The afternoon nappies are starting to take their toll on my husband Patrick. Coffee has become his drug of choice. I wondered if there might be a gentler solution — a change in diet. Something a little more nuanced than easing up on the cheeseburgers. So I called a nutritionist: Lindsay Petrovay, MS, CNW., in Cardiff (760-845-5232). She billed herself as holistic, meaning, as she put it, that “I approach the body as a whole — looking at all of the systems and functions and how they interact. Western medicine looks at individual parts, systems, or organs. That’s why you have a cardiologist or an ophthalmologist. I like to look at the whole body because everything interacts.”
While plenty of people come to Petrovay for help with weight loss, others come because “they’ve been told to lower their cholesterol or they’ll be put on medication. They don’t want medication because of the side effects, which include fatigue — it really wears on your liver and your metabolism. Some people tell me they feel groggy and can’t think as clearly.” (My ears perked up — Patrick takes cholesterol medication.) “I also get a lot of people who are insulin-resistant — prediabetic people who are trying to avoid becoming diabetic.”
Petrovay starts with a two-hour consultation. “Then I take measurements. I do a waist-to-hip ratio. When you have insulin resistance, you end up storing more belly fat.” She also passes a gentle electric current through the client and analyzes the results to determine “ratio of body fat to lean body mass, total body water — intracellular and extracellular and basal metabolic rate. Someone who is toxic — even just from caffeine, alcohol, or pollution — will carry more water on the outside of their cells versus the inside, and that impairs cell function.” And impaired cell function can hinder the absorption of insulin-bound sugar, thus depriving the cell of energy.
After the assessment comes the planning. “My goal is to educate my clients. It’s very individual. I feel out the client, see how much they are willing to handle.... We make changes slowly, over time.”
Petrovay starts with what’s crucial, taking aim at “white processed food” and explaining “how it interacts with the system and how it can create insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and other issues.” Foods like “white rice, white tortillas, white bread, crackers, cookies, pretzels — basically, anything that’s made with refined, bleached flour. Manufacturing processes the oil out of these products, so that they have a long shelf life.” But those processes also break up the grain’s long chains of carbohydrates: “on a cellular level, those chains are cut in half.” As a result, by the time they reach the stomach, “they are chemically the same as a sugar molecule” — the amylase in our saliva has made short work of the short chains. “So even if it doesn’t say ‘sugar’ on the ingredients list, by the time it reaches your stomach, it’s digested as sugar.”
And because sugar is such a small molecule — “only six carbons long” — it can pass “from your stomach into your bloodstream. You get a spike in blood sugar levels. The pancreas dumps insulin out, trying to bind it to glycogen in the sugar and then store it — get it out of the bloodstream because high levels of sugar are damaging to our nervous system.” After the insulin binds to the glycogen, “there is a two-carbon acetate left over, which is very acidic. So the liver gets involved, excreting three fatty acids to bind to the two-carbon acetate molecule. That creates a triglyceride, and that directly raises blood fat so that your cholesterol goes up. The only way to reverse the buildup is through diet and exercise.”
Of course, people like white processed foods. “I tell people I want their diet to be delicious. I don’t want them to feel like they’re eating cardboard. I tell them to experiment with different grains — things like brown rice, millet, or barley — and find the ones they like. Also, eat more vegetables.”
She also suggests supplements. “Vitamins and minerals are fuel for our cells. Pollution, pesticides, processed foods, and stress lead to a deficiency of these vitamins and minerals. Things like high-phosphorous pesticides interfere with calcium and magnesium absorption. I think everyone needs a high-quality multivitamin and an essential oil.” The key is “high-quality” — many supplements, warned Petrovay, simply don’t do very much for you. “I’ve had numerous clients tell me that they think flaxseed oil is disgusting. That’s because the flaxseed oil they’ve tried is rancid.” Fish oil, a great source of the fatty acids that help the body reduce cholesterol, is another example. It’s sensitive to oxygen, heat, and light, said Petrovay. She recommends Oil Smart by Renew Life as a quality producer available in stores. In her office, she sells Metagenics. “I researched manufacturers, and I love how Metagenics’ products are made. I keep the costs low: the multivitamin is $36 for a month’s supply.” As for store brands, “Supernutrition makes a quality multivitamin.”
Petrovay’s initial consultation is $200. One-hour follow-ups are $75. “Some people I see two or three times a year,” she said, “and others I see every month.”
Other contacts around town:
Nutritional Focus: Jeannette Manning, Sorrento Valley, 760-602-0044. Nutritional counseling.
@Health: Tamara Renee, Del Mar, 858-694-0317. Nutritional counseling, diet-meal delivery.
Tri-System Nutrition: Kearny Mesa, 858-694-0317. Body-composition specialists.