Hippocrates said, “Let food by thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.” It’s as true today as it was over 2300 years ago! Hippocrates used medical nutrition therapy for treatment and prevention. Now it is a bit more complex since the food supply has changed and we are exposed to thousands of chemicals, genetically modified foods, food additives, flavorings, hormones and herbicides and pesticides.
Our food and habits have changed but our DNA has not changed. Our livers, the major detoxifying organ can’t cope as well with the onslaught of chemicals and our digestive systems may or may not be able to break down designer foods, additives, preservatives and genetically modified organisms. Medical nutrition therapy has to take on the role of assisting an overtaxed body in breaking down substances that never existed before, metabolizing them to remove them from our bodies and then actually removing them.
Genetics and Medical Nutrition Therapy
An example is our bodies have an enzyme called Catechol-O-methyltransferase or COMT that neutralizes toxic metabolites of estrogen among other things. In the good old days we were only exposed to the minute amount our bodies made and if anyone had a genetic variant that slowed down the process of metabolizing estrogen, it may not have had a large impact.
However, now poultry, meat and fish are fed hormones to make them grow and many of our herbicides and pesticides act like estrogen. Medical nutrition therapy has to take into account that the levels of exposure are so much higher. People, who have a genetic variant or single nucleotide polymorphism, otherwise known as a SNP, may not be able to neutralize the toxic metabolites. Several studies have indicated there is an increased risk of breast cancer when the activity of the COMT enzyme is low.
The gene and metabolites can be measured and taking supplements such as B12 in the cyanocobalamine form, assuring adequate levels of magnesium and other B vitamins, avoiding excess alcohol consumption and decreasing fortified foods with synthetic folate is just one aspect of medical nutrition therapythat can allow this enzyme to work better. This may reduce the risk of breast and possible prostate cancer since both forms of cancer have a lot to do with how estrogen is metabolized.
Metabolism and Medical Nutrition Therapy
Inflammation and oxidation are metabolic processes that are at the root cause of a lot of chronic disease. Cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and autoimmune disorders can be made worse by both of these processes. There are metabolic markers in blood that can guide medical nutrition therapy, which can slow and possible reverse their damaging effects.
For example if C- reactive protein (CRP) is high, it is an indicator that you have excess inflammation.
- Weight loss, eating less inflammatory fats such as meat, dairy, saturated fats, trans fats and hydrogenated oil, as well as sugar and grains will reduce inflammation. Eating these causes inflammation.
- Eating more mono and polyunsaturated fats like fish, olives, avocado, nuts, seed and any of their oils can lower inflammation and CRP.
- Anti inflammatory supplements such as fish oil, curcumin, and Vitamin D and K can also help.
Hemoglobin A1C is a biomarker of both oxidation and the effects of high blood sugar binding to protein called glycation. These metabolic processes are very damaging to cells and cause cell death and a change in their structure and function. Medical nutrition therapy can be used to prevent and sometimes reverse these processes that, if left unchecked, cause illness and ailments.
- Eating less sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed food that are nutrionally poor can reduce glycation and inflammation.
- Eating lots of low glycemic colorful vegetables and some fruit that contain antioxidants can reduce oxidation and glycation.
- Since our food may not be as rich in nutrients due to being grown in nutrionally deficient soil, antioxidant supplements such as Vitamins A, D, and E, co enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) as well as alpha lipoic acid and n-acetyl cysteine (NAC) are excellent choices to reduce oxidation.
These are just some examples of how medical nutrition therapy can be used to compensate for genetic predisposition and metabolic factors that are at the root cause of illness. The more you know and measure, the more personalized the care to address your specific risk factors. Get a consultation for an assessment to personalize your healthcare with medical nutrition therapy.