February is American Heart Month. It's also when we celebrate St. Valentine's Day with sweet treats for our beloved. I just finished my Valentine's Day goodies last week! Today, I bring you heart health as it's related to Functional Nutrition. Did you know there is a greater connection between sugar and heart disease than fat and heart disease? It's true! Sugar causes inflammation in the body, affecting all body systems. Since inflammation is the root cause of all chronic issues, we need to address this issue at the root!
A diet high in sugar triples risk for fatal CVD.
study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases Aug 29, 2020
First, let's back it up to better understand the affects of too much sugar on our bodies... Metabolic issues accompany cardiac disease because insulin receptor sensitivity puts more insulin and more sugar into the bloodstream leading to hyperlipidemia and insulin issues. Simple carbohydrates and low fiber foods are higher in glycemic index and therefore breakdown faster leading to a spike in blood glucose.
Spikes in blood glucose can lead to mineral depletion, immune system repression, blood sugar imbalance, brain fog, mental health issues, addictive behaviors, chronic inflammation, endocrine disruption, calcium and mineral depletion, cholesterol imbalance, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, yeast overgrowth, skin and periodontal issues.
It's important to note, all of the body's systems are inter-related. To address a problem, we must look at the body holistically. We must get to the roots of the problem. If any of the above are prevalent, one must consider diet and nutrition as part of the over-arching wellness plan, a functional approach.
Patients must first understand how and why sugar is a problem in their bodies and the long-term repercussions of excess sugar consumption. Once they can understand this, it's easier for them to adopt a wellness plan inclusive of an anti-inflammatory diet. Many physicians are discovering collaborating with a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach (recognized by the American Medical Association) positively affects their patients outcomes. This is proven beneficial for not only the patients, but the practitioners too by saving them time and energy and providing the patient a safe place to learn and grow on their health journey.
The Global Burden of Disease study cites diet as a major factor behind the rise in hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other CVD components.
Journal of the American College of Cardiology
Here's a great tool to share with your patients today:
SUGAR DETOX - 5 STEP PLAN
PROTEIN EVERY MEAL
HEALTHY FATS EVERY MEAL
FIBER EVERY MEAL
AVOID SUGARY DRINKS/SNACKS
INTEGRATE WHOLE FOODS
An anti-inflammatory diet is one inclusive of high fiber, complex carbs (whole grains), clean and lean beef (preferably grass-fed, organic), free range poultry, wild animals like bison, pasteurized eggs, fruits and vegetables (especially leafy greens), nuts and seeds for healthy fats (walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax, hemp and chia) as well as fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna or sardines. Marine phytoplanktins are also powerful anti-inflammatory foods. Cooking oils should be used sparingly and not come from seeds (greater Omega 6s). Extra-Virgin Cold Pressed Olive Oil, or Coconut Oil for high heat, are preferred.
Patients are encouraged to eat organic, whole foods over pre-packaged food items. Hydration is also key to proper health and nutrition encourage patients to drink 50% body weight in ounces of water daily with limited caffeine (green tea over coffee) and limited alcohol (save for special occasions). Cutting out dairy, red meat and gluten can significantly reduce inflammation as well. Avoiding chemical sugar substitutes, high fructose corn syrup and not adding more sugar is also recommended.
A note on fruit sugars... Fruit has been getting a bad rap due to it's natural sugars. Fruit fructose is mitigated by fiber.
Patients should be encouraged to cook healthy meals at home and eat out no more than once per week. As for special occasions, ditch the sugary candies or desserts and reach for dark chocolate! Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and reduces the risk of stroke, reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, promotes heart health and boosts your mood!