Reversing the Damage of Our Super-Sized Lifestyle
Dr. Brenda Trudell

Last time we discussed the hidden costs of our lifestyle choices that weaken the health of our nation every single day. The amount of money spent on treatment, medical expenses, and lost production due to the seven major illnesses in our country (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic pain, stress, obesity and adverse drug reactions) was broken down to show the average cost a family of four incurs in one year.  The breakdown was $13,818 a year, or over one trillion dollars! This article will focus on making better health choices to reverse the damage of our super-sized lifestyle.

Besides smoking, the biggest contributor to poor health and other diseases in our country is increased weight gain.  Individuals with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight, while individuals with a (BMI) of 30 or more are considered obese. Obesity is defined as an excessively high amount of body fat or adipose tissue in relation to lean body mass. Most of these people are at least thirty pounds over their healthy weight.  Individuals with a BMI of 35 are considered to be severely obese, and those with a (BMI) of 40 are considered morbidly obese. Generally, the morbidly obese are over 100 pounds over their recommended weight.

According to the CDC, about 66% of people in the USA are now overweight, with 32% being obese.  About 3% of people, or 6.8 million adults, were morbidly obese in 2005.   Obesity increases a person’s risk of contracting numerous diseases, including diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. In 1999, not a single state in the US had 20% of their population overweight. Today, 49 states have at least 20% overweight.

Data from 2000 shows that an astonishing 15% of teens form 12-19 years of age are overweight, with that number increasing at an alarmingly high rate each year. Overweight and obese youth are more likely to become overweight and obese adults with significant health problems, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

Since we know that a large percentage of our population is overweight or obese, it is important to show how obesity can lead to other serious illnesses. Recent research has shown that obesity can cause inflammation throughout the body.  Inflammation to fight off infections and heal injuries is beneficial, but only lasts for a short period of time. The cells and chemicals released by the body are pretty harsh and are designed to destroy foreign invaders.  When inflammation hangs around in the body for no specific reason, it damages healthy tissues, such as blood vessels. Prolonged inflammation can lead to hardening and narrowing of arteries, decreasing blood flow to various organs. Symptoms include stroke, heart attack, erectile dysfunction and degenerative disc disease.  Chronic inflammation causes serious illnesses, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia.  It can even play a role in osteoporosis, depression, endometriosis, headaches and aging. Since the most common form of medical treatment for these diseases are prescription drugs, people who are overweight or obese are more likely to be on multiple medications, and therefore increase their risk of adverse drug reactions.

The typical American diet is full of pro-inflammatory foods. Processed grains like corn and wheat found in white bread, wheat bread and corn chips, sugar, potato chips, grain-fed beef and chicken, and omega-6 oils like corn, safflower, sunflower, and peanut oils all contribute to increased inflammation.  In fact, most processed foods are made primarily with grains and oils that promote inflammation.  According to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, sugar-sweetened soft drinks contribute over 7% of our calorie intake each day, and represent the largest single food source of calories in the US diet.

Since inflammation is a major contributor to the overall decreased health of Americans, is largely associated with being overweight and obese, and the majority of our diet is made up of pro-inflammatory foods, it makes sense that changing the way we eat would change the state of our health.  A diet focused on omega-3 fatty acids and avoiding omega-6 fatty acids will help decrease the amount of inflammation in the body.  Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are olive oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, fish, fish oil, grass-fed meats, and omega-3 eggs.  Other foods that help decrease inflammation are red wine, dark chocolate, fruits, veggies, garlic, almonds, ginger, coconut, coconut oil, and turmeric/curry. Pay attention to fruits and veggies with deep, dark colors and try to eat a rainbow of colors everyday.

The quality of food you eat is as important as what you eat.  Research has shown that organic and locally grown foods carry more nutrients than their conventional and genetically modified counterparts.  Adding nutrient dense varieties will have a greater impact on your overall health.  Grain-fed meats promote inflammation in the body, as opposed to organic and grass-fed meats. Making sure your food comes from high quality sources will have a huge impact on your health.

Supplementation may be necessary, especially if you are not able to eat organically and locally grown food.  Almost everyone can benefit from a basic formula of a high-quality multi-vitamin, magnesium, calcium, EPA/DHA, and vitamin D.  Research shows that the best source of vitamin D is the sun.  If you are unable to spend time in the sun every day, a high-quality supplement is absolutely necessary. Other important supplements include CoQ10, ginger, turmeric, proteolytic enzymes, garlic, ginseng, probiotics, fiber, selenium, and a vitamin B complex.  Specific supplements and dosages are determined by individual nutritional demands, so it is important to find a natural healthcare provider who can help you determine your needs.

Health is a multi-faceted way of life that includes diet, nutrition, exercise, genetics, spirituality, emotional well being, and more.  This article touched on a very important aspect of overall health, and that is decreasing the amount of inflammation produced in the body, along with maintaining a healthy weight. These two things together will significantly reduce your risk of suffering from the seven major diseases in our country, and give you a higher quality of life.   It’s not too late to reverse the damage of our super-sized lifestyle.