Nutritional Foundations

A Guide for Busy Entrepreneurs

We all want to feel like we are functioning at our highest level, waking up full of energy, ready to take on the day, firing on all cylinders, creating our genius, working in a flow state, and contributing our gifts to the world. But sometimes that just isn’t the case.  Maybe you have some nagging symptoms that you can’t seem to understand, or maybe you are having difficulty sleeping. Maybe your digestion feels a bit off, or like you’re getting pulled in a million different directions at once. Maybe you feel a bit flat, or low on energy, always fueling yourself with coffee or sweets to meet your next deadline or maybe you just want to feel your absolute best. But what does that all even mean and where do you begin?

The search for optimal health can often become overwhelming, with different “gurus” fad- diets, and the next hot hack. With all of the different wellness information out there, how do we know where to begin? 

Well, the answer is the foundations. Every system in the body is dependent on what we consider the foundations. If the foundations are not in balance, we cannot achieve optimal health which is exactly why Nutritional Therapy Practitioners first work to bring the foundations into balance. 

But what are the foundations and what do they actually do?

  1. A nutrient-dense properly-prepared diet
  2. Digestions & Elimination
  3. Blood Sugar Regulation
  4. Fatty Acids
  5. Mineral Balance
  6. Hydration

PROPERLY PREPARED NUTRIENT DENSE DIET

Eating a whole-food, nutrient-dense, properly-prepared diet is fundamental to our optimal health, energy, and ability to heal.  Our bodies require nutrients including vitamins, minerals, water, plant fibers, proteins and healthy fats that the human body is not able to make, so in order to obtain those nutrients, we must ingest, digest and absorb them. The closer food is to it’s natural form (ie in it’s whole food form rather than packaged processed food) the better. 

Our bodies benefit from a diverse selection of plant fibers, colors, and protein sources, so challenge yourself to “eat the rainbow,” combine a variety of colors on each plate, and eat a variety of both raw and cooked foods to optimize digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients.

Farming practices like factory farming, mono-cropping, and pesticide use, have reduced the number of nutrients in our food and included dangerous practices and chemicals that can make us sick, so proper food sourcing is crucial. Try to eat as local, organic, grass-fed/finished, and pasture-raised as possible, fostering relationships with your local farmer to understand their practices.  

The dirty dozen and clean 15 from the Environmental Working Group list the top 12 types of produce that have the highest levels of pesticides, and the cleanest 15 types of produce that have the least amount of pesticides. They are fantastic resources to help you optimize your food sourcing and transition to an organic diet when it might seem overwhelming or out of budget to switch over all at once. I myself, keep the clean 15 and dirty dozen in mind when I go shopping and it is not necessarily possible to shop 100% organic. 

DIGESTION & ELIMINATION

Digestion is the process by which we take food- solids and liquids into the body, break them down, absorb nutrients and eliminate waste from the body.  Every cell, every organ, and as a result, every system of the body is dependent on digestion to provide the essential nutrients it needs for structure, function, and growth. When our digestion is not functioning optimally, we lack the nutrients we need that are crucial to our energy and our body’s healthy function.

Digestion is a “north to south” process beginning in our brain before food even reaches our mouth.  We can be eating the healthiest food, but if we eat in a rushed/ stressed state, or we are not able to mechanically or chemically break down the food, then we will not properly absorb the nutrients. Many people even say that we are not what we eat, but what we absorb. 

BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION

Blood sugar regulation is very important for our energy levels and production, tissue integrity, hormonal balance, brain health, mood, memory, and overall health (NTA 2021). Glucose is the most basic form of sugar in our blood, and our brain and the PALS (the pancreas, adrenals, liver, and skeletal muscle) work very hard to maintain an even, balanced, blood sugar level.  When our blood sugar drops, we may experience mood changes, become “hangry,” fatigued, and reach for sweet snacks and caffeine as a pick me ups. In addition, issues with our blood sugar regulation can also make it more difficult for us to fall asleep, handle stress, and wake us up in the middle of the night.

