“Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!” -Let It Snow lyrics by Sammy Cahn
Wintertime in Tennessee is a great excuse to download or buy a new book and then get lost between its covers. My favorite for 2012 is “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis. This is a fascinating and fun read describing how the amber waves of grain of our grandparents are barely recognizable as today’s genetically modified dwarf grain. This leads to potential digestive disorders, increased inflammation, and ultimately malabsorption of nutrients.
Did you know that wheat products elevate blood sugar more than Snickers candy bars or ice cream? As blood sugar (glucose) rises, more insulin is released from the pancreas. This allows entry of glucose into the cells of the body, converting glucose to fat. The higher the blood glucose after eating, the greater the insulin level leading to more fat being deposited, especially in the abdomen. The bigger your wheat belly, the poorer your response is to insulin, in turn leading to insulin resistance which can trigger diabetes.
Other effects of wheat include behavioral changes as well as documented tendencies to addiction! Digestion of wheat produces morphine-like compounds that bind to the brain’s opiate receptors. This can induce euphoria as well as unpleasant withdrawal effects. Dr. Davis states that wheat is one of the few foods that can alter behavior and generate a withdrawal syndrome upon removal. He describes it as a “powerful appetite stimulant” and cites cases of people continuing to snack from dinner to bedtime after wheat consumption.
Avoiding wheat can diminish food cravings and hunger, decrease calorie intake, and improve moods, not to mention decreasing weight and shrinking wheat bellies!
The book continues with such chapters as wheat and heart disease; cataracts, wrinkles, and elevated aging; and wheat’s destructive effect on the skin. Dr. Davis ends with wonderful resources and recipes that are wheat-free. So, when you are done with your daily exercise and are ready to nestle down with a book, check out Wheat Belly!
And the next time you are at Seasons, ask about our tests for wheat sensitivities such as ALCAT and our GI Panel.
The beginning of 2012 is a great time to get healthy. Lose the wheat. Lose the weight!
Health can best be defined as the absence of disease. Wellness is best defined as the existence of positive health. So health and wellness can be best defined as the absence of disease in the presence of positive health.
Why the focus on health and wellness these days? I think modern medicine gets a failing grade. Obesity is epidemic in the American culture today. One of my patients knew that her weight was not healthy. However, her previous physician told her that she should learn to live with her new heavier weight and maybe the weight would level out. That statement haunted her and led her to find a physician who offered her more hope and solutions.
Health and wellness cannot be achieved through a traditional, allopathic (Western modern medicine) medical approach. Why? Western modern medicine (we’ll call it traditional for our purposes) uses a disease-focused model utilizing pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals block biochemical reactions, produce mitochondrial toxins, and deplete important nutrients. There is no positive health there.
In fact, the 4th – 6th leading cause of death is from prescription drugs (Mol Aspects Med. 2005 Aug-Oct;26(4-5):363-78). In contrast, functional medicine is a health and wellness model utilizing natural substances found in the body to enhance cellular processes. A health and wellness model looks to work with the body, to facilitate metabolic reactions and optimize physiologic function (The principles of metabolic therapy for heart disease. Heart, Lung and Circulation 2003; 12:S55-S62).
In some ways, the two are complementary; but in many ways, the two are not. I am not advocating a boycott of traditional medicine. In fact, I still practice some traditional medicine when disease exists.
The key is this — does disease exist or not? If disease doesn’t exist, and health and wellness or health restoration is your goal, then a functional or integrative approach is the way to go to facilitate and optimize physiologic function.
So, what is a functional medicine approach? To help define functional medicine, let’s look at a few examples.
The traditional medicine approach.
Metformin or Glucophage is a well-recognized drug used to treat diabetes. Metformin works to improve insulin sensitivity and thus facilitate glucose uptake inside the cells. Type II Diabetes is marked by very poor insulin sensitivity and thus blood sugar rises. Traditional medicine prescribes Metformin to provide a 13% improvement in insulin sensitivity.
Remember, pharmaceuticals block biochemical reactions. Metformin reduces folic acid and vitamin B12 and can elevate homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine levels increase blood clot risk (this is one of the ways that birth control pills increase blood clot risk). Diabetics and those with insulin resistance are already at an increased risk of blood clots. Can you see how the treatment is piling on in this situation?
The functional medicine approach.
Let’s contrast that with a functional medicine approach. Vitamin D deficiency is rampant today. Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in heart failure, myocardial dysfunction, sudden cardiac death, and is required for normal insulin release and glucose control. Remember the 13% for metformin? Higher vitamin D levels resulted in a 60% improvement in insulin sensitivity (Chiu K., et al., “hypovitaminosis D is associated with insulin resistance and beta cell dysfunction,” Amer Jour Clin Nutr 2004).
Remember, functional medicine works with and facilitates the body’s functions. Vitamin D does not block any biochemical reactions, nor does it interfere with any. Thus, there is no negative effect comparable to Metformin. Now, too much of a good thing can be a problem. Too much Vitamin D can elevate calcium. Because of this, Vitamin D should be prescribed under the watchful eye of a physician.
Why do I do what I do?
Amazing results — as naturally as possible. This is why I practice functional medicine. This is why I created Seasons. A health and wellness model, through functional medicine, works with the body to enhance and optimize physiologic function. Health and health restoration can only be achieved by working with the body. Let’s get out of the way and let the body heal itself.