Robin’s synopsis of USING FOOD as MEDICINE with Sally LaMont, ND, LAc
Sally LaMont is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist. Her love of cooking and belief in food as medicine inspired Dr.Sally’s Kitchen (drsallyskitchen.com), an educational website offering treatment recipes and food pharmacy guidance for patients and practitioners.
THE MAD DIET
Dr. LaMont believes that the Standard American Diet (SAD) should be called the MAD diet. It is the Modern American Diet, the way we currently eat, based on refined and processed foods, around a lifestyle of sitting and being indoors. She recommends that people shop the periphery of the grocery store, where fresh produce and protein are, rather than the interior, where processed food is sold.
Our modern American diet is just full of sugar which leads to insulin resistance. Here’s how:
Insulin lowers blood sugar by binding to insulin receptors on every cell membrane. Like a key into a lock, it opens the door and allows sugar to leave the bloodstream and go into the cell where it can be used for energy. The problem is that sugar promotes inflammation and inflammation dulls the receptors, effectively turning them off, causing the condition known as insulin resistance. When insulin can’t get the sugar into the cell, we have high blood sugar which is either pre-diabetes or diabetes.
The Root of Chronic Illness
Insulin resistance and high levels of inflammation caused by sugar are at the heart of all chronic diseases.
And the sugar that doesn’t get metabolized, is stored as fat.
And fat, which we used to think was just a benign molecule, generates the release of pro-inflammatory compounds. Putting all that together: sugar causes inflammation and we lose the opportunity to build bone by having an imbalance between the bone-building cells and the bone eroding cells.
BONE BUILDING FOODS
Dr. LaMont’s favorite foods for bone health are dark, leafy, green vegetables like collards, kale, Swiss chard, arugula, and bok choy. They contain minerals, key vitamins, fiber, and chlorophyll, all of which combine to create healthy bones.
Cruciferous vegetables, also known as the brassica family, include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, and Romanesco (Robin’s note: Roman broccoli).
Cauliflower and broccoli contain sulfur-containing compounds called glucosinolates, that help to build bone. When chewed, the compound released from cruciferous vegetables, sulforaphane, stimulates osteoblasts, the cells that build new bone.
Dr. LaMont loves roasting broccolini at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes and tossing it with olive oil and garlic. A quicker method is to steam broccoli and squeeze a little lemon juice and olive oil over it. Another delicious recipe is cauliflower curried rice which is available on drsallyskitchen.com.
Another category of foods that is good for bones is omega-3-rich oils from salmon, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and herring. Omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and lower levels of pro-inflammatory compounds like C-reactive protein and cytokines that we know contribute to inflammation and therefore bone loss.
Canned salmon or sardines are an excellent source of calcium, because the skin and the bones, which are cooked and soft, are included. A recipe for a salmon salad, found on drsallyskitchen.com, is a great substitute for a tuna salad, to get the added benefits. Use wild-caught salmon. (Robin’s note: not farmed that are often raised with antibiotics). The brand Dr. LaMont recommends is Vital Choice.
A good source of minerals, like calcium and magnesium, and good fats, protein, and fiber, are nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and Brazil nuts. A handful of nuts each afternoon, maybe around four o’clock, can provide some much-needed minerals, and good fats and help you make a better choice if you are hungry before dinner.
Bone broth is another great choice for bone health. The cooked-down bones release collagen into the soup. Bone collagen peptides have been shown in clinical studies to shift bone markers and increase bone formation and reduce bone degradation. Look for a recipe on drsallyskitchen.com for that as well.
There are several ways to make bone broth: slow cook for 24-48 hours on the stove, a slow cooker like a Crockpot, or a pressure cooker like an InstaPot. There are no studies to show which is the preferable way, but Dr. LaMont likes the slow, stove-top method as it is closer to what our ancestors did and might leach out the most collagen and minerals. Apple cider vinegar is needed to pull the minerals and collagen out of the bones. Adding a bay leaf, garlic, and onion infuses a deep, rich flavor. The spice, turmeric, rich in a flavonoid called curcumin, is a potent anti-inflammatory. Research has shown that curcumin has an inhibitory effect on bone loss.
Red Lentil Dahl is a rich, nourishing soup to cook in the winter months using turmeric, ginger, onions, garlic, carrots, and celery.
Who would’ve thought that a plum that’s dried into a prune would have the ability to improve bone density? But studies have shown that it does.
Prunes contain nutrients important for bone health, like vitamin K1, minerals like magnesium and potassium, and boron.
The easiest way to get prunes into your diet is before you go to bed. Put 4-5 prunes in a bowl, pour hot water over them and let them sit overnight. In the morning, pour that sugar water off before you eat them to reduce the rise in blood sugar. You can also add a slice of lemon in the bowl overnight to cut the sweetness and add a new flavor.
