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Your October Issue of Natural Alternatives
September 29, 2023
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“The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well.” ~Hippocrates
IN THIS ISSUE:
1) HOW TO TAKE AN INTEGRATIVE APPROACH TO HEALTH
2) MOST DEMENTIA IS DRIVEN BY DIET, NOT GENES
3) THESE FIVE DAILY HABITS CAN HELP CURB LATE-NIGHT CRAVINGS
For some of us, health is something that ticks over quietly in the background. Often it takes a health scare like an illness or accident to bring it into focus. How many times have you recovered from a cold and thought, ‘Wow, it’s nice to feel well again’? It can be in these moments that we realize we take our health for granted and may feel moved to be more proactive.
Whether you’ve always had health at the front of your mind or it’s a recent revelation, knowing where to start when it comes to giving your health more attention can feel daunting. A lot of us will naturally gravitate towards making changes to our physical fitness through diet and exercise, and while this may form part of the picture, taking an integrative approach helps us step back and take care of the whole person.
“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” - World Health Organization
What is an integrative approach to health?
Integrative health is all about bringing together a range of approaches (from conventional to complementary) to support the whole person. This means rather than focusing on individual symptoms, it sees the way our body, mind and environment interconnect and takes these into account.
Integrative medicine is practiced by some professionals, and this involves bringing together Western medicine with complementary therapies in a coordinated way.
Integrative approaches to health may also be called holistic, with both having the same aims:
~ Treating you as a whole person, taking into account physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.
~ Encouraging self-care so you can feel empowered in your healthcare.
~ Using a range of therapies, finding the unique combination that works for you.
~ Treating more than just the symptoms. Integrative healthcare is about understanding any underlying causes for what’s happening and addressing them.
An integrative approach means recognizing that we are complex and multifaceted beings. For example, if you’re struggling with headaches and simply take a painkiller every time one pops up, you run the risk of it continuing. Speaking to a doctor to rule out physical causes, reflecting on any circumstantial or environmental factors that could be causing them, exploring different ways to reduce stress, examining how much water you’re drinking, noting if any foods trigger headaches… all of these things are examples of taking an integrative approach.
To help explain this further, it is useful to understand the seven dimensions of wellness.
The seven dimensions of wellness
When looking at holistic health, consider the following:
This dimension is all about our physical health and fitness. It encompasses exercise, physical activity, nutrition, hydration and anything else related to your physical body.
Emotional wellness looks at how we manage our emotions, how we express ourselves and the ways we navigate feelings.
The intellectual dimension is concerned with learning new skills, thinking in new ways and ongoing learning to feed our curiosity.
We are social beings, so it’s no surprise that social wellness is an important facet. This is all about the connections we have, how supported we feel and spending quality time with loved ones.
Spiritual wellness encourages us to seek purpose and meaning in our lives. Some ways people nurture their spiritual wellness include meditation, religion and time in nature.
Environmental wellness looks at our place on earth and how we can reduce our negative impact. This may mean learning more about green energy, picking up litter after a picnic or simply getting more in tune with nature.
This dimension is about using your skills in a way that brings you fulfilment. This may be in the workplace, through volunteering, hobbies or any other vocation.
How can I take an integrative approach to my health?
If working with doctors who practice integrative medicine is possible, this is a great place to start. If this isn’t possible, there are ways we can be more integrative about the way we approach health and wellbeing. It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. The beauty of integrative approaches is recognizing that we’re all unique in what we need to thrive.
Looking at the seven dimensions of wellness outlined above can be a great place to start. Are there any areas that you think could do with attention? Does anything feel out of balance to you right now?
Taking some time to look at the various components of integrative health can also help. This offers you ideas on the different approaches that could support you, giving you a guiding light on what to explore.
Here are some of the components to consider and you may notice that many align with the seven dimensions of wellness:
Nourishing our body in a balanced and varied way goes a long way in supporting overall health. This component may be as simple as eating more fruits and veggies, or as complex as exploring supplements and diets that support specific medical conditions.
Being physically fit can help us feel well. Finding activities that you enjoy can help you stay motivated here, so try a range and see how you feel, keeping in mind your personal circumstances. What is possible with your current schedule? Looking after your body with therapies like massage and osteopathy can also be incorporated here.
