Although genetics determine many qualities that make us unique beings, contrary to popular belief, they are not the main determinants of most disease. It is epigenetics, more commonly known as lifestyle, that drives or impedes development of most disease in humans.
What is “DRESS”?
Dress is an acronym attributed to the founder of Functional Diagnostic Nutrition®, Reed Davis, and it stands for Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress Reduction and Supplementation. These 5 factors illicit powerful changes in the body (and mind) and are the crux of how functional medicine doctors, naturopaths and holistic health practitioners effectively educate and coach their clients with lifestyle modifications that result in balance and healing to their clients.
The Foundation: Diet
Because what we eat impacts our body in so many different ways, diet is the very foundation of any holistic protocol. As a young child, my mom always used to repeat the famous old saying to me “you are what you eat”, and I understand this truth now more than ever.
Food is at the center of our lives; it’s part of every social gathering and celebration: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, or just getting together with friends. Many people want to make wise food choices, but being constantly surrounded by tempting foods, busy lifestyles with little time for food prep & cooking, and peer pressure in social settings often negates good choices. Many people are also just simply confused with so much conflicting information out there. It is vital to understand the importance of nutrition and to remember that we do not have health issues because we are drug deficient, but rather, because we are nutrient deficient.
Eating nutrient dense foods gives our bodies the ability to run efficiently and is key to metabolic function, but a majority of people regularly eat foods that are processed/refined, devoid of nutrients, and are toxic. And to further complicate things, unfortunately, many foods considered healthy (this includes organic and non-GMO foods) can be problematic and cause immune reactions that result in chronic, low grade inflammation in our bodies (and brains) that we are completely unaware of; the only way to identify these foods is to test because each person is unique. Schedule a free consult with me to learn how you can identify the foods and substances that show sensitivities so you can receive a customized protocol and begin your healing journey.
Attitude & Food
Mindset about food is essential; we need to shift the thinking and view food as fuel, because in a nutshell, food provides energy for the body and mind. Naturally, we all want to enjoy food because it’s one of life’s pleasures, but we must learn to think beyond the short-term gratification of indulging. If we give ourselves the wrong fuel, it’s going to cause problems, especially long term. Most people do not realize many health issues that ultimately lead to disease begin with diet. If we put the wrong fuel in our vehicles, the engine will not run properly, and over time, other systems will begin to dysfunction, like the fuel injectors, fuel pump, and ignition system. It’s the same with food, especially for folks that have the typical standard American diet high in white refined flour, sugar and excessive carbohydrates (which spikes insulin, promotes inflammation and provides very little nutritional value). Read here for more info on insulin & blood sugar.
Mood & Food
Foods also play a key role in our moods. It is only recently that the medical community has made the connection with food and mood; now there is a field of study known as nutritional psychology, and they are finally brining to light the brain-gut connection which has long been studied and communicated among the holistic health community.
The foods we eat have a substantial affect our microbiome, which is simply the balance or ratio of good and bad bacteria in our intestinal tract. It’s a well-known fact that monosodium glutamate, a staple in Chinese food dishes, is an excitotoxin and when consumed in large doses regularly, has been shown to produce aggressive behavior, anxiety, headaches, brain fog, and fatigue. Another popular excitotoxin is aspartame, which is used in many diet sodas, and consistent consumption of this has been linked to intestinal dysbiosis, migraines, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and dementia.
Food and the microbiome also impact key hormones and neurotransmitters. One example is serotonin, which is classified as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter and is mainly produced in the GI tract. Serotonin helps regulate sleep (it’s needed to produce melatonin, which is the hormone that signals the brain to go to sleep), impacts mood, aids in digestion, and helps minimize pain. The health of the microbiome directly impacts the production of serotonin, and because the GI tract is lined with millions of nerve cells, both neurotransmitters and hormones are integral components that send signals both to and from the brain and the gut (known as afferent and efferent pathways).
Hidden Toxicity in Foods
In addition to mood altering excitotoxins, there are other toxins lurking in our foods. A good rule of thumb to avoid these hidden toxins is to choose foods that are in their most natural state (or with few ingredients as possible). Although there are healthy foods that contain trace amounts of these toxins occurring naturally, it’s important to note that eating unhealthy, processed and refined foods filled with additives that contain these toxins are the foods that cause damage. Here’s some of the most dangerous toxins found in foods:
- Trans Fats (hydrogenated oils) found mostly in fast foods, packaged cookies, crackers, breads, cakes
- Bisphenol-A (BPA) found mostly in plastic water bottles and canned foods
- Heavy Metals (most common are mercury, cadmium, lead, arsenic) found in some seafood, bone broth, rice
- Mycotoxins (multiple forms of fungus/mold) found in grains, particularly wheat and corn
To avoid these toxins, use high quality water filters and drink from glass, avoid all processed and refined foods, use only pure grade oils like coconut, olive and avocado (provided you have no reactions to these foods), and always choose organic and non-GMO foods.
In a previous article, I discussed how inflammation is the pathway to disease…it truly is at the root of all dysfunction in the body, which may ultimately lead to disease if left untreated. Identifying the foods that are causing an immune reaction in our bodies will help alleviate systemic inflammation (along with supplements), and diet is the starting point to mitigate inflammation. Below is a list of the top anti-inflammatory foods & nutrients:
- Leafy green vegetables—spinach, kale, arugula, collard greens
- Fruits—strawberries, blueberries, cherries, oranges, tomatoes, avocados, olives
- Oils—olive, coconut, avocado
- Fish (wild caught only)—salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines
- Nuts—almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EPA & DHA)
- Marine Algae—seaweed, chlorophyl
Paleo Lifestyle: Guide to Healthy Eating
Many functional medicine practitioners, most notably Chris Kresser, founder of the Kresser Institute, Co-director of the California Center for Functional Medicine, and author of The Paleo Cure, recommend a Paleo lifestyle and diet because clinical evidence and studies show improvement in metabolic function, particularly with balancing blood sugar, reducing inflammation, weight management, and cardiovascular function (along with lowering blood pressure).
I am a proponent of a customized Paleo diet that is based upon food sensitivity testing for each person. All packages that I offer clients include Deeper Health’s Paleo Lifestyle Guide to help clients embrace a new lifestyle; it includes a list of foods and supplements, a sample menu, and exercise tips. Good health begins with building on a solid and strong foundation, and diet is the core on which we build good health. Buon appetito!