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You are what you eat

By September 13, 2022No Comments

by Deborah Ekstrom, MD

In my college days (yes, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth) one of my professors observed the packages of processed snacks and candy bars the students around him were consuming as we streamed into the classroom around him “You are what you eat” he told us. I wasn’t much of a junk food junkie at the time so his words didn’t make that much of an impression. Those were the days when you think you are never going to get creaky, achy, or grow old and you basically feel invincible.
Since then, with a robust science and medicine education behind me and as I’ve become more mature his words have stayed with me.

My father died at age 92 after a few months in a nursing home with deteriorating health for the last five years of his life. He smoked intermittently, became diabetic, and was plagued with peripheral vascular disease (hardening of the arteries). He eventually underwent vessel bypass surgery and eventually, suffering extreme pain and the inevitable gangrene that oxygen deprivation from too little oxygenated blood being delivered to the most distant parts of the limbs results in, he passed. A few years younger than my dad, my mom, at age 94 moved to assisted living just before the COVID lockdown. She went from being semi-isolated and living alone at home with mobility issues to a prison-like existence at the assisted living facility in efforts to protect her and all the residents from COVID exposure. I saw her decline physically and mentally, watching TV, reading books, confined to her rooms for meals and unable to communicate with friends and family except by phone. It didn’t help that she is hard of hearing.

I realize that my genes are strong and my family is long-lived. I want my later days to be vital and robust, disease and symptom free. A few years ago I changed my pretty acceptable diet to one richer in vegetables of a non-inflammatory nature, limiting animal protein, and cutting out grains. I stopped eating inflammatory vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers, that our gut bacteria cannot properly process and began pressure cooking legumes like beans including soy and lentils and avoid grains and pseudo grains like wheat, barley, oats, corn, rice, and quinoa and substituted with cassava bread and millet. Millet is a grain, (the little yellow seed-like grains you see in birdseed) but is not inflammatory. I found almond flour pasta and Palmini noodles, used pressure cooked millet instead of couscous and experimented successfully with various substitutions and recipes. (I consider cooking an art form and hope to become the kind of accomplished cook that my friends Kay and Maryann are.) I searched out pastured chicken, 100% grass fed beef, and wild caught fish. I discovered I like tahini and coconut amino‘s. I learned about and shared eating and cooking practices with others who are into “clean anti-inflammatory eating as well.
To my surprise, I lost weight, and as long as I adhered to my plan I could maintain it.

Second surprise, my GERD went away, my sinuses stopped acting up, and my gut spasms and pain disappeared. Best of all my feet no longer were stiff when I got out of bed in the morning. My annoying back and knee aches disappeared as well as weird patches of nerve pain on my skin that none of my doctors could figure out. As long as I stayed away from sugar, (I do use Stevia or Truvia) for sweetening, my dry mouth and dry eyes are kept at bay.

I changed out my soap, toothpaste and deodorant too. I’m careful about laundry and cleaning products and overall I felt and moved better than I did in my early 40s. I could sit on the kitchen floor and play cards with my grandkids without pain when getting up. I then started on pellet hormone replacement therapy, estradiol and testosterone, and with that testing discovered that I had anti-thyroid antibodies (which are incredibly common in the population especially in women). I started on natural thyroid replacement supplement. All these things made me feel revitalized. I was sleeping better and the hormones also smoothed out my mood. My bone density test went from osteoporosis to osteopenia.(I also take calcium with vitamin D and magnesium, and vitamin D3 with vitamin K2 to drive calcium into my bones, and have increased weight-bearing exercise, stretching, and aerobics.

I use Dr. Steve Gundry‘s book “A Plant Paradox” to help guide me and have recommended his book to some of my patients who were interested. I continue to study and refine my cooking and eating habits. I find, for most people, finding the recipes that they can eat and enjoy is the biggest challenge.

I bought several cookbooks. (I am a cookbook junkie). I found most of them didn’t follow a true anti-inflammatory diet. I found one that did, though, the “Living Well Without Lectins” cookbook, by Claudia Curici. I also regularly adapt recipes from Christopher Kimball‘s Cookbooks “Milk Street Tuesday Nights” and “Milk Street the New Rules”.

