All About You. Make 2021 your best year.

The real dirt on nutrition

Written by Karen Long

With the beginning of a new year, so many of us are resolving to eat better — but what does that mean exactly? While there are a dizzying array of diets to choose from, when we talked to Wichita health experts their message is surprisingly unified: There’s no one-size-fits-all prescription when it comes to nutrition. They also point the way to critical factors such as the soil our food is grown in, the timing of when we eat — or don’t eat — and the importance of a healthy microbiome.

Intermittent Fasting

“Regardless of what kind of diet a person needs to adhere to — vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, keto or modified keto — fasting works for everybody,” says Dr. Eva Henry, board-certified neurologist and anti-aging specialist. Intermittent fasting, or “time-restricted feeding” to use the proper medical term, has become a hot topic in the last few years, for several good reasons.

First of all, fasting triggers production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. “BDNF is basically Miracle-Gro for your brain cells,” says Dr. Henry. “If anybody wants to grow more brain cells, fasting is the way to go.” Second, prolonged fasting of two or three days will trigger a natural mechanism of cell renewal called autophagy, which also boosts immune response. And last but not least, Dr. Henry extolls the virtues of time and money saved when you’re preparing fewer meals.

For those who want to lose weight or calm a finicky stomach, there are the additional benefits of lowered caloric intake and sustained resting of the digestive system.

Extending the Fasting Window

How to get started with intermittent fasting? Every night that you have an early dinner followed by a good night’s sleep you’re already part way there. Dr. Henry recommends beginning with a 12-hour fast: Eat dinner around 7 p.m., consume nothing but water until the next morning, and don’t eat breakfast right away.

"Breakfast is whenever you break your fast. It does not need to be in the morning. I'd say breakfast is still the most important meal of the day, and it can be at noon or 2 p.m.

Dr. Henry used to graze her way through the day, but would get "hangry" within a few hours because she was consuming mostly quick bites of carbs. "Anytime you eat, especially high carbohydrate foods, insulin is being triggered to swoop up the excess blood sugar. The sudden drop in blood sugar then makes you cranky and hungry. If you consume bigger portions of low-carb meals, and less often, you avoid large fluctuations of insulin and blood sugar."

Tips and Tricks

Now Dr. Henry regularly fasts for 20 hours per day on weekdays, with a four-hour feeding window in the evening. She says her patients who do the same are amazed that eating less often actually leads to improved energy. Here are a few tips as you’re gradually extending the length of the fast:

  • Drink plenty of mineral-rich fluids, such as mineral water, or one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar mixed into 18 ounces of water with a pinch of Himalayan salt. (Low salt can trigger hunger.)
  • Consume less sugar, processed food and carbs, and eat more protein and good fats. The doctor recommends avocados and eggs as good sources.
  • Aim for a macronutrient balance of low carbs, protein (up to 0.8 gm per kgs of lean body weight), good fats and generous amounts of rainbow-colored vegetables.

Intermittent fasting works for every adult, says Dr. Henry, however, children and pregnant women should not fast. If you have diabetes, IBS or chronic illnesses, fasting may help with your condition, but work with a doctor or registered dietician. “We have a fasting ‘club’ here in my practice; it is more fun and encouraging to do as a group!"

Benefits of Fasting

Grow brain cells (BDNF)
Regenerate (autophagy)
Lose fat
Save time
Save money
Better energy
Deeper sleep
Help the planet

Healing the Gut

During the pandemic more people are loading up on immune-boosting supplements such as vitamin C and zinc, but Veronica Seberger, board-certified neurofeedback trainer at Cognitive Performance & Health, says actually absorbing those nutrients is another matter. Chronic inflammation of the gut can prevent the absorption of nutrients.

People who experience brain fog, headache and nausea, or difficulty with memory, thinking and processing may have inflammation of the gut, resulting from an imbalance in the microbiome — the cocktail of microscopic flora that’s as “unique as a fingerprint,” according to Seberger.

“Our immune system is part of our gut and our gut is part of our immune system. If our gut is not healthy, it’s not absorbing it as it should.”

“Measuring your gut health is really another way of measuring your brain health.” — Veronica Seberger, Cognitive Performance & Health

Using a test called the GI-MAP, Veronica Seberger and her husband, Dr. James Seberger, can identify over 100 bacterial, viral and parasitic pathogens, different strains of fungi and yeast, as well as markers of healthy flora. Pathogens they’ve discovered in their patients include E. coli, salmonella, giardia, norovirus, H. pylori and Epstein-Barr virus.

After healing and balancing the gut using medication, probiotics and a special diet, Seberger says her patients “bounce back from the fog.” Moods improve, they sleep better and enjoy better overall performance. “Measuring your gut health is really another way of measuring your brain health.”

Nutrient-Dense Soil

Our guts are not the only system with an individualized microbiome. “It’s very important to understand the microbiome of the soil — the health of the soil — and the connection to the human microbiome in our gut,” says Cseeszka Borjigin, who’s partnering with Stacy Gash of Hope Grown Ranch to organize a study on soil quality, and how to supercharge the nutrient level of the produce grown in it.

Healthy bacteria living in the ground are responsible for breaking down elements in the soil and making it available to the plant — but today’s soil is depleted, holding 80 percent fewer nutrients than in the past century, according to Borjigin.

“Hippocrates told us thousands of years ago to use food as your medicine, but the food — even in the health food stores — cannot be used as medicine because it’s minerally deficient.” She recommends buying from local producers who are known as “regenerative” farmers, in addition to being organic. “This is a person who has knowledge and expertise for creating nutrient-dense soil,” a farming method also known as permaculture.

Borjigin’s goal is to avoid having someone living on supplements for the rest of their life — even high quality supplements. “It’s still better for your body to get the nutrients it needs from your food.”

Join us in March for the next installment in this series, where we’ll explore the best fitness options for being strong, flexible, clear and your best self in 2021!

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