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How Nutrients Communicate: How Your Body Talks

How Your Body Talks:

How Nutrients Communicate

Stan Gardner, MD, CNS

With all of the conversation online and everywhere about nutrients, we might find our heads spinning, or find ourselves getting bored. So many options! So little definitive information!

Perhaps we might think there can be nothing more boring, yet there is nothing more important for our health, than to talk about and understand nutrients.

What this article is NOT:

  • This article is not about dieting, but it is about understanding what the various components of food ultimately do in our body.
  • This is not a treatise on the benefits of each individual vitamin, mineral, and essential fatty acid (which would take up volumes), but rather it is a simplified overview of major nutrients and their importance.

What is a Nutrient?

A nutrient is a biochemical substance the body needs for the normal functions of growth, reproduction and to maintain health. These are substances the body cannot make, so they must be ingested. Food is the best source of all nutrients. Supplements supplement our food; they supplement critical nutrients that have been identified.

The six traditional categories of nutrients include:

  • vitamins
  • minerals
  • proteins
  • fats
  • carbohydrates
  • water

I am also going to include fiber’s important role in the body.

Vitamins and Minerals

In my office in Cleveland, Ohio, we had 3 biochemistry charts on the wall that were 2 1/2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The small print had all the known biochemical pathways with known enzymes and co-factors responsible for the reactions to take place. Those biochemical reactions are extremely slow unless there is an enzyme. An enzyme is a protein that accelerates (acts as a catalyst) the reaction, near the reaction site. Co-factors are needed so the enzyme works efficiently, or works at all. And guess what the majority of the co-factors are called? Vitamins and minerals!

There are over 300 reactions on the chart that require magnesium. It is fascinating to see where each of the B vitamins participates and is needed for optimal functioning. You can see where vitamin K fits into the clotting mechanism, vitamin A helps with night vision, and molybdenum and copper fit in with iron metabolism.

Proteins

Proteins are made up of amino acids, some of which cannot be made in the body (essential) and others that are made in the body. Amino acids are the building blocks of enzymes, hormones, all of the proteins in the body and most tissues in the body. All organ tissue repair requires amino acids as building blocks.

Fats

The proper role of fats has been muddied by 30 years of anti-fat marketing, cholesterol fears and heart disease. A short review of how the body uses fat includes:

  • transports fat-soluble vitamins—A, D, E, and K
  • healthy skin
  • eyesight
  • nerve and brain develop and maintenance, including the myelin sheath
  • source of energy
  • regulates production of sex hormones
  • forms protective cushion for internal organs (although some of us have too much)
  • muscle movement
  • forms prostaglandins (hormone-like), which regulate inflammation

Each of our 75 trillion cells has a cell membrane with thousands of phospholipids composing the cell membrane. Each phospholipid has 3 strands coming out of a base (glycerol) that connects them. I call it a “threek.” For years our family has called three-pronged forks “threeks” (instead of a four-pronged “fourk”). Typically, two of the three strands of the phospholipid are made up of saturated fats, while the third strand has an omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid) or omega-6 (linoleic acid) fatty acid. These are the parent compounds and not the downstream products of DHA and EPA found in fish oils. The proper ratio of saturated fats to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids is important to maintain the proper fluidity and functioning of each cell.

Trans fatty acids, partially and fully hydrogenated oils are seen by the body as omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids and are placed into the ‘threek’ (phospholipid) in the cell’s membrane. Unfortunately, they do not function the same. The cell membrane becomes stiff and no longer functions optimally. The hormones don’t work as well, energy is not produced well, glucose does not enter the cell properly, cell-to-cell communication does not take place, and the list goes on.

Carbohydrates

There is no daily minimum requirement of carbohydrates as there is for fats and proteins. We get plenty of carbohydrates in the normal eating of grains, fruits and vegetables, so we do not need to worry about the amount we eat. Carbohydrates are a good source of glucose for production of energy, especially needed in the brain.

Whole grains not only have carbohydrates, but the hull also contains the vitamins and minerals necessary for their metabolism, in addition to fiber that slows down absorption. “Refined” grains means that those critical nutrients in the hull have been polished off, and the breakdown of the carbohydrate into glucose necessitates depleting vitamins that are in storage. This is what happened in Japan when white rice was introduced and beri-beri, a deficiency of thiamine (vitamin B1), occurred. Because of the immediate and long-term effects of refined sugar in our body, sugar should be treated as a toxin and avoided.

