The Truth About “Healthy Eating”

Commonly Accepted Health Guidelines:

Low calorie is healthier – Truth: Quantity of calories doesn’t matter nearly as much as QUALITY

Low fat is healthier – Truth: Fat is required for cell membrane structure, hormones, energy production, memory and so much more! Plus, when sacrificing fat, flavor is also sacrificed, so sugar is often added to make it taste better. Not only do naturally occurring fats make food taste better, but they are MUCH healthier.

Avoid any saturated fats – Truth: Saturated fats are needed for soft, youthful skin, as well as the other benefits listed above – quality, organic, humanely raised meats, butter, and other dairy with saturated fat are very good for you and prevent Alzheimer’s, memory loss and dementia from any cause (usually due to inflammatory blood sugar spikes from carbohydrate/starch/sugar laden foods). Coconut and palm oils are excellent non-animal saturated fats.

Whole grains are part of a healthy diet – Truth: This one is tougher. Any grain causes variations in blood sugar, which cause inflammation. Wheat is especially inflammatory because of agricultural practices and the gluten molecule. What the food industry calls “whole grains” usually aren’t whole anymore. They were once whole, but now are just a regular grain. (Sidenote: “grams of whole grain per serving” doesn’t mean anything – its just buzzwords.) But they have fiber! Well, so do vegetables, and if you are eating the recommended 9 servings per day of vegetables (NOT potato or corn – corn is a grain anyway) you won’t have room for grains AND you’ll be getting plenty of fiber without the blood sugar variations, AND LOTS of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients! I recommend avoiding all grains and just replacing them with a variety of vegetables, lightly cooked or steamed, with butter or other oil for added flavor.

That’s 9 servings of FRUITS and vegetables, right? – Truth: Fruit sugar (fructose) gets absorbed and sent straight to the liver where it turns directly into triglycerides – an unregulated process that can be dangerous. Elevated triglycerides are the lipid (blood fat) equivalent to increased blood sugar in diabetes. They can cause a lot of damage. Sure, there are some vitamins and a little fiber, but the risk isn’t worth it. The body processes glucose before any fructose, so eating fruit with other carbohydrates is especially hard on the body, especially for diabetics who have blood sugar regulation issues already. If you must have fruit, eat it as a snack, by itself so the body can focus on handling it appropriately (without any other food distractions), and in small amounts (1/2 apple, a small handful of berries, etc) and try to choose low sugar fruits. Or just eat 9 servings of vegetables!

 

Enjoy the Sun! (Review of Vitamin D Benefits)

Review of Vitamin D articles – Megan C Taylor, ND (written while NCNM Student)

Sun Exposure: Not only Beneficial, but Necessary

For many years the effect of vitamin D in cancer prevention has been established. However, due to the multi-factorial nature of tumor development, it has been difficult to absolutely, conclusively, and scientifically demonstrate this to those who are skeptical.

“In the early 1980’s, it was first observed that malignant cells that had a vitamin D receptor (VDR) responded to 1,25(OH)2 D3 with marked inhibition of proliferation and induction of terminal differentiation” (Mol Aspects Med).  Despite these findings, the last 30 years have created a craze more against sun exposure and for daily use of sunblock.  In recent years, there have been myriad studies about sufficient amounts to prevent not only bone disease, but also many common, deadly cancers, “autoimmune diseases, gestational preeclampsia, diabetes type I and II, heart disease, dementia, and infectious diseases” (J Investig Med)… so far.

The new 2011 recommendation for vitamin D is as follows, “For vitamin D (assuming minimal sun exposure) the EAR(Estimated average requirement) is 400 IU/day for ages older than 1 year and the RDA(Recommended dietary allowance) is 600 IU/day for ages 1 to 70, and 800 IU/day for 71 years and older, corresponding to serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels of 16 ng/mL (40 nmol/L) for EARs and 20 ng/mL (50 nmol/L) or more for RDAs… Tolerable Upper Intake Level ranges from 1000-4000 IU daily for vitamin D” (J Am Diet Assoc). EAR represents the minimum amount one should take in to avoid symptoms of deficiency.  The RDA represents the amount one should have each day for beneficial effects. Note: Optimal levels of intake may be much higher, if recommended by a physician, and may not be sustained for long periods of time if used therapeutically.

