Aug 262014

I attended the Institute of Functional Medicine’s Nutrition Conference this year. It was held in San Francisco in May 2014, and since the speakers were many of the scholars I have been following for years and the conference was held so close to home, I could not pass up this opportunity to see these physicians and leaders speak in person! It was a wonderful experience, and as always, I came away with more ideas on how to educate patients about maintaining health (there is always more to LEARN)!

(Click here to learn more about ‘What is Functional Medicine?’)

Here are highlights of some of the sessions I attended:

  • Food Rules: A Candid Conversation with Michael Pollan
    Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of IFM, leading authority on Functional Medicine (FM) and best-selling author in this field, interviewed Michael Pollan, food activist, journalism professor and author of In Defense of Food, Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked. Michael Pollan started the discussion by quoting Wendell Berry – “People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food“. Berry’s words such as these and others on agrarian agriculture lead Pollan from a career as an editor of one of the best magazines in the US (I think – Harper’s Magazine), to author and educator in the politics of our food culture. Pollan discussed the food politics in the US, which results in a lack of a health-oriented food policy, likening the sugar industry of today to the tobacco industry of the 1950’s. He discussed that this current administration is silent about the food industry (except for Let’s Move!), has no ‘food policy’, citing such examples of “incoherent policies” as subsidizing the sugar industry while also subsidizing insulin pumps, and our soybean and corn “monoculture”. Pollan discussed the food industry’s ability to make Americans think they are eating healthy by what he terms as ‘Nutritionism’ – where processed food is marketed as ‘healthy’ because of added nutrients (‘fortified with Vitamin D’, for example) – but as he points out – “real food cannot change its nutrients”! Pollan and Hyman also discussed that the ‘health care crisis’ of today is the “catastrophe of the American diet”, with Hyman noting “we have outsourced our cooking to corporations”, which I think is an excellent way to think about what has happened to the American diet! Hyman also discussed specifically how high-fructose corn syrup damages our intestines, leading to ‘leaky-gut syndrome’1 occurring very frequently in our population, causing a multitude of chronic health issues. Pollan believes that any ‘food policy’ by our government has to be towards health, since it is of “huge economic value” to reduce Type 2 diabetes. He also mentioned that in the US, “40% of hospitals have ‘fast food'” today! He also believes that “industrial agriculture is unsustainable”, that we need to look at “the real cost of food production” and that it is possible to feed all the people in the world via small, sustainable, organic, local farming with its built-in, natural resiliency to change. Pollan mentioned that even Mexico now is moving towards having a ‘food policy’ (such as limiting food marketing to children, eliminating junk foods from schools since they promote disease, and putting taxes on soda and junk food). Pollan is also known for a set of Food Rules, and here is the most famous and best one:

    Eat (real) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

  • Medical Nutrition Therapy in the 21st Century: The Future of Personalized Nutrition, presented by Jeffrey Bland, PhD. Bland is the biochemist and research scientist at the forefront of Functional Medicine, being a co-founder of the IFM, Metagenics, Inc., and Bastyr University, and the founder of Functional Medicine Update aka Synthesis. Bland initially reviewed the categories of nutrients: 1) Essential Nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids, 2) Conditionally Essential Nutrients, such as CoQ10 and Lipoic Acid, 3) Spice‐Derived Phytochemicals, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, curcumin, and lutein, 4) Accessory Nutrients, such as probiotics, prebiotics and fibers, and 5) Replacement of Insufficient Metabolites such as galactose and pyruvate. Although research-based and quite technical, Bland’s talk was about how modern nutritional research is showing how these various nutrients affect our genetic expression and cellular function, and that there are many mechanisms which can influence our physiology. This science is now known as NutriGenomics. Bland summarized by saying that “medical nutrition therapeutics requires the design and implementation of a dietary program that is personalized to the patient’s genetic characteristics, environment, health status, and lifestyle”. To do this, since “no two people are identical with regard to how they respond to their diet” and “there is considerably more variation in nutrient needs among individuals than is indicated by the RDIs” (Recommended Daily Intake), those practicing FM should:

    • Evaluate the type, amount and form of plant‐based foods in the diet.
    • Make sure that vegetables and fruits are providing adequate amounts of all the major phytochemical families.
    • Use specific phytochemical concentrates including herbs and spices to amplify specific influences on genetic expression for the management of imbalanced physiology.

