The Medicinal Power of Nutrition: Dr. Suman Ahuja

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We are excited to introduce new series titled A Health Professional’s Perspective! These articles will feature guest posts from qualified health professionals providing their background and opinion on the importance of nutrition toward one’s health.

The first article in this series is written by Dr. Suman Ahuja. 

She received her doctorate in medical/clinical nutrition with an emphasis on obesity treatment and prevention from Texas Tech University, TX and a MS in Human Clinical Nutrition from Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons, NY.

Her motto is “you are what you eat and think” and her mission is to get all her patients/subjects off medications (when feasible) and thereby reducing related side effects of drugs while at the same time, teaching them how to use food medicinally.

Dr. Ahuja has worked with people from all walks of life to help treat and prevent obesity and related chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases for over 10 years.

One of her greatest accomplishments was isolating and studying appetite hormones in human biological fluids such as, blood, saliva, and breast-milk to determine the clinical causes of obesity in both adults and children.

Dr. Ahuja has several federally funded projects that investigate the many facets of obesity. For her most recent project, she developed an obesity treatment and prevention center investigating bio-markers of obesity including leptin, insulin, glucose, and cortisol and their effects on one’s cardiovascular health.

She has also developed many obesity prevention protocols to help reduce childhood obesity and health disparities stemming from obesity both, in adults and children.

Dr. Suman Ahuja- Medicinal Nutrition Doctor, LLC
Facebook: @Medicinal Nutrition Doctor, LLC
Instagram: @drsamndllc
Twitter: @drsamndllc

The New Age of Medicine

Anthelme Brillat-Savarin wrote, in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante, 1826: “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es” (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are).  “Nutrition” and “Diet” are probably one of the most misunderstood terminologies.

Nutrition

Most often, the mention of the word “Nutrition” confuses one to think that nutrition is merely an extension of a simplified science translating into how many grams of vitamins and minerals should be consumed daily or how one can restrict food portions to achieve weight loss.

Nutrition is also misunderstood most commonly when attempting one of the most coveted functions associated with this field, weight loss.  It turns out, almost anyone and everyone has a quick and fast route plan to weight loss ranging from avoiding gluten to extreme measures such as very low caloric intakes, teas, shakes, and other foods in an attempt to alter ones metabolism and speed up fat oxidation.

Diet

On the other hand, the word “Diet” is unfortunately synonymous with the idea of reduced portion sizes, poor tasting meals that may be perceived to be dry and/or void any flavors, textures, and overall taste.  The word diet also initiates a fear of calories and other macronutritients such as, carbohydrates, lipids (fats), and proteins.

The other end of this spectrum is the misuse of nutrition and dietary practices.  These come in the form of fads diets and unhealthy supplements.

Fad diets include diets that abolish an entire macronutrient, primarily carbohydrates or fats.  Or diets that provide certain nutrients in excess (primarily protein).

Unhealthy supplements contain vitamins and minerals that are chemically altered and packaged in almost toxic quantities.

Nutrition and Diet are also synonymous with new age practices such as altering ones acid-base balance (pH) for the purpose of achieving some irrelevant modality of detoxification of the liver, kidney and other similar primary organs.

So, what is true medical and clinical nutrition?

Firstly, it is essential to understand what the word “Nutrition” really means in order to grasp the vastness of this field and simultaneously the humbling perspective that in this day and age, there is so much more to learn and discover about nutrition and how little we really have learned and practiced, especially, in the developed western cultures in present times.

The Importance of Nutrition

The phrase “you are what you eat” is a true representation of the depth of nutrition or medical/clinical nutrition.  The word “Nutrition” originates from the Latin word nutrire which means “to nourish”.  Therefore, first and foremost, the idea behind any treatment must be to ensure that the body cells, organs, and systems are being nourished.  Chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, once commonly seen in adults, are now increasing common in younger populations (1-3).  There is no denial that achieving balanced nutrition is the first step in the prevention and management of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers (1-3).

The Medicinal Power of Nutrition

Time and again research has proven that chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, and gastrointestinal disorders are best treated with nutrition.  In fact, most of these are reversible when nutrition is in the very foundation of the treatment protocol.

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients because they are not produced by the body in sufficient quantities.  In fact, in some cases, the body cannot produce them at all.  Therefore, your entire daily dose must come from your diet alone.

Your body uses nutrients such as omega 3-fatty acids, vitamin B12, folate, calcium, iron, and zinc for a multitude of functions.  These range from the formation of bones, brain cells, structure of the eye, to maintaining neurological, metabolic and cardiovascular health.

Take Home Message

Without the knowledge of nutrition, medicine cannot deliver promised results.  For example, if knowledge of nutrition is lacking, patients may fail to understand “drug-nutrient” interactions leading to the drug being unable to offer its fullest potential.

If a patient was asked to consume their cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) in the morning with breakfast and they did so with a glass of grapefruit juice or any citrus beverage which is a common trait of western breakfast habits, the statins would bind with nutrients in the juice and irrespective of the dosage, results determined would be minimal leading to further increase in dosage and therefore more side effects eventually.

Nutrients such as B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron play an important role in assisting with neurological health.

Symptoms of depression, anxiety, mood disorders, and an inability to fully concentrate may be the result of one’s nutritional state.  While supplements may help temporarily, stores of these nutrients must ultimately come from one’s diet.  This is because the body has a much easier job assimilating and utilizing nutrients from food effectively.

Nutrition is true medicine.  Unless we, as health professionals, recognize the importance of real food and its medicinal qualities, we will continue seeing early morbidity and mortality, increasing health disparities, and crippling health care costs.  It is acceptable to temporarily use drug treatment in moderation under the supervision of a health care professional.  For long-term results and to achieve a healthy mind and body, however, nutritional therapy has to become the focus of any treatment plan.

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