You Can’t Supplement Your Way to Health

You know you need to eat better so you take some supplements to make up for what you think your body is lacking. But you know what? You can’t supplement your way to good health. There are lots of reasons for this. Let’s check it out.

Nutrients Often Need a Carrier

If you want your body to be able to use the nutrients that you put into it, you have to eat like an Indian. Or a Chinese person. Indian medicine (ayurveda) and Traditional Chinese medicine use food to keep people healthy. The diet is seasonal, fresh, and makes use of food preparation techniques to assure maximum absorption. For example, all those turmeric capsules you’re taking probably haven’t resulted in a meaningful reduction in inflammation, have they?

Your body will only absorb about 10% of what’s in a turmeric capsule, so it’s fairly useless. Why? Because some nutrients use water as a carrier. Some use oil, fat, or alcohol. Most of us don’t drink oil when we take our supplements, but that’s what turmeric needs. How do you get that? Eat like the Indians eat! Find a recipe that you like. Follow it. Sit back and enjoy the anti-inflammatory benefits. When the oil goes in and how much all matter.

Indian and Chinese recipes are designed to bring out the nutritional values in foods. Lots of Chinese dishes combine sweet and sour to create balance in the body. Spicy food circulates qi. Salty foods get rid of stagnation. Sweetness promotes mood. Sour foods help with digestion. Bitter foods are good for the liver and promotes salivation and appetite. This type of diet promotes variety. The last thing you want is a beige diet where all your food is the same color and has a bland flavor.

Does this mean you should go out and eat Chinese food? No, the Americanized Chinese food isn’t really Chinese food. It’s altered for the American palate. Look for traditional recipes. Indian food is closer to what you find in India, but back off the meat and rice. True Indian food is generally heavier on the vegetables and lighter on sauces, meat, bread, and rice.

Supplements Are Not Bioavailable

Another problem with supplements is that they are not bioavailable. You drop all this calcium (for example) into your system thinking that it will help with your calcium deficiency, but you don’t really see any difference. This could be because the form that you are ingesting isn’t the same thing found in food. A common form of calcium supplement is calcium carbonate.

When’s the last time you ate coral? Yeah, me neither. Calcium carbonate comes from coral beds, rocks, and shells. It’s cheap and only 15- 40% absorbable. The human gut just isn’t designed to digest seashells. I’m not picking on calcium carbonate. Most other supplements perform just as badly – especially if you’re taking a cheap multivitamin.

Supplements Are Not Balanced

You hear all this talk about the need to get a balanced diet. The same is true for supplements. You can’t boost your minerals by taking the one that shows up on your test as being deficient because minerals work together. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and Vitamin D all need each other to do their jobs. If you’re missing one, they are all impacted. So, it may appear that you have a calcium deficiency when in fact you have a surplus of bio-unavailable calcium caused by supplementation. So, what you thought was helping was actually making things worse.

If we’re talking about herbal supplements the same can be true. Research isolates things so that they can see what is causing an effect. This leads to manufacturers making things like garlic, blueberry, broccoli, and resveratrol supplements. While they may have some benefit, these things are foods. Nature designed them to be consumed as food. You’re going to get the most bang for your buck by changing your eating habits because you get the other foods that go along with them. Most of us don’t eat garlic in isolation. Most of us don’t eat a bushel of blueberries in one sitting. Supplementation is just not balanced.

Supplement Efficacy is Dosage Dependent

If you look at the studies for supplements, you will see some that say something works. Then you see another that says it doesn’t. Then you might see a third that says this supplement makes things worse. Why? Dosage. Some things really are useful, but most of us tend to think that if a little is good, a lot must be better. So, we overdo it and the thing that was supposed to help us actually makes things worse. Or we have no idea so we take a multivitamin that doesn’t have enough of anything in it to do any good at all.

