As the saying goes, “Eat to Llve, don’t live to eat.” This is the proper way to eat. But, who doesn’t like to eat??

Food, beverages, and environmental factors contain the very building blocks of our body. They form our cells, our fluids, our tissues, fuel our ability to think, to breathe, and to live. A perfect balance of these nutrients promotes “homeostasis,’ or ‘perfect health.’ Nutrients are in food, beverages, and also absorbed through the skin (the body’s largest organ) and even through the body’s orifices. Likewise, one of the basic causes of chronic disease is poor nutrition. Your immune system can be compromised, cells can start dying or be of poor quality without the proper building blocks and ingredients, and we become ill or debilitated. Think of these ingredients just like the ingredients of a cake. You take away the flour, the eggs, the oil….. you don’t have much of a cake left.

People understand the links between nutrition and health when it comes to some of the most common illnesses, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. They understand that if they are diabetic, they need insulin, and should not eat sugar or carbs, and if they DO, they may need more or an altered dose of insulin. If they have high blood pressure, they know they should limit salt intake. They know that if they have high cholesterol, they should avoid trans fats and things like egg yolks. But, did you know that every single health condition is this way? Yes, nutrition affects (and can help, or make worse) every single health condition. Some conditions NEED medication, but many times, the medication doses can be lowered and your body will not fight against the medication so much through proper nutrition (for the illness). Imagine this by picturing a diabetic who takes insulin and eats no sugar and low carbs versus a diabetic who continues to eat cookies, candy, breads, etc. Or a person with high cholesterol who takes their medications, but continues to eat high fat and high cholesterol foods.

Another illness is Hypothyroid. A person with Hashimoto’s (low or hypothyroid) can ease the symptoms and will not have difficulty with their medications (if they are prescribed any) by eliminating cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc. There are numerous such examples. There are also persons with physiological reasons why they can’t absorb nutrients, or they have conversion problems where nutrients to not convert to other needed nutrients once in the body, which is a normal function of the body. These people need supplementation, or supplements.

And sometimes, it gets complicated. They have several medical conditions.

Eating healthy is more complicated than eating natural, organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, etc. This is because every person is different. Their combination of medical concerns, the severity of them, hereditary factors, and even behavioral issues such as ADD, anxiety, depression, etc., are all different with each person. This is where a holistic nutritionist comes in.

A holistic nutritionist is a trained professional who is qualified to evaluate the health concerns, medical records and lab results, and recommend an eating plan that includes foods and beverages to consume, avoiding certain foods, and recommends supplements, herbs, etc. to be part of this plan. Most holistic practitioners will also inquire about cultural, religious and other practices regarding diet. Even if the condition(s) can’t be managed in their entirety through proper nutrients, the body will have a much easier time operating properly and will respond to other medical treatment better. A holistic nutritionist treats the person as a ‘whole,’ and evaluates all aspects of the person’s environment and evaluates the individual’s situation. This is much different than a dietician who follows and recommends government standards. Instead of recommended ‘x’ number of servings of bread to a celiac, or ‘x’ number servings of milk to a person who is lactose intolerant., the holistic nutritionist will recommend an individualized plan. A holistic practitioner will also treat the client with, or refer the client to a practitioner who can, treat them, with other modalities to help nutritional support for the illness, such as acupuncture. An example of this would be a person who has digestive problems, is not able to absorb nutrients, whose kidneys or liver may not be working properly, they are not able to chew and/or swallow efficiently, etc. Other modalities may be used, including homeopathics, etc. A holistic nutritionist does not deal only with food, but ANY treatment procedure that is relevant to the use of nutrients by the body. Having the proper building blocks for the body’s cells is the first step in reaching good health, or at least, manageable health.

Here are some facts that make it clear that nutrition is not just about ‘eating’ and loving what you eat, but that it is the basis of ‘homeostasis.’

•The skin is the largest organ of the body and defends our body from disease and infection, regulates body temperature and aids in Vitamin D production. To maintain good skin health, these nutrients are necessary: Vitamins A, C, E and the minerals zinc, iron, iodine and selenium. Vitamin D is not really a vitamin, but is actually a hormone.

•Coffee, alcohol and sugar are known to destroy nutrients. Caffeinated drinks (including soda!) drunk all day can deplete important nutrients in the body such as magnesium, vitamins A, B1, B2, B3 and B5.

•Breakfast IS the most important meal, and it’s timing is important, too. Eating just a small amount of protein within 15 minutes of waking will cause your body to produce proper amounts of glucagon, the hormone responsible for maintaining proper insulin production and maintaining a level blood sugar throughout the day? Many people who make this change find they no longer have low blood sugar problems in the afternoon. When people have these low blood sugar moments, they do the wrong thing and eat sugar – a candy bar, a pop, etc. This causes a BIGGER crash soon after, and they keep repeating the eating of sugar (or carbs) over and over. This is one of the reasons people crave sugar and carbs. The best way to avoid the low blood sugar crash in the afternoon is to eat a small amount of protein upon waking, and if a crash is STILL experienced in the afternoon, protein should be eaten, NOT sugar or carbs. A spoonful of peanut butter or a chunk of cheese is a MUCH better way of controlling the crashes.

•Just picking and choosing a supplement is not smart. Some vitamins are not water soluble, and you can become poisoned by too much of the supplement. What if you are taking certain supplements that are not water soluble, and you are not aware of what foods contain high amounts of the same nutrient? Another reason you shouldn’t try to self-treat with supplements is because there are many varieties that all do different things, and also, many nutrients need ‘companion’ nutrients in order to work properly or convert into the form of the nutrients the body can use. For example. Vitamin D comes in D3, D2, and Magnesium has many varieties such as Magnesium Chloride, Magnesium Citrate, Magnesium Malate, etc. The over the counter hormone DHEA also comes as DHEA-S, and this can make a huge difference…. DHEA (without the S) converts into testosterone which can cause a female to develop facial and extra body hair. The DHEA-S version does not.

A professional such as a holistic nutritionist, an integrative physician, a chiropractor, or a naturopath can help you develop the proper plan for your unique body. Unless you have physiological reasons your body cannot absorb nutrients, or you have had damage such as intestinal surgery or many other traumas to the body, you should eventually be able to not need supplements unless you become ill, at which time, supplements can keep the body from developing further problems, and therefore, taking longer to heal and recover.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Naturopathic program.