LHC- Hello there and welcome to Let's Make a Health Connection, your Local Health Connect podcast series in Vancouver, Washington. In this series, we interview and showcase the many healthcare providers and resources that are featured on our website, localhealthconnect.com. For those of you who don't know us yet, Local Health Connect is a hub where our community can easily search for local resources and connect with providers for mind, body, and spirit health. Thanks for listening today. I'm Jennifer Barber, a licensed clinical social worker in Washington and Oregon, and I'm happy to be part of our community of providers.
Hi everybody. Today we're talking to Karen Kennedy. She is a certified nutritionist practicing integrative and functional nutrition. Hi Karen!
LHC- Thank you so much for joining us today. I have to say I am not really familiar with integrative and functional nutrition and so I'm wondering if there might be other people out there who don't really know what that is and that might be a really good place for us to start. Can you tell us a little bit about what that is?
KK- Yeah, I've heard that before. I am a certified nutritionist, which isn't a lot different from being a dietitian, but I guess how integrative and functional nutrition is distinctive is that we think of it as kind of more of an advanced practice of applying a more personalized nutrition care process with the goal of promoting health and preventing diet and lifestyle related diseases. What that looks like is rather than assigning a protocol that goes with the diagnosis. They say you have obesity. So here's our weight loss protocol or, oh, you have diabetes. So here's our diabetes protocol. We take a much wider and deeper look at the individual, their history, their personal history, their medical history, their diet history, and we look at the underlying causes. There are underlying causes, you know, even weight gain and obesity. We think of that as the root cause of so many things. There are root causes for that, so we really personalize those things and look at those underlying issues like digestive and microbiome hormone imbalances. We can use some more advanced labs and I guess we have a broader toolbox that we can offer.
LHC- Okay, that makes sense. Thank you. You know, I'm wondering. I've been following your videos. You make excellent videos that I see on Facebook with you in your kitchen being all relaxed, cooking meals and talking to us. Sometimes you say to focus on your gains, not your losses. I'm wondering what you mean by that?
KK- So, first of all, I'm so glad you're enjoying those videos. Thank you for telling me that. I'm glad. I enjoy making them. That's something. I enjoy sharing it with people. Focus on your gains. Your losses really come from my experience as being a woman in the world. In my generation, I feel like I was always given that message and my peers were given the message to lose, to deprive, to take away, to be less. Those messages do something to you and I don't always think they're motivating in a sustainable way. Those are two things I don't like. I don't see it having a really long-term benefit in terms of people achieving their goals and being healthy. Like I was saying about weight gain and obesity, maybe not being the root cause, maybe there's another root cause. I'd rather focus on the gains. For example, weight gain and obesity often come with hormone imbalances, digestive issues and, frankly, malnutrition. Most people come in with that. I'd rather focus on and I find it more helpful to say, Let's do some labs and see what you're missing in your body. We can see where your hormones are at so we can help regulate them and get you feeling good and give you some energy. Rather than sticking your tired self on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day, further depleting you, why don't we see how we can get your energy up? Your iron levels will go up. get your hormones balanced and get you the right nutrition, so maybe you actually have some energy. Then all those other things, like exercising and cooking, will be easier.
LHC- Do you tend to have quite a few people coming your way whose main goal might be weight loss?
KK- I do have that, although because I don't generally advertise myself as a weight loss nutritionist, most people come with weight loss as a secondary thing. I think people that I see are kind of sick and tired of being sick and tired and, in addition, the spare tire could go. I think most people are at the point where they're like, I just wish my heartburn would go away and I've been bloated all this time. or I'm exhausted. They started taking a higher priority, but weight loss seems to be on, I'd say, 75% of the minds of the people I'm working with.
LHC- If we just focus on that for just a bit and then we'll move on to other reasons why people come to see you, but if we can just focus on that weight loss. I'm wondering from your perspective, what do you think are the biggest things people miss when they are trying to lose weight?
