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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Practicing Wellness at the Heart Institute

Today was my first visit to the Ottawa Heart Institute. As I was early for my appointment, I sat in my car for a few minutes listening to an audio CD. As I watched people come and go on Ruskin Ave and in and out of the heart institute I was struck by what a busy place this was. What was going on in our world that this building had such activity? Oh now I remember, heart disease is the number one killer in Canada.
As a 46 year old woman who has struggled with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and food allergies most of my life, I am lucky that I am thin and due to my allergies I eat a healthy diet filled with organic vegetables, fruits, organic meats, flax crackers, nuts, seeds and only distilled water.
With the onset of early menopause I have experienced heart palpitations, so today a trip to the Heart Institute for a 48 hour halter monitor to see if perhaps my migraine medication is causing issues with my heart or if it is only sensations due to menopause.
As I am a nutritionist and a cookbook author, I have studied in the field of nutrition and have had the great joy of learning from some top Integrative Medical Doctors in our area.
Recently I have read the Wheat Belly written by Dr. William Davis and due to being Celiac I have been off wheat and gluten for the better part of 8 years. As Dr. Davis mentions in his book, 2 slices of whole wheat bread increase our insulin more than 2 teaspoons of sugar. He also notes in his book that due to the change in our wheat over 50 years ago, most of us are unable to digest wheat and that is causes excess inflammation in our bodies.. What is heart disease? Inflammation.
When I walked into the Heart Institute I took in the scene in the front foyer. People sitting waiting for someone to pick them up, a table to the left full of some sort of sugary cake available to the public, and a Tim Hortons in the back corner where overweight patients, doctors and nurses ordered sugary baked goods and coffee to keep them going through their day. I stopped and said out loud, “ I can’ t believe there is a Tim Hortons in The Heart Institute, this is so wrong". A woman beside me laughed and I realized to myself that I had said this out loud. I wanted to scream from the rafters, what are you people doing?? Trying to kill yourselves?
Now I am not trying to bad mouth Tim Hortons, as is only one of the many fast food chains out there, but why in heaven would the Heart Institute allow a fast food chain on their grounds? There is nothing healthy about anything that Tim Hortons serves. Muffins filled with sugar and fat, latt├ęs, coffee, and doughnuts are not going to bring anyone wellness.
We have an epidemic of overweight and diabetic people in this country, really in this Hemisphere and our top doctors and Institutes see nothing wrong with coffee and doughnuts for lunch or afternoon snack?
Perhaps it is that we want to keep our doctors working and our Pharmaceutical companies rich so why not continue to feed our sick and overweight with unhealthy food?
A comment was made to me the other day that medical students have little or no education about diet. It rarely comes up in conversation when a doctor has a consult with a patient. Does this not send up a red flag in anyone’s mind?
As a nutritionist and dietary planner I have seen first hand that diet does work. Whether you are diabetic, have Chrons's disease or Autism, diet does make a difference. I have seen Autistic children who are taken off sugar, gluten and dairy, calm right down, an yet when their parents tell their doctors at CHEO they say 'oh diet has nothing to do with this'. How can smart people be so stupid? Do we not see that we have a whole generation of people who despite drinking milk, eat whole grains and sugar are very sick.
How are we to get healthier as a nation if we don’t first start with what we are putting in our mouths?
How much money is spent on someone who needs bypass surgery only so they can get into a wheelchair go down the elevator and buy a food item that is going to once again clog their arteries or send their insulin soaring so that their next visit to the hospital will be due to diabetes.
I have heard on a few occasions that hospital food is certainly not there to make anyone healthy? Why is that?
Could we start to practice prevention instead of just putting band aids on our sick?
If I pull up Tim Hortons website and check out the caloric information based on their menu, a s’more’s donut and a fruit smoothie equals 450 calories, 14 grams of fat, 52 grams of sugar. Estimating that the average 70 year old should consume 1600 calories a day and no more than 30 grams of fat, they are already at half the daily amount of fat with just 1 donut and 1 smoothie. Imagine if they were to have 2 donuts? Let’s say they have a chicken Caesar sandwich and an iced cappuccino for lunch while waiting for their cardiologist. Calories: 900, Fat:24 grams, Sugar:56grams. So in one meal at the Hospital they have almost surpassed their fat allowance and have eaten more than half their calories for the day.
Does this not seem wrong to you who practice medicine and who swore an oath the heal?
Could we not offer our sick a healthy alternative? Healthy salads and vegetable shakes made with fresh organic vegetables?
If the unhealthy food is there, people are going to eat it, it has to not be at their reach for us a population to start to change our eating habits.
It says on your website that Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada, but is preventable. Do you think that prevention and wellness could begin in the Institute itself, where healthy food is the norm? What if the heart institute decided to make a smart radical move and had only fresh, organic food available on its premises and preached this to its patients and workers? What if they helped all their doctors and nurses to quit smoking with hypnosis and other means and provided the basic tools to obtain wellness and maintain a healthy weight.
Please let it begin somewhere and that somewhere being the Heart Institute and Ottawa Hospital with healthier staff and healthier patients. training and teaching our next generation to eat a much healthier diet. If the demand is there it will be.
Yours truly,
Shirley Plant- Nutritionist
613 715-1310
Author of Finally...Food I Can Eat and Libre a dietary guide and cookbook for people with food allergies and dietary restrictions

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