For those of you following along with the Rustic Tribe on Social Media, then you already know that I had the distinct privilege of both attending and participating at the 15th annual Nutrition & Health Conference this last week in Boston.
It’s so important for health professionals to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in their field, especially on the research side of things. This is why I make it a point to go to at least one conference every year. Although at this point in my career I’m happy to say that most of what’s shared I already know! Definitely affirmation that I’m sharing the most relevant and current information with all of you. But there are always some key take-aways from these events and this conference was no exception. So I thought I’d tease out some of my favorite points and share them with you.
The Circadian Clock & Intermittent Fasting
If you’ve been following the Rustic Tribe for awhile, then you already know I’m a big fan of intermittent fasting. There are so many health benefits — improved weight loss, lower inflammation, better blood sugar management, and a stronger immune system.
But I learned something new this week that takes it to the next level. It has to do with meal timing and eating according to your circadian rhythm.
Research suggests that our blood sugar regulation as well as our ability to burn calories for energy is better during the first half of the day. So what this means is if we eat more of our calories during this time of the day we will actually lose more weight and gain more health benefits.
So, instead of fasting through breakfast, it may actually be better to finish eating earlier in the day and fast through the evening to reach a 14-16 hour fast. Here are 2 possible options of how this could look.
Option 1: 16 hour Fast
* nothing (except fluids like broth, tea, water) until the next day at 7am
Option 2: 14 hour Fast
* nothing (except fluids) until the next day at 7am
Stop Feeding The Pain
Working with people who have chronic inflammation, means I see a lot of folks struggling with pain. As I’ve discussed before diet plays a very large role in the management of pain. Following an Anti-Inflammatory Diet and removing any problem foods is essential in keeping pain at bay.
But I also learned that when people extend their nightly fast they see a higher improvement in both inflammation and pain. And I was reminded the importance of using certain supplements like Magnesium & B-Complex vitamins in addition to the supplements I already routinely recommend, like fish oil, turmeric, vitamin D, and probiotics.
Cocoa Flavanols for the Heart & Brain
Who doesn’t want to be told to eat more chocolate….right?! But this talk was specifically about Cocoa Flavanols, which are the health promoting chemicals in chocolate.
The flavanol content is not the same as the percent cacao, although the higher the cacao content the higher the flavanol content.
Unfortunately most chocolate is actually very low in flavanols and when it’s been alkalinized, like many cocoa powders, it decreases its flavanol content by 63%. If you’re eating dark chocolate, 1 oz = ~160 mg of flavanol.
For health benefits, specifically for the heart and brain, research suggests you need at least 500-600 mg of flavanol in the form of a supplement. Unless you can get away with all those calories, eating 3-4 oz of dark chocolate each day may not be the way to go.
Gut Brain Connection
I’ve written at length about the important of the Microbiome when it comes to brain health. I didn’t learn anything new here except what happens under high stress.
Nor-epinephrine, which is a hormone that is released when we are under high stress, will both activate and increase the virulence of any pathogens that might be living in the gut. This of course leads to more irritation and inflammation of the lining of the gut, which means more leaky gut, which means more inflammation all over the body. This could also explain why stress makes conditions like IBS worse.
Micronutrients & Mental Health
We all know that by eating more plants, specifically veggies & fruits, you will naturally be getting more nutrient-dense and micronutrient-rich (vitamins & minerals) foods in your body. These micronutrients are essential co-factors in hundreds of different physiological pathways in the body…..including the pathways of our feel-good hormones like serotonin.
When there is a deficiency in co-factors you may see symptoms of anxiety, depression, or even fatigue. But here’s the kicker…..our food isn’t as mineral rich as it used to be. Mostly because of depleted soil and the use of pesticides, which decrease the mineral content of plants.
BUT there’s also another reason, which I didn’t know — CLIMATE CHANGE is causing an increase in the sugar/starch content of plants and a decrease in minerals!! Yet another reason we need to do our part to save the planet!