KK- Yeah, the experience that I've had with people there's a couple of things, but overall, the biggest one is that it has to do with the language. When we say we're trying to lose weight, what we really mean is that we're not really trying to lose fat. That's what we're trying to lose, but when we go through the conventional methods of weight loss, like caloric restriction and hours on a treadmill, there are other ways too. But that's just saying it. It's very easy to lose lean body mass, particularly muscle, and you have to go through it. You actually have to work kind of hard to keep the muscle on and especially to build it while you're losing fat. Because what happens is when people lose weight. They lose both fat and muscle and I think most of us are knowledgeable enough to know that muscle is metabolically active and helps increase muscle building. It helps us to have a healthier metabolism and lose weight. So if we lose both fat and muscle, then it's harder to keep that weight off because our metabolism has taken a hit. Then when we regain, we rarely regain all that muscle, we regain more fat. So that cycle of yoyo dieting puts us at the same weight but a different body composition with higher fat and lower muscle. Every time we go through that process, we further impair metabolism because we reduce our lean body mass. That affects our metabolism, that affects our hormones, that affects our strength and ability to be functional, strong people. So that's what people miss out on, is really focusing on maintaining and building muscle mass.
LHC- As I'm listening to you talk, Karen, I'm reminded once again that everything we do, everything that's happening in our body is connected to everything else that's happening in our body. So it makes so much sense to have somebody like you in our corner to help remind us. If we make this change, then this is also going to change. Is this a positive change or a negative change? And having a conversation about that, I think, is so important.
KK- I agree. I think there are often a lot of us who get very fearful of not being able to lose weight, and a lot of us get really desperate and want it to happen quickly. It's nice to have that reassurance that you're doing it right. It's going to happen slowly, but you're going about it the right way.
LHC-Absolutely. So, other than weight loss, why else might someone search you out?
KK- Digestive disorders People who have low thyroid or their sex hormones like their estrogen imbalance, but what I see the most often with people who come to me is they have, and they might not be able to put a name to it, they have pre-diabetes. I call pre-diabetes something different. I call it pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome because pre-diabetes isn't really anything. It's its own problem. It's a bit of a silent killer because that's a bit much, but it's a silent metabolic disorder that gradually erodes your health. It doesn't raise the red flags that, frankly, diabetes does. The way we approach it. the way we test for it.
LHC- So somebody may come to you with what their doctor has said is pre-diabetes and you're going to refer to it as a metabolic disorder?
KK- Yeah, okay, I'll usually call it metabolic syndrome metabolic syndrome.
LHC- So how would they know if they had metabolic syndrome?
KK- There are a few things. First of all, I actually wrote down a few stats because they always surprise me.
KK- The Cleveland Clinic reports that about 88 million American adults have pre-diabetes. They report that pre-diabetes affects more than one in three adults under the age of 65 and about half of people over 65.
