Did you know that only 9% of U.S. adults eat enough vegetables daily, and only 12% eat enough fruit? This data, according to the CDC, is shocking. But it’s why host Marc Bautis and John Williams brought Caryn O’Sullivan, a Clinical Nutrition expert and Integrative Clinical Health Coach, onto the show. O’Sullivan has spent the last 15 years helping people take charge of their health by digging deep to uncover the root of a variety of diagnoses and create balance through diet and lifestyle. Tune in as she reveals some of her top tips in this episode of The Agent of Wealth podcast.
In this episode, you will learn:
- A brief overview of food and nutrition in the modern-day United States.
- What integrative and functional nutrition is.
- How to track progress and the benefit of keeping a food diary.
- How to identify inflammation and other key indicators of disease.
- And more!
This is the final installment in a six-part Agent of Wealth series, called “Health is Wealth.” Listen to the other episodes:
- How to Start Exercising and Stay Motivated
- How to Overcome Your Sugar Addiction
- How Collaborative Problem-Solving Can Lead to Better Parenting
- Tools for Solving Common Sleep Issues
- How to Build Resilience
Welcome back to the Agent of Wealth, John, how are you?
Good. How are things with you, Marc?
Not bad. Today is the final episode of our Health is Wealth series, and we brought on a special guest; Caryn O’Sullivan. Caryn is a clinical nutritionist with a Master of Science in nutrition and integrative health from Maryland University of Integrative Health. She’s currently working toward her board certification as a nutrition specialist, which is the gold standard of professional certifications for advanced nutrition professionals. She also has 12 years of experience as a certified integrative nutrition health coach, and holds certifications in Chinese Dietary Therapy, Food Therapy and Food As Medicine. Caryn, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here.
So, how did you get into nutrition? I know you have a master’s degree in it. Was it something that you started really getting into in school, or something you were passionate about early on?
Well, it definitely wasn’t in school. I actually first went to the University of Iowa for Journalism and Communications, with my heart set on getting into public relations. After I graduated, I moved to London, where I lived for a few years. I was around 23-years-old, living there, when my world got turned upside down.
I started experiencing a variety of health problems. I developed ringing in my ears and hearing loss — and nobody could determine what was wrong going. I went from doctor to doctor with no answers. So, long story short, I turned to alternative medicine. Acupuncture helped, but it was more so my acupuncturist, who suggested we take a look at my diet.
At the time, I was eating a standard American diet, focused on dairy, gluten, sugar and a lot of processed foods. To put it simply, I was not supporting my body in a nutritional way. So, I started making some dietary changes.
Over time, I felt so much better: both energy-wise and digestion-wise. Soon enough, I wanted to figure out why. So, I started reading about health and nutrition, which led me to become a certified health coach at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. My journey has continued from there.
After I had two kids and got over the hump of being a mother to toddlers, I decided to dive in further. I wanted to learn more about the research and scientific side — clinical nutrition. Which is what I just recently completed my Master’s of Science in.
“My health — my poor health — is what led me to doing what I do now.”Caryn O’Sullivan
Why is Diet Such a Problem in the United States?
I think it’s no secret that there’s nutrition issues in the United States, such as obesity. Why do you think people struggle with healthy eating so much? Is it due to a lack of knowledge, lack of money, or lack of time? What do you believe are some of the reasons why?
Well, I think the three things you just mentioned are true. People struggle with lack of time, lack of knowledge and even a lack of skill in the kitchen. We’ve become very disconnected from nature, so people haven’t had traditional knowledge of cooking or knowledge of food being passed down through generations.
Money is certainly an obstacle. Our food isn’t prioritized, so it has become very expensive. It’s actually harder to eat on a healthy diet because our government subsidies are going towards the cheaper, more processed foods.
A lot of people don’t have access to healthy foods, especially in inner cities where farm fresh fruits and vegetables are practically unattainable. So, I think there’s a lot of different factors that contribute to the obesity and diabetes epidemics happening in the United States, as well as poor health in general.
Where does someone start on a path to eating better?
The first thing that I look at is hydration. These days, a lot of what we drink — such as coffee and soda — is dehydrating. Proper hydration is a great place to start, since hydration is involved in every single process in the body. Then, if you have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, add more of them into your diet. This helps create more energy in your life and in your body.
What Exactly is Functional Nutrition?
Can you give us a little bit of insight into what integrative nutrition and functional nutrition is?