Here are some of my diet hacks:
For my bread loving patients, reluctant to change to a wheat free existence I suggest transitioning to sourdough bread first. The organisms in sourdough that help the bread rise process away much of the gluten. I also recommend almond pasta (I like Capello’s).

The electric pressure cooker, in addition to getting rid of the bad proteins in beans and lentils can extinguish the bad proteins in tomato sauce and pasta sauce.
In many foods and the way they affect the digestive tract and the microbiome of the gut that partners with us humans to keep us healthy, my personal health has changed.
I avoid alcohol, but get to eat a little dark chocolate. I’ve embraced and come to enjoy many vegetables I never ate before. I’ve become more creative in my cooking and eating and enjoy the challenge. Since I am anticipating living a long time I want to feel well and vital and it makes the diet change worthwhile. I’m 70 years old now. After reading David Sinclair‘s book, “Lifespan”, barring deadly trauma or fatal infection, I figure I’m halfway through my life. I still have a lot of value to create and a lot to do. Now I’m confident that 140 healthy vital years is not out of my reach.

I want to see my grandchildren and great grandchildren grow up and flourish. I want to give back more than I took. I want to help solve the small and big problems of our world so all inhabitants of our globe can live better and contribute more.
Will I achieve 140 years? I don’t know – – – but maybe you want that too. With longevity can come wisdom for guidance and contribution to future generations. Unquestionably, vital health is a necessary component of a long, beautiful, and pain-free life.

So maybe my professor was at least partly right. For me it’s been worth a shot. I’m better off with a change of lifestyle. Maybe we really are – – at least partly – – what we eat.

Spotlight on Plastic Surgery – THE GOAL OF FACIAL REJUVENATION

by Juris Bunkis, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Patients come in and tell us they would like to look younger. In order for us to be able to help them optimally, we have to have an understanding of what happens during the aging process – and have a vision in our minds as to how best to turn back the hands of time. I look at aging as a two prong process – one that we have control over and one that we absolutely do not. We can control how much sun damage we experience as we age.

Being obese stretches your skin to the point that even with weight loss, an optimal redraping of the skin will not be possible – and yes, we can control how much we eat and how fat we get. A look at young alcoholics on skid row will show us how inappropriately aged they look – an excess of alcohol, tobacco and poor nutrition will age up prematurely, and avoiding those vices is certainly something that should be under our control. But the part of aging that we cannot control, the hereditary part, the part that leads us to look like our mother or father, is the loss of volume that occurs in our faces and the sag of underlying tissues. In youth, our faces look like the letter V, with fullness over the cheek areas. With age and the sag of some superficial muscles under our skin, this fullness moves down over the jowl area and we develop neck laxity.

During a facial rejuvenation procedure, we address this sagging of underlying tissues and lift the SMAS layer to restore a more youthful V-shaped face with fullness in the cheeks, remove the jowls and tighten the neck. For reasons that are incomprehensible to me, very more surgeons than not pull the facial skin tight at the time of closure. This will leave the patient with an unnatural pulled look. We do trim skin excess but we do not pull the skin tight – an unnatural pulled look is NOT our goal! After a facelift procedure, it is our goal to give you facial shape similar to what you had in youth – with upper facial fullness and a tight jawline and neck. Sometimes this requires the addition of some microfat grafts (with fat harvested, usually, for the navel area) to fill the cheeks and frequently, the lips. If the patient also has issues with eyelid bags, droopy brows or other concerns, they can be addressed at the same sitting. In youth, you looked young because you had fullness in the cheeks instead of jowl area and neck, not because your skin was tight! We strive to leave you with similar facial features that you had in youth.

50 year old female, before and after her first facelift/brow lift/lower lid blepharoplasty at age 50, at age 30 and a few years after her second facelift at age 65 (Actual patient of Dr. Bunkis)

If you want to see if you can have any part of your body improved, contact us for a consultation:

For CA, please call 949-888-9700 or visit www.orangecountyplasticsurgery.com
Or for MA location, call 508-755-4825 or visit www.salisburyps.com
You can write to
Dr. Compoginis at compoginis@ocps.com
Dr. Bunkis at bunkis@ocps.com
or Dr. Ekstrom at mds@salisburyps.com