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Nutritional Therapy’s Foundations of Health

Nutritional therapy is based off of six important foundations of health:

  1. Nutrient-dense diet
  2. Digestion
  3. Blood sugar regulation
  4. Fatty acid balance
  5. Mineral balance
  6. Hydration

These six foundations of health can account for nearly all of those mysterious symptoms we struggle with, like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas, heartburn, feeling hangry, brittle hair and nails, fatigue, and so many more.

Let’s discuss the six foundations of health in more detail so you can see how truly important they are for our optimal health and wellbeing. I have also included three quick tips under each section so you can get started with your healing journey today with no obligation.

Attain Maximum Efficiency With a Nutrient-Dense Diet

Our bodies are beautiful, efficient machines that run on vitamins and minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrates. What you fill your plate with quite literally powers you, like gas in your car’s tank. Add anything else to your car’s gas tank and performance suffers or grinds to a halt. Your body is the same. It craves the nutrients it needs to thrive.

Every nutrient I mentioned above has a purpose. Carbohydrates provide a quick source of fuel for your brain and muscles, while healthy fats provide a slower burning source of energy and help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Proteins are the building blocks for your muscles, organs, and every tissue in your body. Vitamins play many crucial roles, such as acting as cofactors in metabolic processes, supporting tissue growth, powering digestion and elimination, and supporting your immune system. Minerals are your body’s spark plugs, acting as cofactors for the enzymes, regulating the pH of your blood, managing your hydration level, and providing structural support.

Nutritional Therapy's Foundations of Health | How to Nourish | @howtonourish

That said, you can see how important it is to choose foods that support your body’s amazing processes. Would your car run more efficiently on gas from the pump at your local station, or dirt-filled gas you scooped out of the gutter? Your body is the same. Efficiency requires real, whole, nutrient-dense foods over processed foods with lots of fillers and lacking in nutrients.

Three quick tips for choosing nutrient-dense foods:

  • Consume whole foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. This means real meats, whole fruits and vegetables, unprocessed grains and legumes, and organic whenever possible. Choose seasonal and local produce if it’s an option. Farmer’s markets make this really easy, but even big box stores like Kroger and Walmart typically have plentiful selections of real foods.
  • If you eat grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds, make sure they are properly prepared before consuming. All should be soaked or sprouted before consuming to deactivate the phytonutrients and maximize bioavailability of vitamins and minerals. Look up traditional methods for the best results!
  • Do the best you can to buy your produce organic. Buy meats, diary, and eggs organic and pasture-raised or 100% grass-fed. Vote for healthy foods with your dollar whenever you can so these foods become more affordable and easier to find.

Support Every Cell With Healthy Digestion

Many people think of their digestive system as simply a food tube, and to some degree that is true. In goes the food and out comes the waste. But did you know that digestion actually begins in the brain?

The body’s nervous system kicks off digestion by taking in the smell, sight, sounds, or thought of food. Think about how enjoyable a meal is when you cook it, savoring the smells and thinking the whole time about how delicious it will be. Then think about how enjoyable a meal is when you purchase it pre-made and packaged from a store. It might taste good, but it’s not nearly as alluring or delectable.

As your food enters your mouth, it is mixed with saliva to begin the digestion process, then off it goes to your stomach to mingle with digestive enzymes and juices that break down that food into teeny tiny bits for absorption. Down it goes now through the small intestine where most of the nutrient particles are taken up into your bloodstream to serve out their lives nourishing your cells. The yummy fiber sweeps on through your large intestine to scrub it and water is absorbed to hydrate your body.

The harmony of this process is key to overall health because without optimal digestion you cannot absorb and distribute all those beautiful nutrients in your meals. We must be in “rest and digest” mode, a parasympathetic state, for our digestion to work properly.

Three quick tips for supporting healthy digestion:

  • Sit down to eat, take a few deep breaths, and smile before taking your first bite. This allows your body to switch into parasympathetic mode for optimal digestive function.
  • Chew each bite of food 15-30 times until it is the consistency of a smoothie. This allows food to break down small enough for proper digestion in the stomach, and starts the digestive process by mixing thoroughly with your saliva. It also gives you time to savor each bite for a more satiating meal.
  • Add foods with bitter flavors to each meal or begin with a bitter tonic to prime your digestive tract and stimulate hormone release to get your gallbladder and pancreas in on the digestive action.

Decrease Stress With Balanced Blood Sugar

Our bodies have two states: fed and fasted. In both states, our cells are utilizing glucose (otherwise known as “blood sugar”) to create energy our bodies need to move and thrive. When fed we are getting that glucose from our food, and when we are fasted we are getting it from storage in our muscles, liver, and fat cells.

