Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Ninety-One, Updating Day One-Hundred Thirty-Three (Three Studies Point to the Gut As A Place to Find Better Health)

During the summer of 2011, an on-line customer informed me she eats Spelt Right products because her diet change, which included replacing wheat with spelt, helped her reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.  She said that, on the recommendation of her endocrinologist, she removed white starchy flours from her diet and replaced them with ancient grains like spelt and quinoa.  As a result, she lost 30 pounds.

I have heard similar stories, but this piqued my curiosity. 

I started researching and found an interesting article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, entitled Adjuvant Diet to Improve Hormonal and Metabolic Factors Affecting Breast Cancer Prognosis.   This article contains some incredible information based on medical studies.

In a nutshell, it states what many of us already know, but hate to admit. Americans (and others adopting the "Western Diet") eat a lot of junk, don't exercise much, and are getting sick as a result.  The good news is that there are ways to turn this around. One way is to eat better, and one of the recommendations for better eating is to chose spelt and other heirloom grains over processed grains.

The abstract of this article states that “western lifestyle, characterized by reduced physical activity and a diet rich in fat, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein is associated with high prevalence of overweight, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and high plasma levels of several growth factors and sex hormones….[T]hese factors are associated with breast cancer risk and, in breast cancer patients, with increased risk of recurrences.  Recent trials have proven that such metabolic and endocrine imbalance can be favorably modified through comprehensive dietary modification, shifting from Western to Mediterranean and macrobiotic diet.”  (Emphasis added).

Among the other dietary recommendations, the article suggests that breast cancer patients should “reduce high glycemic index and high insulinemic index foods, such as refined flours, potatoes, white rice, corn flakes, sugar, and milk, using instead whole grain cereals (unrefined rice, barley, millet, oat, spelt, quinoa)."  

The human body's ability to "heal" itself  when fed the proper foods is the topic of a recent Harvard study published in Nature in December 2013.  The study indicates that the types of foods (plant based proteins vs. animal based proteins) influence the bacteria in the gut almost immediately, and that the human gut rapidly adapts to positive dietary change.

Similarly there are recent studies demonstrating that gut health is related not only to physical wellness, but also is connected to brain function.  A study conducted by CalTech published in
Cell in December 2013 demonstrates that there is a connection between the gut and the brain, suggesting that the use of probiotics may alleviate the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders.  "Traditional research has studied autism as a genetic disorder and a disorder of the brain, but our work shows that gut bacteria may contribute to ASD-like symptoms in ways that were previously unappreciated," says Prof. of Biology Sarkis Mazmanian. "Gut physiology appears to have effects on what are currently presumed to be brain functions."

All of these scientific studies support what my family has been unscientifically proving over the past eight years.  A balanced diet rich in whole foods (no additives or highly processed foods or grains) leads to a healthier, more productive life, with less "down time" and a stronger immune system.  The benefits of our "clean diet" lifestyle are most prominent with our son whose health and behavior have improved dramatically as a result of the change.

Americans have been in a state of amnesia, forgetting to listen to their bodies which have been the primary indicators since time immemorial of what is good and what is not.  We ignore the signs when we abuse our bodies with bad food choices and we are led down a false path that a simple pill will fix it.  We simply need to look to the past for our answers today. As the Ancient Greek Physician Hippocrates is oft quoted, "Let food be thy medicine; let medicine be thy food."

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