Prunes are delicious, very rich in fiber, and help to provide a good bowel movement, which is really important for all of us, especially women. You can mix them with almond or peanut butter or ricotta cheese and make a little spread for gluten-free toast.
Cultured foods contain a range of microbes. Lactobacillus bacteria, Bifidobacta, and some species of yeast. These can be added to cabbage to make kimchi or sauerkraut. Many of the microbes are actually clinging to the leaves of these veggies so just soaking them in salt water can activate them. The microbes in fermented foods generate vitamin K and K2, which a lot of foods don’t have. So, increasing our intake of fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut can help build bone density.
Fermented soy products, like tofu and miso, contain a protein called ipriflavone that has been shown to help prevent bone loss and stimulate bone production. Also, things like yogurt and kefir (a liquid form of yogurt) are not only rich in calcium and magnesium, but these probiotic microbes will help reduce our risk of bone loss and help to build bone density. Some studies have shown that yogurt can reduce the risk of fractures by as much as 81%.
By inoculating your gut with the good gut bacteria, you create an environment to support healthy bones and you do not need to take a large quantity. Fermented foods can be a condiment added to your diet. Much healthy flora has been decimated by the course of antibiotics taken over a lifetime, so replenishing the gut with fermented foods is key for not just bone health but overall health.
It’s not just calcium that is essential for our bone health.
Calcium is important, but magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and other minerals like boron and silica, make a big difference in our bone health. All these minerals are embedded in a matrix of collagen inside the bones.
Dr. LaMont believes yogurt and kefir are really good choices, rather than drinking milk for calcium intake. In addition, her favorite form of calcium supplementation is one that contains a microcrystalline hydroxy appetite, the matrix into which that calcium is embedded. Magnesium, the most common mineral deficiency in the US, is equally important. Magnesium is present in Brazil nuts, cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and even peanuts.
So many people are using acid-blocking drugs, particularly PPIs or proton pump inhibitors. These include Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid. They can reduce our body’s acid production by 99%. This is important because all minerals are absorbed best in an acidic environment, which is what that environment is like in the upper part of the small intestine. Taking proton pump inhibiting drugs every day, which many people do for decades to control their heartburn, has been shown to reduce bone density. The box says to only take these proton pump inhibitors for two weeks, and if you need to use them, adhere to that. Dr. LaMont has written an article about alternate ways of dealing with heartburn, instead of taking medications that contribute to osteoporosis.
Margie added: Dr. Wright, from Washington state, looked at people with osteoporosis using the Heidelberg capsule. He found that 90% of the people who had osteoporosis had reduced stomach acid. That is so important if it’s going to reduce our absorption of nutrients and minerals. Obviously, don’t just stop your medication, work with your doctor, to evaluate if you have low stomach acid and correct it.
Dr. LaMont uses the GI-MAP test to evaluate enzyme output by the body, especially pancreatic enzymes, which also play a role. Pancreatic enzyme output is activated by having enough stomach acid. So again, inhibiting stomach acid with these acid-blocking drugs impairs the absorption of nutrients across the board.
CORRECTING LOW STOMACH ACID
Supplementing with a good digestive enzyme, that combines hydrochloric acid with pancreatic enzymes is Dr. LaMont’s choice to improve stomach acid and the absorption of nutrients. Also, eating in a relaxed manner is important for digestion. When we eat under stress, when we’re gobbling our food in conversation, or watching a crazy movie, or driving down the freeway eating our breakfast on the way to work, that puts our body into a sympathetic dominant state, and that is not the state in which we digest food. If we want our body to be able to produce the digestive enzymes that it’s designed to do, we need to sit down and create a sanctuary when we get ready to eat. This moves our body into the parasympathetic dominant state so enzymes are released, as they should be, and our food is more likely to be well digested and absorbed. This translates into better bone density.
Margie added that digesting your food is just as important as the food you eat. Thinking back to the old cultures and customs around eating, where they would relax, and say prayers. They weren’t shoving their food in and rushing around.
Dr. LaMont believes that people may not understand, and overlook the rich health benefits of using herbs in your food. She makes an Argentinian pesto called chimichurri. It’s a combination of parsley, cilantro, and a little oregano with olive oil and shallots. Blend this up into a deep rich paste. Parsley and cilantro rich are rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium. They have an alkalizing effect on our bodies. You can put this paste on any protein, like eggs or tofu and it will transform it into something delicious. Parsley also contains a phytochemical called apigenin that helps to fight cancer.
The range of dark, leafy, green spices is a health-promoting and delicious way to make our food taste better.
Go to drsallyskitchen.com for more amazing recipes and blog posts about how we build YOUR FOOD AS MEDICINE.
Robin's solution for creating new habits:
Start small, do it in community, have an accountability partner!