All of this to say, that for some folks (especially those dealing with mental health challenges) adding a high-quality micronutrient formula could be incredibly helpful! My usual mantra is to stay within the realm of real, whole food but it’s a good reminder that supplements can play a role and might actually be necessary for some people.
Coffee & Longevity
Kind of like the topic of chocolate, who doesn’t want to be told that coffee is good for them?! The research continues to support this fact.
Health benefits from drinking coffee have been seen in cancer, heart health, mental health, liver health, inflammation, diabetes, and even just overall longevity. Coffee for the win!
The largest risk reduction was seen at 2-4 cups per day but not when that coffee was full of sugar and syrups. Keep it black or try out my coffee elevated recipe.
Changing Diets for a Changing Climate
This was by far one of my favorite talks. As much as I value using food as my medicine, I also really value this planet we live on. And I am very concerned about the health of our Mother Earth.
If you’ve been paying attention to this topic then you probably already know that meat is a big contributor to the rising carbon dioxide levels (aka greenhouse gases). In addition to a major cut-back on carbon dioxide emissions from Industry, Transportation, & Energy Production there also needs to be some major changes in food production.
The presenter suggested that to even have a chance to meet the climate goals set by the Paris Agreement, we would collectively need to cut our meat consumption by 75% and reduce food waste by 50%!! Those are really big numbers. But you can do your part.
Reduce food waste with meal planning. I rarely have to throw out food anymore as long as I stick to my plan. And eat less meat. You don’t have to go vegan but you do need to have some vegan days and rotate in other proteins during the week. Read this article for more ideas of how to do this.
A final learning I got from this talk was that WHAT we eat is actually more important to climate change than how far away it was grown. That blew me away. Now, for many other reasons I still think it’s really important to eat as much locally grown food as possible. But it’s interesting to know that your food choices actually matter more than the distance traveled. Meaning, eating less meat is going to have more of an impact than not buying bananas or avocados from South America.
Sister Noella & Tales From The French Cheese Caves
This presentation was such a treat. Really fun to go behind the scenes with Sister Noella to hear about how cheese is made. And in case you didn’t already know this, microbes are incredibly important to the production of cheese.
Traditionally made cheeses are put in caves in order to be near the soil for access to microbes. The microbes are not only important for the different flavors of cheese but also for food safety. With proper microbial availability by Day 2 of cheese aging (from raw, un-pasteurized milk) all traces of e-coli or other harmful pathogens are gone and replaced with non-harmful microbes.
My Panel & Q&A
Last but definitely not least was my participation at the Conference. I was asked to be part of a panel looking at the clinical applications of diet and supplements in the management of ADHD & Autism.
I shared the importance of both improving the nutritional quality of the diet plus identifying foods that may be problematic and thereby creating inflammation & irritation in their body. We also discussed how important gut health is to both the management of inflammation & the nervous system in both kids & adults alike.
It was so fun for me to get up there and talk about what I love. You guys get to hear my ramblings every week but for the majority of the attendees this was their first time. And hopefully some of them are now part of our Tribe.
I also was honored to both meet and get my picture taken with the man I credit as the inspiration for my career, Dr. Andrew Weil. I was a pre-med student when I read his book “Spontaneous Healing” and knew Integrative & Natural Medicine is what I wanted to dedicate my life to.
Take Home Message
I always find myself inspired and with renewed energy coming away from these conferences. This is why I was so excited to share all of these updates with you.
One of the presenters mentioned that US medical schools currently only require 25 hours of nutrition education over the entire 4 years of a doctor’s education AND as low as this number is only 29% of medical schools actually meet this requirement!
So, unless your provider is passionate about nutrition and spending their time advancing their education in this field (like the attendees of this conference), it really is prudent that you seek out the advice of a nutrition professional when you’re looking for dietary guidance. And I am truly grateful to be this resource for you!