The complexity of nutrition

Nutrition is complex. I’ve now been writing health articles for over two years. Sure, a relatively short time, but one that’s involved a wide array of compelling projects from many different clients, proposing assignments from every corner of the globe. All striving to influence others’ lives in a positive way. Each helping to fuel my burning desire to create change.  What stands out to me most, is that nutrition is simply not black and white for everyday people. If the health world was a chess game, some of those claiming to be experts, seem to sit pretty as Kings and Queens, fear-mongering those who make poor food choices, while the laymen remain squirming little pawns, preferring to tune into TV advertisements promising quick health fixes, than to focus on their game plan.

Some days it can be easy to blame. To blame those that choose to eat all the upsized burgers, greasy fries and chocolate. But there’s a big element of lack of education and hidden truths.  I also find a lot of challenge in a predominately flawed Western medical system. A system that only deals with health at surface level. Where it aims to mask symptoms through magic little pills. And they do work. Almost too well. At least until thewestern medicine problem re-emerges and another layer of paint is needed to hide the cracks- by way of second, third, fourth prescription handout.

It creates a mammoth challenge in the changing of behaviour. A challenge big enough to engulf the entire health world. However, bit by bit, the walls of understanding are being broken down. Habits can be engrained for a lifetime and they can be very difficult to turn around, usually without a major life event, such as disease or sickness; to truly be shaken at heart level.

Slowly but surely, more and more Eastern approaches are being carefully intertwined into Western medicine, where the body is treated holistically, not as fragments of a whole.

I don’t hold any qualifications in nutrition, nor do I claim to be any fraction of an expert. Rather, I focus on bridging the gap between latest scientific findings around nutrition, surf lifestyleand the average Joe reading my articles.

I guess you could say that I “speak to experts”. Often health studies don’t make it into the public eye, rather they sit in the vault of medical journals. But these studies can be vital in putting your habits into perspective. I often find myself wading through multiple complex pages written in another language, a language of science, before reaching into my toolbox of words and finding ways to present jargon into bite-size pieces.

I’m deeply motivated to make changes in the way people go about their day in terms of their health and eating habits. I know first-hand how much energy can be obtained from beach girlsparticular food groups, and I want to spread that knowledge far and wide. Life’s too short to be dragging your feet around, viewing your days as hum-drum experiences full of must-do’s. Have you ever noticed someone on a sugar-high or caffeineed up to their eye balls on espresso shots? It’s a manic type of energy that usually has me walking a large circle around them.

One good place to start is in learning about a pH diet..Positive Health Wellness has a great chart here

I’ve seen health content making a difference. I mean the type where readers are inspired to make changes, no matter how small. Where they can paint a clear picture through captivating word form, of what a healthier lifestyle looks like. I can only hope that my work continues to feed that vision.

 

 

 

 

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Eastern v Western Medicine

The human body forever captivates me in all of its beauty to carry out its millions of functions, each and every day that you venture around this earth. It baffles me the commitment that the body has to keep someone ticking over, even when they completely abandon their health, poisoning themselves with cigarettes, alcohol and food that doesn’t deserve to even be called food. But the body can also hold a lot of darkness when it comes to disease.  When the body has had enough, it clearly lets you know. I felt this in what some might consider to be subtle, but nonetheless has opened my eyes more to my commitment to health and nutrition.  

One CT of my esophagus, a handful of blood tests, more radiation by way of a procedure in hospital, called a barium swallow, and a whole lot of worry, drew doctors to the diagnosis of acid reflux. Here I was thinking I was dying a slow death, when a sensation of something being stuck in my throat, sporadically occurred over the course of this year.throat.JPG While it ended up being a minor diagnosis, that’s very easily treatable with lifestyle changes, it still woke me up to take more care of my health. I imagine that other diseases on people have the same effect, although I know of many that still choose to ignore the warning signs.

East v West treatment

I very rarely go to visit a GP, perhaps once a year, at least when I’m not head butting reefs in the Philippines. I’ve been very fortunate to find a doctor that practices a blend of Eastern and Western Medicine. His name is Dr Ali and he loves Ayurvedic approaches, one of the most ancient medical systems in the world. It pre-dates Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine combined.

Dr Ali is happy to print me a script of antibiotics, but he’ll forewarn me that it’s a last resort approach, running through the various side effects, such as the destruction of good bacteria in my gut and increase in free-radicals. He will even go so far as handwriting traditional Chinese remedies, or supplements to take if I choose to be prescribed with the antibiotics, in a bid to counteract their damaging effects. The Eastern and Western divide can be described in the following extract from National Institutes of Health:

“Western medicine, while excelling at acute care and surgery, puts great emphasis on the chronic use of drugs to suppress the symptoms of illnesses. What is forgotten is that our bodies have a natural wisdom and intelligence; they have an intrinsic knowledge of how to grow, heal, maintain balance, restore homeostasis, and regenerate. Our bodies have evolved over aeons with these capabilities, but when they are suppressed, for example, when nutrition, exercise, and diet are not given adequate attention, or people ingest toxins, then “lifestyle-related” diseases including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease are much more likely to arise”.

