Monday, February 12, 2018

The Simplicity Of Eating Well; And The McIntyre Family's Whole30-Journey

Last month’s newsletter emphasized the simplicity in achieving and maintaining health, so long as the primary areas of focus necessary for our bodies to thrive are identified.  The normal internal function and structural balance achieved through Upper Cervical Care are the least known of the five essentials of healthy living and stress management/a positive attitude is the most underrated aspect, so it is readily understandable at present time that people would first need to acquire greater knowledge regarding these areas before optimally addressing them.  Nutrition and exercise, however, are the two areas that we all know about, but only between 7% and 33% of Americans profess to eat well.   

Patient education is one of the foundational principles of the Triad Upper Cervical Clinic, but it would be safe to state that it is not generally a high priority throughout American healthcare.  Weight loss currently sits atop the most common reasons why people begin to eat better, a reflection of the medicalization of healthcare (be reactive, treat symptoms) and a prime example of our society’s failure to teach people about nutrition. 

A system designed to fight symptoms, disease, and trauma has been tasked with guiding our health, something that it is simply not equipped to do.  In the Journal of Biomedical Education, results of a widespread study confirmed that American medical schools are barely teaching anything about basic nutrition; the research concluded that “many U.S. medical schools fail to prepare future physicians for everyday nutrition challenges in clinical practice,” and went onto state that,  “It cannot be a realistic expectation for physicians to effectively address [nutritionally-based] conditions as long as they are not taught during medical school and residency training how to recognize and treat the nutritional root causes.”  For the record, the medicalization of chiropractic colleges, at which core curriculums have become increasingly distanced from learning how to help the body heal itself in favor a more symptom-based methodology, has prompted nutritional courses to largely be left out as well. 

Fortunately, there are experts whose lone priority is finding the most constructive plans for eating clean and fueling the body with nutrients that allow you to maximize your potential.  I have worked diligently to become an expert in my field and to take a well-rounded approach to overall health education but, when it comes to the details of proper nutrition, I have long felt a little out of my depth.  However, in expanding our referral network over the years to better serve your various needs, I have met a lot of people whose expertise is nutrition; and one thing that kept coming up over the last couple of years from practitioners whose opinions I respect and trust is a strategy dubbed “Whole30.” 

Developed by a sports nutritionist from Utah, Whole30 is described as a “nutritional reset,” designed to end your bad eating habits and start better ones across a 30 day period.  I would describe it as a program that eliminates controversial foods that are either maybe (grains, legumes) or definitely (sugar, dairy, additives) not good for you and replaces them with foods that absolutely are good for you.  That means no beans, bread, cheese, chocolate, deli meat (at least not when containing common additives and preservatives), and most snack foods.  You also have to abstain from drinking alcohol of any kind and mostly limit your beverage consumption to water.  It is, thus, fairly strict, but not obscenely so, emphasizing as it does the consumption of meats and vegetables.

In early September, my wife and I embarked on the Whole30 journey; she was eager to see how much more energy she could gain from fueling her body with better food and I was merely curious, purposefully forgetful of the personal testimonies that I had heard before in order to facilitate as genuine a clean slate for the experience as I could. 
The first week went as first weeks in any other avenue tend to go, wrought as it was with major habitual changes, the most challenging of which for me was eating a bigger breakfast; I had been a breakfast-on-the-go guy for fifteen years – some fruit on the run, a cup of tea, and a lot of water throughout the day’s opening few waking hours; to go from that to three eggs, various additional meats, avocado, and some combination of onion, pepper, spinach, or tomato every day was routine-altering to say the least. 

Less than a week into the program, a couple of interesting things happened to me.  We began Whole30 on a Monday; on the following Thursday, I was intensely sore in my upper back like I typically only get when my body has lost its structural balance (I was not out of balance, though) and, on Friday and Saturday, I itched like I had gone out in the middle of the woods during the summer and been attacked by chiggers and mosquitoes (without the bite-marks).  I found out days later that one of the common by-products of Whole30 is symptoms of fairly substantial detoxification; again, I went into it without expectation, not wanting to be psychologically influenced by anyone else’s story, but the detox symptoms made sense, especially the itching, given that through your pores is one of the primary ways that your body detoxes itself. 

One-third of the way through, I then started to feel strong cravings for food with more taste.  I have come to think of this period as the “palate adjustment phase.”  God help me, I just wanted some steak sauce – my go-to, “this will make everything taste better” condiment for as long as I can remember.  That phase happened on the second weekend but, by the next week, I felt like I settled into the program, my palate had grown accustomed to the food that we were eating, and I actually started to really enjoy the process of making new meals and experimenting with flavor accentuation through what for me were certainly unique ways.  Being brutally honest, I do not know that I had ever appreciated the natural taste of food; I found, for example, that just about anything you cook tastes incredible if you mix in stir-fried vegetables like zucchini, squash, onions, or peppers.

As we wrapped up the final week last Tuesday, our major takeaways from Whole30 were more energy, greater clarity, a more balanced appetite from morning to night, and just an innate, overall greater sense of well-being, as one might expect from improving nutritional habits.  For us, Whole30 was an overhaul of our eating routines, not just in the foods that we consumed, but in the planning that went into how to prepare them; so, I would say that our lives also gained a greater amount of efficiency through the experience.  It reminded us that you can give your body what it needs without sacrificing convenience (you just have to plan) and that it is actually pretty easy to eat well (it’s just a lot easier not to). 

Remember that the basic principle of nutrition is to put into your body the things that it needs but cannot create on its own.  You have 75 trillion cells in your body that undergo 200,000 chemical reactions every split second; the creation of new cells and the energy that it takes to power the infinite list of responsibilities in each cell is dependent upon the materials that you feed your body.  From our family to yours, we get how busy life can be and how making a commitment to eating better seems like a huge ordeal, but I have personally witnessed each of you make comparable commitments to regaining function and balance through Upper Cervical Care; this would just be the right step in a similar direction.  It is your health that we are talking about, after all.  

Thinking good things for you,

Dr. Chad 

PS - I recorded everything that I ate during "Whole30," which you can read here.  If you have interest in trying the program, let me know and we will have a conversation about it.