In order to meet these recommendations, a June 2010 study was done by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York to determine the approximate length of exposure needed to attain the EAR. According to the results of the study, “Boston, MA, from April to October, at 12pm EST, an individual with type III skin, with 25.5% of the body surface area exposed, would need to spend 3-8 minutes in the sun to synthesize 400 IU of vitamin D” (J Am Acad Dermatol). The same parameters in Miami, FL only required 3-6 minutes. However, it should be noted that “Vitamin D synthesis occurs faster in individuals with lighter Fitzpatrick skin types” (J Am Acad Dermatol).  Beyond sun exposure, vitamin D can be found in food sources including, “oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring, and liver oils from cod, tuna and shark. Sun dried mushrooms also contain variable amounts of vitamin D” (Mol Aspects Med).

Regarding Sun Baths, Dr. Henry Lindlahr stated in 1919, “We will see that the effects of sunlight cannot be overestimated when we consider that without it life on this planet would be impossible” (Lindlahr, 178). He then cautions light-skinned beginners to air- or sun-bathing to gradually increase exposure until the skin bronzes and can better tolerate the sun without burning. He encourages facilities for a cool or cold shower so that one (sun bath) “can be taken in warm weather while exposed to the air and sun. Allow the body to dry in the sun and air. The alternating influences of air, sunlight and water are as beneficial to the human body as to plant and animal life” (Lindlahr, 179).

One of the main functions of vitamin D is regulation of calcium absorption. Calcium, crucial to bone health – an increasing concern to the aging and menopausal female population – is dependent on vitamin D for proper absorption and utilization. Beyond bone health, Vitamin D “also plays a role in reducing risk of many chronic diseases including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, deadly cancers, heart disease and infectious diseases” (Mol Aspects Med).  Regarding the “deadly cancers”: “There is strong epidemiological data that living at higher latitudes and being at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency or being vitamin D deficient increases risk of not only developing but dying of deadly cancers including cancers of the colon, prostate, breast, and esophagus among other cancers”(Mol Aspects Med). In one study, “mice who were vitamin D deficient and received a mouse colon tumor subcutaneously had a more aggressive tumor growth of as much as 40% compared to mice that were receiving an adequate amount of dietary vitamin D”(Mol Aspects Med).  The same article discussed the role of vitamin D in autoimmune disease and found that,

“There is a latitudinal association risk of many autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and type I diabetes… 10,366 children in Finland who received on average 2,000 IU of vitamin D/day in the 1960’s and followed for 31 years had a 78% reduced risk of developing type I diabetes. Living above 35’ latitude for the first 10 years of life increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis by 100%. Women who ingested more than 400 IU/day of vitamin D had a 42% reduced risk of developing MS and a 40% reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.”

Beyond the risks of all the aforementioned cancers and conditions if insufficient levels are present, vitamin D has a significant role in general health and maintenance of the immune system. This is especially important in the fall and winter months which present the greatest annual infectious threats.  Interestingly, these are also the months that provide the least sunlight/ultraviolet B radiation for natural conversion of cholesterol to vitamin D in the skin.  It is for this reason that cholesterol levels will appear slightly lower toward the end of the summer and higher at the end of winter, provided significant changes in seasons are present. Supplementation of vitamin D3 (1,000-2,000 IU/day is typical) during these months may be beneficial to ensure proper immune function as well as mood stabilization. Note: Most supplemental vitamin D3 is sourced from Lanolin from lamb’s wool. This can be an issue if there is an allergy or sensitivity to wool or if the patient is vegan. (Vegan D3: http://www.vitashine-d3.com/ sourced from lichen.)

Some racial differences have also been noted. In those with naturally darker skin, the increased melanin serves to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet radiation which is present in large amounts in areas of the world much closer to the equator.  When darker skinned individuals live somewhere that doesn’t have intense sunlight most of the year, that same melanin “protects” from UVB radiation that converts the cholesterol into vitamin D in the skin. For those with darker skin who live in these less sunny areas, supplementation may be required to maintain healthy levels. These individuals also tend to have higher cholesterol levels, in part so that there is a greater likelihood of any sun exposure they do get readily converting to much needed vitamin D.