Water

With all the trillions of dollars of research money spent, there is no solid science behind the recommendation of how much water to drink on a daily basis. The critical nature of proper hydration and the devastating effects of dehydration on the body are well known. Every organ of the body and every cell needs water to function properly. Perhaps the best guide to determine if we are getting enough is to note the color of the urine (darker yellow means dehydration) and perhaps the frequency and volume of urine output. However, these are also dependent on other factors.

The quality of the water we consume is important, because water can carry toxins that are brought into the body and interfere with function. All tap water for drinking should at least have a filter. Distillation and reverse osmosis are much more effective at eliminating toxins from the water supply.

Supplements

We live in a society where many in the farming and marketing industries are more interested in color and visual appeal of their products and less with nutrient value. Herbicides and pesticides are heavily used and remain on the surface (and deeper) in the food. Crop rotation is not practiced like it was 100 years ago. Fruits and vegetables are often picked before the ripening season so they can be transported thousands of miles. Sometimes they use ripening retardants to preserve food products until they reach market. We are being exposed to a greater number of toxins in the environment, so our need for nutrients for detoxification purposes is greater.

In view of the above concerns, and the fact that we do not have good inexpensive laboratory measures that are clinically significant of the vitamins and minerals we need, and because each of us has different needs of each nutrient (biochemical individuality), I recommend that we all need basic supplements to help ensure we get the nutrients we need.

Recommendations

  • Potent multivitamin (4 to 6 per day), vitamin D, essential fatty acids
  • 60 grams of protein per day (about deck of card size of meat, legumes, eggs). Emphasis should be on legumes for our protein sources.
  • Omega-3 oils—2 to 4 grams per day, both flaxseed and fish oil, omega-6 oils—2 to 4 grams per day
  • No sugar, no processed food
  • Whole grains (if not allergic)
  • At least 6 to 8 cups of water per day; more if indicated

If you would like to order high quality, custom-formulated supplements, or learn more information about Dr. Gardner and his practice in Sandy, Utah, call Keys to Healing Medical Center at (801) 302-5397

Diet

Weight Loss

I have had a stomach staple lost 125lbs first year kept that off but have gone up and down since. This past year I lost 70lbs and do not want it back. I should lose another 40 or 50lbs where how what can I do?

Congratulations on losing weight, even though it took a surgical procedure to do it. I am sure you have tried a vast number of things to try to help you, but here is a list you may be able to choose from:

1. Low carb diets. Carbohydrates  become sugar in the body, which become fat if the levels are high.  There are many low carb diets, of which Atkins is the most strict and best known.  These diets are not healthy long term, but may be tried over the short term.

2. Long term low intensity exercise, like walking an hour or more, will burn fat while you are walking.  However, if you want to burn fat for hours after exercise, you will need to do 4 to 8 high-intensity interval trainings a day for 3 or 4 days per week.

3.  A HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), or burst, or spurt, is done by exerting maximal effort for 30 to 60 seconds.

4. Be sure you are getting good sleep, eating real food, and taking supplements so your body is not craving food for nutrient deficiencies.

5. The HCG diet has been helpful for many, but you must be willing to follow it strictly.  You will still need to maintain proper eating and exercise habits long term, no matter what you find successful for the short term.

allergies carbs gluten sensitivities

Carbs and Gluten Sensitivities

I want to eat healthy and everybody says eat oats and wheat but when i eat a lot of these products I find that I am more tired and feel down

Whole wheat and oats are very healthy, although they are high in carbohydrates. However, many people are sensitive to the gluten in wheat, and if very sensitive, to the amount in the oats also.

There is an antibody test that can tell you if you are sensitive to gluten, which, unfortunately, is very common. I think the common occurence of the sensitivity is related to the amount of processing that is taking place with these products, with how big “food” companies are adding strange ingredients and highly processing the basic ingredients.  I also have questions about the farming procedures that have created 5 times more gluten in today’s wheat than existed 100 years ago.  Something has obviously changed, and it’s hard to pinpoint what exactly is triggering the increase in wheat and gluten sensitivities.