It’s Not Meant to Be for Maintenance

Some things, like echinacea, Vitamin C, and zinc, are not meant to be used for maintenance. They are to be used when you are sick or have a lowered immune system. Unfortunately, some people take them all the time to ward off illness. Instructions for usage are usually on the label. Be sure to read them so that you don’t over consume something.


Does it sound like I am anti-supplement? I am not. There are some that are beneficial like Vitamin D, probiotics, apple cider vinegar, and essential fatty acids. Others are really beneficial when taken when and how they can help your body. Popping a pill usually isn’t the best strategy for making that happen. Eating well is the best way to get those nutrients in.

Type D Personality and Microbes

I recently wrote a blog post about how we all have these parasitic microbes living inside of us that help us to live healthy lives. In it, I said that have to help keep these little critters alive so that they can help us digest food, sleep, have a stable mood, and do tons of other things that keep us healthy and happy. There is another thing that these microbes really like – a sunny disposition. People with a Type D personality are far more likely to suffer from heart attack, depression, and death than other personality types!

What’s a Type D personality?

You may remember back in the day when we heard a lot about Type A versus Type B personalities. Type A is the uptight, stressed, aggressive, competitive, outgoing, organized, impatient type. Type B is more relaxed. It’s not that they aren’t concerned about success or are unmotivated. They just enjoy the process more and don’t get so focused on the outcome.

Well, now science has further refined these types. Type D is a subset of Type A. In an nutshell, Type D people are habitually negative. They are hostile, aggressive, irritable, engage in more worrying, gloomy, socially withdrawn, sad, lonely, lack confidence, and pessimistic. They have thoughts like, “People will take advantage of you if they have a chance” or “I don’t like or trust people.”

Type D and Microbes

It might be hard to imagine that your attitude impacts your microbes, but it’s true. The microbes that promote inflammation and disease thrive in people who are negative, engage in catastrophizing, victimizing, and blaming behaviors. Everything is energy. Even your bugs are sensitive to environment and energy. The “good” bugs that you want thrive in a optimistic environment where there is forgiveness, gratitude, and compassion. Adopting a happy mental state makes your body happy and healthy. The reverse is also true. When your microbes are happy, they make you happy.

So What Can Type D’s Do?

First, know that this isn’t a permanent feature of your personality. This can change. So learn about mindset. A person with a fixed mindset believes that things are the way they are and nothing will change them. A person with a growth mindset knows that everything can be improved and sets about learning how. When you get frustrated with your progress, always come back to this. Growing is a process. You have to practice. A setback isn’t failure, it’s just a moment in time. Proficiency comes with effective practice.

Second, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness will help you to become aware of your thoughts so that you can change them to more positive and truthful ones. Your thoughts drive your emotions. If you think something is horrible, you could worry. If it’s just something to deal with, you won’t have any emotional response to it. You get two really useful results from practicing mindfulness so it’s something worth learning.

Finally, get involved in some sort of group that provides safe boundaries for you to socialize and share yourself. Cuddle Party, women’s circles, group therapy, are all examples of such places. They can help you to get over the fear of rejection or judgment and learn to open up. When you see that no one is laughing at you or that others have the same feelings as you, this can build your self confidence.

Your microbes are a really important part of your health. If you want to thrive, you have to take care of them. I keep calling them parasites because I want you to think of yourself as their host. How does a good host behave? He rolls out the red carpet to make sure his guests are comfortable, have enough to eat, and have a good time. When you present a sunny attitude, your little guys are happy. They multiple and help reduce inflammation, disease, and boost your immune system. So, it’s a fair exchange, wouldn’t you say?

Am I Possessed by Aliens?

possessed by aliens

Have you ever done something out of character and thought, “Am I possessed by aliens?” Do you really want to do something, but no matter how much you want it, and know how good it will be for you, you just can’t do it? It just feels like you aren’t in control of your own body or mind? Well, guess what? It could be true! You could be possessed by aliens.

