Should I change my diet to feel better?

You have probably asked yourself this question before and when you come to see a Naturopath, dietary changes will often be part of the treatment plan to get you feeling better.

From my own experience I can feel the difference when I have eaten nutritious food the day before or when I have just not felt like eating healthy and the next day I can’t focus well, am in a bad mood or simply don’t feel like my happy self.

But where do you start? Changing habits which have been there for many years can be challenging and you might need to start with small changes like replacing the milk in your coffee/tea with non-dairy options like coconut/rice/almond milk.

The next step is to assess how many other inflammatory foods you are consuming and when. The most common one being wheat, many people start their day with either wheat bread or wheat-containing cereals.

Now the best way to deal with this is to have eggs and veggies, dinner leftovers or a smoothie instead but if you are not ready to go this far, start by replacing your bread with a better alternative (e.g. normal wheat bread for sourdough spelt bread) and Wheet-Bix with oat porridge. Spelt is an old form of wheat which contains less gluten and is easier digested. Oats are also a much better alternative, especially if they were soaked overnight.

Food affects gene expression

If you could ask your genes to say what kinds of foods are best for your health, they would have a simple answer: one-third protein, one-third fat and one-third carbohydrates. That’s what genetic research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) shows is the best recipe to limit your risk of most lifestyle-related diseases.

The Researchers found that a diet with 65% carbohydrates, which often is what the average Norwegian eats in some meals, causes a number of classes of genes to work overtime. The same would apply to the typical Australian diet comprised of lots of grains, potatoes and sugar.

This affects not only the genes that cause inflammation in the body, which was what they originally wanted to study, but also genes associated with development of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, dementia, and type 2 diabetes — all the major lifestyle-related diseases,

Are you feeling your AGE?

AGEs (Advanced Glycation End-products) can be found in high levels in certain foods, contribute to overall inflammation and speed up the ageing process.

Glycation is a normal physiological process that, just like inflammation and oxidative stress, can get out of hand, contributing to disease processes. Currently there is an explosion of correlational research suggesting relationships between higher levels of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE) in individuals who have fertility problems, psychiatric conditions, osteoporosis, premature skin ageing, cancer…you name it! New research implicates diet heavily in the determination of individual’s levels of AGE.

Reduce your intake AGEs by following the four P’s:

Pre-formed (naturally occuring in certain foods): High protein foods, high fat foods. So for anyone on a Paleo or Ketogenic Diet, be aware that these food will naturally raise your levels of AGEs.
Potentiators: Sugar and any high GI foods like white potatoes/rice will increase the level of glycation end products. Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are formed when sugar reacts with proteins or lipids (fats) in a process called glycation. Research shows that some AGE formation occurs when blood glucose levels are over 4.7 mmol/L.
Processing: Processed foods in general have higher levels of AGEs as heat produces more AGEs. Cow’s milk has low levels of AGEs but once it has been heated in the microwave for 1 minute, the levels increase by 4-fold. 3 minutes in the microwave increase the levels of AGEs by 70-fold. This gives rise to any products with milk powders in them (milk chocolates, biscuits etc) and especially high levels of AGEs in baby formula.
Preparation: Cooking your food at high temperatures increases AGEs. Roasting/frying or baking creates much higher levels than steaming or even boiling food.
When reducing your levels of AGEs, many other inflammatory markers like CRP will benefit also.

And for anyone who wants to reduce skin ageing and prevent the so-called ‘tuckshop arms’, reducing AGEs is an essential part as collagen and elastin are very vulnerable to glycation.

Here are some nutrients and herbs which have been found to slow the production of AGEs:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin B2
  • Vitamin B3
  • Vitamin B6
  • Zinc
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Rosemary
  • Tarragon
  • Marjoram
  • Green tea

These inhibit the action of AGEs:

Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, Blueberry extract, Curcumin.

Conclusion: There are many ways to make you feel better just by following a healthy diet alone. If you want to find out which diet might be best for you, get in touch with one of the Naturopaths or Nutritionists at Realize Health.

Thanks to Rachel Arthur for the information on AGEs.

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Rike Ehm

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