With the exception of the last five years, my child and adulthood did not include any thought as to what constitutes optimal health. I had of course heard of very bad diseases that I knew I did not have so I just continued on my merry way. Although I sometimes felt lousy with allergies, fatigue, light headed brain fog, I considered myself healthy. Today no more feeling lousy for me. As a naturopath for five years, I know the secret to harnessing optimal health. Being disease free is not the same as embracing optimal health. The secret is largely nutrition. Simple as that. But it is “out of the box” nutritional knowledge. For starters, if we thought of food as only nutrition, the word calorie could be wiped from our vocabulary. Counting calories is utterly useless. It is nutrition that tells the cells what to do.
A mild deficiency of nutrients will show no outwardly signs of disease but that does not mean there is enough nutrition to optimize cellular function. Optimizing cellular function is a new type of practice called functional medicine. The USDA current Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) table is the amount of nutrition we are told is sufficient. It uses data extracted from an outdated concept. This data is based on having enough of a certain nutrient to prevent certain diseases such as vitamin D to prevent rickets, folic acid to prevent anemia, vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Very unfortunate is this is also typically the extent of nutritional study even for MD’s. Mark Hyman, MD. states, “Doctors learn that vitamins are important to prevent deficiency diseases caused by a lack of specific vitamins and minerals, like scurvy or rickets. Too little vitamin C and you get scruvy. Too little vitamin D and you get rickets. Thats it. That is the extent of our nutritional learning.”
However there is a new concept emerging. Just because we have enough of a nutrient to prevent one of these deficiency diseases, we do not have enough nutrients to optimize cellular function. This lack in turn can lead to long latency deficiency diseases (diseases that take along time to manifest and are typically characterized as chronic). A strong understanding of how nutrition relates to cellular function is paramount to long lasting wellness and healthy aging. With a completed masters degree as a naturopath I understand how to optimize cellular health.
Since the human genome has been deciphered (early 2000) we now recognize that there is a biochemical variability within the population. Biochemical is the study of the processes of a living organism, the cell. These processes affect how our DNA “expresses” within our genes. Humans have approxmately 30,000 genes. Not much more than a common earth worm. What makes humans so unique is the 3 million subtle differences in our genes called single nucleotide polymorphism’s or SNP’s. As we all know these slight alterations in your genetic structure determine all your quirkiness. But what you may not know is they also create a unique biochemical need. In short, we are individuals and catalyze amino acids, enzymes (special proteins) vitamins and minerals differently. Where one lacks is unique to the individual. Where one supports in abundance is also unique to the individual.
Knowing I have a hereditary bio marker for alzheimers, I need to be certain my genes “express” themselves differently than my parents did. Among other things I have learned that my brain is only as healthy as my brain cell membranes. Cell membranes are made from a fatty acid omega 3, phospholipids, cholesterol and proteins (amino acids). But omega 3,s are the basic structure of our cell membrane. Neurotransmitters are amino acid messenger molecules that are situated on the cell membrane. Each brain cell has 40,000 of these messenger synapses (points of transmission). The brain has a 100 billion cells. That is a lot of work to do. The integrity of that cell membrane is imperative. It is unbelievable there is no DRI for omega 3 fat!
Nutritional medicine needs to come from whole organic food, grass fed meat, wild caught fish (not laden with toxins) and whole food live supplements such as herbs. Food needs to be grown and raised in rich organic soil and/or environment. Depleted mineral and pesticide loaded soil just does not cut it. In fact it adds to the disease paradigm. I know how to optimize cellular function with nutrition, stress reduction, and lifestyle changes. However,with a particularly difficult disorder, I will straight out recommend an MD that practices in functional medicine. Few MD’s are practicing, but one is able to locate a functional MD with a little digging. Functional MD,s (often called Integrative Doctors) recognize the genetic biochemical individuality and test to that. Therefore the blood lab tests and other diagnostics are completely different than the western biomedical doctors.
Source: Hyman,Mark.MD.(2009).Fixing your broken brain by healing your body first. Scribner,NY.