Chiropractors can specialize and focus on target patients. Some focus on pediatrics, while others focus on sports and athletes. One example is that our office specializes in non-surgical spinal decompression and neuropathy. One area in which some chiropractors specialize, but really any doctor should have some knowledge of is nutrition. In this week’s blog, we will discuss the importance of nutrition, outcomes of malnutrition and what we can do to help.
What is Nutrition?
Nutrition is the biochemical and physiological process by which an organism uses food to support its life. We humans need food for both energy and survival. Does that mean drinking a Red Bull or Monster energy drink will give someone the energy to continue thriving? Absolutely not. An abundance and variety of different foods are the key to success, but not just any foods. Healthy foods! Overtime, nutritionists and dietitians have created recommended dietary guidelines for Americans to follow and to reduce the risk of diseases due to malnutrition. Based on these guidelines, we should be consuming 2000 calories a day including all important food groups to maintain a healthy weight. Below is a standard food pyramid showing the number of servings we should get from each food group.
Nutrition is broken down into two different categories that provide energy for the body: macronutrients and micronutrients.
What are Macronutrients?
A macronutrient is a nutrient that the body needs in large amounts for energy and survival. These come from foods that we eat every day, and we don’t even realize it. Macronutrients are broken down into three parts: carbohydrates, protein and fat.
Carbohydrates can be bad for the body, but they are the most important macronutrient and they should make up 35%-65% of our diet per day. Carbohydrates are extremely important for brain function, and if you recall, the brain is the most important organ in the entire human body as it allows us humans to do everything that we do in life for survival.
Have you ever heard of the term “carboholic?” We Americans love our breads, pasta, cereal, and starchy vegetables. There is some good news though. You can still fill up on good carbs and still be very satisfied. Foods that are high in carbs and are good for the body include plant-based vegetables, non-sweet fruits such as apples and berries, beans/legumes, quinoa, brown rice, oats and whole grain products such as whole grain bread and whole grain pasta.
Whenever you think about protein, do you think about bodybuilding? We can see why as proteins are important for building lean muscle, but did you know that has it other important functions that are essential for human survival? It is also essential in building bone, skin, cartilage, and hair, build and repair tissue, oxygenation of red blood cells, enzyme building which helps with food digestion and helps in hormone regulation, especially during puberty. Recommendations suggest 10%-25% of the daily human diet should consist of protein
Food’s high in protein include lean meats, eggs, nuts, peanut butter, fish, beans, green-leafy vegetables, etc. Don’t be fooled though. There are poor protein food choices that should be avoided such as bacon, hot dogs, ground beef with high fat content, processed lunch meats, etc. Red meats, cheese and other dairy products can be consumed without harm in moderation; however, large quantities in a short time frame should be avoided.
We know what you are thinking; fatty foods are bad for me and increase chances of obesity, heart disease and other diseases. Even though that can be true, believe it or not, there are healthy fats that are essential for the body. The key is to know how to read nutrition labels on a package and be able to distinguish good fats from bad ones. Whenever you see on a nutrition label, saturated fat, or trans-fat with a percentage, avoid these as they are the bad fats. These types of fats are often found in chips, cookies, sweets, processed foods, and other junk food items. Whenever you see unsaturated fat, monounsaturated fat, or polyunsaturated fat on a nutrition label, these are the healthy fats that should be consumed. Healthy fatty foods include avocados, cheese, nuts, some oils, flaxseeds, fatty fish, whole eggs, dark chocolate, etc.
Ideally, making up 10%-25% of the daily human diet, healthy fats are essential in giving the body energy, protecting organs, supporting cell growth, keeping cholesterol and blood pressure under control, and helping the body absorb vital nutrients.
What are Micronutrients?
Micronutrients are essential dietary elements required by organisms in varying quantities throughout life to orchestrate a range of physiological functions to maintain health. Micronutrients are broken down into two categories: vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins are nutrients that the body needs in small amounts to function and stay healthy. Consisting of 13 different vitamins, each has their own function essential for survival and disease prevention. Down the road, we will talk about the importance of individual vitamins, but for now, we will focus directly on the importance of nutrition as a whole. It’s also important to realize that along with vitamin deficiency, too much of one vitamin can be very toxic and be just as dangerous as deficiency is to a patient. Two smaller categories of vitamins are classified based on their chemical properties.
- Water-Soluble- vitamins that are not stored in the body. The nine water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C and all the B vitamins.
- Fat-Soluble- vitamins that are stored in the body’s liver, fatty tissue, and muscles. The four fat-soluble vitamins are vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Just like vitamins, minerals are chemical elements required as essential nutrients by organisms to perform functions necessary for life. There are a large number of minerals that are essential for the human body and health, but the most important minerals include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, chloride, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, sulfur, cobalt, copper, fluoride, manganese, and selenium. Each of these minerals has their own function essential for survival and disease prevention; however, it is too much to cover in one blog, so down the road, we will elaborate on some of the most important minerals separately.
What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition is the lack of proper nutrition caused by not having enough to eat, not eating right, or the inability to use the food that one does eat. Realize that being overweight or obese isn’t the only form of malnutrition. Someone who is underweight due to inadequate food options, poverty, or an eating disorder can be malnourished. 828 million people worldwide are malnourished, 34 million of whom are Americans. The worst part of that is that 9 million of those Americans are children.
Aside from over malnourished or under malnourished, there are two different types of malnourished individuals. The first are the individuals who can do something to change their habits but choose not to. These could be obese or underweight individuals. The second are individuals who can’t do anything about it such as individuals who live in third world countries or the impoverished who don’t have the proper resources to improve their situations.
Why is this so important to know? It doesn’t make a difference whether someone is overweight or underweight. When malnutrition becomes a threat, it is because individuals are either deficient or at toxic levels of the macronutrients and micronutrients they are or are not consuming. These issues can lead to more severe issues like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, neuropathy, organ failure, and even death.
What Can Be Done to Help?
In many circumstances, malnutrition can be prevented. Our facility does not focus directly on nutrition; however, we do have knowledge behind it and its importance. We do have recommended supplements, but they are only component utilized to get a patient well. We have said this on several of our previous blogs: We are doctors, and our job is to serve and give patients the health that they want and deserve. If we believe that we can’t help you or think that an underlying condition is causing issues, we will refer you to someone who can help.
Nutritionists or dietitians are great physicians to investigate as they can create a specific diet plan and monitor physical activity to help individuals meet their health goals. Finding a personal trainer is also a great option for learning proper exercise routines and correct muscle training. Yes, even an underweight individual such as someone who has an eating disorder will benefit from working with a specialist. A personal trainer may employ a resistance exercise routine to help build muscle as muscle will increase bodyweight.
This one may seem odd, but don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach out to a psychiatrist or a psychologist. Sometimes, eating habits are influenced by some traumatic life experience and become a coping mechanism. These doctors are professionals who are equipped to address these situations and underlying issues.
Finally, see your chiropractor! Everything that happens physically and mentally creates interference on the nervous system. Getting adjusted regularly will enhance the nervous system allowing the body to balance and begin to heal on its own. We know this wasn’t the typical blog, but we just want you to realize how important nutrition is for human survival. We also want you to realize that sometimes, certain issues are beyond our scope of practice and that referring to other doctors isn’t a bad thing, but rather, working with a seasoned group of professionals can help manage this particular issue even better. If you have any questions about nutrition, please call us at (724) 547-3377 and checkout our website at www.drlarrywilkinsspinalcare.com for more content.
Yours In Health,
Larry E. Wilkins, DC
Brian M. Steinert, DC