Mental and emotional health care
This could involve a range of approaches from talking therapies and hypnotherapy to self-help like journaling. The aim here is to take care of your mental health and feel better able to cope with difficult emotions.
Having strong relationships can help us feel more connected, less alone and ultimately, supported. This component may mean scheduling regular calls with family, taking time to see friends, even when life gets busy, or reaching out to your community.
Mind-body practices include things like meditation, yoga and Tai Chi. Generally, these are practices that focus on the connection between both body and mind, helping to reduce stress and understand how the way we think can impact the way we feel physically.
Complementary and alternative therapies
These therapies are often holistic by nature, so can be an excellent resource when taking an integrative approach to healthcare. Some therapies that fall under this umbrella include Reiki, acupuncture and reflexology.
As well as taking care of your environmental wellness by connecting with nature and being mindful of your ecological footprint, it’s important to remember how our environment affects us. What is your living space like? What environmental factors could be affecting your health?
What we’ve explored here is a guide to help you get started. It may seem complex at first, but essentially it’s just about stepping back and seeing your full picture of health. When we understand the different factors that impact our health and wellbeing, we can start to take a more integrative approach. Source: happiful.com
2) MOST DEMENTIA IS DRIVEN BY DIET, NOT GENES
In the days of Hippocrates, diseases were blamed on the gods. He didn't buy that and explored the causes of disease saying 'let food be thy medicine'. Nowadays a lot of diseases are being blamed on genes -- because knowledge about genes and their effects has advanced tremendously over the last several decades. Genes are the code, or instructions, to assemble proteins, for example to make an enzyme, a hormone or a biochemical such as cholesterol or phospholipids.
Take Alzheimer's, which accounts for two thirds of dementia, as an example. There are only three genes that can cause Alzheimer's (APP, PSEN1, PSEN2), and these account for considerably less than one in a hundred cases of Alzheimer's. There are, however, 76 other genes which appear to confer a very small additional risk. Taken together, estimates suggest that 75-85% of the risk can be explained by combining these into a polygenic risk score.
The single greatest predictor is the presence of the ApoE4 variant of the ApoE gene, carried by about one in five people. It is considered to contribute 4 to 6% of the absolute risk for Alzheimer's disease.
This is often exaggerated as a risk factor because, if a person has the ApoE4 gene, and changes nothing, they have about a 20% greater chance of developing Alzheimer's later in life than someone who doesn't. This is called 'relative risk'. It doesn't mean, however, that someone with the ApoE4 gene has a 20% chance of developing Alzheimer's. This is because, as an example, a person without the ApoE4 gene at a certain age might have a 5% chance of developing Alzheimer's, while someone with the ApoE4 gene might have a 6% chance, so their risk has gone up by, in this example, 20%. In absolute terms, the risk would be only 1% higher.
Predicting risk and actually reducing risk with modifications of diet and lifestyle are two different things. The predictive risk for Alzheimer's of having a low intake of seafood and/or omega-3 fats is 22%, and so is having a low intake of B vitamins resulting in a high blood homocysteine level.
Smoking confers a similar risk. Other big risk factors are an inactive lifestyle and low level of education. Add in predictive genes and apparent risk adds to well over 100% partly because there is overlap.
But the only way to find out how much you can actually reduce a person's risk by is to either conduct 'observational' studies looking at, e.g. smokers vs non-smokers, or people with a good versus a bad diet, and see how many develop dementia. Even better is to change something, such as looking at what happens when a person stops smoking, or supplements omega-3 fish oils or homocysteine lowering B vitamins.
Modifying ApoE4 with orthomolecular medicine
All these so-called Alzheimer's genes, with the exception of the causative ones, can only exert effects via non-genetic mechanisms and these mechanisms are often susceptible to modification with a person's nutrition having the most direct influence. In other words, gene variants that are present are not either active or inactive.
Even if you have a gene variant such as ApoE4 it is more like a dimmer switch and can be 'over-expressed' or 'down-regulated', turned up or dimmed down. That is why approximately half of women with the BRCA gene develop breast cancer and half don't.
The environment the gene is exposed to makes all the difference. The expression and harmful effects of the ApoE4 gene appear to be downregulated by eating a low-glycemic load (GL) diet or a more ketogenic diet with specific Mediterranean-style food choices including fatty fish, cruciferous vegetables, olive oil, and low alcohol consumption.