Unfortunately, the divide between East and West has become all too much for Dr Ali and as he was helping me in my plan to tackle reflux, he told me he was taking off to Colorado in two weeks to study genetics as he’d had enough of the practice.

The Western Approach

I had requested blood tests of my own will, to rule out any issue with my thyroid and of course I was itching for the results. On the day of my appointment with Dr Ali, he had called in sick last minute, so I had to re-book with another unknown doctor.

Let me tell you, he was one of the coldest humans I had ever met. Even his white skinwestern medicine looked cold, as he pressed the dispenser of the antibacterial gel, that sat atop of his desk, lathering his hands in eliminate-all-bacteria, while his eyes glanced over my breasts and legs.

He remained expressionless, as he asked me why I had requested blood results for an issue with my throat. Before I could even answer, he found ways to talk over top of me. Scrolling through the results, he uninterestedly told me all my vitamin levels were fine and he couldn’t see anything worth concern. With a CT of my esophagus and blood tests showing nothing, I knew I had to book into the procedure in hospital.

The Eastern approach

After my results came back from hospital and I returned to the welcoming rooms of Dr Ali, the diagnosis of reflux was noted, but he also told me my blood tests were not great. My vitamin B and folic acid levels in particular, he described in his words as “ratsh*t”! On a running scale of worst to best, I had just made over the worst rating, which apparently was enough for the cold doctor to clear me of any concern. Something he had been taught in medical school Dr Ali mentioned.

The thing that shocked me most, was that the doctor had a discussion with Dr Ali asking chinese medicineif he had followed some particular code of practice, that again. had been taught in medical school in Australia. Dr Ali carrying over 30 years’ experience, in his unique blended approach and  practicing all over the world, mocked his colleague in his chest-puffing capabilities.

Dr Ali went back in the system and read the clinical notes of that doctor, from my visit to receive the blood test results. They were utterly appalling.  Any of the words that I managed to get out that day, throughout being cut, were recorded in the notes in quotation marks as if I was mad, and his final recommendation was to prescribe me psychotropics! Dr Ali laughed and said “well I won’t be doing that anytime soon”. My only guess is that as reflux can be triggered by stress and anxiety, this doctor’s approach was to prescribe me some anti-depressants! That shall fix the problem! I think I’ll stick to my yoga and meditation.

Holistic treatment

Of course a giant wave of relief washed over me as I found out that I was in fact, not dying. Relief turned into excitement in finding ways to better improve my already pretty good diet. The most uncanny aspect about the whole event, is that I’ve been writing health articles for a client on acid reflux for the past three months. I also had a gut instinct long before diagnosis to increase my vitamin B’s (being vegetarian) and had ordered PH test stripsnatural medicin for saliva months before.

Dr Ali handwrote his prescription of various supplements and Chinese Medicine that I could order to best treat my reflux. He also wittingly drew a map to the nearest fresh food market with the best raw treats in town.

It’s only been one week since I got my results, but I feel so full of life and energy, from mindfully increasing my intake of fresh fruit, vegetables from my garden, and Chinese teas containing a mixture of various healing plants and flowers. I’m yet to receive my supplements from an online order, but I think life will become even richer when I do.  I’m so proud of everything that I’ve learnt on holistic approaches to health over the years and everyone that has influenced that. Even though Dr Ali will be off overseas, on another journey and no longer there to guide me, I’m forever inspired to seek out alternative practitioners for any future health issues, and avoid prescription medications at all cost.

Better choices of probiotics

Recently I spoke to a friend about a house party I briefly showed up at and how I had only had two small 330ml bottles of Stones ginger beer. Those two small bottles held almost 60g of sugar as I later discovered. Of course this wasn’t to be found anywhere on the bottle, I had to search the internet. I wouldn’t consume that amount of sugar in many days let alone one sitting! She asked me if I had watched the documentary called That Sugar Film which I hadn’t but was inspired to do so that night. So I did.

People on this planet are growing sicker every day.

It’s a story of a completely healthy guy that gave up sugar but wanted to run quite a that sugar filmridiculous medical experiment to prove to others just how bad sugar is for your health. He went from no sugar in his diet to consuming the average Australian intake of a whopping 40 teaspoons a day. The aspect of the experiment that captivated me most was that the sugars had to be hidden sugars, such as those in breakfast cereals, juices and even savoury pasta sauces.

Within two weeks he developed fatty liver, his energy levels rapidly declined, his ability to focus completely decreased and was well on his way to a pretty dangerous health situation. After all, sugar is a very modern and foreign element of our lives as compared to our evolutionary past. Unfortunately, it’s become the norm to be in just about every food item in our supermarket.

