Fast Metabolism Food Rx
E + M = H: An Equation for Health
My health is important, so I learn everything I can about nutrition.
When was the last time you ate a tomato? Maybe it was a week ago. Maybe it was today. Maybe you don’t like tomatoes and have no interest in eating them. But science is interested in tomatoes. Specifically, science is interested in breaking the tomato down into its component parts, isolating the parts that seem to do some good for human health, and then testing whether they really do or not. It’s a fascinating process, but does it translate to anything that will help you decide whether or not to put a tomato on your salad?
One of the things science has figured out about tomatoes is that they contain a phytonutrient called lycopene that gives them their red color. Science has also demonstrated that lycopene in particular seems to have cardioprotective health benefits. Interesting, right? In fact, recently, in 2014, a study was published in Advanced Nutrition that compared tomato intake to lycopene supplements (lycopene taken out and isolated and put into a capsule) to see which had a more beneficial effect on markers of cardiovascular disease.1 And guess who won? The tomato! The study concluded that tomatoes have more positive impact on human health than supplements.
This is all very exciting--and great news. I always love reading about a new study that supports the notion food can influence health. However, what does this information actually have to do with you? The study doesn’t tell you what to do with tomatoes. The scientists don’t come to your house and consider your life, and advise you about tomatoes. Are you supposed to lay the tomatoes on your chest at night and hope the magic happens? Are you supposed to eat them for every meal for the rest of your life to ensure you won’t ever have a heart attack? Or is the occasional tomato enough to benefit you? What is the dosage of tomatoes? And what are the specific benefits you can count on? And furthermore, can you ever really know whether tomatoes, for you as a unique individual with an unprecedented biochemistry, will actually make any difference at all?
What happens in a lab does not (and cannot, by its very nature) possibly predict what will happen when you, with your individual body, metabolism, and circumstances, eat a tomato or any other food. Are you even prone to heart disease? If you are, is your body able to get the lycopene out of the tomato and send it where it needs to go? Can you grab those cardioprotective elements from that tomato in the same way some other random person on the street could or couldn’t?
Food can do profound things for you, but you have to have a body that can use it properly to enact those protections and healing compounds. You have to have a body that is set up for creating health out of food. You have to have a metabolism that works. You can deliver a giant pile of 2 x 4s to a building site and they can be the highest quality, most dense, and sturdiest oak available, but if the workers don’t show up or have never been trained in how to build a house, that wood is going to sit there and rot. The quality doesn’t matter if the house can’t get built. Or what if it’s a log cabin to be constructed and the only thing delivered were steel beams? That won’t help in getting a log cabin built.
It’s exactly the same with “power foods.” You have to have a body that can take those raw materials and actually make the magic happen. Health is an equation, and it is not as simple as eating a tomato, or taking a pill, or going for a walk, or any other one thing, but it isn’t too complicated for us to understand, either.
So what are you struggling with? Is it low energy, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), or menopausal symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, high cholesterol, or even a chronic disease like diabetes or an autoimmune disorder? No matter what it is, you probably already know you need to do something different. Maybe you have seen a doctor, or maybe you want to try achieving better health on your own, but either way you need a prescription. I’m not talking about a pharmaceutical prescription. I’m talking about a food prescription--one that can have a greater, more lasting, and more restorative effect than anything else you ever do for yourself.
The term for prescription so often used by doctors and pharmacists is Rx, but what “Rx” actually stands for is the Latin word recipere, which means “recipe.” A food prescription is a recipe for health. The foods you choose and when you eat them can change everything about your energy level, your mood fluctuations, your changing body shape, the numbers on your lab tests like blood pressure and cholesterol, and even the course of chronic diseases that may have already gotten a foothold in your system.
How can food be so powerful? Because food integrates with your body to create health in a powerful way. I like to explain this using an equation so simple that at first it may seem less significant than it actually is: E + M = H. I repeat:
E + M = H
Here’s what it means:
E + M = H
Eating Metabolism Health
Exercise Metabolic pathways Homeostasis
Environment Me Harmony
E is what you eat, how much you Exercise, and the Environment in which you live, breathe, move, and think. Both eating and exercise create your internal environment, but E is also your external environment, influenced by everything around you, from your family and friends to your job, to what you do with your free time, even to the weather. E is everything you put into your body, everything you do with your body, and everything with which you surround your body.
M is your metabolism, or your rate of converting food into energy. It is also your Metabolic Pathways, which are the many possible roads down which micronutrients (that come from what you eat) travel. Finally, M is the “Me” in the equation--you as an individual, your genetic makeup, your belief systems, your life experiences. This is how your individual body works and what it is doing at any given moment. Your metabolic pathways are the result of biochemical decisions in your body and what they do. For example, you have a metabolic pathway that controls what your body does with sugar. You have one that controls what your body does with hormones. You have another one that controls how your body processes toxins, from substances like medications and pollution. You even have one that translates your thoughts into physical reactions and causes tissues to secrete hormones. All of these influence the M and make you who you are. M is what happens inside you.
H is Health. Health doesn’t always mean you are disease free. Instead, it means your body has created a Homeostasis, or internal balance. It means you are living in Harmony with a body that is naturally in a constant state of healthy adaptation or flux. It is the end result of how you combine E with M. It is how you feel right now and how well your body is working. Maximizing the H is what we all hope and strive for, and what we will accomplish with the information in this book’s pages.
