I don’t know how many people I’ve heard from lately who gained weight during the pandemic. More than I can count! Weight gain mainly results from changes in your daily habits, especially reduced physical activity and increased consumption of calories like those types that rapidly increase your blood sugar and stress your insulin; in rarer cases, it can be brought on by other health issues.

Keeping tabs on your health indicators

Your primary care provider may periodically check for changes in your levels of fasting glucose and hemoglobin A1c, along with your blood cells, lipids, and other markers of healthy functioning. Keeping an eye on your blood pressure is important, too.

Now, if any of these numbers are moving out of the so-called normal range, you are often encouraged, if not pressured, to start taking medications like statins, blood pressure drugs, metformin, etc. None of these pharmaceuticals will heal you, though. Most come with the potential for serious side-effects, so it’s understandable that you are not exactly thrilled about these options.

What does science tell us?

It’s time to look for unbiased information. This research usually comes from academic centers receiving public financing, as opposed to studies paid for by pharmaceutical companies or other entities with financial interests. One large prospective cohort study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) put into question the significance of elevated hemoglobin A1c in older adults to predict if they will actually develop diabetes and therefore should be treated preventively.

On the other hand, we have known for some time that lifestyle changes are more effective than metformin in reducing diabetes in persons at high risk. Take a look at this study, if you’re interested.

This should be a reminder that we don’t want to rely overly or exclusively on lab values to decide how to prevent chronic disease. Not only is there considerable variation from person to person based on their genetic make-up, but we can also do much good by digging deeper into lifestyle improvements. That’s what more holistically oriented healthcare systems like Chinese medicine and naturopathy excel at.

Chronic disease is not a foregone conclusion

If you’ve been reading the articles on my blog, you already know that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is a major contributor to chronic disease in our country (and, increasingly, around the world as well). Learning more about how this way of eating harms your health and creating a plan to make changes for the better are a good place to get started. Working with a knowledgeable nutritionist can help you implement strategies that will pay big dividends for you and your family. Eating natural foods is your ticket to improved health.

But did you know that your hormones and sleep habits, your stress levels, and even exposure to toxic chemicals in the food you eat, the air you breathe—even your clothes and cosmetics—can affect your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer? They impact your body’s ability to detoxify naturally and undermine your resilience. In other words, they need your attention!

Steps you can take

Let’s come back to how you eat, for a moment. This is where I find almost all my patients have room for improvements, once they take a closer look at their habits and learn what they can do about them. One of the biggies is our reliance on convenience foods high in sugars that will spike your blood glucose levels and stress your pancreas. The fastest way to make progress here is to stop eating processed foods. Most foods in their natural state are lower in sugars and contain other goodies that slow the absorption of sugars and provide many nutrients essential for good health.

Once I’ve investigated with you what your habits are and where changes would be helpful, we’ll get busy updating your kitchen pantry, recipes and meals with a sustainable approach. We will also consider a botanical prescription to strengthen your digestion and improve your energy, if needed.

Getting support is key

Because changing your eating habits is one of the most challenging endeavors in life, don’t think you have to go it all alone or be perfect for it to make a difference. As the ancient Chinese were fond of saying, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

© 2021 Christiane Siebert