If you are gluten sensitive, you will feel tired and sick upon exposure to gluten. Oftimes, NAET can desensitize you to this protein and you can eat it without having symptoms.  Once your gluten sensitivities are cleared, you can eat the foods (just don’t use the processed versions), enjoy them, and get the health benefits from them.

One more thought:  you can still enjoy the benefitis of wheat by growing and eating wheat grass.  Wheat grass is highly nutritious, full of beneficial enzymes, and a wonderful addition to a green drink.

breast cancer

Alternative Solutions in Breast Cancer

I am a 46 year old mother of 11 and am in the best health of my life, or so I thought until I was diagnosed with breast cancer last week. Over the last year I have been on several cleanses and limit intake of sugar and white flour in my diet to once or twice a week.
After the shock of my diagnosis, I have started NAET and am researching acidosis. Most research seems to agree that acidic bodies feed cancer, Many charts vary on what foods are acidic or alkaline. Do you recommend an alkaline diet? Is there any harm in this? What else would you recommend I look into?

Acid in the body is caused by cancer cells, and cancer cells like to be in, and thrive in, an acidic environment. Alkalinizing your body is an excellent way to be healthy, and will have an effect on the cancer.

There are foods that are more and less acidic, so concentrate on those more alkaline foods. You can take salts with bicarbonate in them, which will also alkalinize your body. Ph tests of saliva or urine can give you an indication of the amount of acidity or alkalinity you have in your body.

Sugar and processed food have to be 100% eliminated, not just reduced. In fact, some would say that all carbohydrates need to be reduced, as glucose feeds the cancer, and all carbohydrates eventually convert to glucose. Other things to research and consider:

  • vitamin D levels should be in the 60 to 90 range,
  • some have found the macrobiotic diet useful (although a lot of work),
  • supplements that build the immune system (that may include mushrooms, beta-glucan, colostrum),
  • Intravenous vitamin C at high doses can help kill the cancer cells safely,
  • hyperbaric oxygen,
  • hyperthermia,
  • addressing possible stress/emotional/forgiveness issues,
  • expressing gratitude, inwardly and outwardly, for the blessings you enjoy,
  • to mention only a few of the options.

I would strongly suggest you get under the care of a physician that agrees with your philosophies of treatment and can design an aggressive program. That may not be possible with just reading on the internet.

red yeast statin drugs statins

High Cholesterol and Statin Drugs

I have high cholesterol and the medicines prescribed are beginning to cause side effects.  Basically, muscle ache. Are there natural foods to take to help lower the bad and raise the good cholesterol?

I assume the cholesterol-lowering drugs you are on are statins, which I take read more »

carbohydrates cholesterol Diet obesity

Calories Count? Or Carbs? Or What?

Calorie Counters Have it Right, Diet Study Says

Recently released information in the Wall Street Journal shows that calories do count—that it isn’t what you eat, but how much. Participants were put in one of four diet groups—2 low-fat groups and 2 high-fat groups, with a high-protein and normal-protein groups being the other parameter. All diets were read more »

Allergy

Diabetes: Critical Information You Should Know

Update:  I just came across an excellent article linking diabetes with thiamine deficiency.  Check out the article here.

(Can anyone get this information to Larry H. Miller?)

A patient recently came into my office for a consultation. She was in her early 50s, overweight, and was struggling with constant tiredness and a sense of being overwhelmed. She had tried multiple diets, with little to no success, and when she succeeded in dropping a couple of pounds, they came right back on. She was sick and tired of being sick and tired. She, like countless other baby boomers, is dealing with a physical condition that is nearly epidemic in proportion. If untreated, it has the potential to lead to full blown read more »

Allergy

Carbohydrates: Heroes or Villains?

“Let your food be your medicine and let your medicine be your food.” Hippocrates

Did your grandmother teach you, as mine did, that you are what you eat? We used to chuckle about her obsession with whole wheat, and felt she was going overboard when she counseled us to avoid sugar. Grandma lived to a ripe old age, and she was sharp-witted and ambulatory to the very end. Now, years after her death, science is “discovering” the read more »