Regarding the fairly recent fervor surrounding tanning beds, or artificial sources of UVB, one study showed “One tanning bed session had significant, but modest impact on the level of 25-OHD during 7 days after exposure to UVB” (Endocrine). Although, like sun exposure, some benefits are shown with mild to moderate use of tanning beds (up to 2-3 times per week), and risks of excessive exposure have also proven true. A team at Nanjing Medical University in China has demonstrated, through a study of almost 73,500 female nurses over 20 years, that there is significant evidence “for a dose-response relationship between tanning bed use and the risk of skin cancers, especially BCC, and the association is stronger for patients with a younger age at exposure” (J Clin Oncol).

Sun exposure has the potential risks of sunburn, Actinic Keratosis, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma (the only reasonably potentially invasive skin cancer) in a person of normal physiology who is not on any photosensitizing medications. However, these are (with the exception of melanoma) local, relatively non-invasive, and easily treated if treatment is not dramatically delayed. The potential results of insufficient exposure as well as benefits of exposure well outweigh the risks of being in the sun unprotected for a reasonable amount of time.

There are minor precautions one can take to minimize any risks of solar radiation. Precautions, such as sunblock application, should be taken with: Greater than 20 minutes continuous exposure to intense (11am-2pm) sunlight, and greater than 30-40 minutes exposure to low to medium intensity sunlight, especially combined with a family history of one or more of the above listed lesions, or with light skin, especially with multiple nevi present.  If living in an area with more sunlight (southern United States, or closer to the equator), regular full body skin checks should be performed every six months by a physician or loved one who can help keep a watchful eye on any suspicious lesions.  If nevi or benign lesions are present, the patient should be aware of signs of invasive or malignant changes such as color or pattern change, itching, pain, redness, new formation of nodules, etc.

For light-skinned people not living near the equator or in consistently sunny areas of the world, daily sunblock use (especially in winter months) is not necessary, and may actually increase the risk of other cancers and diseases by preventing beneficial exposure to ultraviolet rays.  Other precautions can, and should, be taken if concerned about the oxidizing effects of sunlight, such as increasing antioxidant consumption from deeply colored fruits and vegetables, especially dark berries, green tea, vitamins C & E, selenium, and glutathione.

Please enjoy responsibly!

 

Sources:

-Endocrine. 2012 Mar 6 [Epub ahead of print]. Changes in serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and cholecalciferol after one whole-body exposure in a commercial tanning bed: a randomized study. Langdahl et al. Faculty of Health Science, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.

-J Am Acad Dermatol. 2010 Jun; 62(6):929.e1-9. Epub 2010 Apr 3. Estimated equivalency of vitamin D production from natural sun exposure versus oral vitamin D supplementation across seasons at two US latitudes.

-J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Apr; 111(4):524-7. The 2011 dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin d: what dietetics practitioners need to know.

J Clin Oncol. 2012 Feb 27. [Epub ahead of print]. Use of Tanning Beds and Incidence of Skin Cancer. Zhang et al. Cancer center, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China.

-J Investig Med. 2011 Mar 16. [Epub ahead of print]. Vitamin D: A D-Lightful Solution for Health.

-Lindlahr, MD, Henry. Practice of Natural Therapeutics, Vol. 2. 5th Ed. Chicago: Lindlahr Publishing, 1919. 179.

-Mol Aspects Med. 2008 December; 29(6): 361-368. Doi:10.1016/j.mam.2008.08.008. The Vitamin D Deficiency Pandemic and Consequences for Nonskeletal Health: Mechanisms of Action.

Dietary Culture & DNA

The advent of agriculture was the greatest contributor to the alteration of the “standard” way of life. I’ll explain…

Pre-Agriculture:  Predominantly nomadic lifestyles, exposed to elements and dangers, with significant physical investment to obtain, grow, and harvest food. They hunted animals whose meat was both lean and fatty, and foraged for nuts, seeds, berries, leaves and greens, and the occasional “fruit”. This was a daily search for enough food to share with the small community to stave off starvation. Safety was lacking, but physical exertion – whether finding food or running from the proverbial tiger – was abundant. Any food supply they kept with them was likely a goat or other small animal providing milk (continuous source of nourishment without consuming the animal itself), and possibly a small supply of plants for a garden, but only enough to carry to the next site once the local environment became short of resources or the season changed. This led to a diet of mostly protein and fat, with very few sources of starch or sugar. Any nourishment they could find and divide among the members of the group would be quickly utilized in the body to fuel the requirements of daily living. [Less, but higher quality food, more exercise vs. greater danger from predators and elements.]

