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Eat With Purpose

August 23
16:16 2019

By: Dr. Abigail Joseph – Weekly Column –

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “you are what you eat.” Don’t worry, I won’t be making reference to us fat folks. The statement was made in an effort to encourage a shift in food choices and yes it was probably geared towards making the overweight person think before eating. Yes indeed, food choices are a daily challenge and while as doctors we want our patients to make better food choices, my method of change is by explaining to them what other side effects food can have on their body apart from simply gaining a few pounds.

Most of the time we have urges and cravings for certain foods. We give in to those desires without the thought of how our body will react. Our brain tells us to, but at times our body screams for help. Food is an essential part of life. It nourishes us, from the roots of our hair to the soles of our feet and all the organs in between. You can tell a lot about what we eat by looking at our bodies. How dry our lips are, how fragile our hair is, or maybe how pale our skin looks are all direct reflections of food. Some of these symptoms are produced unknowingly, and others we create with purpose. The anemia we develop sometimes is due to lack of iron consumption, maybe you don’t like meat, maybe you are not eating healthy; or your eating lacks purpose.

As most of you know, I like travelling. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you probably know by now that I go to Chetumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico very frequently. Yes, Belizeans would say,” yo gawn drink di waata.” I would say, “on the contrary….I ate the TACOS!” Yup, I am a sucker for tacos, Mexican tacos to be specific. I love going there with my Dad and my younger cousin Frankito. We’d go up the street from my old house (yes I lived there when I studied at the Universidad de Quintana Roo). We would order a large amount of tacos and ask for the hottest habanero sauce they had. We looked forward to a black sauce they would provide. If you are ever in Mexico and you ask for pepper and it’s not black…send it back. The black sauce with habanero seeds floating about is THE SAUCE!!! Instant Rhinitis (runny nose), watery eyes, our ears would feel warm and then you’d hear the occasional ssssssss before taking a small sip of Mundet Apple soda. Yes, I enjoy the spicy stuff.

Unfortunately as I get a little older, my body is not as receptive. I find myself adding to our tradition of eating tacos by a routine stop at the 24 hour pharmacy on our way back to the hotel, because I am also accustomed to the upset stomach and the pain I will have later. We smile and we “tek wi lik” because we “like di joke.” Many of you, like myself, often times ignore clear signs that our body tells us, but for the sake of lighting up the pleasure center of our brains we press forward and eat the foods our body clearly rejects anyways.

There are many people in the world who live with painful medical conditions; pain due to elevated uric acid, arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and chronic Gastritis to name a few. At times these persons would have mild to moderate pain for which they take anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications. They would go on to express to you that some days are better than others. Did you ever consider the fact that our dietary intake greatly influences this? It is important for you to understand that inflammation is also interpreted by the brain as aches and pains. Meaning, when you feel pain, the inflammatory factor is playing a part. It is also important to understand that there are certain foods that should be avoided due to their inflammatory properties. Sometimes due to the doctor-patient ratio at the hospital or clinic, there isn’t enough time to spend explaining the food concept to patients. Inflammation is highly impacted by our diet and nutrition. With this said, by avoiding certain foods you can prevent pain or the exacerbation of chronic ailments. By eating the right foods you may begin to naturally reduce inflammation and also rid the body of certain toxins.

SO what are foods you should try to avoid? If you suffer from a lot of pain due to inflammation then one of the main ingredients you should actively avoid is caffeine. Caffeinated beverages and caffeine alter the pH of your body and make it more acidic. Altering the pH increases inflammation in the body by changing the body’s natural chemical process. Artificial sweeteners, especially those that have aspartame should be avoided. Studies show that an increase in glucose makes you more sensitive to pain. Refined carbohydrates such as white flour that form the base for white bread and pasta have been stripped of their nutrients and fiber and are also high in sugar. Battered and deep fried foods have two downsides, one being the flour or breaded coating and the type of oil used. Fried foods contribute greatly to arthritic pain.

There are some people that say that nightshade vegetables: white potato, tomato, eggplant, bell peppers to name a few, causes exacerbation of their arthritic pain. While there are no studies to support this, there is a greater support for saying that you have a probable “food sensitivity” to the nightshade family. If this occurs you can substitute with non-nightshade vegetables such as: yams, sweet potato, cauliflower and mushrooms. Types of anti-inflammatory foods to include in your daily intake would be: Kale, spinach, blueberries, cherries, dark grapes, beans, green tea, red wine, avocado, olive oil, cold water fish, turmeric, spices and herbs. Note that I did not say processed meat, red meat or game meat as these types of meat elevate uric acid and may increase your pain if you are already suffering from this condition.

Our body uses inflammation to protect us from illnesses. Inflammation is a part of the healing process. Persons that have medical conditions which produce pain as a faulty response should be mindful and aware that food may contribute to their pain. Considering this when making food choices may drastically improve pain and symptoms. Dealing with pain due to inflammation is something no one should have to endure. Understanding that different foods may worsen your inflammation and that there are anti-inflammatory foods that you can use as substitutes can greatly improve your situation. Talk to your doctor about your diet the next time you visit your nearest Healthcare Facility.

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