What is Nutritional Therapy? An IV injection? A drawer full of supplements? Green juices and lemongrass shots? Not quite....thank goodness.
Nutritional Therapy is a holistic view of the body that focuses on six foundations of health, a nutrient-dense diet, digestion, blood sugar regulation, essential fats, minerals, and hydration. The body can function optimally when the foundations are balanced for each individual. We are all unique and there is not a one-size-fits-all- t-shirt for our lifestyle or optimal health.
A Nutrient Dense Diet
Whole real foods as close to their natural state and properly prepared are key to providing our bodies with the ingredients and instructions for our bodies to function optimally. Our food should be sourced from local, organic, pasture-raised seasonal sources that are as close to their natural habitat. Reducing the number of chemicals, toxins, and “non-food substances” is a great place to start.
Implementing a variety of properly prepared foods to optimize digestion and reduce our exposure to toxins is essential. Cooking can be fun, food can be delicious, and eating locally reduces the environmental footprint left behind.
Digestion is King
Our bodies can only assimilate or “use” what we digest. Digestion is the “king” of all foundational principles for health. You can eat the top superfoods worldwide, but if your body can not break it down or absorb it properly, your efforts are wasted. Every cell depends on digestion to provide the nutrients essential for optimal function.
Digestion is not just a “tummy thing”. It starts in the brain with the simple act of smelling, thinking, and preparing to eat. Our brain is key in engaging our parasympathetic nervous system, our “rest and digest” side of the nervous system. As food hits our tongues and we begin to chew the food, enzymes are released through our saliva to start the chemical breakdown of the carbohydrates and fats in our food. Not only is digestion reliant on chemical reactions, but is also reliant on mechanical reactions. Not chewing our food completely, eating in a rush, or drinking too much liquid while eating can hinder our ability to properly digest our food.
As our food makes its way into our digestive system it meets our stomach acid. Sufficient stomach acid is critical to the digestive process. It relies on hydration, our emotional state, along with key enzymes and minerals. As our food breaks down into usable vitamins, minerals, proteins, and glucose, our body must absorb and utilize the “information” it has been given. These key nuggets of information are the instructions for the cells and DNA in our body to replicate, repair, renew, and function. Without the proper instructions or parts, our bodies are unable to work optimally. Most of an NTP’s work focuses on digestion. An NTP can help reduce bloating, cramping, and indigestion while improving elimination.
What is blood sugar and why do we care about it?
Digestion breaks down the food we eat into “bites of energy” called blood sugar or glucose. Blood sugar is energy that is used by our body. Our cells can only tolerate a certain amount of blood sugar in our bloodstream at a time. Our bodies love to stay balanced and our blood sugar regulation is no different.
The complex act of digestion begins in our brain and a key player is our central nervous system communication between the pancreas, adrenals, adipose tissue, liver, and skeletal muscle to keep our blood sugar regulated.
The interplay of our blood sugar regulation is influenced by stress, highly refined foods, and body composition. Eating meals with balanced macros that optimize our blood sugar, keeping our bodies in a relaxed or parasympathetic state, and understanding how sugar directly impacts our blood sugar is essential to feeling our best and optimizing our metabolic health.
Blood sugar regulation can become dysregulated due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies, sleep deprivation, stress, poor gut health, environmental toxins, and stimulants such as coffee, chocolate, and alcohol. You can easily see how our body can spin out of control without the proper instructions and a manual missing the pages. Digestion is key in making sure our gut health, mineral levels, and balanced meals are key to blood sugar regulation. An NTP can help you learn how to eat in a way that balances your blood sugar, and reduces your blood sugar swings while reducing cravings and mood swings. Goodbye Hangry!
Why do I need fat?
Healthy fat is key for optimal health. Non-optimal fatty acids are an epidemic in the US. (Thank you 80’s and 90’s!). The moral of the story, eating fat does not make you fat. In a nation where inflammation is a driving force behind many lifestyle diseases. Chronic disease is an imbalance of anti-inflammation and inflammation. Inflammation can be effectively managed with nutritional therapy, therefore, reducing healing time, (SG).
Essential fat must be consumed in our diets. Optimizing Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids is a great place to start. Fat is a wonderful source of slow-burning energy, provides a protective lining for our organs, and homeostasis within the body while aiding in the absorption of certain vitamins and proteins, and makes food taste amazing!
The current Standard American Diet is teeming with polyunsaturated unstable oils causing a giant swing towards inflammation without the balance of anti-inflammation to heal the body.
Proper digestion of the essential fats is key to making enzymes to help keep the body in balance. Not only do we have to consume the essential fatty acids we need, but we also bring it back to digestion and the need to assimilate the fat to maintain a proper balance of inflammation in the body. An NTP will help you find foods to optimize your fatty acid profile with the ultimate goal of reducing inflammation.
Vitamins and Minerals? Can’t I take gummy for that?
Vitamins and minerals consume 4% of our body but are not produced by our bodies. Minerals must be obtained through our food to play a variety of roles in our bodies such as enzymatic reactions, transportation of nutrients in and out of cells, maintaining proper nerve and muscle function, tissue growth, and structural support. Eighteen minerals are needed for good health. Each mineral has key functions no matter how little or big the amounts are needed. Some minerals are needed to work together synergistically while others are designed to work against one another.
The largest abundance of minerals in the body is calcium. It belongs in the category of macrominerals. Calcium needs other minerals, hormones, and fatty acids to effectively do its job of support and strength. Just like systems of the body, minerals need to work together to support stomach acid, digestion, blood sugar regulation, and all bodily systems beginning at the cell level. Micro minerals or trace minerals are just as important to the body as macro minerals. Each mineral has a function and must “do a job” or many jobs. The human body is the most complex intricacy of systems known to man. Without essential minerals, the body will create “workarounds” to function in its non-optimal state. Symptoms, ailments, moods, and feelings are like warning lights that your body is not functioning or working optimally. What if your symptoms or disease is a mineral deficiency? These vitamins and minerals are found in the food we eat first. NTPs can help you find foods to optimize your mineral profile and high-quality supplements.
Hydration- Water? It is all the same, right?
The body is made of 70 percent water. We must ingest water daily for our bodies to function. Our bodies have built-in systems to use in case of famine. Water is different. The human body can only survive 3 days without water. That’s it! Considering our bodies are over 2/3 water and we are constantly losing it, we must replace it! The viscosity of our blood is dependent upon our hydration levels. The blood needs to be fluid enough to transport vitamins, minerals, hormones, and red blood cells in and around our bodies. Without the proper hydration and balanced electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium the water is unable to pass in and out of cells and function properly.
Water needs to be sourced from a clean, natural source or filtered to remove toxins. While removing the toxins is critical, we must ensure our water still contains natural minerals. These minerals are key to allowing our cells to function and transport information to all areas of our body. An NTP can help devise strategies and put systems in your world to keep yourself hydrated and functioning at an optimal level.
An NTP can educate you on how to eat to feel your best, hold you accountable to your goals, and reduce digestive discomfort. Empowerment and education are key, but the true power comes from taking action to create a thriving life. Reach out! You are meant to thrive!
References: Nutritional Therapy Association. (n.d.). Fatty Acids Module. Nutritional Therapy Association Student Videos. Lucito, W. (2022)
Current Evidence in Water and Hydration Science. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 77 (4), https://doi.org/10.1159/000521769