The best way to maintain even blood sugar levels, is to get adequate sleep, to move daily, limit refined sugar, and to eat meals and snacks that are balanced with fat, fiber, and protein to slow down the absorption of sugar. When we eat too much sugar, or simple carbohydrates, or experience stress, our blood sugar can spike, resulting in a roller coaster of high and low energy, damaging our cells and potentially making them resistant to hormones.

FATTY ACIDS

Healthy fatty acids from plants and animals, are the main chemical building blocks of fats and are a crucial part of our diet. They provide a source of energy, allow for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, regulate our energy absorption and satiety, make our food taste good, and are an important component in the inflammation process, along with many other benefits. 

Fatty acids can be categorized into Omega 3, Omega, 6 and Omega 9 fatty acids and it is important to maintain a proper balance between the three. When we are deficient in fatty acids, or our balance between them is off, the body cannot properly inflame or anti-inflame. The body needs both processes in order to heal. When we have the correct balance of fatty acids in the diet, and can properly digest and absorb those fatty acids, we can manage inflammation and reduce healing time.

MINERAL BALANCE 

Minerals are the “spark plugs” of the body and are essential nutrients in many of the systems and functions. Enzyme reactions require minerals to function, they facilitate the transfer of nutrients across cells, maintain proper nerve function, help muscles contract and relax, regulate tissue growth, and provide structural and functional support. We need zinc for stomach acid production and digestion and we require electrolytes, which are electrically charged minerals to absorb water and maintain proper hydration. Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body and provides structure for our bones and teeth, among many other functions.

We cannot produce minerals in our bodies, and need to consume them as part of a nutrient dense, whole-food diet. Unfortunately, the practice of mono-cropping and use of pesticides has reduced the quantity of minerals in our food and many people are deficient in these important nutrients and the cofactors required for their use. 

HYDRATION

Water is the most important nutrient in the body and makes up 60% of the human body.  However, many people live in a constant state of dehydration. We need sufficient levels of water in the body to help flush toxins, remove cellular waste, support healthy digestion and transport of nutrients, librate our joints, and maintain energy levels among many other important functions. 

We cannot store water in the body, so we must consume it regularly to maintain our hydration levels. How much water we need is very bioindivideal and dependent on many factors including environment, stage of life, and activity level. About 64% of our hydration comes from consumed liquids, and 24% from fresh whole foods, but processed foods are often dehydrated as a means of preservation. 

However, it is not enough to just drink a lot of water. We also need electrolytes, which are minerals, in order to absorb that water. Otherwise, the water will just flush through our system, and we will not reap the benefits of the water. In addition, beverages like juice, tea, and coffee can have diuretic effects, so clean water from a reliable source is the best for hydration.

When we become dehydrated, we may feel fatigued, have head aches, experience anxiety, cravings, among many other symptoms. The best way to maintain hydration is to use a water bottle to track water intake, to sip on water throughout the day, rather than to chug it, and to drink water with a pinch of sea salt and lemon juice.  Try drinking a glass of water when you first wake up, and at any first sign of fatigue or head ache through out the day.  Pay attention to the color of your urine and aim to have a light straw color.  Too clear and you may be drinking too much water, or not absorbing the water, too dark and you may be dehydrated.

WHY ARE THE FOUNDATIONS SO IMPORTANT

All of the foundations are interconnected. One cannot function without the support of another- a nutrient dense diet fuels every cell and system in our body. Fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins must be eaten as part of a whole-food nutrient dense diet AND they must be digested and ABSORBED in order to fuel the body. Proper digestion requires the body to be in a parasympathetic (calm) state, hydrated, with correct hormone release (hello blood sugar!) and requires essential nutrients like zinc (minerals!), and water (hydration!). Every foundation requires essential minerals and nutrients to function. There is a delicate interplay between all of the foundations: when one foundation is off, it can throw all of the others out of proportion, but conversely, when we bring them back into balance by focusing on the basics, then we can begin optimizing our health and energy levels so that we can show up as the best versions of ourselves.

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