I did a presentation recently to some manual therapists (osteopaths, physiotherapists, massage therapists, energy therapists) about how nutrition can benefit the effects of their treatment on clients. So in addition to my own assumptions and research, I asked for some feedback from colleagues in the field.
A respected colleague/osteopath compared working on a healthy body versus an unhealthy body to a gardener working with healthy soil versus working in compact clay or loose sand or otherwise unhealthy soil. Just as with farmers who are trying to grow healthy food on depleted soil, the manual therapist’s job is made more difficult when their clients have unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits. Just as plants grown in poor soil are prone to pests, weeds and bugs, and require pesticides and fertilizers to make crops grow, an unhealthy body requires many treatments, potions, prescriptions, supplements and is stiff, rigid, unpliable and lacks energy flow and tends not to respond as favourably or efficiently to treatments.
So it is with our bodies. When we practice self care with good nutrition and lifestyle habits, it makes all the other good things we do for ourselves – massages, physiotherapy, exercise, acupuncture, sleep, etc. – much more effective in adding to our quality of life and health.
Many people have specific injuries due to accidents, but many people have unstable bodies as a result of poor diet and lifestyle habits. Injuries result from falls due to poor balance or unprepared exertion (weekend warriors). Therapists are challenged with fixing these problems. By addressing the body as an entire system, the primary source of pain and limitation can be found. A combination of manual therapy techniques is most effective in addressing a patient’s goals. But that system consists of more than bones, muscles, organs and fluids. There is an inflammatory process going on when there is an injury and there are many branches to healing inflammation and injury, which include optimum nutrition.
Another issue with injuries is the effect of the stress response. Cortisol and adrenaline change the structural function of the body from rest, digest, repair to fight, flight or freeze. This will cause further tightness in the diaphragm, occiputal area and hip flexors, and disrupts the rest, repair and digestion functions, compounding the discomfort. Not the best scenario for recovery.
Unhealthy diet and lifestyle habits cause the body to be rigid, dense, retaining fluid, causing edema, opposing support from manual therapy and unable to rebound.
In addition, there may be medication side effects, which cause further issues around recovery like constipation and digestive upset. This means reaching for comfort foods, which are not the best choices. When self-care isn’t optimal there are subtle changes in the biology of the cells that impede healing. There is a downward spiral of injury, immobility, pain meds, weakening system leading to further injury and disability.
With so many choices we often find clients have a hard time sticking to the program of what they may or may not know to be healthy. So first we will talk about the poisons.
Action on Sugar Worldwide experts have stated that “added sugar is a totally unnecessary source of calories, give no feeling of fullness and is acknowledged to be a major factor in causing obesity and diabetes in the UK and worldwide”.
Besides the obvious places like cookies, cakes, candies, sweet drinks etc. an amazing amount of sugar is hidden in so called healthy food:
Artificial sweeteners are often worse than sugar because they are a foreign chemical that your body doesn’t recognize nor has the tools to detoxify and eliminate. Couple that with the fact that some cause known neurological interference, there is no proven benefit to these chemical flavourings.
Find natural sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar, honey and use in small amounts. Add flavour with fresh herbs and spices, natural sweeteners, healthy fats and whole foods.
Conventional wisdom has been demonizing fats in the diet for a number of years mostly as a result of a study done by Ancel Keyes who was an American physiologist who studied the influence of diet on health. In particular, he hypothesized that dietary saturated fat causes cardiovascular heart disease and should be avoided. For whatever reason his theory was barely challenged for 30 years and the low fat trend was born. The challenge was how to make food taste good when the fat was removed. So the solution was usually more sugar and starch was added. We know what has happened to obesity rates in the world since the 80s and it’s highly correlated to the low fat movement. And the fats that we were eating were highly damaged through processing.
Damaged fat facts:
I’ve lumped refined carbohydrates (grains and sweets) and processed meats together because they are so often served together, but these quotes sum things up nicely.
“WHO has classified eating processed meats in the same category as smoking.”
“Refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are the single most harmful influence in America today.” David Ludwig MD PhD Harvard’s Nutrition Dept.
Meat processing used to be a way to preserve meat in traditional fashion using brines, salt, drying or fermentation. Some of these processes basically preserved meat in a way that preserved the best properties and allow it to be stored and reconstituted and eaten in small quantities. Now processed meat contains poor quality meat and meat byproducts, processed salt, chemicals, starches, sugar. Poor quality mass-produced meat in CAFO’s (concentrated animal feeding operation) raises unhealthy animals in unhealthy conditions. The familiar quote “you are what you eat” becomes “you are what you eat eats.” And it’s not pretty.
Two slices of bread raise blood sugar faster than 6 tsp sugar. Refining grains to such small particles and removing the bran and the germ raises the glycemic index of the ground product. Then sugar is often added to the recipes sending our blood sugar off the rails. And on and on it goes.
This past weekend another colleague reported on Facebook that the reason we hadn’t seen her posting was that she took a bad fall (tripped on carpet) in a personal training session and broke her hip. She is in her late 60s and was sent off for a hip replacement. Because of her impeccable diet and lifestyle habits, she was walking the day after surgery and out of the hospital in 48 hours post-op. Her doctors commended her and said “because she is so healthy and fit that she will heal really well”.
With the crisis in health care in Canada and beyond, now is the time to take back control of your self-care and make it a priority in your life. Contact us if you want to learn how to go from stiff and sore to supple and fit.
Tanya Sullivan is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant with many opinions on the state of our food and health.
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