06/01/2011 08:31 am ET Updated Aug 01, 2011

Eat Well and Avoid Diseases

Why is nutrition important?

The answer goes far beyond "You are what you eat."

Nutrition is important because it fuels your body and gives you chemical building blocks like amino acids for making protein and calcium and magnesium for building bones and teeth. It provides fatty acids for building the membranes of cells and their components.

Vitamins, Minerals and Enzymes

The vitamins and minerals nutrition provides act as co-factors for the enzymes that run almost everything that happens in your body. These important effects of nutrition have been the focus of scientific research for more than a hundred years.

Scientists have concluded that vitamins, minerals, amino acids and essential fatty acids are essential nutrients and that carbohydrates are the most efficient sources of fuel.

Get more info about essential fatty acids in my article: Supplement Your Knowledge of Omega Fats
Recent research has revolutionized nutritional science by discovering other reasons why nutrition is important.

Nutrients in food can dramatically affect the way your body functions.

Key among these are the bioflavonoids and carotenoids that give food some of its richest colors: the deep blue of blueberries, the red of cherries and tomatoes and the orange of carrots. The antioxidants in these foods can provide protection against free radical damage, helping to protect against disease and aging.

With the growing body of scientific evidence, the importance of nutrition in prevention, wellness, anti-aging and combating disease is now beyond a doubt.

What we eat on a regular basis can contribute to various conditions. A major way diet impacts health is the case of obesity, diabetes and related diseases.

Discover how the typical modern eating pattern got us into trouble, and discover a new approach in my article: The Standard American Diet (SAD)

Learn which dietary patterns contribute to conditions, and a quick look at some nutritional approaches that can help:

Crohn's Disease and Nutrition

Diets high in sugar and white starch increase the risk of Crohn's disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

What Can Help: For people who already have Crohn's disease, a high protein, low carbohydrate diet can improve long-term outcome.

Parkinson's Disease and Nutrition

High protein diets may possibly increase the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. In addition, the medication taken for Parkinson's disease tends to work better when people avoid animal protein.

What Can Help: Drinking coffee (but not decaf) may decrease the risk of developing Parkinson's disease (and also decrease the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes). People with Parkinson's disease may also need extra fat in their diets.

Read about research on fruit that may protect the brain against cognitive decline and lower the risk of Parkinson's: Berry Good News

Gout and Nutrition

Diets high in animal flesh (red meat, poultry and seafood) can increase the risk of developing gout.

What Can Help: Control of gout once it develops may be easier if animal flesh is avoided. Eating cherries and drinking concentrated cherry juice can decrease the risk of gout.

Celiac Disease and Nutrition

About three million Americans have celiac disease, a genetic disorder that causes intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat (including white flour products), barley and rye.

Celiac disease can cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, neurological and psychiatric problems, osteoporosis, skin rashes and joint pain, and can trigger a variety of autoimmune disorders and some cancers. Most people don't know they have celiac disease until they're specifically tested for it.

What Can Help: It is essential for people with celiac disease to follow a strict gluten-free diet for life.

The Sugar Trap

A variety of different conditions are adversely affected by eating food with added sugar (either sucrose or high fructose corn syrup). These include diabetes and its many complications, Meniere's syndrome, hypoglycemia, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, vaginal yeast infections and fatty liver disease.

What Can Help: Avoiding foods with added sugar and corn syrup. Eating whole, unprocessed foods.

Intolerance or allergy to specific foods may trigger numerous disorders. These include:
  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Hives
  • Canker sores
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Vulvar pain (vulvodynia, vulvar vestibulitis syndrome)
  • Infantile Colic
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Colitis and ileitis
  • Autoimmune disorders like Sjogren's syndrome and some cases of lupus
  • Protein-losing enteropathy
  • Failure to thrive
  • Migraine headaches
  • Epilepsy
  • Attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Mood swings
  • Fever of unknown origin
  • Sinusitis
  • Type 1 diabetes
What Can Help: Identifying those foods that trigger allergies and eliminating them from the diet may have dramatic effects in reversing a wide range of conditions.

Now I'd like to hear from you:

What do you eat on a daily basis?

How does it impact how you feel?

Have you noticed anything special that helps or hurts?

Please let me know your thoughts by posting a comment below.

Best Health,

Leo Galland, MD

Important: Share the Health with your friends and family by forwarding this article to them, and sharing on Facebook.

Leo Galland, MD is a board-certified internist, author and internationally recognized leader in integrated medicine. Dr. Galland is the founder of Pill Advised, a web application for learning about medications, supplements and food. Sign up for FREE to discover how your medications and vitamins interact. Watch his videos on YouTube and join the Pill Advised Facebook page.

References and Further Reading:

"Increased requirements for essential fatty acids in atopic individuals: a review with clinical descriptions" L. Galland, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol 5, Issue 2 213-228, 1986

Full Text: "Diet and Inflammation" Leo Galland, MD, Nutr Clin Pract December 7, 2010 vol. 25 no. 6 634-640

Power Healing: Use the New Integrated Medicine to Cure Yourself. Leo Galland, 384 pages, Random House, (June 1, 1998)

The Fat Resistance Diet: Unlock the Secret of the Hormone Leptin to: Eliminate Cravings, Supercharge Your Metabolism, Fight Inflammation, Lose Weight & Reprogram Your Body to Stay Thin Leo Galland, M.D., Broadway Books (2005)

Superimmunity for Kids : What to Feed Your Children to Keep Them Healthy Now, and Prevent Disease in Their Future, Leo Galland with Dian Dincin Buchman, Dell (August 1, 1989)

Gastrointestinal Dysregulation: Connections to Chronic Disease, by Leo Galland, MD, with Helen Lafferty, MB, MRCPI, The Institute for Functional Medicine (2008)

This information is provided for general educational purposes only and is not intended to constitute (i) medical advice or counseling, (ii) the practice of medicine or the provision of health care diagnosis or treatment, (iii) or the creation of a physician--patient relationship. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your doctor promptly.