    Bland also just had a new book published, Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life. This is finally a book for the layperson describing all that Functional Medicine is today, including what current nutritional research tells us to date. Basically, FM treats all chronic illness by combining the latest research in genetic science, systems biology and nutrition, with laboratory testing and nutritional, lifestyle and environmental factor analysis, and then using a patient-centered approach, offers nutrition, lifestyle and natural medicine treatment options. It can be quite amazing how diet and nutrition tailored to the individual, using NutriGenomics along with lifestyle adjustments can influence the health of the individual with great success!

    I will write a book review soon of Bland’s book summarizing the approach of Functional Medicine to treat chronic illness (it will be posted on this blog and linked here).

  • Nourishing the Whole Self: The Food & Spirit Clinical Approach to Patient Transformation“, presented by Deanna Minich, PhD. This dynamic woman has a PhD in Nutrition, is the author of several books2 and has created a system of connecting the Ayurvedic Chakra system to ‘Food and Spirit’, via the modern Functional Medicine outlook of diet and lifestyle. Her approach especially resonates with me, since it is similar to my approach of integrating the dietary and nutritional approach of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Functional Medicine. She discussed the ‘elements of health’ and how to integrate it via her ‘therapeutic elements’ of Food & Spirit. She used the analogy that combining ‘good energy’ (from food, people or experiences) and ‘quality matter’ (from whole food and supplements) combine to give us ‘optimal health and well-being’. She has a toolkit of an assessment questionnaire, workbook and affirmation cards (I really love these!) to help patients with a personalized diet and lifestyle plan to maintain health. For more information see Food & Spirit. Dr. Minich also recently organized an online Functional Medicine “Detox Summit”, which includes many of the same speakers as the Nutrition Conference held in SF.
  • Nutrition Controversies: What’s the ‘Right’ Diet?
    This was a set of research-based presentations of three common modern diets. The panel consisted of both research scientists and clinicians. It was initially discussed by the moderator that answering this question is inherently very difficult from evidence-based scientific studies due to several reasons – but mainly due to the difficulty of defining a diet, getting participants in studies to achieve adherence to a diet, and probably most importantly, food and diets are not homogeneous, but rather are very diverse, or heterogeneous. He also pointed out that researchers have made the mistake thinking “there is a single healthy diet that’s right for everyone”. The presenters were:
    • Mediterranean Diet, by Mimi Guarneri, MD, a cardiologist and author ofThe Heart Speaks
      Paleolithic Diet, by Loren Cordain, PhD, nutrition professor and researcher and founder of the Paleo Diet,
      Plant-Based Diet, by Joel Fuhrman, MD, a family physician and author of several books, including Super Immunity and The End of Diabetes

    • The excellent moderator was Christopher Gardner, PhD, a nutrition researcher and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, who realized that the best way to summarize ‘the right diet’ from these researched, varied diets was to highlight what these researchers and physicians are in agreement on! It is:

      1) Added sugar in our diets is out of control
      2) Eat lots of vegetables
      3) Eat low glycemic fruits
      4) Reduce consumption of potatoes (more dangerous when more insulin resistance)
      5) No trans-fat (often added to processed foods)
      6) No processed foods

    Recipes from the IFM Conference:
    I have recipes from Rebecca Katz, Chef and author of Longevity Kitchen, and other contributors, plus these were also provided:
    Smoothie Recipes at IFM Booth

    1 ‘Leaky-gut syndrome’, or intestinal dysbiosis or intestinal permeability is caused by inflammation and resulting damage to the intestinal walls from several possible factors: an inflammatory diet (such as excess carbohydrates or sugar, processed foods, or allergens such as gluten or dairy, etc.), medications (antibiotics, corticosteroids, antacids), viral infections, parasites, stress (increased cortisol), environmental toxins, yeast or bacterial overgrowth, hormone deficiencies, and autoimmune disease processes.
    2 As I am writing this, I realize I already have one of her books in my office, for perusal and for sale both! An A to Z Guide to Food Additives: Never Eat What You Can’t Pronounce.

  • Jan 232014

    This research shows that post-menopausal women who consume sodas and other sugary ‘foods’ are at an increased risk of one type of endometrial cancer, an estrogen-dependent one. As this researcher says, “Increased levels of estrogens and insulin are established risk factors for endometrial cancer.”