KK- They report that more than 84 percent of those with pre-diabetes don't even know they have it. So how would they even know that they have it? Doctors will diagnose you with pre-diabetes. If you have a fasting glucose of 100 to 125, because obviously, over 125 would be type 2 diabetes. If your hemoglobin a1c is in the range of 5.7 to 6.4, what that hemoglobin a1c measures is that it gives you a three-month average of what your glucose levels have been in your blood. That's sort of how you get a diagnosis and what I'll talk to people sometimes and they'll say, Oh, but my doctor says I don't have diabetes yet, and that kind of lets them off the hook. They don't have to do anything about it, and that's the problem. I, like most of us who are in this profession, can look at people and say pre-diabetes because the symptoms are pretty obvious to us, and that's because of the other signs. It doesn't get you diagnosed by your doctor, but we know what goes with this diagnosis is an increase in abdominal body fat, and by that, I mean, that apple shape as opposed to a pear shape. So one of the best predictors of that is actually the circumference of your waist, and so that's what I often measure in my clients, and monitor in my clients. So I am going back to weight loss. When my clients want to lose weight and I know that they have pre-diabetes, I will often get them off of their scale because I want them to put the muscle on. If they're building their muscles and losing fat, their scale is not going to budge. So I'll have them measure their waste and monitor that because that will be reflective of healing their metabolism. So pre-diabetes can take the shape of increased abdominal fat in an apple shape, but also your triglycerides will go up if you get your triglycerides checked by your lipid lab and your cholesterol lab. We'll also see high blood pressure. Increased belly fat, triglycerides, blood pressure, those are all the things we think of with heart disease. What's the traditional approach? Wow, you have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. What are we supposed to do when we have that? We've traditionally been told to reduce your salt and reduce your intake, but right here we're talking about blood sugar, not salt and fat. Historically, I'm reaching back to the 80s here. Some of us remember that all the advice was fat-free, cholesterol-free and we weren't paying attention to blood sugar as much back then. That's right, we're eating a really high heavy carbohydrate rich diet, a lot of those snacks, those fat-free, cholesterol-free snacks. We eat yoplait. The fat-free yogurts that are rich are really high in sugar, and so this is all contributing more and more to this metabolic syndrome, this pre-diabetes, and continuing to allow progression of that disease towards diabetes and an increase in that progression towards heart disease.
LHC- Wow, I love all this education. Karen.
KK-Yeah, and it's a bit tough. So that's how we know when people have pre-diabetes.
LHC- So what would be the first step that people listening today could take if they suspect that they or someone they love might have pre-diabetes?
KK- the first step is to go to your doctor and tell them. I'm worried about this. I know I listened to this podcast and you know I felt I was ticking the boxes and I need to know if I'm at risk for this. I actually have on my website. I have a free little booklet on there that has the checklist of symptoms and the checklist of good labs to request. So, of course, you're going to ask for your blood glucose and your a1c. You'll get a cholesterol panel and the usual things, but those you'll want to know what to look for and the booklet I've got on there is designed to educate you. to make you a better advocate for yourself. to make you a better partner in your own care. So go to the doctor. I would get this thing or look it up on Google. Dr Google has lots of information on this one, and so that's a great first step to take to get your baseline labs. Get your doctor on board. You might find that your doctor doesn't know as much about this as you do, so this is your opportunity to help them level up and be a better member of your team.
LHC- It's always so hard to do for some people. It's so hard to go to your doctor and advocate and even to realize, Wow, I think I might know a little bit more about this than my doctor does. That's tough. That's a tough position to be in.
KK-It is tough, but you know for a fact that I'm a provider and I get smart clients who come to me with a lot of information. I'm still a pretty general practitioner. Just the other day, I was working with somebody who knows a lot more than I do about kidney stones and issues with kidney stones. That's not something I specialize in, and I often get someone who knows far more than I do about their specific condition. They bring me all this research and I know that they're really invested and they've done the leg work for me. All I need to do is read what they brought me and I know there are other doctors like that who appreciate that But they don't necessarily know everything about your specific things, and that's your job as an individual. be an expert in your own right.
LHC- Great, so I'm curious. You might not have been prepared to talk about this today, but as I'm listening to you with all of the information that you're giving, I can't help but wonder what brought you into this field?
KK-That's a good question. I think, originally, I was interested in medicine and biochemistry, and I worked in the healthcare field. I worked in cancer research for about 10 years before I switched over to this. I was always interested in nutrition and I took some classes during my undergrad. I think, because like anyone, a young woman raised in the 80s, was very body-conscious, I was interested in my own health. but also maintain my weight because I've really struggled with my weight as a young person. I had some eating disorders that don't always get recognized as eating disorders and a lot of these. Now I look back at the yo-yo dieting and the struggle to try to restrict my food intake and fighting those hunger cravings and being constantly in a battle with myself. I always felt like all I did was think about how much I ate and how much I had to exercise the next day to get rid of it. As a young person, it kind of took over my life and it was hard. It was hard to just be a little overweight all the time as a young woman. I was interested in that and as I started learning more and more about nutrition and metabolism. I eventually got into a graduate program. I realized I learned more about how my blood sugar works and how my metabolism works. I was just struck by how counterproductive everything was that I was doing, that everything I was taught about how to maintain a healthy weight, about my hunger, about my body's needs was totally counterproductive and was working against my biology. Instead of working on my biology...
