You are what you eat… and you aren’t what you don’t. As discussed in “What Are Mitochondria,” nutrients act as the catalyst that drive the ability and efficiency of overall Mitochondrial function in creating ATP-energy.
Although supplementation is addressed as an important part of gaining vital nutrients, the priority should be to gain as much nutrition as possible from natural, whole foods. However, overall availability of nutrients in food sources has diminished over the years. Seed type and variety, soil conditions, farming practices, weather and other environmental conditions, harvesting and handling techniques are just a few factors that influence the nutritional content of our food today. Other aspects, such as pesticide use, processing and product conditioning can also affect the body’s ability to absorb and utilize certain nutrients.
WHAT IS A HEALTH DIET?
YOU MAY BE SHOCKED
When addressing personal nutritional goals, it is important to educate yourself on what truly is healthy. We have experienced nearly a half-century of inaccurate and detrimental recommendations made by organizations such as the USDA and the medical community. These recommendations were based on information that was reported as fact-based evidence but has turned out to be unsubstantiated leaped to conclusions without a full understanding of the nature of preliminary findings. These dietary recommendations have wreaked havoc on our health and have been referred to as the largest nutritional experiment in history. Did you know:
- The fat you consume is not the same fat that accumulates in the body. Body fat accumulation occurs through conversion of excess (unused) glucose via insulin. High carbohydrate (carb) consumption is the leading contributor of excess blood glucose and thus fat accumulation.
- Not all carbs are created equally. Quantity of carb intake is important, but so is the quality of the carbs. High fiber carbs are beneficial to proper digestion and may also provide positive benefits against heart disease, diabetes and obesity. However, high glycemic index carbs (simple carbs) serve no such purpose, often providing little to no nutritional value in exchange for an increased risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, liver disease, brain disorders, Alzheimer’s and any other inflammatory based disease.
- Healthy fats, even some forms of saturated fats, are actually good for you. Fats play an important role in energy production, especially in high energy organs such as the heart, brain and liver where fat is the preferred energy source. Fat is also converted into glucose on an as needed basis, avoiding blood sugar spikes that trigger body fat accumulation, high cholesterol, and inflammation. In fact, the latest research (published in May 2015) shows that “nutrients from a High Fat Diet (HFD) appear to reverse metabolic imbalance…. and improves Mitochondrial function.”
- Sodium is an essential nutrient. Sodium helps maintain proper electrolyte and fluid balance, is necessary to generate nerve impulses and allow nerves to communicate effectively and stimulate smooth and consistent muscle contractions (especially important to proper heart activity). Sodium plays an important role in digestion and cellular metabolism. It is beneficial for the proper function of the liver, spleen and pancreas and in helping remove toxins from the body. It can also assist in preventing blood clots and in keeping joints hydrated and limber. Furthermore, Iodized salt is the leading dietary source of essential Iodine. “Sodium” in a product is not required to be Iodized and, because it is cheaper, often is not. Therefore, those on low-sodium diets are often Iodine deficient as well.
- Cholesterol can actually contribute to your health. And like the misconception about fat discussed above, the cholesterol you consume is not necessarily the bad cholesterol showing up in labs that doctors are warning us about. (See Dr. Volek’s video below.) Furthermore, adequate levels of Cholesterol are required in order to produce the invaluable hormone Testosterone (especially important for men’s health but also important to women’s health). In fact, Testosterone is directly converted from Cholesterol.
WHAT WE THOUGHT WE KNEW…. WHAT WE KNOW NOW
In the 1960’s, the U.S. plight of poverty and associated hunger and malnutrition came to the forefront. In 1964 during his State of the Union address, President Lyndon Johnson declared a “War on Poverty,” focusing more specifically on a “War on Hunger” with the signing of the Food for Peace Act of 1966. Following the McGovern Report in 1977, the USDA put out official government guidelines for what was considered a “heart health” diet.
The following video on “The McGovern Report” describes, somewhat comically, how the USDA recommendations came into existence (2 min, 11 sec).
“Dr. Sarah Hallberg is Medical Director of the Medically Supervised Weight Loss Program at Indiana University Health Arnett. She is board certified in both obesity medicine and internal medicine and has a Master’s Degree in Exercise Physiology…. Her program has consistently exceeded national benchmarks for weight loss, and has been highly successful in reversing diabetes and other metabolic diseases.”
To learn how following USDA dietary guidelines is sabotaging not only your weight goals but also your overall health, watch Dr. Hallberg’s TEDx video, “Reversing Type 2 Diabetes Starts with Ignoring the Guidelines” (18 min, 11 sec).
Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., R.D. specializes in exercise, athletic performance and nutrition. His interest in low carbohydrate diets began in the early 90’s and he has spent the last 15 years researching low carb / ketogenic diets and cholesterol metabolism.