This is a really fantastic system our body has to ensure our survival, but in our modern world it can easily falter due to our over-processed, high-sugar standard American diets, lack of sleep, and abundance of stress.

Did you know that your body cannot determine the difference between the stress of sitting in traffic on your way home and being chased by a bear? To your system that stress is the same, and it sets off a series of actions within your body to help you deal with that stress in the only way it knows how – getting you ready to either fight the stressor or run away from it.

Food also has the ability to set off a stress response and activate the “blood sugar rollercoaster” that keeps your blood sugar bouncing up and down all day. This often starts in the morning with our sweetened coffee after a night of poor sleep and a bowl of cereal before running out the door to work. This high-sugar, low protein and fats breakfast causes our blood sugar to skyrocket, which triggers our insulin response to quickly drop it back down.

This is a great system, but insulin often has to work so hard that it overshoots, dropping your blood sugar too low and causing our typical 2pm energy crash, which requires a snack or another cup of coffee.

The good news? This is completely avoidable with just a few tweaks to our routines. Our blood sugar regulation system is designed to work very efficiently, and it does bounce back with some TLC.

Three quick tips for supporting healthy blood sugar regulation:

  • Take steps to minimize your chronic stressors and maximize your daily movement. Stress is a huge player in dysfunctional blood sugar regulation, but movement can help. Schedule movement into your calendar if you need to. It is that important!
  • Structure your meals for your blood sugar. Whole, nutrient-dense, properly prepared foods are key. Eat your veggies first, then your proteins and fats, and save your sweets and high-carb treats for last.
  • Start your day with a savory breakfast. This sets your blood sugar up for success immediately so that you can make better choices throughout the day to stay off the blood sugar roller coaster. Save your coffee for after breakfast to avoid the spike of stress hormones it can cause on an empty stomach.

Regulate Inflammation With Essential Fatty Acids

Fats have gotten a bad rap in the past. They’ve been blamed for making us “fat” – it’s literally in the name, right? But the good news is that healthy fats actually don’t make us fat! Including a wide range of traditional fats in your diet is key for…

– Providing your body with a slow-burning source of energy. Carbohydrates are great for the type of quick-burning fuel we need right before a long distance run, but fats will keep you going long past the time the carbs burn out. Think of carbs as the kindling for a bonfire, and fats are the big thick logs that burn for hours.

– Increase both satiety and satisfaction of your meals. Once fats begin digesting, your brain is signaled to trigger you to feel full. Fats also make meals taste vastly better. Think butter on toast, egg yolks in an omelet, avocado on anything. Low-fat dieters often end up eating more or feeling hungry and deprived throughout the day for these reasons.

Nutritional Therapy's Foundations of Health | How to Nourish | @howtonourish

– Healthy fats have two other really important jobs within the body The first is to aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Without these vitamins, many processes in the body cannot work optimally. The second is to regulate our body’s natural inflammatory process. This is what brings immune cells to an injury for healing, then removes them to repair the injury. It is also the process that can go haywire when adequate fats are not consumed, causing chronic inflammation and often joint pain and stiffness.

Ensuring we eat a good balance of healthy fats every day can improve so much about our diets and overall health.

Three quick tips for supporting healthy fatty acid balance:

  • Eat a wide range of healthy, traditional fats during your day to support your body’s natural inflammatory cycle. If your ancestors ate it, you more than likely should also. Nutrient-dense options include egg yolks, raw dairy, grass-fed butter, flax seeds, walnuts, help seeds, pumpkin seeds, and avocado.
  • Ditch hydrogenated and industrial oils. If your ancestors couldn’t make it at home, they shouldn’t be in your kitchen. This includes “vegetable” oils, canola oil, soybean oil, and corn oil. Swap them out for healthier cooking oils like unadulterated animal fats (tallow and lard), extra-virgin olive oil, or seed oils packaged in dark bottles and found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.
  • Chew your food really well. Remember the smoothie consistency from earlier when we talked about digestion? It is so important! Chewing your fats sends a signal to your brain that your body will need to digest fats during this meal.

Survive & Thrive With All the Minerals

Minerals compose about 4% of our body, but we cannot produce them. We must obtain them through our food and water by eating a mineral-rich diet containing both macrominerals and trace minerals. Minerals have all sorts of functions in the body, from building our bones to moving nutrients into and out of our cells, and even regulating our nerve and muscle function.

The best part? It is possible to get these minerals through our diets, and if supplementation is necessary there are some great whole-food supplements on the market.

