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Education Helps Healing

alive case study: part 2

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Education Helps Healing

Last month I detailed the symptoms and nutritional assessment of alive case study client Jacqueline. After many attempts to lose weight, she has agreed, with my help, to focus on gaining health.

Last month I detailed the symptoms and nutritional assessment of alive case study client Jacqueline. After many attempts to lose weight, she has agreed, with my help, to focus on gaining health.

As a holistic nutritionist, I firmly believe that weight is an indication of overall health and that by gaining health, Jacqueline will lose weight. Her nutritional assessment indicated that poor digestion caused many of the symptoms she suffered from. Therefore, learning about her health is a main strategy in Jacqueline’s shift toward health.

Jacqueline’s Symptoms Summarized

  • difficulty losing weight
  • sugar cravings
  • bloating/gas/stomach pain after meals
  • psoriasis
  • runny and stuffy nose
  • alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • decreased ability to handle stress
  • fatigue and moodiness

Digesting New Information

Jacqueline and I spent time during each visit talking about how her body works and how food, dietary habits, and digestion are linked to her health concerns. She also took home material such as the alive Academy of Natural Health’s Digestion: Your Inner Path to True Health course, the books Allergies: Disease in Disguise by Carolee Bateson-Koch (alive Books, 2002), and Health Hazards of White Sugar by Lynne Melcombe (alive Books, 2000).

Jacqueline was highly motivated by what she learned. The information about sugar, for example, motivated her to reduce it in her diet long-term, not just until she lost weight. “I knew sugar was bad for you, but had no idea it was linked to so many diseases and to so many of the problems I’ve been having,” she shared.

Sluggish Stomach

An inadequate amount of stomach acid for proper digestive function is surprisingly common, since it is caused, in part, by a diet high in red meat, dairy products, and processed foods. Chewing food inadequately, eating in a rush, drinking liquids with meals, and being stressed are also factors that contribute to an underactive stomach. Since the digestive enzyme pepsin, which is responsible for the digestion of protein, is only activated if there is enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach, low stomach acid is also a contributor to food allergies.

Allergy Attack

Protein is supposed to be completely broken down into amino acids by the digestive process. However, when incompletely digested proteins enter the bloodstream, the body’s immune system reacts to them as foreign invaders, which results in the onslaught of inflammation and histamine release that we know as allergies. An overloaded liver may also allow allergens to enter the blood stream. According to her symptoms, Jacqueline suffers from some food allergies and/or intolerances.

Overloaded Liver

Since the liver is the body’s main detoxifier, Jacqueline’s liver may be overloaded due to her intake of alcohol and processed foods and even the residue of some drugs she had been prescribed several years ago. Her high consumption of meat and cheese also affects the functioning of the liver, which is responsible for producing the bile needed to emulsify saturated fat. In addition, commercially raised meat and dairy products contain hormones and antibiotics that, when eaten, are filtered through the liver.

When the liver is overloaded, the body often tries to eliminate toxins through the skin, which helps to explain Jacqueline’s psoriasis. The liver is also responsible for the body’s metabolism; therefore, when it’s not functioning optimally weight loss is difficult.

Sugar Cycle

Imbalanced blood sugar levels result from chronic stress and a regular intake of sugary and processed foods. When highly processed foods are consumed, they are broken down very quickly into sugar. Since the body does not need this much sugar at once, the hormone insulin is secreted from the pancreas to sweep sugar out of the blood, but as blood sugar levels drop, the alarmed adrenal glands pump out the hormone adrenalin to make sure that glucose (sugar) levels do not drop too low. Glucose is the brain’s only source of fuel, which is why low blood sugar results in moodiness, dizziness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, and cravings for more sugar.

Hormonal Havoc

Hypoglycemia may cause an overactive pancreas and/or underactive adrenal glands. The health of the pancreas is crucial in digestion since it is responsible for manufacturing the digestive enzymes needed to metabolize nutrients in the small intestine. In addition to regulating blood glucose, the adrenal glands also help manage the rate of metabolism, which directly affects weight management. Jacqueline’s daily stress and coffee and sugar intake are extremely wearing on her adrenal glands.

When processed food and alcohol are consumed and the body has too much sugar, it is automatically converted to fat, which, in turn, increases hormone levels. So while Jacqueline is maintaining a high fat content in the body due to an intake of saturated fat from meat and cheese, her intake of processed foods and alcohol is also a source of extra fat and hormonal imbalance. Excess estrogen in her body from too much body fat, an overloaded liver, constipation, and ingestion of meat hormones and alcohol, are other causes of imbalance in the body leading to difficulty with weight loss.

Psychology and Physiology

I believe that mind, body, and spirit together determine health, so Jacqueline and I also spoke about emotions. Digestion is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. Eating while stressed impairs digestion because the body is primed to fight or flight, instead of to digest. Jacqueline recognized that she tended to feed her emotions with food and admitted to being out of control when it came to chocolate. Feeling unhappy leads her to eat sugary foods, while her low blood sugar levels, in turn, caused physical cravings for more sugar. Once this cycle was broken she was better able to control her food intake.

Taking steps to understand herself and heal on both emotional and physiological levels was the beginning of Jacqueline’s true journey toward health.

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