Yep! How much of you do you think is you? Ten percent? Fifty percent? Would you be surprised to know that humans carry more bacterial cells than human ones?  Yep. “You” are not you. You are a host for a whole bunch of alien life forms. Fortunately, humans and these parasites evolved together in a symbiotic way, so most of these “guests” are friendly and beneficial.

Let me explain. When a baby is in utero, he gets all he needs from mama through the umbilical cord. He has a sterile gut and then, when traveling through the birth canal, he picks up all sorts of bacteria that colonize his gut and makes him able to digest food. He gets more from breast milk. Not only that, but breast milk contains complex sugars called oligosaccharides that the baby can’t digest. So why are they there? To feed the probiotic bacteria in the baby’s gut. As the bacteria digests these sugars, they release short chain fatty acids that help developing gut cells to seal the gut and keep microbes out the blood stream.

These bacteria also help establish a healthy immune system that impacts the child for the rest of his life. The microbe’s full beneficial potential is only unlocked when it feeds on breast milk. But let’s say that you born by Cesarean section and weren’t breast fed. What do you do then?

That’s where food, environment and lifestyle come in. Since having a healthy gut impacts your risk of developing cancer, diabetes, periodontal disease, anxiety, depression, migraines, leaky gut, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, bacterial vaginosis, infertility, high blood pressure, and auto immune disorders, you really want to do all you can to boost your numbers of healthy bacteria. The healthy bacteria keeps the aliens at bay who want to seem to make you feel like you’re possessed by someone who is not your bright and shiny best self. They thrive when you have a healthy lifestyle.

What food do they need? Fresh alive foods. Foods that were recently flying, swimming, crawling, grazing, or growing on the earth. They also like fermented foods like saurkraut, kimchi, kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, and yogurt. Fast foods, processed foods, and foods with added sugars feed the aliens that you don’t want. These are the ones that make you feel crabby, achy, and without self control.

You get more of these bacteria when you are in the natural world. The natural world has bugs. You need bugs. When you are in a climate controlled environment with hand sanitizer and shoes, you don’t frolic where the beneficial bacteria live. These guys need to be replenished and fed. Remember sugar, stress, lack of sleep, and a sedentary lifestyle kill them. So get outside, get some exercise (which these good bugs like), and get some bugs.

Your bugs need rest. I know everybody says they either “get by” with 4 to 6 hours sleep, they are night owls, or they can’t sleep. While there are individual differences between people, humans haven’t evolved to be nocturnal or function optimally with minimal sleep. Your bugs and brain haven’t either. If you want your bugs to be happy, take time to sleep. These guys control your melatonin (sleep hormone) production and your serotonin (mood) production. Do right by them and they will do right by you.

I heard that the human body needs to be relaxed as much as it needs to be under stress, and sleep doesn’t count as “relaxation.” How many of us get that? Zero. Anything louder than a forest causes our nervous system to react, so just living in the modern world is stressful. This means you have to do something like meditation, reading, listening to music, deep breathing, yoga, or Tai Chi every day. It’s really not an option. It’s the minimum required to live a balanced life.

The bottom line is, we’re all possessed by aliens. If we treat them well, they let us think clearly, feel good for no reason, and get things done without much effort. When we don’t treat them well, we get the nasty aliens who keep us up all night, give us racing thoughts, plague us with aches and pains, and make us old and sick. You don’t have a choice about whether the bugs are here or not. You do have a choice about whether to create a home for beneficial bugs where you both benefit or you could create a hostile environment where the bad bugs flourish and will take over.

Self Care is Mandatory

self care

It’s funny how often I hear people say that they gave up sleep because they had to study, do laundry, or tile the bathroom floor. Or maybe they ate fast food because they didn’t have time to cook. Or maybe they didn’t exercise because they were watching tv. Hey! Self care is mandatory! Many other things that we do instead are optional.