    Sugary Drinks Raise Endometrial Cancer Risk

    It is worth noting that this research didn’t find any correlation between the consumption of ‘sugar-free’ sodas or foods with the risk of endometrial cancer. However, keep in mind that the consumption of the ‘sugar substitutes’ such as aspartamine, saccharin, sucralose, sorbitol, etc. all have other potential detrimental health effects of their own! (I.e., I highly recommend not consuming these ‘sugars’ as well – I generally recommend to use only natural sugars such as honey, stevia, coconut sugar, maple syrup, raw cane sugar, xylitol, etc.!)

    Sep 202013

    This cookbook is a jewel! Dr. Mao, as he is affectionately known, is a 38th-generation doctor of Chinese Medicine, a co-founder of an acupuncture college, a prolific author, and of course, a well-respected authority on Chinese Medicine. Hippocrates said ‘let food by thy medicine’, and Dr. Mao shows one how in this book full of recipes from centenarians and from many years of experience with patients from around the world. The intro to this book gives ‘Top Ten Longevity Habits for Good Digestion and Good Health’ and the recipes focus on using his ‘Top Ten Healing, Anti-Aging Foods’ (which I must add, is very similar to my ‘Top Ten Foods for Longevity’ article written in 2010). Additionally, Dr. Mao’s book lists commonly-used culinary herbs and spices for specific health conditions, and each recipe notes which health condition(s) it can benefit. There is also specific menu combinations given for certain health conditions. But the real ‘treasure’ of this ‘jewel’ are the recipes themselves! Besides being healthy, these recipes are unique, scrumptious, and most of them are simple and easy too, so one who is new to cooking healthy should not be overwhelmed at all. Sample recipes are: Banana Buckwheat Pancakes (gluten-free), Avocado Hummus, Chicken Mango and Butternut Squash Soup, Vegetable Almond Pie (gluten-free), Millet Pilaf, Curry Vegetables with Brown Rice, and Pecan Pudding. (Some of the recipes use dried Chinese herbs, all of which are readily available at my office from my ‘herbal pharmacy’ – GoJi berries, hawthorn fruit, chrysanthemum, etc.) And I must lastly mention Dr. Mao’s Hot Herbal Cereal recipe – it is a combination of over 20 grains, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes that his family has been eating for generations – it is really a ‘one-stop, complete-nutrition meal, as he describes! Definitely consider adding this treasure of a cookbook to your kitchen shelf!

    Dr. Mao is also the author of several other books, many of which I consider ‘must-haves’ for those interested in Chinese or Natural Medicine – Second Spring: Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age and Secrets of Self-Healing: Harness Nature’s Power to Heal Common Ailments, Boost Your Vitality, and Achieve Optimal Wellness.

    Nov 292012

    Dear Sheryl,

    Thank you SO MUCH for aiding in my extraordinarily speedy recovery from my total knee replacement surgery, which I had on June 25, 2012. I owe much of it to your skillful acupuncture techniques, very specific herbs, and your expert advice on nutrition and other helpful suggestions, before and after my surgery.

    I have well surpassed the expectations of my surgeon, Charles E. Wilhite, M.D., nurses and physical therapists. Not only am I experiencing more flexibility (up to the maximum), but less swelling and redness around the incision. My incision is getting smaller by the day and I’ve been told by my surgeon that it will be nearly invisible sooner than expected. He said outright, “Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it!”

    I have also had other problems that you have been able to help me with. You have worked wonders for injuries sustained by me a few years after being struck and rolled over on by a car in 2000. At the time I was being treated by a chiropractor with a “cooky cutter” approach for a few years until you were recommended by my massage therapist, Elizabeth Evans, CMT, who worked on me in the same chiropractor’s office. Recently you saved me from having risky surgery on the vertebrae in my neck by your remarkable acupuncture techniques.

    If someone were to ask me to pick only one health care provider, it will be you!

    Thank you again,
    Arleen P.
    Magalia, CA

    May 242012

    Sheryl’s acupuncture helped me to relax and release in many ways. The knee pain took about 2-3 sessions, plus homeopathy and nutritional changes supported the healing. Before and after dental surgery, her acupuncture helped me to balance what was needed and heal well. The informative resources have been self-supporting! Her expertise is in herbs and acupuncture! The office setting has a healing comforting ambiance for sure. Thank you Sheryl,

    Oct 142011

    Rebecca Katz is the author of the cookbook The Cancer Fighting Kitchen and is a senior chef of Commonweal Cancer Help Program in Marin County, California. The Commonweal Program is the epitome of teaching people to use Integrative Medicine to treat cancer. This cookbook is full of good, healthy, fun and EASY recipes and useful for anybody who KNOWS they should eat healthy but aren’t sure where to start!