A Healthy Diet!
- Lowering your sugar intake to make your feet feel better
I think everyone has a pretty good idea of what makes up a healthy diet- lots of veggies, lean meats, nuts, avocados, plain yogurt, etc. And I don't think I've ever met a patient who thought that a slice of chocolate cake was a healthy meal. That's because it's commonly known that sugar is not healthy.
Two things most patients don't know is that the most dense form of sugar is starch, like grains and potatoes. When you hear grains, think wheat, bread, pasta, rice, oatmeal, and corn. You can check the "glycemic index" of food. That compares the amount of sugar that gets into your blood stream from a particular food with the amount of sugar you get from drinking a cup of pure sugar. So the highest number is 100%. Bread, for example, is 71%! Wow. Might as well eat the sugar bowl with a spoon. A cup of broccoli, to put it in perspective, is only 15%. Keep in mind that broccoli is a carbohydrate. The trick is not to eat a "low carb" diet, but rather to eat a "good carb" diet.
Another thing that is commonly not understood is WHY sugar is bad for you. The answer is because eating sugar causes the production of the hormone insulin. A little insulin is good, it transports sugar from the blood stream into the cells giving them energy to perform their daily tasks. This system was invented before Doritos hit the fan. Too much insulin a few hundred years ago was impossible. Now it is common and very harmful. Insulin is the most inflammatory hormone in the body. Inflammation from insulin in the kidneys, for example, slows down kidney function which makes you retain water. This goes to your ankles and you get "cankles"- the separation between calf and ankle are gone. This extra water weight makes it tiring to walk as well as causing muscle pain and cramping.
High levels of insulin cause inflammation inside arteries, red, sore areas that look like they have been brushed over and over with a scrub brush. This wound caused by insulin is repaired with the deposition of cholesterol. Eventually this leads to heart disease.
Insulin causes inflammation of joints. This makes it painful to walk. One of the tips for people with arthritis is to take fish oil capsules. How does that work? Consuming healthy oil will absorb sugar in your blood stream and lower insulin production which lowers pain. When I was in college, girls used to drink heavy cream before going out to ladies' night at the bar in order not to get drunk and get taken advantage of. Alcohol is sugar and the fat in the heavy cream lowered the accessibility of alcohol. This is also how fish oil reduces pain in the arthritic patient. You could also skip the 10 screwdrivers or piece of cake!
Why doesn't your doctor tell you to eat a diet that reduces your production of insulin? Mainly because there is no commonly used test to measure your insulin levels. I think this will exist in about 10 years. Doctors love blood tests and prescriptions. This is called "evidence based medicine". But right now there is no test for insulin and there is no prescription that reduces the production of insulin, the opposite in fact- lots of drugs that increase the production of insulin to counteract the Doritos.
The other reason doctors don't talk about a low insulin lifestyle from my own conversations over the last 20 years, to quote my own doctor: "I don't get paid to get into an argument!" Why would a doctor get an argument from a patient who was told to lay off the bread? Because bread is such concentrated sugar it hits the same receptor as cocaine! It's addictive and very hard to give up. Same with pasta and rice. So doctors compromise and say "Well, at least cut down on the fat." People like that. No one is addicted to fat. It hits no receptor in the brain. Eating too much fat makes you very sick and have a lot of pain. No one overeats fat. When the doctor says to lower the fat, everyone is happy.
Here's an example: About 20 years ago a diabetic, overweight patient came in with terrible foot pain. He could hardly walk. His name was Otto. I treated his foot problem, but because he was an older patient, I didn't want to lay the whole scientific explanation of my diet advice on him. I just told him to not eat bread. He was horrified. "What? I love bread. I eat bread during every meal." But he listened to me and came back for a follow up appointment two months later and told me about his visit earlier in the day with the doctor who had referred him to me.
Otto told me that the doctor had weighed him and he had lost 30 pounds. The doctor said "Otto! What the heck! I'm treating you for 20 years, trying to get you to lose weight and now you've finally done it! How in the heck did you do it?"
"Oh, Dr. S, I went on the Doctor Janson Diet."
"The Doctor Janson Diet? What is that?"
"It's a great diet, so easy, just don't eat bread! You know Dr. Janson. You sent me to her!"
The next week Dr. S had to come in to meet me. He was very impressed that I could get Otto to lose weight after yelling at the man for 20 years. Dr. S shook my hand laughing.
You could start there, too. Just get bread out of your diet. Bread is more processed than a candy bar. I told you that the glycemic index of bread is 71. The glycemic index of a regular sized Snickers bar is only 43. Think of that. Isn't that amazing? A slice of bread has almost twice the sugar load of a big candy bar.
Lowering your blood insulin levels will decrease water retention and decrease inflammation in your heart and joints. I highly recommend that! A healthy heart and good ankles will help you walk and stay healthy!