Most of you probably don’t know that for the last year I’ve been going back to school to study nutrition at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. I just graduated last month after my one year program, and am now a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach! I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog the past year as I switch gears to being more holistic health focused, but now I’m ready to come to you all with my top 10 takeaways from my nutrition program! I can only scratch the tip of the iceberg on a year-long program in one article, so let me know what you’d like to learn more about!
Top 10 Takeaways from My Nutrition Program
- Our medical system is designed to make profit, not make you healthy.
The first thing I want to say is a little bleak, but undoubtedly the most important point I can convey to you. While doctors and nurses mean well, our entire western medical system is designed to fail you. It’s bigger than doctors and nurses, it’s big pharmaceutical companies, politics, lobbyists, capitalism, marketing, etc. that don’t want you to get healthy because it means smaller profits for them. If the pills you’re prescribed actually healed you, you wouldn’t need refills, and then they wouldn’t make money. The whole system is designed to fail you, and we blindly trust it. What you’ve believed up until this point is not your fault, but now I hope this can help you wake up. Do your research- I don’t have nearly enough time to get into it all here.
Western medicine is excellent for some things, don’t get me wrong. If you have a broken leg or physical injury, please seek medical attention. Are there some diseases you can’t cure through food? Of course. What I’m referring to are the chronic ailments and diseases that you take prescribed medicine for long-term that can be reversed. This next sentence may shock you, but: our bodies are designed to heal themselves.
Would you believe me if I told you a change in your diet is all you need to heal yourself from depression, anxiety, asthma, acne, eczema, psoriasis, diabetes, arthritis, seasonal allergies, IBS, heart disease, Alzheimers, autoimmune diseases, PCOS, even some cancers, and many, many more common ailments? Because it’s true.
Up until a couple hundred years ago during industrialization, people died of things like viral and bacteria disease for thousands of years. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and all of the common causes of death now are all relatively new, and did not exist when people hunted, gardened, and foraged their own food. Now we eat manufactured food from boxes and die of horrible new diseases. Don’t even get me started on the garbage we’re fed nowadays that we think is “normal”. When you get a cut, the skin heals over eventually. Our bodies are designed to naturally heal themselves, but we aren’t told how to anymore. People would rather take a pill every day for the rest of their life than make a change to their diet and heal themselves. When you go to the doctor you get a prescription to treat the side effect, whether that be acne, IBS, depression, etc. They are just putting a bandaid on the real problem. The real problem, and the root of every single ailment listed above is our western diet. The real problem is inflammation. Cure your inflammation, cure your disease.
2. Inflammation is the real culprit behind most illness today
What is inflammation? Inflammation is part of your body’s defense system. Say you get a cut; inflammation is the swelling, redness, and pain that develops on the skin that will eventually repair and heal the cut. It’s so powerful that it’s incredibly healing, but incredibly destructive when in the wrong parts or when it doesn’t end. If inflammation persists and serves no healing purpose, then it creates disease, and this is precisely what I’m talking about. Our standard American diets are so inflammatory, that our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation and eventually will turn its defense system around on itself and start destroying you after enough time. We call these auto-immune diseases. Are genetics at play? Of course. However, we say that genetics loads the gun, but diet pulls the trigger.
All of these “age-related” diseases are actually just a result of chronic inflammation:
– Cardiovascular disease
Example: Aspirin is used for heart conditions because it’s an anti-inflammatory. Alzheimer’s begins as inflammation in the brain, which is why Ibuprofen has a preventative effect on Alzheimer’s disease. India has the lowest rate of Alzheimer’s disease in the world because Indian’s eat turmeric at every meal (the most potent anti-inflammatory in the world)
Factors that influence inflammation:
– Exposure to environmental toxins (ex: cigarette smoke)
The standard American diet is extremely inflammatory. Here are the top foods that cause inflammation:
– White bread, white flour
– Vegetable oil, canola oil, margarine, and soybean oil (check your labels- this is in EVERYTHING).
– Processed foods
– Olive oil
– Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa)
– Mediterranean diet
3. Happy gut, happy life
There are more neurons in your stomach than there are in your brain. In fact, your stomach has far more to do with controlling your body than your brain does! 70% of your immune system lives in your gut. Did you know 95% of your serotonin (the chemical that makes you happy) is found in your gut? It’s no surprise a crappy diet, medications, and antibiotics can wreak havoc on your mood. I could go on and on, (and you should research it) but I hope by now I have you convinced about the importance of gut health and its enormous impact on both your psychical and mental health.
