My job as a functional medicine expert give
Underlying health problems like adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, digestive problems, and autoimmune or inflammatory conditions can be difficult to heal with general healthy living. Eat more vegetables; don't eat junk food—OK—but now what? By digging deeper and taking it to the next level with functional medicine, I am able to uncover what is keeping my patients' bodies from thriving.
So for all you clean eaters and fitness lovers out there, if your health still isn't where you want it to be, here are some common mistakes I find that even the most health-conscious people are making:
1. Eating healthy foods that are not optimal for you.
In functional medicine we understand that what works for one person may not work for the next. Because of food sensitivities and underlying gut problems, I see many healthy eaters unintentionally stressing out their bodies. Trying out an elimination diet can be a simple way for you to take charge of your food and figure out exactly what your body loves and hates.
2. Too many natural sweeteners.
Natural sweeteners sound healthier, so it's tempting to eat more of them without restraint. Agave nectar is a very popular natural sweetener that is often touted as a better option to use for those who are concerned about their health because it is considered low-glycemic. What is not normally mentioned is the high-fructose content of agave nectar, which is highly processed. And even though fructose is low on the glycemic index, it still damages your body—converting the fructose into glucose, glycogen, lactate, and fat in your liver. This and other high-fructose foods put stress on your liver, contributing to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance.
In addition, the white powdered form of stevia is chemically altered and often contains additives. Xylitol is another healthier sugar substitute, but it can contribute to digestive problems. Even raw honey and maple syrup can be unhealthy if used in large quantities. Therefore, it's important to still use even natural sweeteners in moderation. Shoot for no more than 2 tablespoons per day.
3. Stressing out over food.
While it's important to always be conscious of the food you're putting into your body, it becomes detrimental to your health when it becomes a point of stress. Giving yourself anxiety from constantly overthinking your diet is counterproductive. You can eat kale and kombucha all day long, but if you're serving yourself a big slice of stress every day it can affect just about every system of your body. Stress has been implicated in chronic health issues such as autoimmunity, brain problems, adrenal fatigue, and gut issues. If you find yourself consumed with stress and anxious thoughts, incorporating a mindfulness practice into your regular wellness routine will help bring some calm back into your life.
Exercise is an important part of any wellness routine; it reawakens our bodies from the inside out to help us beat fatigue and regain energy. But as with everything in life, balance is essential. After we work out, our muscle fibers need time to recover and repair themselves. Not allowing them adequate time to recover can increase inflammation throughout the body, which, in turn, can affect our immune system and contribute to adrenal fatigue.
Depending on your exercise needs and the type of workout you are doing, you need a specific amount of time to recuperate. A good rule of thumb is to give yourself a full one to two days off each week. The more strength training and lifting you are doing, the more time you will require between each session. Listen to your body and work with a personal trainer to determine what's best for you
5. Not getting enough sleep.
Our society loves to glorify busy; we're always looking for the next thing to see or do or accomplish. And on our ever-growing to-do lists, sleep often falls to the bottom. By skipping out on precious hours of shut-eye you're doing your health a disservice—even if you are the picture-perfect vision of health during the day. Sleep is when your body has time to repair tissue and produce hormones, so start winding down a good hour or two before you plan on sleeping. Turning off electronics or wearing blue-light-blocking glasses, which help relax the eyes to promote better rest.
6. Not eating a variety of foods.
Every single food has a vastly different combination of nutrients. By limiting yourself to a group of only your favorites, you're also limiting the hundreds of awesome superfoods and the benefits that they provide. By rotating your fruits, vegetables, and protein options, you are exposing yourself to different nutrients and helping to keep your immune system balanced, which can help heal and reduce food sensitivities. Trying a couple of new vegetables each week can increase your nutrient intake and give you more options to choose from.
7. Eating too much protein.
Amino acids regulate your metabolism and balance your immune system, and you must get many of them through your diet since your body does not produce all of the ones necessary for healthy body processes. But having too much protein can also have side effects. I suggest limiting protein to 40 to 70 grams per day depending on your lean body mass.
8. Eating too many healthy carbs.
Who doesn’t love potatoes? These and other carb-heavy vegetables are quickly converted to glucose in your body. When you eat too many of these types of vegetables, you can start to raise your blood sugar without even realizing it. Continue to rotate your vegetables and focus more on choices like dark leafy greens and sulfuric vegetables. These will provide your body with essential nutrients for methylation and open up detox pathways.
9. Holding on to alcohol.
Being strict with your health is great as long as you're consistent in all aspects of life. Too often do I see patients doing everything "right" but continuing to hold on to alcohol. While it may seem harmless to indulge in a few drinks on the weekend with some friends, it can also contribute to chronic inflammation and underlying gut problems like leaky gut syndrome. Still enjoy yourself but switch it up with mocktails and adaptogenic elixirs. Or indulge in a small glass of red wine which, in moderation, has actually been shown to reduce inflammation!
10. Taking too many supplements.
Sometimes supplements are necessary and beneficial to give your body the boost it needs; however, you could be taking supplements that are just not right for you, and this could actually perpetuate certain health issues. Plus, who really wants to take more supplements if it's not necessary? Swallowing too many capsules can be rough on your digestive system. My job as a functional medicine doctor is to find out exactly what your body needs to thrive and be as targeted and specific as possible about supplements.
11. Eating too many high-lectin healthy foods.
Lectin and phytates are natural proteins found in legumes such as beans, chickpeas, grains, dairy, nuts, and seeds. For some people eating too much of these higher-lectin foods can trigger inflammation and add to digestive distress. Nightshade plant foods like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants are also high in lectin and can drive up inflammation for some people. They are healthy, real foods—just not optimal for everyone. Again, finding out exactly what foods work for your body can be the missing piece to the puzzle of your health.