By Victoria Coleman
By Victoria Coleman
I really would like to offer more nutritional support to my patients
but I just don’t know what or how and I don’t have the time…but I know I
should be doing something
The above comment is something I hear all too often from several
different practitioners. The focus of this article is to address this
concern with easy-to-implement, simple solutions.
I really would like to offer more nutritional support to my patients but I just don’t know what or how and I don’t have the time…but I know I should be doing something
The above comment is something I hear all too often from several different practitioners. The focus of this article is to address this concern with easy-to-implement, simple solutions.
Enhancing the health of your patients does not have to be complicated. You do not need to hold a degree as a registered dietician or understand the intricacies of every biochemical pathway in the body. This is not to say you should not work with, and refer to, dieticians, naturopaths and other allied professionals, as they are the experts in many cases and a key part of a solid health care team. You can, however, improve the health of your patients by providing support with a few basics that will make a significant impact in their energy, healing, mood, and over-all well-being.
Supplements are not substitutes
First of all it is important to note that supplementation is exactly that – supplementing an already good diet. It is not an excuse to eat poorly or assume you can mitigate the effects of a bad diet by just popping pills. Unfortunately, we live in a society that expects a quick “‘drugs fix all” solution. This attitude stems from savvy marketing on the part of companies that encourage poor eating by offering so-called “solutions” for the side effects of partaking in chili, wings, and bad take-out. Supplements are, in fact, meant to strengthen the benefits of the healthy eating habits you can help your patients achieve.
Eating 101 – what nature intended
Offering your patients the back-to-basics in eating is simple. Eat the way nature intended. Before you put something into your mouth, either count the number of steps you think it went through, or consider what has been added to it, for it to be in the form it is in. For example, a vegetable or fruit – organic, of course, would be ideal – in its whole form represents one step…it was picked. Chicken breast or fish was killed, cleaned and then cooked – grilled, baked with some spices, olive oil etc. This, too, is fairly minimal. Processed, packaged pizza treat? The steps needed to get this to your mouth – including loading with preservatives, salt, colours, and chemicals – are too many to count let alone try to pronounce. This, then, is perhaps, not the best choice of food to eat.
Food Choices: Use common sense
Eat eight to 10 servings (need not be large) of fruits/vegetables per day and opt for non- genetically modified and organic whenever possible. Nuts and eggs provide excellent sources of protein and healthy fats. Meats and fish can be prepared without coatings and sauces. Enjoy the taste of that which Mother Nature has provided in herbs, spices and olive oil to enhance the baking and grilling of these foods.
Eating out need not be complicated either: most all restaurants will offer a good salad with a grilled meat added to it. Just ask for dressing on the side and use it in moderation.
Even when we do our best in food choices, soils are often mineral depleted, fruits and vegetables are picked early before ripening and travel long distances in non-ideal conditions. These days, we have greater chemical exposure in foods, our environment, medications, and stress, all of which put a higher nutrient demand on our physiology. This is one reason why supplementing an already sensible diet might be necessary.
Supplements: Keep it simple
How many patients tell you they feel tired all the time, sleep poorly, and are sick often? Many practitioners tell me they have heard this.
Half of the population is deficient in at least one of: B12, B6, vitamins C, D or E, folic acid, iron, or zinc.
Up to 80 per cent of the population is low in Vitamin D and calcium. There are many examples (too many for the scope of this article to list) of these deficiencies being tied to several disease processes. One example can be found in the more than 200 per cent increase risk of colon and breast cancer in those with low vitamin D status. That is just one single nutrient that may have this effect.
A quick review of essential nutrient insufficiencies linked to top causes of death is offered below:
Some simple solutions:
Comprehensive multivitamin-mineral. Providing your patients with a comprehensive daily multivitamin addresses so many of these deficiencies. Using a product with a solid reputation that provides the most bioavailable forms – such as the methyl form of B12, methyltretrahydrofolic acid – and minerals in chelated forms, and all in concentrations that are clinically effective and not just included for ‘window dressing’, is important. This allows, at the very least, a good foundation to ensure biochemical pathways which are very reliant on specific nutrient cofactors to run efficiently.
We now understand there are many single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’s) in the population that require a greater level of specific nutrients to run more effectively – some of these may be mitigated by a good multivitamin-mineral. In many cases, the person is completely unaware they may have these genetic defects and may never have the ill effects expressed if they have the proper nutritional status and levels to assist their biochemistry. An example of this is the approximately 20-60 per cent of the population that is suspected to have a SNP in methyltetrahydrofolate reductase which will affect the body’s ability to methylate properly and keep homocysteine in normal range. The requirement for B12, B6 and especially the proper form of folic acid (methyltretrahydrofolate) will assist with this SNP and mitigate the buildup of homocysteine which is a risk factor for cardiovascular events and stroke.
Essential Fatty acids (EFA’s) The role of EFA’s specifically omega 3 fats (EPA/DHA) in improving mood, reducing inflammation, supporting healthy lipid levels, and reducing hypertension, and their key role in fetal development, has been studied and documented. Unless one is regularly eating two servings of clean fatty fish per week, it is likely they are deficient in their EFA profile. Supplementing with 500-1500mg of omega 3 fish oils offers significant benefits. The benefits are not only preventative in membrane and receptor health, and in maintaining normal balance in inflammation, but it has been shown they are effective as an adjuvant to some drug therapies. Hypertension drug therapy with fish oils was more effective than the drug therapy alone. Rheumatoid arthritis patients using omega 3 supplements were able to lower or discontinue use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Omega 3’s have also been shown to be synergistic in the treatment of depression, Alzheimer’s and Crohn’s disease.
How to implement this into practice
When with your patients, the simple question of “how does your energy, mood and overall well being rate?” is an effective opening to help them recognize the importance of a good foundation to health. So often, these will be rated low without any obvious rationale as to why. Offering the basics of a solid multivitamin-mineral and omega 3 fats alone will help to lay the groundwork and fill in the gaps in deficiencies. This may improve sluggish biochemistry due to possible SNP’s, and protect them against chronic disease they never knew they were headed for.
Remove the obstacle of confusion regarding the quality and safety of supplements, and provide your patients with the advice, and a safe and researched product that is convenient and available to start using the moment they leave your office.
Stick to simple suggestions. Remind your patients to be diligent and compliant, just as they are with brushing their teeth daily (hopefully). Evaluate their improvement in well being after six months – this time frame will allow the body time to improve in deficiencies that have possibly been present, in many cases, for years.
Remember these simple suggestions and assure your patients that this advice carries little to virtually no danger of side effects or safety concerns. Not only might you optimize your patient’s overall health, but you may ward off any time bombs the patient is completely unaware of.
Lastly, remember that in order to take excellent care of others, you must start with yourself – after all, you are the ultimate role model for you patients.
For article with references, please visit www.cndoctor.ca.