When you short cut body, mind, or spirit maintenance, you cut short your life. Spending time making yourself a healthy meal is not self indulgent. It’s not “cheating” if you sleep eight hours a night. Those things are just part of making sure that you have a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

The Universal law of rhythm says that everything ebbs and flows. This means that there is a time to work and a time to rest. Yet how many of us give up sleep when we feel pushed to do more and more? The answer isn’t to keep doing more. It’s to reduce the size of your obligations. Your body can’t function without appropriate rest.

So that you know what I am talking about when I say “self care,” here is a quick list.

  • meditation – to calm the overactive western mind
  • mastery – being skillful often enough to make it a habit
  • exercise – mild movement to combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle
  • diet – healthy, fresh, alive foods (not weight reduction)
  • sleep – 8 hours during the same time period each night
  • spirituality – connecting to something outside of yourself
  • social – humans are social creatures. We need each other for sex, stimulation, and growth

A healthy life is a life that makes time for each of the things above. What I see often in general society is that people make time for obtaining stature, acquiring stuff, working, and looking good. Those who prioritize relaxation, personal growth, spirituality, and friendships are seen as slackers, lazy, selfish, or spoiled. No!

Change your priorities! You are the captain of the ship. If the captain is unwell, who is going to be in charge? How does the ship stay afloat? The first priority is to be well. Being well gives you mental and physical flexibility when hard times hit. We all will have hard times. If you are in peak form when that comes, you will probably bounce right back. If you grind yourself into the dirt each day just to get through, you may burn yourself out before you ever get a chance to be happy.

So be happy today. Downsize your obligations. Downsize your debt. Downsize your wardrobe if need be. It’s not about settling. It’s about creating a life with enough time for you to thrive. If you’re over extended, you’re not living. It’s tempting then to sacrifice self care. Don’t let that happen. You’re too precious to trade your life for stuff.

A Holistic View of the “Highly Sensitive Person”

highly sensitive people

There is this new mental health diagnosis (it’s not officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) going around called the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). I’d like to present a holistic view of the “Highly Sensitive Person” here because I am hearing things about this spread by “experts” that are simply not true and prolong suffering. First, let me explain the symptoms of HSP.

HSPSymptoms of a Highly Sensitive Person

  • you’re more sensitive than the average person to sound, light, smells, and emotions
  • you’re very aware of subtleties in the environment
  • you’re emotionally reactive
  • you can have strong reactions to movies, not eating, not sleeping, and other people’s moods
  • you can be very sensitive to pain
  • making decisions is not easy
  • when overwhelmed by stimulus, you need to take a time out – like spending time in bed, going into a dark room, or finding a place of privacy and refuge
  • food and drinks can have a strong effect on you, like coffee, alcohol or sugar
  • you have a complex, rich inner life
  • you are deeply moved by movies, books, music, or art
  • you’re conscientious
  • you startle easily
  • having a lot to do in a little time is overwhelming
  • you put a lot of effort into avoiding mistakes or forgetting things
  • you make a point of avoiding violence, such as in movies or sporting events
  • you make a point of avoiding overstimulating places like concerts, crowded areas, and rush hour traffic
  • you make a point of avoiding overstimulating people like those who are loud or emotionally wounded
  • if you wait too long to eat, the results can be dramatic for you and those around you
  • you avoid change as it shakes up your life in ways that become overwhelming
  • being observed or watched creates a drop in performance and self-consciousness
  • when you were a child, others saw you as shy or sensitive

highly sensitive peopleMyths about Highly Sensitive People (HPS)

MYTH– HSP is a real thing.

TRUTH– The symptoms of HSP are related to ADD/ADHD, concussion, poor nutrition, heavy metal toxicity, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Autism, poor diet, and central nervous system dysregulation. As with all dis-eases, the basic cause is imbalance and an unhealthy lifestyle. If you rebalance the mind, body, and spirit (in this case, it’s primarily physical unless PTSD is a factor), the symptoms will go away.

MYTH– HSP is genetic.

