Heath can be thought of as a fluid, complex concept built on an accumulation of habits, beliefs and lifestyle factors. There is no hierarchy when it comes to health. Nutrition is not superior to movement, sleep isn’t more important than being in structural alignment and our physical health is not more important than our mental and emotional well-being... and vice versa. Nutrition is one pillar of health, a foundational one in it’s own right. However, eating all the superfoods in the world is not going to readjust your spine, just as a good exercise program won’t feed and replenish your microbiome.
We believe the pillars of health to be Nutrition, Movement, Sleep, Structural alignment, and Subconscious Patterning.
All of these pillars work symbiotically, in harmony, to bring the body into a state of optimal health. Each of these areas does its part in regulating the nervous system and improving the biology of the body. They are interwoven like an intricate tapestry, none able to perform without the support and input from the others.
The scope of our individual practices cannot and shouldn’t encompass all of the pillars of health.
When it comes to expertise, the reality is we can’t be masters in everything. Part of this same reality is that often our clients/patients don't have the time or funds to see 5 different practitioners. So, how can we, as holistic health practitioners address this?
Simple. We provide value where we can, and refer out when the extent of a client's problem exceeds our scope of practice.
In the realm of nutrition, which encompasses many components of functional medicine - protocols are based on each client's individuality. They take into account pages of intakes, lab tests, mannerisms, emotional state and physical markers. Taking this into consideration, there are a few universal principles of nutrition that every practitioner can relay to every client. These principles add value, increase overall well-being and set the foundation for sustained healing- while most importantly, doing no harm.
Universal Principles of Nutrition
Chewing our food - This seems obvious, right? Yet we often have our next bite on our forks before we are finished chewing the food we have in our mouths, signalling the swallow reflex prematurely. Can you relate? Chances are if you relate, so do your clients/patients. Approximently 75% of people have symptoms of digestive distress, and this is in large part due to the fact that we are missing a crucial step of the digestive process by shovelling food into our mouths and swallowing with large particles still intact. For some perspective, did you know that we should be chewing each mouthful of food approximately 30 times?
Mechanical Digestion - When we chew food into a pulp, we are breaking down large molecules into small molecules. This reduces stress in the esophagus and decreases the amount of energy it takes for the stomach to digest these food particles. The stomach is well equipped to digest food, but the stomach is actually the third phase of digestion and its mechanisms work best, when the first two phases - one being chewing are done correctly.
Chemical Digestion - Saliva contains digestive enzymes that help to break down carbohydrates, which begin to digest in the mouth. When we adequately chew our food, we not only secret sufficient quantities of amylase, but we allow it to be in direct contact with carbohydrates for a sufficient amount of time.
Phytochemical Breakdown - Chewing is the most efficient way to release phytochemicals from plants. The mechanical motion of chewing breaks down the cell walls of plants, making these systemically beneficial compounds available to us. No matter how much stomach acid, bile or any other digestive secretion we have- we cannot access these chemicals without manually breaking down the walls that surround them!
Contrary to the old adage, you are not what you eat. Rather, you are what you absorb and assimilate. When it comes to absorbing our food, water plays a key role. Paradoxically we need both a lot of water, and none at all for digestion to function properly.
Hear us out. Stomach acid, also known as hydrochloric acid (HCL), is needed to break down food in the stomach. HCL, as the chemical formula implies, includes hydrogen. The body receives hydrogen primarily from water (H2O). If a person is dehydrated, even by a little bit, stomach acid production can decrease. When this decrease happens, food can be digested incompletely. Hydration throughout the day allows the body to produce enough stomach acid for adequate digestion.
Caveat: Ingesting water actually “dilutes” stomach acid, temporarily. Essentially this means the acidity goes down (pH increases) and the pH of stomach acid needs to be low for it to do its job.
So… now what? Drink lots of water throughout the day- and avoid during meal times when HCL is secreted. General rule, avoid liquids 10 minutes before and after consuming food!
How many of us are guilty of scrolling through our instagrams feeds, working or watching TV as we eat? Or eating in our cars or as we walk to get where we need to go? We’re going to bet almost everyone is raising a hand here, and trust us - we understand that life gets hectic. That sometimes eating can be an inconvenience, that there’s only so much time in the day.
The thing is, digestion is a complex process that takes a lot of energy. It also takes a lot of blood and a lot of oxygen. In order for this energy, blood and oxygen to be effectively used by the digestive system, we need the body to be primarily in a parasympathetic state - also known as “rest and digest”- Is this nomenclature a coincidence? Probably not.
Whether we feel stress or not, when we are distracted, preoccupied or worse, eating while moving or doing a cognitive task, our bodies are more alert. By default they are in a more sympathetic state, which shunts energy, blood and oxygen to the extremities (insert fight or flight tiger analogy here). From an evolutionary perspective, when there is a threat of a tiger, the body doesn't care about digestion, because who cares if your nutrients are absorbed if you’re dead. You know?
In the realm of nutrition and functional medicine a large percent of people seek guidance because of digestive issues. We think this is important because if digestion is compromised that means that nutrient absorption is impaired. When it comes to healing and creating a terrain for optimal health, no matter what the problem is, nutrient status needs to be addressed. By providing clients with these basic tips, nutrient absorption WILL improve, you’ll give their body access to the building blocks of biology and their healing process WILL accelerate. Interdisciplinary approaches to health are the gold standard, but if you can save your client time and money by having a 5 minute chat that has the ability to radically change their physiology, why wouldn’t you?
The Fiore Health Team