Here are some things that have a negative impact on your gut health:
– Manufactured and processed food
– C-Sections (babies are exposed to their mother’s healthy bacteria during vaginal birth, but don’t during c-sections)
– Bottle fed vs. breastfeeding (babies are exposed to more beneficial bacteria from their mothers than formula fed babies)
How to improve your gut health:
– Whole foods and an unprocessed diet
– Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, yogurt, kefir
– Reduce intake of antibiotics through medicine and antibiotic-free meat
4. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet
You can probably get away with this before the age of 25, but not for long. Exercise is extremely important to overall health, but without the proper diet, you won’t achieve health inside and out. Health happens in the kitchen. Eventually, that long-term inflammation will catch up to you if you eat fast food, processed food, and packaged food.
5. Sugar is the literal devil
Sugar causes inflammation, makes you fat and makes you sick. Sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine, and it is in EVERYTHING. Companies want to make money, remember? So they sneak it into all your food and then you want to buy it again. I’m serious. Check your labels and you will be shocked. It’s even hiding in savory foods! Here are all the names that sugar hides under in labels:
- Agave nectar
- Barbados sugar
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
- Brown rice syrup
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice crystals
- Cane sugar
- Carob syrup
- Castor sugar
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystalline fructose
- Date sugar
- Demerara sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Evaporated cane juice
- Florida crystals
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Grape sugar
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Icing sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Muscovado sugar
- Organic raw sugar
- Raw sugar
- Refiner’s syrup
- Rice syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- Yellow sugar
6. You have to cook. Period.
You have no control over the inflammatory ingredients restaurants cook with or their portion sizes/ calorie counts. If you eat more meals out then you do at home, then you likely have or will have ailments and disease down the line. Learning how to read labels, shop for healthy ingredients, and cook simple, delicious, and nutritious meals is truly the only way to take control of your health. Even the Whole Foods hot bar uses inflammatory canola oil in most of their food. You can’t always trust “healthy” labeling and marketing. The only way is to make it yourself!
7. Health is about more than just food
Nutritious, anti-inflammatory foods are the first, big step towards a healthy life, but it’s not the only part of the equation. I don’t care how many kale smoothies you drink, but if you are in an abusive relationship, miserable, inactive, financially stressed, etc. you will never fully be healthy and healed. Health is holistic and includes more than just healthy foods. We must consider all of these aspects of life for a well-rounded, healthy being:
– physical activity
– home cooking
– home environment
– social life
8. There is no one-size-fits-all diet
We are all unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all miracle cure of a diet. You must take matters into your own hands and experiment with what works best for your body. Some people need more protein than others, some can tolerate gluten and dairy better than others, some do well on a vegan diet, and some feel better eating meat. Please respect that about yourselves and others while on the journey to find health. Find what works for you and it’s perfectly fine to respectfully disagree with a stranger on the internet or your family about what works best for you. What’s important is how you feel.
9. Mindfulness matters
Modern science is only beginning to understand what eastern medicine and esoteric tradition has long known: our mind is more powerful than we could ever imagine. We have the power to change the frequencies in our body using just the power of thought. Stress, panic, fear, hate, shame, and many other negative emotions also have a negative effect on your physical body and perpetuate disease, so why shouldn’t it work the other way around? Learn to meditate. Speak kindly to your body and to yourself. Take a moment to be grateful for the nutritious, bountiful food you consume. Healthy eating without a positive mindset won’t get you very far. When you can remove yourself from the constant state of “fight or flight”, panic and stress, anxiety, worry, etc. your body can finally enter a state of “rest and digest” to regenerate itself.
10. We have to take action
If I leave you at the end of this post with anything, I hope it’s that you need to take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing. No one else will do it for you, especially not the medical system. Educate yourself. Learn to cook. Start an organic garden in your yard or on your patio. Learn about the devastating farming practices that strip our soil of nutrients and make you even sicker. Be aware of marketing strategies companies use to trick you into buying their products. Read your labels. Take action against the appalling food our children are given at school for lunch. I hope to be the ripple effect that increases the health and happiness of you and your family.
If you’d like to learn more about the IIN program, please reach out! If you’d like to get more information about working with me as a health coach, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on instagram @allyscooking.