Being a birth worker has really taught me how awesome and amazing the body is. As I dive more into the awesomeness of the human body, I've been learning more about supporting our bodies. This led me to meet Amy from the Academy of Culinary Healing. She blew me away with information about food and the gut-a topic I thought I knew a lot about. She agreed to let me interview her so we can share more with you!
*Amy is wrapping up the requirements to complete her training and certification
1. Tell me a little bit about your training and specialty? How are you different than a dietician?
Hi Maura, thank you for inviting me to interview with you on this interesting and significant topic. I am wrapping up the last few months of my masters of science in human nutrition program at the University of Bridgeport... I chose to become a certified nutritionist rather than a registered dietician because the scholastic programs of each profession have different focuses. Nutrition is the main focus of each program but the nutritionist program, at least at the University of Bridgeport, has a heavy basis in biochemistry and the bio-availability of foods based on an individual’s specific needs and genetics, while the registered dietician’s education as I understand it, prepares dieticians to work with the nutritional needs of individuals and large populations and prepares them to work not solely but more specifically in institutions such as hospitals, schools and even food manufacturing companies.
When seeking out the care of any practitioner, it is important to look at the practitioner’s philosophy of care, what their education was and perhaps what their specialty is, in order to make sure it matches what you hoping to find help with.
2. What are some common misunderstandings people have about food and nutrition?
I can at least speak from my personal experience on this one. I lived 27 years of my life without knowing that the food I ate affected the way I felt everyday. Everyday of my life I was tired, fatigued and plagued with chronic illness and irritable bowel pain. I went to all of the specialists and did all of their tests and took all of their medicines and to no avail.
Only after changing my diet, did my life change for the better once and for all. Before changing my diet and before helping others change their own, it is almost impossible to imagine that food can have the affect on us that it does. Even my father would say, “It’s just food, the same food we’ve been eating for hundreds of years.” The unfortunate misunderstanding is how how our foods have changed drastically in just the last 50 years.
In just his lifetime and mine, we have seen the introduction of genetically modified foods, processed and fast foods, the widespread use of plastics, growth hormones, new pesticides and herbicides, factory farming, the x-raying of meats to kill germs, the ubiquitous use of antibiotics in animal feed and the subsequent antibiotic resistance era we have recently entered into.
It is possible to live and eat well in a world full of these new threats to our health, it just takes relying a bit less on the convenience we have grown to expect. It takes desire, time and a commitment to one’s health and sometimes this commitment comes only after someone has been sick for 27 years, like myself. No matter when it happens, your body will show you thanks.
3. I know gut health is one of your passions. Talk a little about gut health and how it affects our overall health.
Gut health has been a hot topic as of late and this is because it is becoming more well-known that the gut and digestion are at the heart of our health. As many as 80% of the autoimmune conditions we face today begin in the gut.
The term “gut” refers to the long tube that begins at our mouth and ends… well you know where. This tube is responsible for the digestion of our food and the absorption of the nutrients from our food. This sounds easy enough but the transition our food makes from being lunch to being a new protein in our body is a very complex and still not completely understood process.
What we do know is that in order for a person to be healthy, they must have healthy digestion. They must have adequate stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, strong small intestine muscles and plush absorptive surfaces and a large intestine that properly absorbs water and eliminates waste.
The stress of work, the hydrocarbons produced by cars, chronic antibiotic use, the pesticides on the foods we consume and the nutrient-poor foods found in processed meals all take their toll on the gut and we can safety say that once digestion has weakened, the body weakens and becomes more susceptible to illness.
4. What are some of the best changes women and men can make when they are preparing for pregnancy and during pregnancy?
Working with soon-to-be mothers and fathers is a passion of mine because we all wish for mother to have a wonderful pregnancy, an easy childbirth and a healthy child. We want this for those individuals and because children are our future and their health is of great importance to us all.
When a hopeful mother and father are preparing to embark on parenthood there are several ways in which they can prepare to have the healthiest pregnancy, birth and baby possible.
- They may choose to embark on a cleanse at least 6 months before conceiving. This cleanse will rid their bodies of accumulated toxins that can impair fertility and the implantation of a fetus.
- The couple may choose to eat less sugar, which alters sex hormones and impairs hormonal signaling between mother and child.
- Mother and father may wish to switch to a non-hormonal form of birth control several months before conceiving in order to ensure adequate nutrients for the fetus, as some hormonal birth control can block folate and vitamin B6, both necessary for a healthy child.
- Dad’s can prepare in the same way mom’s do, by taking a vitamin that is right for them before conceiving in order to prepare for the conception of a healthy child. Father’s actually play a role in the formation and health of the placenta which nourishes the fetus with nutrients and oxygen for 9 months.
- All forms of stress can impair fertility and health. Mental stress can come from work or family and physical stress can come from excess weight and lifestyle. Focusing on stress relief practices such as yoga and meditation or even walking daily outside in the sun will lower stress and improve vitamin D, which will boost yours and your child’s immune system. During gestation your child’s genes will be listening and recording the signals your body is giving it. Relieving stress before and during pregnancy will make it so the genes you pass to your child are the healthiest they can be and this will determine their health for the rest of their life.
- All pre-natal vitamins are not right for everyone. I recommend asking your practitioner to help you find out your genetic makeup before taking just any prenatal vitamin. There is a specific genetic variant on the MTHFR gene that a significant portion of the population have that does not allow those who have the variant to absorb folic acid in a prenatal vitamin and use it to make a child. Testing for the MTHFR variant is a simple blood test that can be specifically requested at your next doctors visit.
5. What made you want to help people use food to heal their bodies?
I think many of us find the answer to the question, “What should I do with my life?” when we look at what struggles we have overcome in our own.
I knew nothing about food or nutrition until I reached the point many of us must reach before we make a change. I was sick and I was so tired of feeling sick that I would do just about anything to get better. I tried prescriptions, supplements, bodywork, and even moving and a change of career, and my health kept declining.
It was suggested that I change my diet for 3 months and when I did this I used the 3 months to educate myself on why the change in my diet fully improved my well being. Since that time, my life has changed and I want to use my experience and my health to help others. It is my belief that we can change to tides of the health epidemics we are facing in today’s world and the most influential place to begin is with the children that will someday lead us into the future.
6. What changes have you seen in people from just changing their diet?
...I have seen such drastic improvement in not just symptoms but clinical outcomes as well, in clients I have worked with who have made changes in their diet. It is astonishing to me how sensitive and adaptive the human body is. Our bodies want to heal and will heal if given the raw material they need to do so.
The immune system is a great example of this ability. Many of those I work with suffer from some form or another of autoimmunity. In many of these cases digestion is impaired and the gut lining has been compromised and begins letting too many food proteins into the body. When this happens the immune system gets confused and become hyper-vigilant, preparing armies against and destroying friendly human cells in the body. This can result in allergies, eczema, diarrhea, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, food sensitivities and allergies, diabetes and more.
In these client’s when they change their diet and improve their digestion not only does any skin irritation resolve and bloating and gas disappear, thyroid and sex hormones normalize and autoimmunity markers disappear on blood tests. The differences can be observed, felt and measured.
Even the medical doctors I work with admit that all of the prescriptions and supplements they give cannot heal the body if the client is not willing to change their diet. Food is an impressively powerful and a sacred source of healing.
Thanks for sharing Amy!
What about you? Have you ever changed your health by changing your food?