Six supplemental nutrients have reasonably good evidence of down-regulating ApoE4. These are omega-3 DHA, B vitamins (B2, B6, B12 and folate) vitamins D3 and K2, quercitin and resveratrol.
This approach to modifying the effects of the genes we inherit with personalized nutrition is a fundamental tenet of orthomolecular medicine, sometimes called personalized, precision or optimum nutrition.
But what happens to risk if a person is doing these things already? A good example of this is a recent study in China, involving 29,072 people of which 20% had the ApoE4 gene. Each participant had their diet and lifestyle assessed over the 10 year period of the study to see who would or wouldn't develop cognitive decline or dementia.
The study showed that whether or not a person had the ApoE4 'Alzheimer's gene' made no difference to the positive reduction in risk achievable by simple diet and lifestyle changes. "These results provide an optimistic outlook, as they suggest that although genetic risk is not modifiable, a combination of more healthy lifestyle factors is associated with a slower rate of memory decline, regardless of the genetic risk," wrote the study authors.
Eating a healthy diet was the most important prevention step, followed by an active lifestyle, with one's intellectual life, then physical activity, then social interactions being the next most important steps.
Eating a healthy diet was about twice as important as exercise in predicting cognitive decline. Those with a healthy diet were about seven times less likely to have age-related cognitive decline or dementia than those with an 'average' diet and about nine times less likely to develop dementia than those with an unfavorable diet.
The assessment of a healthy diet was based on intake of fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and tea, among other foods known to predict lower risk.
B vitamins modify methylation of genes linked to dementia
Other Alzheimer's related genes affect a process called methylation. Healthy methylation depends on adequate B vitamin intake, primarily B6, B12 and folate. Inheriting a variant of a key methylation gene, MTHFR 677TT increases risk for Alzheimer's. About one in three people have this gene variant. It impacts risk by raising homocysteine, a toxic amino acid that damages the brain and blood vessels. Having a raised homocysteine level increases risk for cerebrovascular dysfunction 17-fold.
Since methylation is needed to make phospholipids, biochemicals essential for the brain also found in eggs and fish, having a poor diet in this respect creates more methylation demand and, consequently, greater need for B vitamins.
In a placebo controlled study of older people with mild cognitive impairment, about a third of participants had the MTHFR variant that increases Alzheimer's risk. But supplementing with B vitamins effectively lowered homocysteine in both those with and without this 'Alzheimer's' gene. The B vitamin supplement almost arrested further memory decline and slowed the rate of brain shrinkage by 52%, reducing shrinkage of the Alzheimer's areas of the brain by 9-fold. Whether a person did or didn't have this 'Alzheimer's' gene made no difference to the beneficial effect of the B vitamins.
Those with adequate omega-3 blood levels had even less brain shrinkage - 73% less than the placebo group. Two other studies have found major protection either by giving B vitamins to those with adequate omega-3 intake, or by supplementing omega-3 to those with lower homocysteine levels further confirming that you need both B vitamins and omega-3 fats to keep neurons healthy - an example of synergy - regardless of one's genes. Whether a person did or didn't have the MTHFR variant made no significant difference.
Too often genes are blamed as drivers of disease even though (with the exception of rare causative genes) the primary drivers are what you put in your mouth or how you live your life - both factors under our control. For example, DNA genetic testing can cause panic when an individual is informed they have a dozen or more gene variants. Over-emphasizing the importance of genes discourages people from preventing their own disease by improving diet and lifestyle.
3) THESE FIVE DAILY HABITS CAN HELP CURB LATE-NIGHT CRAVINGS
While there's nothing wrong with having snacks and desserts, it's usually the time of day and missing mindfulness that makes this habit one to kick. Not only is eating late at night linked with poorer measures of metabolic health, but it could mean that something is off or lacking during your daytime routine. And curbing late-night snacking actually starts when you wake up.
We tapped two registered dietitians for their best tips on morning habits to help keep you satisfied during the day (and out of the pantry before bed):
1.Stay consistent with meals (& snacks) throughout the day
"The first thing I often recommend to keep evening cravings at bay is to remain consistent with other meals throughout the day," says Maeson Temple, RDN, L.D., CNSC. "Making sure to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner (or even an afternoon snack) will prevent an increased appetite later in the evening."