Integrative nutrition and functional nutrition looks more at the root of the problem. In our western world, we’re very much focused on symptoms, and covering up symptoms. There’s not a lot of focus on the root of the issue. For example, what is causing fatigue in a person? What is causing an energy imbalance? What is causing headaches?
As a clinical nutritionist, I’m digging deep into those questions. Why is this happening in the first place? Is it a dietary issue? Is it a lifestyle issue? Is it stress that could be causing the problem?
When we look at the body in a holistic view, we’re not only looking at diet, but we’re looking at exercise, relationships, how your career affects your life, how your eating habits are affecting your life, etc. And it’s not just what you’re eating, but how you’re eating as well. Are you sitting down when you eat? Are you chewing your food carefully? Are you stressed out when you eat? All these sorts of things come into play to help the body either create balance or imbalance. So, when we look at the body functionally, and integratively, and holistically, we are looking at the body as a whole, and how that body is interacting with the environment.
Do you discover these specifics through a consultation or interview?
Absolutely. My first consultation with somebody can last up to two hours. It includes a full intake form, health/medical history, family history, important events in their life, etc. I then put it all together and try to make connections. I also have my clients do a food diary so we can link what they’re eating with possible symptoms.
You mentioned that your loss of hearing is what introduced you to the world of functional nutrition. Hearing loss is a very distinct, noticeable symptom. Do your clients usually have a distinct issue like that? Or, do you also help people who are interested in learning more about nutrition and body connection?
Both. There are people who come to me with clear issues — whether that be acid reflux, digestive issues or thyroid issues. There are other people that say, for example, “I’m just really tired.” Or, “I’m fatigued and I cannot figure out what’s going on.” For some of these people, their blood work is coming back perfectly, so the root of the problem is not obvious. That’s when we start looking at the different systems in the body, how they are interacting, what stresses or triggers might be on the body, etc. I look at physical, emotional, mental and environmental stress
For example, fatigue. Fatigue can come from a variety of issues, such as food sensitivities/allergies, a slow thyroid, digestive issues and adrenal fatigue. That’s a lot of different systems in the body! To figure out where it’s coming from, we can look at environmental stress as an example. Here’s some questions we’d ask:
- Are you drinking filtered water or tap water?
- Do you have access to fresh air?
- Are you getting outside a lot? Or, are you sitting in front of a computer a lot?
- Are you using harmful chemicals to clean (or in makeup, skincare, etc.)?
- Are you eating organic food?
- Are you eating a high pesticide load?
- Are you eating a lot of processed foods or sugars?
I’ve seen a case where a client’s diet was great, and she was drinking 80 ounces of water per day. But, we discovered that the water was fluoridated tap water — which was draining her thyroid. When we removed the tap water and replaced it with filtered water, we saw a lot of differences in how her body was functioning.
Can two people react differently to food? Can food cause issues in one person, even if it’s ‘healthy food’, and not in another?
Absolutely. Some people are intolerant or allergic to gluten, while others can consume bread and gluten totally unaffected. While tomato and citrus are healthy foods, and good for most people, those with acid reflux may have issues consuming them.
So, we always have to determine if the food fits the person and their condition. If we’re not sure, we take the food out of their diet for a little bit of time, then slowly add it back in to see if it causes a problem.
So to answer your question, absolutely. That’s why I believe in a personalized approach to nutrition — I view each person as an individual and do not apply any general rules.
Is it Bad to Consume Gluten?
On the topic of gluten, it’s fascinating to me that an entire category of food has been created around being gluten-free. But there’s a lot of competing thoughts on it — some people think of it as an allergy, and then there’s this idea of intolerance. Can you speak to gluten, and where it stands?
Well, it is a highly debated topic. You will see that some experts don’t believe gluten is as inflammatory as perceived, while others believe everyone should remove gluten from their diet. I say, again, we have to look at a personalized approach to nutrition.If a client of mine is having problems losing weight, has a lot of inflammation in the body, has a lot of gut issues or has thyroid issues, I would suggest removing gluten from their diet to see if their body heals.
Looking at traditional diets and bringing in some philosophies from Chinese dietary medicine and Ayurveda, wheat is not meant to be eaten all-year-round: it’s a seasonal food. When we eat wheat in the season that it’s harvested, the body is more capable of digesting it properly. Whereas, when we eat something all year, we overexpose our bodies, which increases the chances of having a negative reaction.
There is also a theory that the pesticides being sprayed on wheat is actually what some people are reacting to. So, there’s a lot of different ideas of what could be triggering the intolerance, allergies and sensitivities to gluten just in the last few decades.