In “How Your Blood Panel Values Respond to a Ketogenic Diet,” Dr. Volek addresses the latest research revealing the difference between consumed and internally produced cholesterol and interpreting the true meaning of lab values in regards to health (32 min, 14 sec).
In “Why We Get Fat,” Gary Taubes provides an in-depth discussion on how dietary guidelines went wrong; breaking down the history of fatal flaws in the so-called science of diet and nutrition (1 hr, 10 min, 40 sec).
ASPECTS AFFECTING NUTRITION
GASTROINTESTINAL (GI) ISSUES: Sometimes you may be doing all you can to provide essential nutrients and still coming up short. GI issues may be driving the continued deficiency by reducing the ability to absorb and utilize nutrients regardless of the level of intake. Indigestion and heartburn, diarrhea, constipation or symptoms associated with Irritable Bowel Syndrome are all indications of possible GI dysfunction that could be affecting the digestive process. Normalizing and improving GI function is vital to ensuring proper nutritional support.
PROBIOTICS: A balanced gut that includes healthy, digestive bacteria called probiotics helps to ensure the proper digestion of the food we eat. It also increases GI-based immune function, can help prevent urinary infections and keep yeast in check. Eating healthy can help contribute to a balanced gut. Food based probiotic sources include pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi and other fermented vegetables; yogurt, kefir, poi, miso soup, and microalgae powder that can be added to smoothies. However, probiotics can be reduced to unhealthy levels through exposure to substances that are capable of damaging bacteria. These include antibiotics, steroids, birth control and other hormone-based drugs, radiation and hyperbaric therapy, additives and preservatives, carbonated beverages, coffee, and toxins such as flouride and chlorine. Rapid replenishment of probiotics is easily accomplished through the addition of a high quality probiotic supplement with high levels of multi-strain bacteria. Since probiotics are “live” bacteria, the better options generally require refrigeration and are in dark or opaque containers.
PREBIOTICS: Prebiotics provide necessary elements to feed Probiotics and keep them healthy. Prebiotics are found in fibrous carbohydrates (NOT simple, high glycemic index carbs). These sources include garlic, onions, leeks and root vegetables; apples, bananas, asparagus, beans and legumes.
GI DIGESTIVE INEFFICIENCY: There are several conditions that can affect the efficiency of the GI system.
- Food and/or supplements may not be well tolerated, perhaps due to issues involving chewing, swallowing or excessive stomach upset.
- Symptoms of malnourishment may persist despite a healthy diet and supplementation, indicating a possible issue with digestion and/or absorption. Enzymatic deficiencies, such as those caused by Pancreatic Enzyme Insufficiency, can have a devastating impact on the ability to digest and absorb key nutrients essential to health. However, both pharmacologic and over the counter enzymatic supplementation can greatly improve digestion in the vast number of people who suffer from this condition.
- Conditions that effect the body’s ability to breakdown and / or utilize certain nutrients. An example of this is Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorder (prevents the body from utilizing fats). Sometimes elimination of the food / nutrient from the diet is the only option. However, these types of issues can have different causes that need to be fully vetted to determine whether the condition is treatable verses completely eliminating a vital nutrient source.
- Conditions such as Crohn’s, Colitis or Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome and Short Bowel Syndrome can affect the overall function of the GI system and have devastating consequences to general health.
- Other diseases and disorders that impair GI function, including Mito and other situations that cause a persistent state of “fight or flight” that can also impair digestive function.
- Injury, trauma or surgery affecting the GI system.
In these cases, more aggressive steps may be necessary to ensure essential nutrients are available for the body to use. This goes beyond merely contributing to daily caloric intake and must provide adequate levels of essential nutrients. These efforts may include one or more of the following: pureeing food, supplementing oral nutrition with liquid nutrient-rich drinks/shakes, liquefying and/or juicing high nutrient food, Non-Caloric Nutritional IV Therapy, tube feeding, PICC Line / Total Parenteral Nutrition.
Recipes for Digestive and GI Related Issues
THINGS TO INCLUDE / THINGS TO EXCLUDE
DIETARY FOODS TO INCLUDE: The following nutrients should be, if at all possible, included in a healthy diet.
NUCLEOSIDE/TIDE RICH FOODS:
ADENINE: Adenine was previously considered one of three distinct chemical compounds (Adenine, Carnitine & Choline) formerly referred to as Vitamin B4. Carnitine and Choline can be isolated; however, there is no known natural or artificial “supplement” for Adenine. Therefore, Adenine must be derived from food sources and, since it is water soluble, it must be contributed to the diet daily. When combined with Ribose, Adenine is transformed into Adenosine, a critical component in production of ATP-energy (Adenosine Triphosphate). Other vital functions include assisting in the formation and integrity of DNA and RNA and boosting immune system function. Adenine also acts as a co-enzyme in other energy related functions, directly contributing to the formation of the high energy molecules NADH (from NAD+) when combined with Niacin (Vitamin B3) and FADH2 when combined with Riboflavin (Vitamin B2).
