By Jane Kennedy, CFNP, MN, MPH of Forum Health Santa Rosa
One thing that all of us want is to be in good health with plenty of vitality!
At mid-life, when hormonal changes usually emerge, we have this wonderful opportunity to re-evaluate how we are doing and to make changes to course-correct and keep that vitality with the lowest chance of disease.
You may remember hearing me say before that bio-identical hormones are the juice of life. Besides their major role in helping us feel good, they protect us from multiple diseases when we keep them in good physiologic balance.
At menopause and andropause, with the natural decline in the production of these hormones in our bodies, we begin to see the development of higher rates of disease and inflammation. These are diseases that can often can be prevented if we take a proactive approach.
In fact, did you know that half of all cancers can be prevented through diet, lifestyle practices, the environment that affects our genetic expression, limiting chemicals in our bodies, and clearing harmful microorganisms from our bodies?
Hormones are essential for healthy physiologic body function.
But even those made by your body, as well as bio-identical hormones, must be kept in balance and properly metabolized by our liver to prevent long term negative health effects like inflammation.
Our diet is a very important player for overall good health. Many patients who have erratic eating habits and go long periods during the day without eating, are surprised that they can significantly improve their energy, moods, and cognitive function by setting regular times for meals and snacks. Getting enough protein to maintain the body is another area that needs regular attention if we want the benefits of strong muscles, trim and lean bodies, good brain function, and many other benefits.
Getting daily doses of omega 3 fatty acids, either as cold water fish or fish oils, prevents inflammation, which is implicated in nearly all of the chronic diseases.
In fact, when we eat dairy and animal proteins the arachadonic acid that these food sources introduce to the body converts into inflammatory substances UNLESS omega 3 fatty acids are present in sufficient amounts to stop the process. Amazing! Isn’t it?
Most of us know that glucose and insulin affect our risks of diabetes, but they also play another very important role in our health and well-being.
Did you realize that they create chronic inflammation and may be the most problematic of risk factors for cancer development? Cancer cells rely on sugar to grow. A diet high in simple sugars and high glycemic index carbohydrates raises blood sugar and insulin and other factors that stimulate cancer growth. These dietary factors also are involved in the development of obesity, which risk factor for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
So, a diet that is low in simple carbs and starches, higher in vegetables, protein, good fats, and some fruit will promote the best health when tuned to individual differences/needs. Avoiding foods that we are allergic and/or sensitive to will help to decrease inflammation in our bodies.
A list of things that cause chronic inflammation that potentially leads to disease includes:
- High blood sugar and insulin levels
- Emotional stress – even getting angry triggers inflammation!
- Oxidative stress
- Food allergies and sensitivities
- Diet too low in protective foods (vegetables and other whole foods)
- Transfats – i.e., bad fats
- Lack of Omega 3 fatty acids – i.e., good fats
- Too high estrogen levels especially for longer periods of time
- Xenoestrogens (toxin molecules that mimic estrogen and get our levels too high for the liver to clear out)
- Age – the older we are the more wear and tear on the body
- Weight – produces more estrogens and inflammatory cytokines
- Lack of exercise- demonstrated in the research to be a major risk factor
- Genetic triggers – which often can be avoided by controlling our environment so that they are not “flipped on”
- Poor liver and digestive health – a direct avenue for health disruption
- Weakened immune system
Try eating 9 servings of whole fruit and vegetables per day.
With that quantity of fruit and vegetable intake, chances are you’ll be getting your antioxidants and other micro and macro nutrients that are needed to prevent inflammation, the source of so much disease. Eating these organic and local foods ensures you’re getting a large amount of the essential nutrients that your body needs.
We have long known that certain pollutants and chemicals in our environment are toxins that negatively impact our body and our health. They can be found in pesticides, plastics, and personal care products. Actually, the link between certain pesticides and breast cancer has been known for decades. Doing a periodic dietary and herbal detox can lower the burden of these toxins on the body and improve our health status.
Knowing the variables we can change that will prevent disease and create a higher quality of life can be very empowering.