LHC- mm-hmm wow
KK- What I mean by that is, I was depriving myself of the very foods that would control my hunger, that would actually satisfy me and stop me from eating. I was avoiding fat, of course, like everyone was back then, and as a result. Most of our good protein sources, our high quality protein sources also have fat in them, like meat, nuts and seeds, and some dairy products. When you eliminate a lot of the fat in your diet, you also tend to eliminate a lot of good quality protein sources, and eating fat and protein really helps satisfy your hunger. If you don't eat enough of them at a meal, you're still hungry. There are lots of triggers for compulsive overeating and binge eating, but one of the easiest low-hanging fruit triggers is just eating food that satisfies your appetite, and that means fat, protein, and fiber, mostly fat. If you don't eat fat, you're going to binge eat.
LHC- So you are talking about an eating disorder history. Are you also talking about education? The reason I am asking is that, as a mental health therapist, I work with a lot of people. There are a lot of people in our community, in our world, who are living with eating disorders and they're wondering. Oh, I feel like I need to get help, but sometimes they do not know where to reach out. Would you be one of those people that could support someone with an eating disorder?
KK- Yes. There's such a range of eating disorders and body image disorders, and like so many things, I mean so many things in my life personally and professionally, it works best when there's a team.
When there's an eating disorder, you always need to address all the things and, ideally, have all of your team members know how to communicate with you.
So, for me to say yes, I understand a lot of the emotional triggers and stress triggers and things like that, but for me to be the most effective support for someone with an eating disorder, I like to stay in my wheelhouse of why we don’t talk about the physiological triggers for binge eating. I can talk to them about meal planning and stacking the early part of their day with protein and nutritious foods, and talk about those physiological triggers and address them.
Often when we have issues like this, people have anxiety. There are anxiety issues and they have a history of trauma.
If they're not getting support for those things, then you know, I can help with the physiological triggers, but those other things really need to be addressed, so if I get some really appropriate support for those other issues.I'll give you an example.
KK- had a client last year who was about 60 years old. She told me, because on my intake form, I always ask people about eating disorders and trauma. They are receiving therapy for this and I asked for a release form to communicate with providers. She was getting some therapy and addressing some of her eating disorders at the time, and her therapist actually reached out to me. She knew that I was on this person's team and said she wanted to talk to you about this. She was very clear with me about the work that they'd done and the things that she thought I needed to know about our shared client's history and what her triggers were. so I could avoid diet language and restriction language. It was wonderful. It was the best example of good client care and, as a result, this person got much better care, much better coordinated care than they would have if we weren't communicating. or she didn't have us all on her team.
LHC- Oh, that's a beautiful example. and I know that there are people who are working in teams out there and so many others who wish they were. and it just isn't happening. So I'm so happy to hear that you are a provider here in our community that is willing to do it and you are currently doing it. That is fabulous.
KK- The other thing that I find really exciting about working with mental health practitioners is, and this is also close to my heart, is actual physiologic physical support for mental health issues, because I think all providers know that there's trauma history and there's emotional triggers they need to work through. There's also a physiological component to mental health, whether it's nutritional adequacy or neurotransmitter regulation that can be addressed through diet and lifestyle. I find that really interesting and it's an exciting growing field where we're now able to test levels of neurotransmitters. We're able to test genetics for enzyme pathways that help produce and clear neurotransmitters. We know where things are getting caught up. They also test the genetics of someone to be able to narrow down which medications would be the most effective and least harmful and have the lowest number of side effects. Being on that end of the team to try to support that kind of healing in a person is really exciting to me. I'm excited about those kinds of collaborations starting to happen.
