We had no particular interest in wellness or health before we first got diagnosed with Lupus (each at age 17). Our rheumatologist immediately suggested meeting with a nutritionist so we could start eating properly for our bodies while they fight to get healthy. That’s when we started working with nutritionist Coreen Reinhart, who is completely responsible for the passion we found in food and healthy habits. She showed us what a magnificent impact food can have on health and while some conditions are out of our control, eating properly is something we do have power over.
Em: Coreen is one of my favorite people in the entire world and I’m still constantly sending her emails asking everything nutrition related. I don’t know what I would do without her! I run every supplement I want to take buy her and always try and pick her brain about her current favorite healthy finds.
Not only is she truly a brilliant and highly renowned nutritionist, but her view on food and healing is one I love. Each body is different and once you find out what yours needs, you can put yourself in a position to heal to a great extent.
We decided to do a series of questions with Coreen for those who want to learn more about nutrition and might not have access to a nutritionist of their own!
Coreen Reinhart is widely recognized for her expertise as a Nutrition Consultant, Speaker and Wellness Coach. She has worked in the nutrition field since 1987 and specializes in designing individual nutrition programs that teach clients to focus on themselves and listen to their bodies. Coreen believes that improving health is an individual process, and once clients understand what their bodies need and why they are different from everybody else, change is more readily accepted. She also speaks for corporations, organizations, schools, families and various wellness groups to help them understand the importance of Nutrition and how a balanced diet really does prevent disease and illness.
How important have a role does food play with illnesses?
Well the approach I take with food is that it is medicine so it shouldn’t be taken lightly. There’s so many instances where changing the diet has created a big change for people whether they have arthritis or acid reflux, heart problems, or even cancers. Think about it, the body is made up of cells and as the cells get diseased and illness comes up, the only way to feed your cells is through nutrition, vitamins, and supplements. So I definitely think you should treat food like it is medicine; it’s very important to eat in according to what’s going on with you and your health.
As a nutritionist, is there generalized diet you would recommend for everyone or does it vary from person to person?
Mostly it varies from person to person and it also varies according to what’s going on with you at a specific time in your life. Maybe a certain diet is working great for you at a particular time in your life and then all of a sudden something changes and it no longer is what your body needs. It’s okay to reevaluate and switch things up.
I know right now paleo, keto, and vegan diets are all over the internet right now and are getting a lot of promotion, but when picking a diet it’s best to look at your specific symptoms and see how you’re feeling, vs. picking one that is in fad. Look at how your body is responding, not at how it’s working for someone else.
For some people, keto could be too much fat for you at a particular time in your life, like if your liver is backed up or your gallbladder isn’t working that great. If you’re trying to eat a high amount of fat and you don’t feel well, construct a diet that works with your body. When you feel your energy go up and your sleep improve, then you know you’re on the right path. I’m a big believer that not everyone should eat a certain way, you should eat according to your body type and you can do that by experimenting with guess and check and then make modifications based off that.
You could say I’m going to eat a vegan diet and start journaling your food and how you’re feeling. Take note of your energy levels, sleep, digestion, and use that method with anything you are changing and go from there. Digestion is a huge indication of what is working for you. Am I feel constipated? Do I have a stomach ache? Am I feel bloated all the time? Look at your food and the correlation and always journal your symptoms.
From personal experience, we know that sometimes symptoms or medication can take away your appetite completely. Should you eat anywhere or wait until you actually feel hungry again?
That’s a good question. If you have a medication that’s really killing your appetite and you’re going to be on it long term, you do have to eat and get nutrition in you, but I recommend then eating things that are really easy to digest. Protein smoothies are a good option, blending vegetables and fruit makes it easier to break down which might be an easier option. Digestives enzymes might help too and that would be something where it would guess and check.
If it’s just a short term thing, it’s sometimes harder to force food if it’s not as critical. If it’s going on for days and days or longer, you have to look at getting nutrition in you and maybe your supplements become more important during that time to help keep the body nourished.
We know you’re an advocate of 3 meals and 2 nutrition dense snacks a day. If your health is going through a flare up and you’re not as active as usual, should that be modified?
Yes absolutely. Diet should always be looked at when things change for you. Your body isn’t static, its dynamic, so look at how much activity you have in your day then adjust. You don’t need as much food if you’re not as active. The more active you are the more food you actually need. Some people now are really into intermittent fasting and it gives some people great results and works really well, but the stipulation for that is it works really well in conjunction with a high fat diet.
It’s the fat that keeps you from needing food and keeps your blood sugar stable while you’re fasting. If you’re intermittent fasting while eating any type of diet with fast food or high carbs in my opinion it doesn’t work well at all because your blood sugar is fluctuating too much. This can also lower your thyroid if you have thyroid issues if you’re starving yourself for too long a period.
What’s a good amount of hours to aim for with intermittent fasting?
I think not eating for 16 hours is a good amount of time to aim for, but again, that’s trial and error. I’m really about the individual and how it works for them. Some people will go all morning without eating and feel great, then I’ve had other clients that have said on their drive into work they felt really irritable or like they were going to pass out or they couldn’t think straight. It shouldn’t be feeling that way with intermittent fasting and those symptoms mean you’ve gone too long without food.
Is one of the benefits of intermittent fasting is that it gives your pancreas a break?
Yes, it gives all of your organs a break. The theories and studies behind it are really positive. It’s supposed to be good for cognitive skills and preventing Alzheimer’s, but remember that you have to eat high fat when you are doing this in order to keep your body nourished and sustained for the hours you’re not eating. If you want to try intermittent fasting maybe try with stopping eating by 5pm and don’t eat until 11 am and see how you do, or if you want to try shorter than that, stop eating at 7pm and don’t eat again until 10am.
Use your own schedule as a guide. If you’re a late night person or an early morning person, adjust for that. But even if you’re not talking about intermittent fasting, sometimes your preference is to eat 3 meals a day or 1 meal and 2 snacks a day, and as long as you’re getting the nutrition your body needs, I don’t necessarily recommend having to have structure. The body doesn’t know the difference whether its breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it just wants nutrition.
So if you have a lunch meal at breakfast, or a breakfast meal at dinner, I’m all about that. Sometimes people like to eat lighter at night and have more of their nutrition or more of their food and calories in the morning which can be a positive thing because we need our food during the day, not at night when we sleep.
One thing I’m against is when people starve themselves all through the day and eat one big meal before the go to sleep, to me that’s just a backwards structure. If you’re going to have one meal it should be a good meal at breakfast or somewhere in that morning, so you can use the food during the day and not while you’re sleeping.