DIETARY SOURCES: Rose hips, kelp, spearmint, golden seal and GINGER (which is also vitally important). Though whole grains can also provide Adenine, this source should be avoided or used sparingly if you have determined you have issues with gluten, or feel better on a low- or no gluten diet. RAW HONEY (local, unpasteurized) is an excellent source of Adenine. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also excellent ways to get daily Adenine. Among the richest sources of B vitamins, including Adenine, are apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables and seeds. Maybe an apple a day really can help keep the doctor away.
CARNITINE: Carnitine is not considered an “essential nutrient” because the body can synthesis this amino acid from an adequate intake of a combination of Lysine and Methionine. However, there are some metabolic disorders that can block this process, thus requiring consumption of Carnitine directly. Carnitine is vital in supporting Mito / metabolic, cardio and cognitive health through multiple actions. It is essential in the breakdown of fats/lipids for use as energy and in shuttling fatty acids into and toxin metabolites out of Mitochondria, working synergistically with CoQ10 and Essential Fatty Acids. It is protective for cell membranes and is an overall excellent antioxidant. It may also reduce fatigue during exertion by protecting against lactic acid build-up. Studies show Carnitine can also assist in increasing bone mineral density. New research shows it may also assist in regulating and/or preventing hyperthyroidism. Carnitine via supplementation is absorbed passively at approx. 14-18%. Carnitine consumed from dietary sources is absorbed at between 54-87%. Therefore, dietary intake is preferred over supplementation.
DIETARY SOURCES: The highest source of Carnitine is in red meat (80mg per 100g serving), particularly lamb (95mg per 100g). Other meat sources provide much less including cod (5.6mg per 100g) and chicken breast (3.9mg per 100g). Dairy, particularly whole milk, can offer 3.3mg per 100mL. With the exception of avocados (2mg per 1 medium fruit), plant-based sources do not provide substantial levels. Remember that an increased intake of both Lysine and Methionine can also increase Carnitine levels.
CHOLINE: Choline is another water soluble essential nutrient. It is key to building and maintaining healthy cellular membranes. When combined with Acetyl-CoEnzyme A (Acetyl-CoA), Choline becomes Acetylcholine (ACh), a neurotransmitter that serves several important roles in the autonomic nervous system (peripheral, central and somatic nervous systems). Physiologically, ACh helps to regulate and slow heart rate, activates the process associated with skeletal muscle contraction, stimulates release of norepinephrine during the adrenaline response and aids in proper sweat response. Neurological effects are widespread and include promoting REM sleep, increasing brain plasticity and learning potential, reducing effects of memory disturbances associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and reduced symptoms associated with depression. ACh also acts in the arousal and reward portion of the brain, has been shown to improve cortex processing of various visual, auditory and somatosensory stimuli, and sustaining attention. Choline deficiency can quickly result in impaired liver function, increased inflammatory markers and associated DNA damage, Metabolic Syndrome, insulin resistance and elevated triglycerides.
DIETARY SOURCES: Eggs are the best source of Choline (specifically the yolks, however, eating the whole egg is nutritionally best as the egg white contains Methionine), dairy (fresh milk, yogurt and kefir), cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy and broccoli), shiitake mushrooms, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds, legumes (garbanzo beans, lima beans and lentils), beef liver & kidneys, fish eggs (caviar), cod, salmon and chicken livers.
LYSINE: Lysine is an essential amino acid and building block of protein. The body can use Lysine and Methionine to synthesis Carnitine. Lysine-acetyl has been identified in Mitochondria and appear to regulate gene expression, signaling, and antioxidant defense mechanisms; and to modify cellular respiration, ATP production and apoptosis. Research is being done on possible therapeutic benefits of Lysine in neurodegeneration. It improves calcium absorption and also plays an important role in the production and stabilization of elastin and collagen; fighting osteoporosis and supporting connective tissues such as skin, cartilage, discs, ligaments and tendons. Due to its effect on protein synthesis, Lysine can help improve muscle tissue repair post-exertion. Lysine deficiency can cause agitation, anemia, fatigue, dizziness, nausea and loss of appetite, slow growth, and reproductive disorders.
DIETARY SOURCES: Chicken and turkey breast meat is highest in lysine. Other sources include tuna, cod, tilapia, snapper, shrimp, lobster, crab, sardines, pork (tenderloin) and cured ham, deer / game meat (lean cuts), beef (lean cuts) and whole eggs.