Throughout the film I noticed common food products that I include in my diet but in moderation, as I always make sure I read the ingredient panel on the rear of the packet. However, I was a bit shocked to see him guzzling a milk probiotic supplement you might know as Yakult in Australia.

yakult

Here I was thinking I was taking control of my gut health with my daily probiotic intake, but really I was consuming 9g of sugar per tiny bottle. That’s over  two unnecesarry teaspoons. If anything that’s going to upset my gut balance not keep things in balance. Here are some other alternatives I’ll be indulging in once I use up the last of my Yakult supply in my fridge:

  • Pickles-Traditionally these include pickled cucumbers but any kind of pickled vegetables will boost your intake of probiotics. An easy ingredient to add to any salad.
  • Dark chocolate coated probiotic balls– it’s hard to go past dark chocolate in this convenient form and you only need one to three small balls per day.
  • Miso soup– A tasty form of probiotics you can sip on daily. Just be aware that one cup of miso soup includes 600-900mg of sodium so if you have a lot of other high sodium foods throughout the day, it’s better to keep a watchful eye on your intake.
  • Dark chocolate in general– aim for above 80% to get the highest intake of probiotics. Other great benefits of dark choc is that it’s an antioxidant rich food, great source of manganese and of course tastes great! It’s best in moderation though as you’re trying to lower sugar intake as much as possible!
  • Sauerkraut-One of the richest sources of probiotics and also a very affordable option. I wrote about the benefits of sauerkraut here.

As you can see there’s plenty of options available for alternatives to the cleverly marketed and convenient shot size bottles of Yakult. As Eastern practices are teaching us, health begins in the gut and we have to be sure we are looking after this balance for our overall vitality. Make it a daily habit to include probiotics somewhere throughout your day.

It is becoming increasingly clear that there are untold connections between our resident microbes and many aspects of physiology…” NCBI

 

Understanding Carbs

Are you looking at improving your overall energy and vitality? Do you want to surf for carbohydrates for healthlonger periods especially when you have back to back consistent swell? Whichever your needs and goals are, it’s important to understand the pivotal role that carbohydrates play within the body as carbs are your primary source of energy throughout the day.

Carbohydrates assist in the proper function of your nervous system, metabolism, brain function & clarity and muscle repair & growth.  When you consume  carbohydrates, the body then breaks it down into simple sugars and is absorbed through your bloodstream. The pancreas in turn releases insulin which is needed to transport the sugars from the bloodstream into your cells. It’s important to understand the difference between the two main types of digestible carbohydrates:

Simple Carbohydrates

  • Only contain one or two sugar molecules strung together.
  • Fuel the body for a short period of time, much like a sugar high. This can lead to subsequent consumption of takeaway foods or packaged foods as you are left unfulfilled.
  • Are often heavily processed such as candy, soft drink and cereals but are also naturally occurring in many fruits (the obvious healthier option!).

Complex carbohydrates

  • Contain complex and multiple chains of sugar molecules strung together.
  • Fuel the body for a longer period of time and are therefore the preferable type of carbohydrate to consume as you will be less likely to overindulge in other unhealthy foods.
  • Examples of foods which contain complex carbs are whole grain breads, nuts, legumes, nutritious vegetables, yoghurts and dairy products.

Why carbs are vital for high performance surfingwomens surfing

If you engage in high energy workouts or surf a lot, you probably are more habitual than most in monitoring your intake of carbs as you understand this to be a vital aspect of your training regime. This is particularly true if you wish to gain muscle or lose excess fat.

A diet which is moderate to high in complex carbs provides the energy to get through a workout. A bodybuilder’s diet in particular might combine a high intake of protein to assist in optimal muscle growth and recovery post workout. The higher your energy output, the more fuel (carbs) required.

Carbs and their link to weight loss

As a culture we are slowly beginning to understand that there is no “one size fits all diet” as our bodies are all unique, with different fitness goals and energy outputs, not to mention incredibly vast genetic structures. In saying that, it’s widely know that a diet high in carbohydrates combined with a lifestyle that is largely sedentary is closely linked to weight gain. This is also due to a high intake of fats, sugars and far too many refined foods

stripped of any trace of nutrient. Believe it or not, the Japanese have one of the highest intake of carbs globally, however still remain slender due to their low intake of saturated fats, sugars and refined products and a particular focus on complex carbs rather than simple carbs.

Often those that follow fad low carb diets for weight loss, find themselves low on energy. With careful observation of specific energy needs, it’s possible to reach a fine balance of just the right amount of carbs. We can all learn from the eating habits of Japanese as they have been touted to be one of the healthiest cultures in the world.

Is there an ideal time of the day to consume carbs?

Carbs are either used for energy or stored in the body, therefore you want to ensure everywomens surfing gram of carb you put into your body is going to be used. Consuming carbs late at night is often linked to weight gain for this very reason. The ideal time to consume carbs is at breakfast or lunch time in order for your body to burn through the carbs. However if you engage in high energy sports like surfing, you know to replenish your energy needs pre and post surf, regardless of the time of the day.

The main thing to remember is you don’t need to avoid carbs completely but rather to select nutrient dense, complex carbohydrates and to use them according to your energy output.