The Benefit of Keeping a Food Diary
We have a lot of people that come to us, and they come to us, at Bautis Financial, and say they aren’t sure where they are spending their money. So we always suggest tracking expenses. Is a similar approach productive to do with eating?
Yes. Food journals and food logs are a great approach. It allows you to:
- See what food you’re consuming.
- Track how that food is reacting in your body.
An important thing to know for your listeners is that food sensitivities can take up to 72 hours to manifest in the body. So having a food log allows you to make connections and not forget what it was that you ate 72 hours ago.
That’s one of my jobs as a nutrition coach, to help clients interpret their food diaries.
So, you can see what patterns come up over time?
How to Identify Inflammation
You spoke about inflammation quite a few times. How does someone properly identify inflammation? Is there a way to measure it?
Well, they’re are labs that you can order that will measure inflammation. But if we look at symptom-wise, there are many ways that the body shows that it’s inflamed:
- Skin redness or rashes
- Skin breakouts
The skin is a major detoxification organ in the body. If a body cannot naturally detox through liver and kidney function, the skin will start showing signs that indicate an over-spilling of toxins.
You can also show inflammation through gut pain, diarrhea or loose stool. There’s so many different ways that inflammation manifests itself, as it is the key underliner of most diseases.
Obviously you’ll know if you start feeling better, but are there other ways to measure improvements? How do you know, aside from feeling better, that you’re making progress?
Tracking Progress and Staying Patient
Well that’s why it’s good to have a full panel of blood work when you see a nutritionist initially. Then, three months or four months down the line, you can retest. The body responds pretty quickly to positive changes, and it has this great ability to heal itself when given the tools to do so.
Within three to four months, if we were to retest lab work, we usually see some significant changes. Then, maybe six months down the line you’d see even more.
That’s another point that is really important to note — a lot of diseases or imbalances occur over a long period of time. When you start on your health journey, you’re not going to reverse everything within a matter of six weeks or two months. You can certainly start to see progress, but just as it took a while for the body to become imbalanced, it’s going to take time to get the balance back and fully heal.
We live in a culture of immediate results. We want a pill for every answer. Because of that, people get impatient when results don’t come right away. It takes a while to establish a new habit, and it takes about six months for that new habit to become part of your life. So you have to be patient with yourself. You have to be full of grace. You have to trust that your body is working in the best way it can, when you give it the tools that it needs.
I can totally see how patience is a hard part of this process. When we are looking for results, sometimes our expectations about how quickly those results will come are unrealistic. That said, I see a lot of diets that seem to be magic bullets, if you may.
Answering the Question: How Do You Eat for Energy?
Ideally somebody would come to you for a full analysis, and you’d look at the unique things about them. Then, you’d take next steps based on those unique characteristics. But let’s just say that somebody doesn’t have the means or the time. Is there one type of diet, or one set of nutritional guidance that you suggest?
That’s a great question. As I said before, everybody is an individual, and what works for one person may not work for somebody else. Say, for instance, your neighbor lost 30 pounds going vegan. But when you tried to follow a vegan diet, you were so fatigued and tired that you couldn’t get off of the couch.
To answer your question, I’ll reference a financial-related quote from Bethenny Frankel, a reality TV star.
“Your diet is a bank account, and good food choices are good investments.”Bethenny Frankel
So, let’s start there. Thinking of your body, you want to put in food that helps to build that account, and not deplete it, right? You want more in your bank account than you’re taking out. So, generally speaking, we want to make sure we’re putting in foods that help to build the body, and not drain the body.
The foods that drain the body are processed foods, sugar, dairy and — for some people — gluten. If you don’t have the means to see a nutritionist, simply cutting back on sugar and processed foods is the place to start. Then, try to replace that consumption with complex carbohydrates, like whole grains and vegetables.
If you have sugar cravings, add in fruits. Berries — such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries — are a good replacement.
Lastly, make sure that you’re consuming a high quality and good variety of proteins and fats. That is what will energize you, putting money in your bank.
Alright, we’re just about out of time. Caryn, I want to thank you for being on the show. You gave us some great information. How best can someone reach out to you or find more information about what you do?
You can visit my website www.appetitesforlife.com. There, I have a free download of a “Reclaim Your Energy” E-Book, which covers a lot of the things that we talked about, and even more. If listeners want to find out more about reclaiming their energy, how to eat nutrient-dense foods and how to overcome fatigue, download the E-Book. Hopefully it will help you on your path to getting started.
Awesome. Thanks again for being on the show, and thank you everyone for tuning in. We’ll talk to you soon.