Post-Agriculture:  Abundant sources of food in one, stable, site changed the way of life from mobile and nomadic to stationary, allowing for larger communities since belongings no longer needed to be portable and the food supply was much larger, there was enough to feed more people. Once communities became larger, safety from the elements and predator increased. Food was now being produced by a few individuals for the whole community and traded as commodity. Meats and grains became the new norm, since the community was now stable enough to allow crops to grow for months at a time, then harvest and replant new crops. Fruits and vegetables became de-emphasized, obtaining food relied on bartering or financial resources, and very little work was required by the average person to obtain the food. Of course some chose to grow their own food, but the pressure to survive from it had been removed since the large scale agriculture was there in case their own small production failed or was found insufficient. [Safer, more food, more storable fuel vs. Less work required to obtain food, and lower quality food.]

Our DNA and resulting biochemistry are still wired for the Pre-agricultural lifestyle – storing any extra fuel we can in case of famine. Combining that with the over-abundance of readily available food, without work, we end up choosing foods for flavor and instant gratification rather than nutritional value, and we over eat. So we store and we store and we store, readying our bodies for famine that – almost guaranteed – won’t come in our lifetime. The only thing our body can store is glucose (or sugar) which comes from grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc), starches (potatoes mostly), and fruit (fructose, actually, but still sugar, just processed differently). And it stores it as fat.

Stress (life, illness, physical or environmental) releases Cortisol from the Adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar so that you have more resources available if you need the fuel to run away from that tiger, and is meant to help you get away from the stressor – maybe 5-10 minutes. However, life in our current society is much less life-threatening, in-the-moment stress, and more big picture stresses – job, money, family, relationship, etc., that persist constantly. Constantly increased, cortisol-induced blood sugar rises lead to a more insulin-resistant variety of fat deposited around the abdomen, leading to the familiar “apple-shaped” body, which has higher risk of developing Diabetes (DM type 2) (if the deposition isn’t the result of diabetes already).

Summary: Eat as if we still had to work for our food (pre-agricultural style), with some good quality meat, lots of veggies, nuts and seeds (I prefer almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts), and some berries. This will keep blood sugar stable, nourish your brain, prevent belly fat, encourage burning present excess fats for energy, reduce inflammation, improve mood and mental clarity, optimize immune system function, etc. Finding stress management techniques that work for you, that you enjoy, and that you can do often, will also improve overall health and sleep quality.

From Graduation to Starting a Practice

It has been a long time since posting. I have debated the focus of this site for a while – educational versus informative, articles and health-relevant posts versus personal struggles and accomplishments associated with the adventures of life and starting a practice… I still haven’t decided, so I’ll do both.

My last post was just after graduation. Honestly, that was an accomplishment I was becoming very skeptical would even happen, but I’m so grateful for. It has been said a lot, but I know this to be true, that without the unconditional love and support of my family and of partners along the way, it would not have happened. Apparently it takes a village to raise a doctor as well.

After graduation I studied many hours a day for the board exam to be licensed (August 2013), with all the guides I had. I struggled to memorize the keynotes and “quirks” of each of the major homeopathic remedies. As a result of failing to pass that section of the board exam, I failed overall. (I would like to note, that in school I learned to respect the depth of each remedy enough to research each patient individually and not to try and prescribe off the cuff based on a few interesting aspects of the case – but oh well, I suppose its the only way they can feasibly test our knowledge.) This failure was another huge devastation, which only deepened my insecurity of potential success. However, I knew I had one last shot at passing boards before it was out of my hands and all was lost. For me, for my family, for my partner, I picked myself up and started studying again. I had received the breakdown of scores per section, so the second time around I knew where my weaknesses were, and focused on those, without ignoring the other areas being tested. I retested in February 2014 and passed!

I began searching for a place to start practicing and came across Bella Vita Spa & Wellness and contacted them. They called back, set up a meeting, and almost immediately I found a cohesion of ideals for the clinic that excited me. A combination of health, wellness and beauty from the inside out. Naturopathic, Chiropractic, Massage, Counseling, Yoga/exercise classes, juice bar and cafe, community education space, laser hair removal, botox, facial treatments, etc. Whatever dis-ease one might have could be restored to balance here.

