Dr. JoAnn Yanez, AANMC executive director, joins KCAA’s NBC LA affiliate On the Brink to discuss how your food choices can impact your health.

Full Transcript of Interview Below.

Topics Include:

  • Food as a healing tool
  • Our emotional relationship with food
  • Common food-related symptoms people experience 
  • Elimination and rotation diets
  • And more…

Erin Brinker: Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.

Tobin Brinker: And I’m Tobin Brinker.

Erin Brinker: And we are On the Brink, the morning show on KCAA AM 1050 FM 106.5 and FM 102.3. I want to welcome back to the show Dr. JoAnn Yanez. She is Executive Director for the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges. In addition to that, she is the Chair of the Academic Collaborative for Integrative Health. She also serves on the Integrative Health Policy Consortium Education Committee. Weaving a passion for illness prevention into her professional life, Dr. Yanez’s career has spanned advocacy, academia, patient care, and public health. She joins us once a month to talk about issues related to health and naturopathic medicine.

Erin Brinker: Dr. Yanez, welcome back.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Hi, good morning and happy summer.

Erin Brinker: Happy Summer. After this unseasonably cool weather that we’ve had, I mean I wouldn’t say cool, but it’s been great, it’s been spring like, we now are into our summer temperatures.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: We sure are.

Erin Brinker: Tell us about, food as medicine and so what we eat really determines how healthy we are. I hear from people who have lost a lot of weight that what you put into your body is actually more important than the exercise that you do. Is that correct?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: There is such a real mix regarding each individual and what they need but that old adage, you are what you eat, really does carry a lot of weight. No pun intended there. I think that when we’re thinking about what we put in our bodies and I’ve been having conversations over the last couple of days and editing documents around this and we’re going to have a webinar on food as medicine on August 9th and so we’ve been talking quite a bit about that in our shop here at AANMC. But I think there really is something to what we’re putting in our bodies and how we feel. So many folks have been disconnected from food, from how it’s made, from how it’s processed, from what goes into it. A hundred years ago you knew where your food came from. You maybe killed or picked it yourself. We have become very detached as a culture, as a society, from what we’re eating, from where it comes from. I think that the more connected you can get to what you’re eating and how you feel afterwards, the better.

There was a phrase coined called mindless eating where people just eat and they’re not even thinking about what they’re eating. They typically will consume more calories as a result of that. There’s so much associated with being present, staying in tune and in touch with your body, and using food as a healing tool. Yesterday I was talking with a friend of mine and her husband was experiencing some skin issues and said that it’s really unusual because I shared a story of my own. I had had a rash that kept popping up on my face and for the longest time I could not figure out why I had this rash. I was eating “healthy,” whole foods, soy milk and whole grain cereal in the morning for breakfast and what have you. And I went on vacation to Puerto Rico and I won’t say that I threw my diet fully out the window, but 95% of it was out the window. But the funny thing is, my face cleared up and I went home and I’m like, I don’t get it. I was eating whatever I wanted and restaurant food and what have you but I came home and I started back on my “healthy” diet and the rash came back. I said okay, I’ve got to figure this bad boy out. I started eliminating things from my diet and low and behold, my healthy soy milk was giving me the rash.

Erin Brinker: Really? Are you allergic to soy or was there an additive in the milk that you think was an issue?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez:  I try to limit it now. I may have the occasional edamame if I go out, but there are a couple of factors at play with soy and I just wasn’t interested enough to try and find out which exactly it was but it could have been an additive in the soy milk or the processing of creating soy milk. It also could have been the soy itself. I’m just like, my face is clear. That’s what I care about.

But this gentleman shared a similar story. He’s said, “Yeah, when I go back home to Central America, my skin clears up.” Well, it’s easy and worth a shot rather than going down expensive medications and shampoos and all these sorts of things,  to try an elimination and rotation diet and I feel pretty confident that that will help shed some light on the cause of it.

Many people who experience inflammatory issues, Eczema, skin stuff, autoimmune stuff, will often find that their symptoms can be exacerbated by including certain things in their diet. Some of the most common offenders are caffeine and sugar and wheat, eggs, and dairy, but there can be some weird ones for folks. I’ve had people who have been sensitive to tomatoes or peppers or garlic and identifying what those things are for you because you’re a unique biochemical experiment in your own body, and identifying those things for that individual can be life changing. I’ve seen patients with asthma, patients with arthritis, patients with different skin conditions or autoimmune conditions, pretty much reverse their symptoms and their discomfort, gastroesophageal reflux disease, etc. with some small changes to their diet.

Folks will pop a Tums or some antacid or something and that’s managing the symptom, but it’s not addressing the cause. I feel like a broken record because every time I come on here, I talk about treating the whole person and treating the root cause but that’s really the tenants of naturopathic medicine. That’s what naturopathic medicine is founded on. It’s a focus on the root of the issue, don’t just minimize symptoms and really get to the cause of it and hopefully help somebody live a longer, healthier life.

Erin Brinker: I think I would actually go into mourning if I couldn’t have tomatoes and garlic.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: You bring up a real important point. There’s an emotional component to food and it can be a process for some, of what is health worth to you? What is feeling good worth to you? And if you feel worse than you feel with the tomato and garlic in your diet then it will be worth that change for some. It’s like quitting any addiction. You have to ask yourself, why would I put something into my body that doesn’t make me feel good?

Erin Brinker: Absolutely. I just was processing that.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Oh my gosh, tomatoes, not my tomatoes. I’ve asked that question with countless patients over the years. What is your health worth to you? Ask yourself, if now that we know that this hurts you, you’re going to make a conscious decision at this point and that’s up to you and you’re a grown up, you got your big boy pants on, big girl pants on. That’s your decision to make at this point but now you have information and you can use that to bring yourself in a direction of health or bring yourself in the opposite way.

Erin Brinker: And clearly if that’s the issue, you have to do it. And there’s a lot of buzz right now about night shades. No, it’s Lectin, right? Lectin? That nightshades have the lectin. That it’s harmful for the body. Do you know anything about that?

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: Again, we are our own unique biochemical experience. Some people can be sensitive to nightshades. There was some research on auto-immune diseases and arthritis with night shades a number of years ago and books on that. And again, I think I always fall back to my golden rule, which is the elimination and rotation diet because nothing is as powerful. Some of the blood work, allergy panels and so on, may not always show foods that you’re sensitive to or things that may produce a mild inflammation but not a full allergy. I think that ultimately when you eliminate foods, either going on a water fast or a vegetable fast for a couple of days and then gradually adding things in, you’ll start to quickly identify what are the offending foods for you. Over the course of a week or two of doing something like that, it can be very eye-opening for people of, wow, my rash came back, or wow, my joints hurt when I eat that or wow, I get really sleepy and tired after I eat this. And journaling that and tracking it just like you would if it was a scientific experiment, that is really the definitive gold standard for understanding how that individual body responds to food.

Erin Brinker: We are about out of time. I understand you’re going to be doing a webinar on this topic. Let people know how they can watch that.

Dr. JoAnn Yanez: We’re hosting a Food as Medicine webinar on August 9th. Please join us at aanmc.org/events. You can check out all the events that AANMC offers. We also archive all of our past webinars. We had a webinar yesterday on naturopathic cancer approaches. There’s always something new and fresh.

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