If there is one thing we have learned in 2020 it’s the impact
of chronic disease on our overall health. From the very early times of the pandemic, reports have been coming in regarding the impact of chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity on the severity of disease caused by infection with COVID-19.1 The CDC reports that adults of any age with certain underlying medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness (including hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death) from COVID-19.1 While some of the conditions that put one at increased risk for severe disease if infected with COVID-19 are not preventable (including conditions like pregnancy and sickle cell anemia) there are still a number of ways that health can be positively impacted by adopting healthy habits.
When it comes to diseases that are the most costly in terms of lives lost and economic expenses- the clear leader in both circumstances is chronic disease. With 60% of American adults having at least one and 40% having two or more, chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.2 They are also extremely taxing on the healthcare system in terms of cost. In recent years, the annual national health care expenditures have ballooned to over $3.5 trillion (that’s nearly $11,000 per person!) with 90% of that going to management of chronic conditions.3,4 Among the top 4 modifiable risk factors for the development of chronic disease is nutrition. Despite the climbing incidence of disease that have a strong nutritional component in terms of both development and management, the current conventional healthcare model is not properly equipped to support changes to dietary habits in a way that results in meaningful, steadfast, foundational changes that have the potential to mitigate the development of chronic disease or promote overall vitality.
Nutrition has a vital role in both the maintenance and restoration of health. The importance of adequate and healthy nutrition when it comes to health cannot be stressed enough. Going as far back as the field of medicine itself to the times of Hippocrates in ancient Greece, the belief that nutrition was a primary treatment modality and the cornerstone to health was unfaltering.
Though present circumstances might suggest otherwise, over the last hundred years the world has seen a drop in infectious disease rates, particularly in industrialized countries, but this came with a cost.5 The dramatic drop in rates of infectious disease was replaced with an accompanying rise in chronic noncommunicable disease— specifically those with a strong dietary component, largely due to contemporary changes in everyday life. On a population level, the American food supply and the standard American diet have seen a dramatic decrease in food quality over time. Studies using representative data of US population shows that 60% of calorie consumption coming from ultra-processed foods (packaged food products formulated from multiple sequences of industrial processes).5 Sadly, as the industrialization of society increased, the human connection to food decreased. Humans are no longer connected to where food comes from and how it is planted, cared for, and harvested. The degradation of our relationship with fresh, seasonal food has led to the erosion of the value of foods as fuel for the body and that the function of our dietary choices goes beyond gastronomic enjoyment to also encompass providing the nutrients that the body needs to maintain optimal function and offering the most substantial opportunity for sustaining maximum health and longevity.
A well-rounded and robust holistic nutrition
education provides in depth training in an
expansive array of nutrition concepts and lifestyle interventions. Having extensive knowledge of each along with a keen awareness for how they all culminate together to support health and well being makes those trained in holistic nutrition invaluable members of a healthcare team. Those specifically trained in holistic nutrition have the insight and knowledge to support the pursuit of health across all facets of the health spectrum. Holistic nutritionists participate in concentrated study of:
Macro- and Micronutrition Applications- garnering a deep understanding of the nutritional biochemistry of macro and micro nutrients in human physiology, understanding the value of each person’s unique biochemistry in terms of their personal balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates as well as their daily needs for various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to include which foods, food combinations, and food preparation methods can be utilized to support achieving the proper balance of nutrient intake and bioavailability, optimizing intake in the functional ratios for the various nutrients as well as knowledge surrounding deficiency, storage, excretion, and toxicity of macro and micronutrients.
Analysis and Assessment of Dietary Intake- extensive use of technology, laboratory tests, and other techniques for evaluating nutrient intake, determining unique nutrient needs inclusive of individual factors, scrutiny of a variety of nutrition therapies and interpretation of their scientific evidence in biomedical research and observation, symptoms of frank nutrient deficiencies, imbalances, or overdoses, and evaluating nutritional supplements.
Specialized Lifestyle Programs- suggestion of holistic nutrition concepts, protocols, and evidence based dietary programs (i.e. low FODMAP diet) for individual health concerns, understanding the role of specific nutrients, stress management techniques, and functional movement in the management of overall health, providing nutrition options to specific sub- populations like children, pregnant or actively lactating mothers, performance athletes, geriatrics, and those dealing with food addiction or weight management.
The concepts in the field of holistic nutrition provide the foundation to overall health, even going beyond simply the absence of disease to include other aspects like physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, and intellectual health. With the primary objective of supporting personal harmony through establishment of appropriate nutritional practices, those trained in holistic nutrition focus on promoting vitality through the use of specific, individual dietary interventions, use of therapeutic, personalized nutrition plans, and can also include the use of other products like herbs, nutritional supplements, functional foods as well as other lifestyle factors like stress management, adequate movement, release of negative self-talk, menu planning, meal prepping, shopping techniques, use of affirmations, and more. Throughout our lifespan- from preconception to death, the foods, chemicals, and environment we are exposed to plays a direct role in health outcomes. The nutrients we choose to consume on a regular basis can have deep and long -lasting effects on health including our susceptibility to any number of medical conditions and diseases, appropriate physical, mental, and emotional development as well as impact the function of our immune system. Whether these effects are moving us in the direction of harmonious health or disastrous “dis-ease” truly depends on what is at the end of our fork.
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Andrea Pryce, N.D., received her baccalaureate degree from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and is a 2006 graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. Following completion of her N.D. degree she went into private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. She has a strong background in biomedical research with significant experience in both bench top and field research. She has worked as a bench top research associate performing genetic oncology assays for a major biomedical research foundation. Additionally, she served as a project coordinator for a homeopathy study co-conducted by the Southwest College Research Institute and the University of Arizona’s Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. She maintains a research interest in the epigenetics and nutrigenomics particularly as they relate to oncology. In 2009, she moved to Florida and began working at Life Extension in Fort Lauderdale where she was Medical Editor for their monthly magazine. Dr. Pryce joined the faculty at Hawthorn University in April of 2014 and also serves on the faculty of Everglades University. She has recently joined the team at the Integrative Health Institute in Boca Raton, Florida.