Don’t Confuse Me With the Facts

Food labeling cartoonAs chiropractors, we often get asked about diet and lifestyle in addition to the usual neck and back pain complaints.  In the current word-of-mouse era we live in, patients have access to an unprecedented amount of information only a click away.  Most have done their own research before they bring the subject up in our office.  Sometimes this is helpful.  Other times, it has only served to confuse them.  Some patients choose to follow each and every bit of nutritional news which only serves to drive them crazy.  Today, eggs are bad but coffee is good for you.   Yesterday it sounded like coffee was the Devil’s drink but eggs were the perfect nutritional powerhouse.

So what are they looking for from us?  Google “diabetes”  or “heart disease” and you will get well over ten million hits.  Most likely, after the cereal, shake and snack bar Googlemercials, the next few links will be to popular sources like WebMD.  These have their place but they are supported largely by pharmaceutical ad revenue.  Even if patients found their way to Medline (a source for medical journals) the average person is not used to reading technical and often seemingly contradictory research studies.

What patients are looking for is a way to look out at the endless sea of information and fish out from it the most relevant facts to their own situation.  This should be the role of their health care provider — to assist in this process.  Yet, in many cases, the information from the health care provider does not help in a positive way.

 The cycle goes something like this:

  • patient gets diagnosis (or is told to “lose a few”)
  • patient finds the latest “diet” and follows it
  • patient loses a couple pounds then hits a plateau
  • patient gets frustrated and goes back to old habits
  • this becomes another “diet” that they tried that didn’t work. 

Any diet can work, especially in the short term.  The problem is most are unhealthy and are being used as a temporary fix.  Even diets like the South Beach Diet, which is very effective at weight loss in the beginning, is not an effective long term plan for health when taking into account factors like cancer and heart disease due to too much reliance upon animal protein and complicated “what you can eat when” charts.

Nutritional science can be very technical and complex.  Even if you make it a full time endeavor, keeping up on all the latest research is nearly impossible.  What is a person to do?  First, forget about the current politics of food.  Using only common sense, imagine what a healthy, nutritional meal might look like.  Chances are you imagined a plateful of vegetables.  Maybe there was some meat or fish on the side but the bulk of the plate was filled with plant foods.  Well, let’s start there.  Make your meals (and snacks) look like that imagined ideal meal.  Dramatically reduce (or eliminate if you can) the size of the animal protein (meat, fish, dairy) you have on the plate.  Push it off to the side and fill the rest of the space with several different plant foods.  Add a heap of brown rice or a plain baked or sweet potato.  Then add sauteed spinach, roast carrots, steamed broccoli and/or peas.  See what you did there?  Without even going to night school to get your Masters in Clinical Nutrition, you just put together a perfectly healthy meal.  Just make sure the vast majority of stuff on your plate is unprocessed and plant based.  Still hungry?  Try some whole grain bread with your meal and some fruit for dessert.  Getting started really is that simple.

Dr. Michalene Elliott is a chiropractor in Rochester, NY who has gotten started.

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