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Cancer and atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, are words people hope to never hear from their doctors.
Fortunately, preventative medicine for these and other degenerative diseases often can be found in the refrigerator and pantry - as long as people make good nutritional choices.
That was the crux of a recent presentation featuring the advice of naturopathic doctor Jim Daily and wellness consultant Melanie Daily at Yampa Valley Medical Center.
The discussion was part of SportsMed's Fit at 50 and Beyond program which, together with the VNA's Aging Well program and other community organizations, promotes fitness and healthy aging.
The Dailys' talk focused on how to decrease the body's toxic burden and add back essential nutrients, improving energy and vitality in the short and long run.
"It's the only option you really have if you want to live a longer healthier life," Jim Daily said.
The bad news
Unfortunately, the typical American diet, dominated by refined, preserved and processed foods and unhealthy fats and animal protein, contributes to nutritional imbalances in the body that can result in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, hormonal imbalances and ultimately cancer and hardened arteries.
Culprits include processed grains leached of vitamins and minerals and drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which too often replace water as fluid choices.
Unhealthy animal protein comes from animals given antibiotics and growth hormones and fed an unnatural diet of corn, wheat and soy, which changes omega-3 fats (good fat) into artery-clogging trans fats, the Dailys said.
In addition, a diet lacking in vegetables and cultured foods depletes the gut's protective lining of enzymes and beneficial bacteria that aid digestion and help protect the body against toxins.
This can result in irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating and leaky gut, which releases viruses, bacteria, yeast and other toxins into the body. The body's response to these toxins can cause plaque buildup and tumors.
Poor nutrition also makes the liver sluggish and less able to neutralize or eliminate toxins, instead taking them into the body.
The Dailys recommended several "cornerstones of action" to replenish the body of important nutrients needed to repair and regenerate cells.
People interested in revamping their diet should take these recommendations into consideration and consult their personal health care professional, Jim Daily said.
Perhaps the most important action is a diet rich in vegetables, which should make up 60 to 80 percent of a person's food intake. Raw, steamed, sauteed, grilled and roasted vegetables all are good, and vegetable juice is a quick way to get multiple servings, the Dailys said.
Ideally, vegetables and fruits should be organic (use frozen in winter when fresh ones are more scarce).
Fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, seeds and legumes and sprouted, cracked, stone-ground or 100-percent whole grain (eaten in moderation) and flax seeds all provide soluble or insoluble fibers that feed good gut bacteria and help clear toxins.
A note about soy: Although many soy products are readily available, including soy milk, creamer, cereals and burgers, such products are refined and difficult to digest. Better options are tempeh, miso and other products with soy fermented in the bean, which retains the enzymes needed to digest the proteins, Jim Daily said.
Wild fish and game and range-fed animals are good sources of healthy fat needed for cellular function. Other sources are avocados, eggs and raw nuts and seeds (high-heat roasting changes good fats to bad fats). Olive oil is good to cook with because it can withstand high heat without breaking down good fats. Palm and coconut oils, although high in saturated fat, also are good for cooking, the Dailys said.
Herbs, spices and teas help detoxify the liver and control bad organisms in the gut.
Cultured foods are preserved with good bacteria important for nutritional balance and include raw fermented vegetables, yogurt, miso, tempeh, kefir and raw wheat germ.
Water is very important, although the Dailys recommended against drinking tap water because the chlorine and fluoride content hurts the body's ability to absorb minerals. The best water has had such impurities taken out and replaced with beneficial minerals. A pinch of sea salt will add some minerals to purified water, and you also can purchase electrolytes to add to water.
In addition to eliminating bad foods such as high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats, people feeling sluggish or having digestive problems may consider shunning common food allergens such as soy, coffee, chocolate, refined sugars and grains, corn, wheat and dairy for two weeks. If they feel better, they can gradually add each food back into their diet to pinpoint any allergy.
Eliminating these foods for 21 days and proceeding with a diet including the nutritional recommendations above also helps cleanse the liver.
"Anything you can do for your liver is good," said Jim Daily, noting the liver has an amazing ability to regenerate itself, and it is good to do such a cleanse once a year.
Supplements and lifestyle
Even a good diet should be paired with supplements to help reverse damage caused by nutrient depletion and toxin buildup.
Supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, so buyers need to seek out quality products made by reputable brands. Staff at health food stores typically are very knowledgeable and can help buyers find the right product, Jim Daily said.
Supplements should include omega-3 fatty acids. Quality fish oils are the best, and aid cells in absorbing nutrients and expelling toxins. Probiotics, or good "gut bugs" such as acidophilus, also are important for the gut's protective lining.
Enzymes, which are found in raw food, are needed for good metabolic processes in the body. Supplements taken before a heavy meal will help digest proteins and fats, the Dailys said.
Multivitamin and mineral supplements that include B vitamins and trace minerals and antioxidants also should be included in a person's supplement list.
Finally, perhaps just as important as a good diet is exercise and a good state of mind. Endurance activities and strength training, including yoga, pilates and gyrotonics, promote overall good health.
Positive thinking, relaxation techniques, good sleep and spending time with friends, family and animals help reduce stress that contributes to poor health.
The Dailys also suggest watching less TV and resisting co-commiseration and doom and gloom thinking.
"We just have to not participate in those types of activities," Melanie Daily said.