TRUTH– These symptoms show up in families because of epigenetics. Epigenetics is basically cellular environment. Genes are traits. They create possibilities. The cellular environment is what allows certain genes to express while other genes are suppressed. Identical twins don’t always have the same diseases even though they have the same genes. Lifestyle (diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, social, spirituality, etc) creates cellular environment. If genetics were a certainty, twins would have identical diseases. It’s lifestyle that makes the difference.

If a mother has heavy metal toxicity while pregnant, she passes that toxicity on to her babies. They are born toxic. Sometimes, as with congenital lead toxicity, the effects are irreversible because it impacts development. Other times (as with lead toxicity that comes after childhood) the effects can be reversed by changing the environment. So, a change in lifestyle (detox) can manage or clear up these symptoms. This is why the experts recommend things like getting enough sleep and eating a clean diet.

MYTH– You’re born with HSP.

TRUTH– The symptoms of HSP can occur at any age. A blow to the head can create these symptoms at age 10 or 50. Exposure to toxins at age 15 can create the onset of HSP symptoms. A lifetime of a poor diet can create symptoms at any age. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be born with it.  I am just saying that the symptoms can appear at any time.

MYTH– HSP is a sign of a spiritually evolved person.

TRUTH– Many people prefer to accept these symptoms because they make life more intense. They like feeling alive. They also like the belief that this means they are more spiritual than others. People are holistic creatures. We are grounded in the physical. If your body is not well, you can’t be grounded. You can’t live in the world with competence because you are expending too much energy just trying to stay grounded and manage your stimulus. It’s incredibly taxing to live with that level of stress every day. While this level of sensitivity can make you more aware of spirituality, it’s not a sign of spirituality. It’s a sign of imbalance.

MYTH- HSP is normal.

TRUTH– HSP is common. It impacts somewhere between 10 and 20% of the population. High blood pressure and diabetes are also common, but I doubt anyone would accept them as conditions that don’t require treatment simply because of the high incidence of it in the general population.

highly sensitive peopleHow to Treat HSP

I’ve seen some experts who say that HSP is normal and doesn’t require treatment. It requires understanding and respect. For those of you who find the symptoms unbearable and would like to feel more grounded, there is a way.

  1. Clean up your diet and stay well hydrated. Junk food, sugar, processed food, GMOs have an effect. You really are what you eat. These poisons make your brain and body hurt.
  2. Reduce stimulus producing drinks like those containing caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
  3. Practice good sleep hygiene to give yourself the best chance to have a great night sleep every night.
  4. If you want to go the medication route, take it as prescribed.
  5. Do some sort of light exercise every day. The body needs to move.
  6. Engage in your spirituality.
  7. Spend face-to-face time with people you love. Social connections are an underestimated part of a healthy life.
  8. Reduce stimulation from the electromagnetic field (microwave, wifi, television, computers, etc).
  9. Get a hair test to find out what your mineral and heavy metal levels are. Then remineralize and detox properly. If your supplementation is not based on your body chemistry, it will only further unbalance you.
  10. If you have a trauma history, treat the trauma. This is a root cause! Coping skills and understanding the problem can take the edge off, but you can’t be a fully functional person if the trauma is still activated.
  11. If you think ADD/ADHD is the problem, do neurofeedback. It resets the brain so that it can function properly.
  12. If you have had a blow to the head, ANY blow to the head – even if it was ten years ago, rule out head trauma. The impact of head trauma can be overcome with neurofeedback. Neurofeedback can also help improve the symptoms of Autism because it is not disease specific. It simply helps the brain to become more functional so that everything the brain control works more efficiently.
  13. If you are simply too overwhelmed to do anything to help yourself, BEMER is a fabulous option. It can help get you to a place where you can begin to help yourself.

If you’re in the Richmond area and you’d like to explore your options and start on a road to a more balanced, less stimulated, less painful life, contact Laura Giles today for an appointment.

