This article was the FIRST of a series of monthly articles published in our local newspapers, The New Era and The Lebanon Local. The title of this monthly column is called “Healthy You.” Use this as the main search word to find archived articles each month.” This article was printed on 1/11/17
It is a new year and of course, many of us have already made our resolutions for 2017. Google it and you will likely locate “losing weight, exercising more, and getting healthy” in the list of top ten. Probably most of us feel like we could do a little better in our eating or general habits and I’ll wager most of you reading this know someone with (or are personally affected by) chronic concerns such as diabetes, stroke, allergies, irritable bowel, migraines, congestive heart failure, weight gain etc. The statistics never seem too far out of reach. You know the ones; the stats that say that over half of Americans are struggling with just maintaining a healthy weight. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), I whole-heartedly encourage healthy resolutions for 2017!
Let me introduce myself because I am pretty sure we haven’t met.
I am Cathryn Arndt, and like I said, I am a Licensed, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Two years ago I was a once upon-a-time single, California city gal who up and moved to Lebanon to become a married Oregon country gal.
I have fully embraced the offerings of Oregon and the country life, including learning how to raise chickens and a garden. My journey into nutrition began early and in earnest. I used to wonder what to eat. There were so many differing opinions on what was “good for you” and “bad for you” and I wanted to know what would actually help me with the weight gain, acne, crazy hormones, stomach troubles and horrible fatigue I was experiencing.
So in an effort to help myself I decided to study food. I earned my degree in nutrition and went on to become an RDN. My journey was a bit crazy at times and included a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease and thyroid cancer.
Yet through this journey, I experienced first-hand how disease and metabolism can affect your food choices and health (ie food cravings, skin reactions, hormone imbalances etc). I also learned how your food choices CAN affect disease, metabolism and your overall well-being.
This is largely why I am personally passionate and excited about nutrition and food. Food can be as powerful as medicine!
Often times food is thought of in term of just calories on a food label. For most people, looking at “food as medicine” sounds strange. However, when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Think of how often you take medication or supplements. How often is it? One, two, three times a day perhaps? Now think of how many times you eat in a day? Three, four, five times or more?
The reality is that that granola bar you snack on or that soda you drink at lunch actually breaks down into chemicals that are just as important and potent as your prescriptions or supplements. Have you ever heard your Doctor or Pharmacist tell you that you weren’t supposed to take certain medications with grapefruit juice?
Any idea why? Did you know that compounds in that simple, humble grapefruit inhibit certain drug detoxification pathways in your liver, thereby affecting how your medications (especially cholesterol medications) are utilized?
Case in point, food is chemicals and information and they are talking all the time! In fact, Dr. Jeffery Bland, a well-known Researcher often referred to as “the Father of Functional medicine” once remarked on that very thing: that food is just a bunch of chemical information (like drugs) and they are talking (ie making chemical reactions) all the time!
Yes, food is more than just calories. It is information and contains powerful chemicals that either help or harm.
What punctuates this point even more is the breakthrough research called “epigenetics,” the study of what turns our genes “on” or “off.” It is the study of the activity of genes (including the ones involved in diseases like diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s etc). They used to believe that 70% of your genes’ activity was fixed, unchangeable and determined. The other 30% was influenced by the environment like lifestyle and diet.
Research now shows that those percentages are flipped. In actuality, closer to 70% of what your genes do is not fixed and is actually related to outside factors like diet and lifestyle.
So our genes actually interact with and respond to our lifestyle and environment! You can literally change the messages you are sending your genes by what you do, how you move and what you eat. This is what makes food and nutrition so exciting and hopeful!
This is what makes food as powerful as medicine and is especially good news for those of us with some chronic health issues!
Let me be really clear about something else here too; just because nutrition is powerful doesn’t mean it has to be disgusting! I am not interested in eating “healthy” food that resembles cardboard, chalk dust or styrofoam and I doubt you are either. Food should taste good and nourish the body. I truly believe it can do both. In fact, that is a requirement for the recipes that I enjoy, share or design.
In future columns I look forward to sharing a variety of food- related topic such as my favorite recipes, menu planning on a budget, how to cook seasonal produce, and some general guidelines for how to eat with certain medical conditions.
I look forward to accompanying you as you work on your healthy resolutions for 2017. Perhaps together we can make them stick.
Published on January 11, 2017 for the New Era and Lebanon Local newspapers.