METHIONINE: Methionine is an essential sulfur-containing amino acid and building block of protein. The body can use Methionine and Lysine to synthesis Carnitine. Methionine is a critical precursor to S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe), created through bonding with ATP (Cysteine, B12 and Folate are also used in the SAMe cycle and deficiency of these nutrients is linked to reduced SAMe levels). SAMe is a crucial compound found in nearly every tissue and fluid of the body. SAMe regulates gene expression and influences fetal development, improves immune system function, supports proper blood glucose utilization and protects cellular fatty membranes. SAMe plays an important role in brain function by synthesizing and regulating multiple hormones and neurotransmitters such as adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin and melatonin and is being studied for its effects on depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s. SAMe assists in cartilage repair and has an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effect; being studied now as a treatment for osteoarthritis. Promising research also shows its benefits in treating medication or alcoholism induced chronic liver disease. Other research is looking at the ability of SAMe to inhibit cancer tumor cells.
DIETARY SOURCES: Eggs are the best source of Methionine (specifically egg whites, however, eating the whole egg is nutritionally best as the egg yolk contains Choline), chicken and turkey breast meat, tuna, cod, lobster, crab, swordfish, deer / game meat (lean cuts), beef (lean cuts) and pork (tenderloin).
DIETARY FOODS TO EXCLUDE: The following food-types and additives should be limited or avoided.
HIGH SUGAR & HIGH GLYCEMIC INDEX FOODS: High and/or unstable blood glucose levels contribute a huge burden on the body’s ability to function on multiple levels; impairing everything from brain function to ATP production and overall oxidative stress load and can lead to increased inflammation, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Consider avoiding extracted and/or processed forms of sugar, high sugar / carbohydrate foods and high glycemic index foods (simple carbs such as processed foods, rice, pasta, bread and other flour-containing products that can quickly raise blood sugar). (See Yudkin, John. Pure, White, and Deadly: How Sugar Is Killing Us and What We Can Do to Stop It.)
GLUTEN: Even if you don’t have Celiac Disease or other gluten sensitivity, should you avoid gluten? New research indicates that everyone may have an inflammatory response to gluten, it’s just a matter of how much of a response YOU have. Some people can consume gluten with little to no appreciable effect while others experience a noticeable difference. How can you tell to what extent gluten affects you? Exclude all gluten from your diet for 2 to 3 weeks and then reintroduce it. You will know gluten’s effects by the end of the day. The inflammatory response can most often manifest as intestinal upset and/or swelling or achy joints. William Davis, M.D., author of “Wheat Belly” gives a comprehensive presentation on gluten/gliadin/glutenin, the negative consequences of modern wheat and the positive health results from excluding gluten (1 hr, 5 min, 33 sec).
BROMATE / BROMIDE: Yet another reason to avoid flour and foods containing flour such as baked goods and processed foods. Also found in some vegetable oils, carbonated sodas and citrus-flavored drinks, Bromide is a common endocrine disruptor, especially disruptive to proper Thyroid function. It causes competitive inhibition of Iodine receptors inducing Iodine deficiency despite the presence of adequate levels of Iodine. This can lead to wide-spread dysfunction of multiple Iodine-dependent body systems and is being researched in connection to increased disease rates such as cancer.
To make things worse, available Iodine in the body has been drastically reduced through changes affecting the American diet. Natural and health-promoting Iodine was previously used as a “conditioner” for flour, baked goods and other processed foods. Bromide-based agents are now used in its place; the very product that induces Iodine deficiency. Furthermore, due to the push for consumption of a low-sodium diet, people are not consuming enough iodized salt, which has been a main dietary source of Iodine since 1924.
It is sometimes difficult to determine if a product contains Bromide. Bromide is often used in flour-containing products as a treatment and is, therefore, not technically an ingredient. Thus it is not required to be listed as an ingredient on the label. However, in other products, it is a separate chemical and will appear in the ingredient list. (Look for its many different forms such as Bromate, Bromide, Potassium Bromate and Brominated… fill in the blank. It can also be listed in other ways such as “E924.”) For marketing sake, some products now list if their product uses “unbrominated” flour. However, read the entire ingredient list carefully. Some products contain both and thus have to list the flours separately. For home baking, Gold Metal has “Unbrominated” Bread Flour (in a yellow bag). But if you are being gluten conscious, be aware that bread flours contain a higher gluten content.
For more information on Iodine and Bromide Dominance Theory, see Farrow, Lynne. The Iodine Crisis: What You Don’t Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life.
For a more in-depth look at feeding your Mitochondria, see the Institute for Functional Medicine’s comprehensive guide, “Mito Food Plan”.