may also want to supplement with the omega 3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. They have been shown to improve symptoms of depression and aid in brain function. Even if the weather is not the best, try to get outside for at least a few minutes a day for fresh air and sunlight.

Avoid comparison. You’ve read the status updates and have seen gorgeous instagram photos about glamorous vacations, perfectly-behaved kids, and well decorated house, but remember that those people have bad days too. Most people put their best self forward social media, so don't compare your life with those dreamy-sounding posts. Find at least one thing each day to be grateful for and enjoy the season!

Pre and Post Nutrition for Runners

I find that many of my athletic patients are wondering what and how much to eat before and after their activity both to improve performance and just feel better overall. While the following guidelines are stated for running, they can - for the most part - be applied for workouts of light, moderate, or high intensity.

By eating the right foods at the right times before and after your runs or workouts, your body will be able to recover and perform the way you want it to. Plus with proper fuel, you’ll reduce your chance of injury and illness.

I am an advocate of being in touch with your body and establishing the type of relationship that doesn’t require excessive counting and measuring of food items, but encourages you to be in tune with what your body is telling you. However, this can take some trial and error, so here are a few guidelines to get you started.

th6NHV682H.jpg

Easy/recovery Run:

Before: For a morning jog of no longer than 30 or 45 minutes at a relaxed pace (you can hold a conversation), a glass of water might be all that’s needed ahead of time—provided you had a decent dinner the night before. But if last night’s meal wasn’t substantial or if you ate it early, having some orange juice or a banana will replace glycogen stores in your muscles to stave off sluggishness. If you’re heading out in the afternoon, have a snack with about 50 grams of carbs —like yogurt and granola—an hour or two beforehand.

After: There’s no need to take in calories immediately, but try to eat a snack or your next meal within 1-2 hours. Skipping a solid post-run meal could lead to lethargy or sugar cravings later in the day, and down the road even sickness or injury.

Speed Drills:

Before: Consume 200 to 400 calories (depending on your size and how long before the run you’re snacking) of easily digestible carbs, such as toast with jelly 30 minutes to 1 hour before your training. Consider replenishing your fast-twitch muscles with a sports recovery drink or gel between intervals and this has been shown to improve performance through the last rep.

After: It’s absolutely crucial to eat something within 30 minutes to supply your muscles with fluid, carbs and some protein. Aim for a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein (an easy source: chocolate soy/almond/regular milk) to best aid recovery.

Going the Distance:

Before: Eating a full meal 3-4 hours before you head out to slog through many miles is ideal, but there’s ideal, and then there’s practical. If you're planning on running early in the morning, you don't have to wake up at 3am to eat, just have that meal an hour or so ahead of the run and make it something easily digestible, like a banana with peanut butter or a high-calorie sports drink or smoothie. Even more important is to have a good hydration and fuel for the run. Try to take in between 150 and 300 calories per hour during extra-long bouts via gels, sports drinks, or whatever snack that you can carry and that your body can handle.

After: Same as with speed work, make sure to eat within half an hour of your finish. Go for 200 to 300 calories and try to include an anti-inflammatory food such as avocado or walnuts to reduce the inflammation caused by all that pounding on the pavement (or trail). Then sit down to a bigger meal a few hours later and continue snacking every two hours or so for the rest of the day. After a long run, your muscles can’t bounce back from just one feeding; eating more often jump-starts recovery.

Feel free to leave your questions in the comments!

Chiropractic Care and the Immune System

Cold and flu season is upon us once again. In addition to eating right, exercising, and getting a flu shot, what else can you do to prevent ailments this season? Get adjusted!

The reason? Adjustments affect your autonomic nervous system which, among other things, controls your lymphoid organs such as the lymph nodes, spleen, and thymus. These organs in turn, control your immune response. Specific adjustments have been shown to increase the number of white blood cells (neutrophils) which combat diseases.  Other effects of autonomic regulation via spinal adjustments include lowering blood pressure, relieving anxiety, and reducing inflammatory cytokines and pain. Chiropractic adjustments do not treat these conditions directly; they address and remove spinal dysfunctions that are interfering with your nervous system and encourages a cascade of reactions that allow your body to defend itself and heal.

Once you have had an adjustment, it is important to make sure your diet is up to par so that you give your body the nutrients it needs. If you don't have the proper building blocks, or if your are eating foods that are immune compromising (sugar), you will not be able to defend from illness nearly as well.

Eating refined sugar essentially "turns off" your immune system, or at least impairs its function for up to 3 hours after you eat it. So while it is ok every once in awhile, make sure you're not eating refined sugar regularly, and especially don't eat it if you are already sick or feeling down as it will further weaken your immune system.

Aim to get at least 7 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Get a variety of fruit and veggies including citrus fruits, berries, spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, and others that are good sources of vitamins and nutrients including vitamin C and E, beta carotene, and zinc.

Of course, make sure you get at least 30 minutes of movement a day and adequate sleep to keep you feeling healthy and happy now and all year long.

MEN-AS10-immunity-veggie-basket.jpg



What's Stealing Your Energy? Part 1 - Your diet

Everyone has days where they feel tired and unmotivated, but if you find yourself feeling tired nearly every day and need copious amounts of caffeine to get you going, chances are there may be something you're doing (or not doing) that is zapping your energy. Over the next few posts, we will explore some of the things that may be making you feel less than your best and how you can change your routine to feel refreshed and energized through out your day.

Your Diet

Energy zapper #1: Simple Sugar

You are probably familiar with the "sugar high" that is obtained after eating simple sugars (think pastries, candy, etc) followed by the subsequent "crash". This is because consuming simple sugars and foods with a high glycemic index leads to a rapid spike in insulin followed by a subsequent "crash". Say you eat a cupcake. You get a sudden blast of sugar into your blood stream and it must be moved somewhere, it can't just hang out there or it will cause damage. This is where insulin comes in. It grabs the sugars and transports them to your muscles. Insulin usually gets a little over zealous though, and takes your blood sugar down to a low level - sometimes even lower than it was BEFORE you ate. This accounts for the "crash" feeling you get after the initial high. Besides avoiding the obvious high-sugar foods like pastries and candies, watch out for "hidden" sugar in seemingly healthy foods like flavored yogurt and energy bars. Look for items with 5g of sugar or fewer.

Energy zapper #2: not eating frequently enough

Eating every 3-4 hours (or 5-6 times a day) helps maintain stable blood sugar and ensures you have enough energy through out your day. That being said, eating frequently does not mean eat whatever you want - portion control is key. Of course, the amount of nutrients and total calories that are needed varies greatly from person to person depending on age, gender, and activity level, but aim for a combination of protein, complex carbs, and good fats to keep you satisfied. The info graphic below shows some very simple examples.

Some examples of 6 small but balanced snacks

Some examples of 6 small but balanced snacks

Energy zapper #3: Too much caffeine

This seems counter intuitive at first because caffeine is a stimulant that can enhance your mental and physical performance. But like other stimulants, it is a drug that your body builds a tolerance to. This requires you to continually up your dose to feel the same effects. The added caffeine puts stress on your adrenal glands and can actually make you more tired. Consider taking a 2-3 day caffeine hiatus every month or so to reset your caffeine tolerance.

Next week we will be discussing posture and how it affects your digestion, breath, and energy level. Stay Tuned!