For Those Who Don’t Cook…

dont like to cook

Those who don’t cook, I ask you to consider the following. Why do you think that courtship often includes an offer to feed the object of your affection? Why do we feed people after a wedding or funeral and during holidays? Why do the people of some cultures offer food to the dead?

Food is Love

It’s because food is love. Cooking is a care taking behavior that makes us feel loved. Eating certain food releases hormones (estrogen, oxytocin) and/or endorphins that make you feel happy and connected. If you are comforting someone, eating helps create that comfort an grounds them back in their bodies and to the earth. (Food comes from the earth). If you are feeding yourself, eating healthy food helps you to feel content. When you eat with others, you share those feelings with them. If you are courting someone, eating with them helps to make your case! Some people even call oxytocin the “cuddle hormone.” It’s also associated with monogamy and sociability.

Food is Life

Food is also life. It gives us nutrients that allow our bodies to function properly. When you eat healthy food, your body ages more slowly, you have enough energy to get through the day, you sleep well, your emotions are stable, you can focus and concentrate, and you can feel a sense of belonging to your social circle, family, and the wider universe. When you don’t cook, eat irregularly, or make poor food choices, it affects your physical health, mental clarity, ability to regulate emotions, and can keep you from experiencing a spiritual connection. When you eat good food, you have a good life. You really are what you eat. If you are eating ramen noodles, hot pockets, and pop tarts, you won’t have much of a life.

Food Heals

Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.” He understood that not only does food allow your body, mind, and spirit to function well, it can heal a damaged person. It can help to make you whole. It really is that important. Pills mask symptoms and can give you lots of unwanted side effects. Surgery is for emergencies and when things are too far gone and need immediate attention. Herbs are nature’s medicines. Foods are for every day healing. If you don’t cook, your body’s ability to heal is limited.

When You Don’t Know How to Cook

Those who don’t like to cook often feel this way because they don’t really know how to cook. Learning how to cook is learning how to express self love. It’s about learning how to show love and care to others. If you have children, how can you properly care for them if you don’t cook? Can you teach them proper self-care if you avoid cooking?

When you cook with joy, you taste it in the food. A friend of mine is a restaurant owner. I swear he doesn’t have any secret recipes or secret ingredients, but he cooks with such love that his food absolutely oozes with it. And he loves to cook for people who love to eat. When he has an enthusiastic audience, he produces masterpieces. He’s not just sharing food. He’s creating love that goes out into the world and comes back to him.

If you don’t know how to cook, learn. Being able to care for yourself is a skill that will enhance your life tremendously. Having a skill that can help you express love for others and nurture them is a great gift. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef. Having a solid repertoire of six to eight dishes will give you a foundation from which to build.

Cooking classes can be fun! Take your child or a friend and see what you can create. I once took a cooking class while on vacation. It was incredibly informative to learn about the culture, the ingredients, how they are blended, and how to make a complete dinner. Not to mention that at the end of it, we had a great meal and I had the ability to replicate it.

When You Don’t Like to Cook

If you don’t like to cook, my guess is that you haven’t cultivated the habit of cooking or eating mindfully. When you are present with your food, you will notice all the benefits I mentioned earlier. Slow things down. Really pay attention to how using different pans, cooking at different levels of heat, and using different methods (baking vs. slow cooking or grilling) impacts food. Notice the aroma as the food cooks. Pay attention to textures. Savor the aroma. Food is fabulous. It’s delightful. If you are not convinced, find something with striking contrasts or brilliant flavors and let them dance in your mouth, like salted dark chocolate or chipotle chocolate. Now see if you can find that same delight in foods that are more subtle. Or try the cuisine of different cultures. Watch food shows. When you explore food, you can’t help but enjoy it. When you enjoy tasting it, you may enjoy creating it a bit more.

Food is love. Food is life. It heals. When you learn to cook and enjoy it, you give yourself the ability to love, heal, and live.