These five minerals are integral to our wellbeing:

Zinc is the second most abundant trace minerals in the body. Oysters are the best source, but if you are not tolerant of shellfish you can also find it in red meat and chicken. It is difficult to absorb zinc from plant sources due to the phytic acid in some plants, so if you are vegan supplementation may be necessary.

Iodine is critical for the production of thyroid hormones. It can be consumed easily in seaweed, shellfish and fish, cow’s milk, and eggs. Iodized salt also provides dietary iodine so consuming it occasionally if you cannot get it elsewhere can be beneficial. Sea salt is recommended as the primary salt for the trace minerals it contains.

Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency, however supplementing can be toxic. The best way to improve iron levels is to consume a mix of animal and plant sources, such as red meat, shellfish, nuts, dried fruits, cooked spinach, and soaked black beans or split peas. Improve the rate of iron’s absorption by consuming with vitamin C-rich foods like chili peppers or citrus fruits. Cooking in a cast iron skillet can also improve iron levels.

Magnesium is incredibly important for many bodily processes, but most of us are deficient due to chronic stressors and processed sugars. It can be consumed in salmon, milk, pumpkin seeds, almonds and cashews, avocados, yogurt, dark chocolate, and soaked black beans. If you are having issues with anxiety, low mood, fatigue, or muscle cramps, consider having your magnesium levels checked and adding a daily supplement to your regimen.

Calcium is vital to the health of your bones and teeth, and inadequate intake or absorption can lead to poor bone health and osteoporosis. Most of us get enough dietary calcium through dairy, fish and shellfish, seeds, nuts, and citrus fruits, but we are not absorbing it well due to poor digestive function and inadequate consumption of healthy fats. Work on both before adding a calcium supplement to your regimen.

Three quick tips for supporting healthy mineral balance:

  • Chew your food. Have I said this before? It’s that important! Chewing primes your digestive process, breaks down your food so the minerals and vitamins are more easily accessed, and helps your body break down and absorb the nutrients your food. If you’re going to eat it, make sure your body can use it.
  • Hydrate your body effectively. Drink water throughout the day and add a pinch of mineral-rich sea salt to each glass. Just a small pinch is enough to add electrolyte minerals to your water that help your body absorb and utilize it.
  • Get some sun on your bare skin every single day. You only need 15-30 minutes between 10am and 2pm to get enough vitamin D. This helps to increase absorption of your dietary calcium so your bones don’t need to sacrifice their precious stores by breaking themselves down.

Reach Peak Performance With Optimal Hydration

Water makes up 55-60% of our total body mass. In an average adult, that equates to 10 to 13 gallons. It’s crazy to think that, even with this much water in our bodies, most Americans are in a chronic state of dehydration.

Dehydration shows up in many sneaky ways, the most common symptom being fatigue. Other symptoms include dry mouth, cravings, muscle cramps, anxiety, and headaches. Symptoms of more severe hydration can even include heartburn, joint and back pain, constipation, and exercise-induced asthma. If you can’t seem to catch your breath after movement, you might be dehydrated!

Nutritional Therapy's Foundations of Health | How to Nourish | @howtonourish

Water serves so many important functions in the body, like regulating your body temperature, flushing out toxins, empowering your body’s natural healing processes, and helping along your digestive process. Without water, we truly cannot work well.

Not all water is created equal, though. If you are drinking unfiltered tap water or bottled water lacking electrolyte minerals, you may not be effectively hydrating. Take care to drink filtered tap water or bottled spring water for the best quality water sources. Add in some minerals to help your body utilize the water you drink, otherwise it goes right through you.

Three quick tips for supporting optimal hydration:

  • Drink water when you’re thirsty. It may take some time to learn your body’s signals for thirst if you have been suppressing them, and this is more common than you think. If it’s helpful, set a timer for every waking hour that reminds you to check in with your body. Are you feeling thirsty? Are you craving a snack? If yes, drink some water before moving on.
  • Add a pinch of mineral-rich sea salt or trace minerals drops to every glass of water. I like to bounce between the two for adequate hydration. I love the light grey Celtic sea salt from Selina Naturally and the Trace Minerals Research ConcenTrace drops, just take care to read the label for adequate dosing instructions.
  • Make hydration easier! Have a large glass of water first thing upon waking to set the tone for your day. Consider splurging on a reusable water bottle you love and keep it with you throughout the day. Set a daily ounces goal for yourself and see if you can reach it. There are lots of habit tracker apps that are wonderful for this.

Now that you have some quick tips on hand for supporting the foundation of health, get started! Begin with your favorite one and branch out from there. It’s okay if you can’t start them all today — it’s about progress, not perfection.

Ready for more tips? Start working with me today for a personalized plan based on your individual needs.

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