E + M = H. This equation applies and is working for (or against) you all the time, from your first to your last day on this earth. What science knows is true, even though this knowledge doesn’t always trickle down into clinical practice, is that what you eat and do (your environment) combined with your individual metabolism and how well your metabolic pathways function (the “me”) determine your health status, your body’s ability to maintain homeostasis, and your state of harmony in the present moment.
Although we’re talking about equations, I’m not trying to create a teacher-student dynamic. We are on this journey together. Now, the focus is on your self-discovery. Together we will explore what the equation means in your life as the formula holds the key to impacting how you feel, the way you look, what your lab reports say, and how healthy you are today and moving forward. Your health depends on two things: E and M. What you do to your body (eating, exercise, and the environment you provide), and what your body is doing to run things (metabolism, metabolic pathways) and be who it is (“me”), creates how well you are able to live (health). Your internal and external environments combined with your individual makeup and the way your body runs directly result in the quality of your health. E + M = H.
When you embrace the implications of E + M = H, you will understand that you have the power to change how your body works--how it feels, how it looks, and how it functions. Depending on what problem you have right now (crushing fatigue, hormonal or digestive issues, metabolic syndrome or diabetes, or autoimmunity), you can use specific food prescriptions to change your internal environment, thereby altering your metabolism in a way that addresses the problem (fills you with energy, balances your hormones, heals your digestion, balances your blood sugar and insulin, or even calms your overactive immune response). Because everyone has a different “M” (metabolism, metabolic pathways, “me”) no one “E” (eating plan, exercise, environment) is right for everyone to create health (and homeostasis and harmony). No two metabolisms work in exactly the same way to create a healthy body, and no two bodies are the same. This is why eating on its own cannot create health.
Yet, what you eat profoundly influences your metabolism, which is why metabolic intervention alone (such as with pharmaceuticals) cannot create true health. You need both variables working in concert. The diet industry hasn’t embraced this formula yet, and so many people’s health would be positively impacted if they would. Instead, they will tell you that E = H. That is, Eating = Health, or even worse, they will tell you to “eat less, exercise more,” and that will be the ticket to health. They promote the concept that a particular diet (often one that eliminates a food group, such as carbs or meat, or that slashes calories) will fix everyone’s problems. That for some crazy reason, doing less will result in health (or at least weight loss).
We hear a lot of crazy health rumors. Maybe you’ve heard that if you eat an apple a day, you will keep the doctor away. That if you eat chia seeds and raw cacao, and breathe out of alternating nostrils, you can cure every disease you’ve ever had. They can have valid effects, but until you repair your metabolic pathways using food strategically, these health strategies aren’t going to do much for you. (Although I have to admit, raw cacao brings me joy!) What good is the energy in an apple if you can’t metabolize the sugar? What good are the nutrients in chia seeds or raw cacao if you can’t absorb them? What good is the stress-reducing power of alternate-nostril breathing if your body isn’t recognizing the relaxation response? Fix the pathways first. Then you can actually benefit from that apple and the many other “super foods” and strategies that science says can impact your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, advanced aging, and other chronic diseases.
Many doctors, and for sure drug companies, are more likely to see the formula like this: M = H. That is, metabolism, or what your body is or isn’t doing, determines your health. Your lab reports say your body is pooling cholesterol in the blood, your LDLs are high; this means you are not metabolizing cholesterol, and many doctors are likely to say that to change those numbers, you need a statin drug. Many physicians may even believe it has nothing to do with what you eat. Doctors often say (even to me) that a certain health problem is not related in any way to diet--that it is a genetic or age-related problem. Have you ever been told (or just believed) that you will get diabetes, that you will probably get heart disease because it runs in your family, that you will have early-onset menopause because your mother did, or that you come from a long line of individuals with depression and therefore that is your destiny? You might possess those genes, but it is the alteration in the metabolic pathways that stimulates the expression of them. I’ve had healthy debates with many doctors who tell me that the issue for the client we are talking about has nothing to do with food. I’m surprised every time. What your metabolism does is directly impacted by the food you eat, how and when you eat it, and in what combination you eat it with other nutrients. How is this not obvious to everyone? E can’t = H and M can’t = H. You need both E and M to achieve health. E + M = H.
In my practice, I encourage a high degree of self-study. Self-discovery, if you will. I want you to become absorbed in what your metabolism is doing by noticing how you feel and react to the foods you eat. Don’t worry. You’re mine now, and we will explore you together. Let’s look at the things you commonly do--even the thoughts you think, the sleep you are or are not having, and the deep desires you have for your health. I want us to look at your current E (eating, environment, exercise) and what we can define about your M (metabolism), so that we can recognize how they are affecting your H. I need you to become a little bit self-centered on your own behalf, but don’t worry; I will be standing next to you evaluating that reflection in the mirror.
This may go against everything you think you are supposed to do and be. You may feel selfish, but trust me--this kind of self-examination is the foundation for health and the ultimate key to being there for everyone else. Just imagine that I am sitting across the desk from you, saying, “Welcome to my office. I am so excited to get to know you. Tell me all about yourself. How do you feel? What has changed recently? What’s bothering you? What is your body doing? How do you wish you felt? How is your chemistry? What are your bowel movements, libido, energy, and sleep like? How is your immune system? Your blood sugars? What are you doing to and for your body?” and of course, “What do you crave? And what are you eating?”
1 B.M. Burton-Freeman et al., “Whole Food versus Supplement: Comparing the Clinical Evidence of Tomato Intake and Lycopene Supplementation on Cardiovascular Risk Factors,” Advances in Nutrition 5 (2014): 457-85.