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Prescriptions for Ultimate Health and Life-Long Wellness

Guest Blog post featuring Michael Sabia, MD, associate professor of anesthesiology and division head, pain management, Cooper University Health Care and Mark A. Tambone, MFA, assistant professor of English, Passaic County Community College.  

Prescriptions for Ultimate Health and Life-Long Wellness 

Part I: Diet and “The Fed State”

The COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent “normal life” interruptions, led many people to make positive lifestyle changes to lessen their stress. People have taken on new habits to “survive” this trying time, both from a physical and mental health standpoint. As we embark on a new season, let us take our new healthy habits to the next level, and create sustainable lifestyle changes to live a longer and more fulfilling life.

Michael Sabia, Division Head, Pain Management, Cooper University Health Care, and Mark A. Tambone, MFA, assistant professor of English at Passaic County Community College, are presenting a series of articles about lifestyle modifications to improve health and wellness to ensure optimum quality of life.  

Part I: Diet

Dr. Sabia is the division head of pain management in the Department of Anesthesiology at Cooper University Health Care, he’s an associate professor at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, and has literally written the book on managing chronic pain. 

Specializing in pain has made him adept at understanding which diets, movements (or lack thereof), and behaviors that can contribute to debilitating pain over a life. One of his passions, outside treating his patients and teaching future physicians, is how to achieve ultimate health and wellness in ways that are attainable and sustainable over time. 

Here are some of his targeted insights related to diet: 

Skip Breakfast

Dr. Sabia advises that skipping breakfast is a good place to start if we want to adjust our diet, based on his own research on the metabolic states of the body, insulin resistance, and good gut bugs.

“Obesity rates are on the rise, especially in children,” says Dr. Sabia. “With all the advancements in modern medicine, we must wonder why we are so unsuccessful in treating obesity and all the preventable diseases that come with it.” 

He says that what we eat, and even more importantly when we eat, may be a key to managing obesity.

“We have been misled about our eating habits from a young age,” says Dr. Sabia. “Three distinct meals a day, plus snacks and sugary drinks, is a counterproductive diet plan.”

Metabolic States of the Body

There are three metabolic states of the body: absorptive state, postabsorptive state, and the starvation state.

  • The absorptive state, also called “the fed state”, is the metabolic state occurring during the first few hours after ingesting food in which the body is digesting food and absorbing the nutrients.
  • The postabsorptive state, or the fasting state, occurs after digestion, when the nutrients are absorbed and stored for use. This commonly occurs overnight, but fasting during the day can achieve this. During this state, the body must rely initially on stored glycogen.
  • The starvation state occurs when you deprive the body of nourishment for an extended period and it goes into “survival mode.” The body gives glucose to the brain and taps into the storage of amino acids for protein by producing ketones. 

“Humans are not meant to be in the “fed state” all of the time,” he explains. “This causes a cascade of problems. We need to constantly release insulin to lower our glucose levels after we eat, causing high and low blood sugar.” 

This constant swing on your insulin levels can damage your metabolism, leading to weight gain, or even obesity. 

“Unfortunately, there is sugar hidden in most processed foods we eat,” continues Dr. Sabia. “Even if you think you are making healthy choices, if you eat throughout the day, your body still needs to combat the sugar with insulin.” 

A key marker for optimal metabolic health is a low level of fasting insulin, or under 85 mg/dl. You can check this upon waking up using a blood glucose monitor. 

Fasting throughout the day can help. One place to start is to skip or delay breakfast. Even delaying your breakfast by a few hours can reduce your insulin use, and extend your body’s post absorptive state.  Eating less often or within a specific window of the day, a common method is to only eat between the hours of noon and 6 p.m., allows our gut bacteria to be balanced.

Good Gut Bacteria

There are around 40 trillion bacteria in your body, most of which are found in your gut. The gut microbiome, is the bacteria found in your digestive tract that help you digest food and absorb its nutrients properly. 

Dr. Sabia says that to keep your gut bacteria healthy it is best to avoid the processed, sugary foods that have a long shelf live.

“These foods with 15 to 20 ingredients made in a lab can feed the bad bacteria in your digestive tract, leading to more and more cravings for sugar,” continues Dr. Sabia. “This causes a literal a physical addiction to foods that are unhealthy.”

As many of us turn to latest trends in eating, exercise and last-resort surgeries, Dr. Sabia presents his solutions with ease and with real-world practicality. 

“Cut out all processed foods, eat within a time-restricted window, and eat whole unprocessed foods. Allow the bad bugs to die off, kicking your addiction to sugar. Turn vicious cycles around—make different choices of when and what you eat—right now, today and for the rest of your life!”