Quinn on Nutrition: A few pointers on managing chronic conditions

September 7, 2015

I was complaining about having to hobble around on crutches after a small mishap with my horse last week. "Sure is uncomfortable to get around," I said to a patient at the Community Hospital of the Monterey (Calif.) Peninsula, where I work as a registered dietitian..

"Sure is," she said, pointing to her very pregnant tummy.

We laughed and took comfort in the fact that at least our "conditions" are temporary. Not all health issues resolve in few weeks or months, however. Problems such as chronic pain, arthritis, diabetes or breathing problems can last a lifetime.

The good news: Ongoing health issues respond favorably to healthful lifestyle choices, say experts. Extra protein, calcium and vitamin C, for example, mend broken bones and build strong babies. These nutrients also provide strength and reinforcement to bodies living with chronic conditions. Here are some other ways to improve life when living with a chronic health condition:

Control inflammation: Pain and swelling are normal when my body goes to work to heal my injured foot. When this inflammatory response does not turn off, however, the bodyís immune system turns against itself and is harmful. In fact, many diseases such as arthritis, diabetes and heart disease are now linked to this process of chronic inflammation.

Brightly colored fruits and vegetables, including berries and leafy greens, are brimming with substances that turn off inflammation. Likewise, certain types of fats ó such as omega-3 fats found in fatty fish like salmon, tuna and sardines ó can suppress inflammation, say researchers. On the other hand, saturated fats found in high fat meats and cream sauces can turn on the inflammatory response.

Manage weight: Dealing with a chronic health condition is no time to beat yourself up with unreasonable expectations of how much you should weigh. It is the time, however, to carefully evaluate every bite of food and ask yourself, "Is this nourishing my health or making my condition worse?"

Maintain physical activity: Frustration, pain and fatigue often accompany chronic health conditions. Sometimes these symptoms are relieved with reasonable activity, say experts. And besides building strength and endurance, exercise also turns on "I feel better" hormones in our brains.

Aim for adequate sleep. Inflammatory hormones are turned off during deep sleep. And itís during sleep that the body restores and refreshes itself.

Need some help with managing an ongoing health condition? Many facilities around the country now offer Living Well workshops based on a successful program developed at Stanford University.

Oh, and make sure you have really good doctors to help you manage your condition.



McClatchy Tribune Information Services