Days fill up quickly, and making time to eat a meal (let alone a balanced meal) can be challenging. Add on stressful situations, and those hormones may be enough to squash the desire for food1. Your appetite may tick up again once you've had a moment to breathe in the evening, which could have you reaching for convenient but high-calorie foods.
"When meals are skipped early in the day, some people feel an instinctual need to 'make up for' nutrients or calories missed earlier in the day, creating more cravings at night that seem out of balance," notes Temple.
Hubert even warns, "Don't try to eat as little as possible... It usually will lead to sabotaging you!"
2. Be intentional about your portion sizes — especially for protein
Not only is the consistency of meals important, but so is the makeup of those dishes. "A lot of times we end up overeating late at night because we simply just aren't eating right earlier in the day," emphasizes Lauren Hubert, M.S., R.D. That means eating balanced meals with plenty of protein and color on your plate."
And most people are consistently falling short on protein in particular. Protein has some powerfully satiating qualities2.
The absolute minimum protein recommendation for healthy adults is 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight a day. For someone weighing 150 pounds, that's about 55 grams daily.
But for optimal health and especially for building muscle, that recommendation bumps up to about 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight a day (equaling 109 to 150 grams of protein for that 150-pound person).
To simplify this math, Hubert recommends eating at least 20 grams of protein each meal, while some folks may need closer to 30 to 40 grams depending on how much they exercise.
Her favorite, easy protein sources include chicken breast, ground turkey, fish, Greek yogurt, tofu/soy products, and eggs (with extra egg whites).
3.Bump up your fiber intake
Continuing down the list with foods that keep you full and prevent hunger from accruing during the day is fiber.*
Fiber is another filling ingredient that about 95% of people 3aren't meeting the daily recommendation of 19 to 38 grams (depending on age and sex).
Fiber is a non-digestible part of carbohydrate foods (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables). It adds volume to the gut aka "bulk" to the gut that can make you physically feel full. And while we don't digest fibers, our gut microbes do. Soluble, prebiotic fibers feed the good bacteria residing in the gut microbiome that in turn produce beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFA).
The fermentation of guar bean fiber in particular produces more of the SCFA butyrate—which plays an important part in satiety hormone synthesis4—compared to other fibers.*
Whether eaten fresh or in a supplement powder—like mbg's organic fiber potency+—guar beans are a good source of soluble fiber to support healthy butyrate production and appetite regulation.*
4.Don't skimp on carbs
Sometimes, cravings are also your body's way of trying to tell you something and indicate a need for certain nutrients.
"Unfortunately, wires can get crossed and the body signaling a need for more glucose [sugar] can feel like a need to reach into the candy jar at night instead of trying some fruit or whole grain toast and other whole food items that will provide glucose to the body," says Temple.
Carbohydrate foods still often have a bad rap for promoting cravings or weight gain, and that's not the case—especially for complex, fiber-rich carbs.
5.Incorporate a sweet treat earlier in the day
And lastly, just changing up the timing of your dessert can help.
"I notice people tend to crave foods they consider 'bad' and that they try to avoid," says Hubert. "So when they get low blood sugar or they have that food in front of them, they cannot control themselves and end up overeating far more than if they mindfully included it in their diet consistently."
The solution? Consider making your treat (it could be a salty or crunchy one) into your regular daytime routine. If you have dessert after lunch, the protein and fiber from your meal should help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking and leave you full and satisfied until your next meal.
And the lack of hunger from eating consistent, balanced meals and snacks allows you to be more cognizant of the serving size of your treat—so you can have enough to please your taste buds while not overindulging.
Late-night snackiness often results from something going amiss in your diet during the day. Curbing these cravings really boils down to eating balanced meals and snacks—prioritizing protein and fiber—to keep your hunger at bay and your blood sugar balanced.
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This newsletter is for educational purposes only. It is your right to educate yourself in health and medical knowledge, to seek helpful information and make use of it for your own benefit, and for that of your family. You are the one responsible for your health. You must educate yourself in order to make decisions in all health matters. My views and advises are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medicine, but simply a help you to make educated changes in order to help your body heal itself. If you have a medical condition or concern you should consult your physician.
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