My inbox is full of email from people who would like to work on emotional issues as well as find ways to look and feel better! The simple truth is: it is all connected! Mind and body that is. If you aren't eating or moving your body (and from a place of joy!) then all of that mistreatment and negative energy can't be helpful. If you're feeling symptomatic in your body take care of your emotions and address your need for emotional nourishment through loving, supportive relationships and a healthy diet. The body needs to move! Exercise -- yoga, biking, walking and dancing are all good options. Mostly, find movement that makes you happy. If you're worried about maintaining a youthful face, a few simple changes can go a long way to improving the look and tone of skin, and, provide the added benefits of increased energy and fewer aches and pains. Eating a diet that is “clean” and free of toxins protects the body from damage and future disease. Eating clean, healthy foods increases longevity, and keeps us looking and feeling younger. What follows are four basic keys to looking and feeling beautiful, as well as tips for enhancing natural beauty with food and nutrition.
- Reduce your sugar intake - Give it up -- or at least radically reduce your sugar intake! High levels of sugar circulating in the blood irritates the blood vessels creating inflammation in the body. This process sets the stage for damage and disease. Your skin reacts with puffiness, redness, excessive oil, dryness and other problems. Reducing the sugar in your diet means not only saying no to soda and sugar-filled drinks but reducing your intake of breads, breakfast cereals, pastry and pastas. Oh the pain of that; eventually the reward is a huge payoff. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and begin making reduced sugar choices when you market. Whole grains (if you can tolerate them) are more forgiving as they are difficult to digest, so blood sugar levels rise slowly which provides more sustained energy without the "spike" and inevitable "crash." If you're concerned about gluten, brown rice and brown rice pastas, quinoa, spelt and buckwheat are better choices. Some research suggests that choosing grains that are gluten-free may improve hormone balance and gut health, which in turn leads to less inflammation and all roads lead back to skin that glows.
- Antioxidant loading - Vegetables contain the most concentrated source of antioxidants that are necessary for protecting cells from free radical oxidative damage. Hundreds of antioxidants exist to support your health and help reduce aging by preventing cellular death. In addition, we now know that some antioxidants such as lycopene and catechins provide protection from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Bright red and orange vegetables and dark green leafy vegetables contain vitamin E, zinc, manganese, vitamin C and lutein. Manganese protects the mitochondria or “engine” inside each cell from oxidation, vitamin E protects the cell wall from damage and lutein prevents blindness created by macular degeneration, What we love about vitamin C is that it can recycle antioxidants for reuse, and it's super charges your immune system. All of these lovely foods regenerate your cells.
It's too overwhelming to make radical changes, and extremes are not sustainable. To begin a new beauty food regime, start with the easiest changes first and move on to more challenging dietary changes as you get the hang of eating more healthfully. It might make sense to begin your new lifestyle by adding a salad or drinking a fresh vegetable juice each day, eat fish twice a week, take a fish oil supplement and choose water and tea. We can call this the squeeze-out approach. Make one new change per week until you feel ready to incorporate a beauty plan of attack.
- The Building Blocks of Protein - How is your protein intake? Adequate protein is necessary to make proteoglycans, such as hyaluronic acid. Proteoglycan molecules help moisturize the skin from the inside. Protein foods such as egg white, chicken, fish and whey protein contain the sulfur with amino acids which are critical to collagen production -- and your skin loves collagen! Getting protein at each meal and while snacking helps regulate blood sugar as well. Proteins is an important way to begin your day so breakfast may include whey protein smoothies, egg white omelets or frittatas, lox and plain yogurt. The plan changes for Vegetarians who need to focus on eating a variety of plant proteins such as brown rice, nuts and legumes, to obtain the appropriate amino acids.
- Good Fats Please - People tend to react with horror at the mention of dietary fats, but we're talking about healthy fats here, and they do exist. Healthy fats include the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids which the body cannot make on its own. Fatty acids are integral to cell health creating flexibility and fluidity within the cell walls, providing moisture to the skin, making regulatory hormones that balance the immune system and decreasing inflammation throughout the body. Fatty acids are essential for collagen formation along with adequate protein for cell repair and maintenance. Omega-6 is abundant in our diets, so focus on getting more omega-3 and omega-9. Fish and fish oil supplements are the most concentrated sources of omega-3s. Flax, walnuts and soy are good plant sources of omega-3, but they require conversion to the active forms found in fish. Only a small percent of plant omega-3 gets converted to the active form, so plant sources aren’t the best sources of omega-3. Fish and fish oil remain the best choice. Omega 9 can be obtained from cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Remember, high-heat destroys olive oil, so use at room temperature.
Thoughts on functional medicine from the experts...
It is time for medical care to shift from the treatment of symptoms toward the creation of health. What might that look like? Treat the source of ailment, not just symptoms. Aging is a process that can be controlled. Yes, we are all aging, but it is possible to age well, and with dignity and grace. There are only a few common underlying mechanisms responsible for all diseases. Our diet is becoming increasingly more toxic as is our environment. Most of us have significant nutritional imbalances and deficiencies and we are also under relentless stress.
What is functional medicine anyway? Functional medicine is a rapidly emerging field of science that incorporates interventional endocrinology, nutrition and the replacement of missing vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, and treats the underlying cause of disease, not just the symptoms. Functional medicine is a model for addressing the chronic disease epidemic, which now affects over half of Americans. Looking at mechanisms involved in creating disease such as free radical damage, inflammation, and mitochondrial dysfunction, combined with supplements, a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, it's possible to be on the path to optimal health. Here are just a few of the conditions of the body and brain that can be prevented, managed and even cured by changes in diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, meditation and lifestyle modifications:
- Chronic inflammation
- Heart disease
- Autoimmune disorders
- Mood disorders
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD & ADHD)
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
Optimal health is not just the absence of disease. Even the most minor symptoms can foreshadow more serious conditions later in life. This often happens via the “snowball effect,” in which a “minor” imbalance within the body produces a cascade of biological triggers that can eventually lead to poor health and chronic illness. For this reason, functional medicine focuses on the prevention, instead of just the treatment of, even the most minor imbalances. Through changes in lifestyle, environment, and nutrition, functional medicine professionals rely on their knowledge of key physiological, genetic, and biochemical processes for establishing an innovative form of total patient wellness amidst the diversity of interests in health care today. Conventional medicine may be able to effectively treat an acute illness, but does not adequately treat a chronic disease. Eliminate disesase, one step at a time, by creating excellent health.