Saturday, September 24, 2016

8 Key Elements to a Well-Balanced Life: "N" is for...

"We are what we eat"

How many times have you heard this phrase before? Have you ever considered this when you take a bite of an apple? Do you want to be or feel fresh, alive, vibrant, and healthy? How about when you take a bite of a doughnut? Do you want to be or feel soft, squishy, sugary sweet, or sticky? 

Food is often at the center of our family and social gatherings and has become a source of entertainment for people. We are fortunate to live in a time in history and a society where most people have access to a myriad of food choices, from corner stores to big box bulk grocery stores, farmers markets and food trucks, fast food and gourmet restaurants, and we are able to enjoy an array of flavors and foods many different ethnicities. It is up to each one of us to make a choice with each and every bite that we take throughout our lifetime to determine how we feel and how we "are." 

Food is meant to serve as the "fuel" our bodies use to provide energy for our daily activities, to grow new cells, heal, and keep us alive and thriving.  Unfortunately, many humans make food choices based on taste or convenience rather than on nutrition. If we are eating the appropriate amount and type of real, live, whole food, our body will receive the necessary nutrients and minerals to go on moving, working and healing for decades. On the other hand, if we choose to eat processed, unnatural or chemical filled foods, we don't receive the adequate nutrients for our internal organs to properly perform their functions, and eventually the rest of our body (including our muscular system) suffers, creating unpleasant sensations, diseases, and even premature death. 

As a Physical Therapist and Muscle Specialist, I have worked with hundreds of clients who suffer from unpleasant sensations including pain and inflammation, and who have diagnoses, diseases or injuries for which they have needed surgery. For the past 5 years especially, I have been educating myself on the effect of certain foods on the human body, the conditions that can result from poor dietary choices and nutritional deficiencies, and how this can impact the overall healing process.  On a personal note, I have been "challenged" myself with some food sensitivities since childhood and am now on my own healing journey to overcome some auto-immune conditions. Although I am not a dietician or nutritionist, I am very passionate about nutrition and learning as much as I can to help my clients, my family, and myself feel better. I have read A LOT of books and articles over the years about nutrition, various diets and detoxes, and the common denominator for supporting health and wellness is to minimize "inflammation."  

Inflammation is a natural process in our bodies that occurs when we are injured or the presence of a "foreign invader" is sensed by the intricate sensory and immune systems. Acute inflammation is a normal part of the body's healing process. If the injury or invader continues to be present, chronic inflammation can result. Chronic inflammation is at the root of many ailments, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, auto-immune conditions, cancer, and more. If our gut lining is irritated from trying to digest inflammatory foods, the absorption of nutrients is compromised, and instead we absorb toxicity and other invaders that the body is usually able to fight off when the immune system is strong and not over-working.  

Many foods have been shown to have an inflammatory affect on the body. According to Organic Authority, the top 10 most inflammatory foods are gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, hydrogenated oils, fried foods,  refined sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed or packaged foods, and refined salt. Click here for the full article: Inflammatory Foods. Minimizing or eliminating the above mentioned offenders and eating an anti-inflammatory diet will help to optimize your health and well-being. 

I originally wanted to list the most important nutrients for your joints and muscles, but the list of nutrients was overwhelming and I didn't want to bore you with all the details. Instead, I found a great article on Dr. Mercola's website about the most common nutrient deficiencies and how to be sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs. For those of you who are interested in optimizing your body's nutrient load, click here for the full article: Nutrient Deficiencies 

Educating yourself on nutrition and making the best possible choices for you and your family will go a long way in helping you to live a well-balanced life. After all, we truly ARE what we eat. 

Keep Moving Well!