LHC- Awesome. So Karen, as we begin to wind down our interview today, I'm wondering if you might be able to just let us know what new things you have coming your way. I heard that you've got a new site coming up. I'm beginning to see more marketing happening and that also tells us a little bit about how people can find you. Where exactly do you practice?
KK- Yeah, I'll start with that one. That's the easiest one. I am located in Clark county. I have a home office in La Center Washington or okay outside of La Center Washington. I mostly do telehealth with people, but now and then, especially during the summer time, I meet people on my back deck. I can meet them that way, but mostly I find it really convenient with telehealth. So that's where I practice. I have been doing more marketing. I've decided to shift gears and really focus on a little bit more marketing and I have a new website coming up in mid-august. So by the time this comes out, it should be live.
KK-Prior to this, I was just focusing on supporting people and doing that work, but I did shift gears and got a little bit more professional with my marketing.
KK- But what I have coming up is one of my programs called, Nourish Your Roots. It's an eight-week group program that combines nutrition education. It combines really practical stress reduction strategies with circadian rhythm and sleep support all in an eight-week program. It's a group, so it provides a really supportive community with weekly coaching calls, educational videos, and support, and even a couple of one-on-one consultations with me, so it's a program. You get some one-on-one and community support and education for two whole months. I run this a couple of times a year and I like it because, like I said, the things that people miss out on, it is great to focus on the nutrition aspect. But you know, if people aren't sleeping, you know that sleep apnea is one of the biggest causes of pre-diabetes. It's a huge wow if you sort out your sleep. It can change your life.
KK- I've got a good guest presenter on there who's a sleep expert. So it's a great course for learning how to really self-regulate, kind of advanced self-parenting techniques, but also how to become a really good advocate. There's a lot of material on learning the whys behind all this health advice, so you become your own nutrition expert for your digestion and metabolism. There are a lot of good stress reduction techniques that don't take all day. It's convenient.
LHC- So if people wanted to sign up for your Nourish Your Roots class, how might they go about that?
KK- They can go to my website. It has all the information and that's realfood-matters.net and it gets confusing if it's real food hyphen or real food dash matters dot net.
LHC-It's great and I'm gonna put that in the show notes when this podcast goes live where people can find it. We'll have that in the show notes and then we'll also have your new website right there as well, so that'll link directly to you and that little booklet.
KK-I'll get that information from you too.
LHC-That is awesome. Anything else that you want our community to know about you or your business before we sign off?
KK-You know, I just like to have a real human conversation with people. Sometimes, you know working with a new practitioner is a big commitment both financially and because you know you have to meet a whole new person. I always offer people a free 30 minute phone call to just talk like this,talk about what you have going on. I have deep pockets in terms of a referral network.
KK- So often, I find I'm talking to somebody and maybe what I have to offer isn't quite their first step, and it gives us an opportunity to identify what's really going on and what their current needs are. Maybe they can point them in the right direction.
LHC- Awesome Karen I just want to say thank you so much for the information that you've given today. Hopefully, somebody's listening and they've made a connection with you and they'll give you a call and I just want to say thank you so much for being part of our community and such a needed resource for people out there.
KK- Oh, great Well, you know, Jennifer The pleasure is all mine. I really appreciate you asking me.
LHC-Thank you again for listening to Let's Make a Health Connection. Find us on the interwebs at localhealthconnect.com You can also search for us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The links and show notes for this interview are available on our podcast page. I really enjoy putting these interviews together and I hope you make a health connection. We'll talk again next time. Let's make a healthy connection. copyright 2021 all rights reserved is the exclusive property of MBS Therapy LLC, a Washington-based company. Local Health Connect is inclusive and does not endorse any political or religious group. Thank you again for listening and we'll see you next time on localhealthconnect.com
By Jennifer Barber, LICSW 8-16-2021