I started at Bella Vita Spa & Wellness in July 2014 and initially worked toward setting up the space and obtaining all necessary numbers, insurances and licensing to practice. I saw my first patient in September, but it continued to be incredibly slow as we were figuring out advertising and marketing, while finishing up gathering practitioners and putting updated finishing touches on the facility itself. We still aren’t quite done with all the spaces, but very nearly so.

I am looking forward to continuously learning – in life and in health – lessons to grow stronger and to help others do the same! Many more adventures are on the horizon and I am bracing myself to face them head on!

It’s Official!

As of June 29, 2013 I am Dr. Megan C. Taylor. I graduated from the National College of Natural Medicine!

It was a long, treacherous road, and I was skeptical I could do it a few times, but I managed. I learned an incredible amount. Not just about the body and disease, but about people, motivation to change, and myself. I am a completely different person now than when I started school.

I have both a deeper love for people, and a more realistic grasp on what people are willing to do to change. Meeting patients where they are, in readiness to change, is important. Some require baby steps and others are ready for complete life overhauls if it’ll make them feel better. Neither is necessarily better, but if I can find that sweet spot of what they’re ready for and prepared to do, progress is inevitable.

I still have big plans for my career including a practice, retreat, books, maybe my own line of supplements… I am excited to see what the future holds for me. And who the future holds for me. I love a challenge and embrace every opportunity to learn so that I can share it with others. I’ll see you soon!

Sleep Optimization Guidelines

SLEEP OPTIMIZATION GUIDELINES

Compiled by Megan C Taylor – adapted from a lecture by Rocky Garrison (2007)

Trouble sleeping?

Try these 4 rules:

  1. Don’t go to bed until you’re tired

  2. If you don’t go to sleep after 15-30 min, get out of bed

  3. Don’t stay in bed more than 15-30 min after you wake up in the morning (or during the night)

  4. Wake up at the same time everyday!

*Note: You can keep a sleep log to look for trends or improvement. Note when you go to bed, how long it takes you to go to sleep, any time periods you spend awake during the night, when you wake up, when you get up, and how rested/rejuvenated you feel upon waking.

Simple Rules for Quality Sleep:

  • Keep light, sound and worries to a minimum when it’s time to sleep. No blue lights, turn clocks away, put nightlights in bathroom out of sight in bedroom. You can stress about responsibility in the morning, take this time to prepare yourself for what tomorrow brings by allowing yourself this much needed, therapeutic break!

  • If you wake up for greater than 15-30 min a night, get out of bed and do something calming and non stimulating (minimal light – NO TV or Computer).

  • If you must work a night shift and come home in the morning, wear sunglasses on the way home to minimize light exposure, and go inside as quickly as possible.

  • If you don’t get tired until late, and want to pull your sleep cycle earlier, expose yourself to bright light as early as possible in the morning.

  • If you get tired early and want to delay your sleep cycle, expose yourself to bright light later in the day (afternoon/evening).

  • Melatonin is a sundown hormone in the brain, that naturally peaks at 0.5 mg. At high doses (2-6 mg) it induces sleep. This works best for supporting adjustment to shift changes or jet lag.

  • Do not do anything in the bedroom but sleep (sex is acceptable, too).

  • 7.5 hours is the median amount of sleep across cultural sleep patterns, and extremes on either side of this (very few or very many hours) are associated with increased risk of mortality. So “beauty sleep” has its limits too.

  • The first cycle of sleep is the most complete and therapeutic, therefore the “Siesta” sleep schedule of napping in the middle of the day, may be slightly more helpful than only sleeping at night.

  • Menopause, certain medications, and caffeine or exercise later in the day can affect sleep.

  • Create a sleep routine to prepare your mind and body for sleep. Shower, drink herbal tea, read a book, something calming and comforting.

  • BREATHE DEEPLY! 🙂

Welcome!

This represents one of the first steps in realizing my dream of a practice of my own. I hope to offer guidance and treatment to those suffering from a general variety of ailments. These include sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, digestive disturbances, and skin disorders. Guidance will come in the form of office visits, educational handouts, community talks, and eventually books and week-long structured retreats of various focuses. One step at a time, though.

First:       Graduate – December 2012

Second:  Study and take the clinical boards to get my license to practice – February 2013

Third:      Join a practice to gain experience and financial resources …

Goal:  By late 2015, I hope to move to the US Virgin Islands and purchase property to start my own practice where my more elaborate hopes for the future can be realized.

Thank you for your support!

Megan C. Taylor