Dietary Roles in Healing and Health

The food we eat literally becomes us. Our food is the “fuel” in which our bodies use to carry on our activities of daily living such as movement, thinking, breathing, healing, etc. Our food also is broken down into the basic building blocks used to repair and form our bodies themselves. As we all know certain foods have beneficial uses and chemical properties while others have destructive/harmful chemical properties. Ultimately what we eat is broken down into various chemical structures, some are beneficial and others are not. The diet of the modern western world is shown to have many detrimental chemical end properties. The fatty acids that make up the cell membranes of our trillions of cells are obtained through dietary means. Eating the wrong type of foods incorporates inflammatory fats into our cells. When these cells are broken down, as all are, either from normal cell physiology or disease processes, they are converted into various chemical substrates. By consuming diets with the proper fatty acid ratios we can have a drastic impact on these chemical substrates and ultimately our health. Research has shown that the two major fatty acids, omega 6 and omega 3, and their balance promote health or disease depending ontheir respective ratios. Ratios approximately at or less then 4:1(omega 6: omega3) are necessary for optimal function. The average American diet is some where in excess of 20:1 to 30:1. There is overwhelming research to show that ratios typical of the American average are detrimental to health and promote the common thread between most, if not all, disease, inflammation. Diabetes Type II, joint pain/dysfunction, cancer, heart disease, asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, psoriasis, depression, spinal disc herniation, multiple sclerosis, migraines, aging, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, acne, malaise (flu like symptoms), osteoporosis, auto immune disorders is a small list of conditions that are linked to the chemical mediators of inflammation and/or fatty acid imbalance.

Ways to balance the ratios of essential fatty acids are to decrease the consumption of omega 6 fatty acids and increase consumption of beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. Health promoting Omega 3's are obtained by eating more fruits and vegetables, flaxseed, and most nuts. Also, eating meat that has been fed a diet high in greens not grains. Most animal products we consume today are predominantly grain fed as opposed to their wild predecessors, which eat a more balanced diet consisting primarily of "greens". Also cold water ocean fish (not farm fish that are fed a grain-based diet), such as salmon and tuna are excellent sources ofOmega 3 fatty acids. If not a regular fish consumer take a daily supplement of fish oil. Along with increasing beneficial Omega 3's into the diet it is also necessary to decrease the amount of omega 6 fatty acids within our bodies. The best way to do this is to avoid or minimize grain (corn, wheat, rice, etc.) and most vegetable oils (safflower, sunflower, cottonseed, soybean and partially hydrogenated oils) in our diet. To assure proper ratios of Omega 6: omega 3increase consumption of the above mentioned beneficial Omega 3's and to eliminate or consume no more than one serving a day of products high in Omega 6 fatty acids. By eliminating and/or reducing grain and vegetable oil products such as cookies, cakes, crackers, bread, cereals, margarine, etc. the amount of Omega 6 fatty acids in our diet can be drastically reduced thus restoring proper essential fatty acid ratios and promoting health.Remember fat is “essential” to our nervous system and the trillions of cells in our bodies. We were designed to consume fat, just not the types standard to western diet. Actually people that eat good fat (omega 3’s and omega 9’s from olive oil) actually lose weight in comparison to those that eat “no fat” diets which are high in grains (which is excessively high in omega 6 fatty acids). The good news is that we are constantly regenerating cells and renewing tissues. If the choice is made to live a lifestyle that incorporates the proper building blocks, our bodies will have the opportunity to heal and function better. The basic idea is to eliminate food from our diets that provoke disease and to incorporate those that promote healthy end products. It makes much more sense to eliminate the chemical mediators of disease then to try to combat them with millions of dollars annually in health care and prescription drug cost once they are already formed.

References:

1. Simopoulos A: Omega 3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases. Journal of the AmericanCollege of Nutrition, Vol 21, No. 6, 495-505 (2002)

2. Seaman DR: The Diet-Induced Proinflammatory State: A Cause of Chronic Pain and Other Degenerative Diseases? J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002 Mar-Apr;25(3):168-79

3. Curtis C: Pathologic Indicators of Degradation and Inflammation in Human Osteoarthritic cartilage are Abrogated by Exposure to Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Arthritis and Rheumatism, Vol 36, Issue 6, 1544-1553(2002)

4. Miyamato H: The Role of Cyclooxenase-2 in Lumbar Disc Herniation. Spine, Vol 27, Issue 2, 2477-2483(2002)

5.Hands ES: Nutrients in Food. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; Baltimore: 2002