Dalia Dvoretsky, RD, CDCES
Dalia Dvoretsky, RD, CDCES

Did you know that your gut is responsible for much more than food digestion?

Digestion makes nutrients available to provide energy and uses vitamins and minerals to prevent inflammation and maintain healthy cells. Our digestive tract hosts trillions of organisms like bacteria, fungi and viruses that break down the food we eat. In the gut’s microbiome, these bacteria also produce neurotransmitters—brain chemicals such as serotonin, melatonin and hunger and satiety hormones—that affect our mood, cravings and even overall behavior.

“We know that certain foods lead to good digestive health by promoting a balance and variety of good bacteria in our colon,” says Dalia Dvoretsky, RD, CDCES, a dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. “These beneficial organisms lower the risk for chronic diseases, diabetes and obesity.”

Unfortunately, Americans today consume a high intake of processed and fast foods, sugary drinks, high-calorie snacks and refined grains—all foods lacking in nutritional content like fiber, vitamins and valuable plant chemicals. This change in our diet, combined with a decrease in physical activity, has caused an uptick in diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

“The good news is that healthful eating can prevent, control and even reverse the onset of diabetes, and lower the risk for chronic diseases,” notes Dvoretsky. “Eating well will help you feel good, lead to more energy, promote better sleep and improve overall well-being.”

Small changes can make a big difference

Eat more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, meat, fish and eggs.

Limit refined foods like cereals high in sugar, noodles, white bread and white rice.

Limit processed foods like sugary soft drinks, lunch meats, and packaged snacks such as chips or candy bars.

Include good fats like those found in fish and avocados and vegetable oils like canola and sunflower. These are all unsaturated fats proven to lower disease risk.

Choose lean proteins like skinless white meat chicken, lean beef, beans and lentils, tofu and plain Greek yogurt.

About Diabetes Education

At Saint John’s Physician Partners, diabetes education plays a crucial role in helping people already diagnosed with diabetes lead healthier lives and manage their condition. “Our diabetes clinic takes a team approach to diabetes care,” says Dvoretsky. “The team includes endocrinologists, a dietitian and certified diabetes educator, and mental health professional.” Patients include those with type 1 or 2 diabetes, prediabetes, gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) and obesity.

“My role is to educate, motivate and empower patients to participate in their self-care to prevent diabetes, control it, or even reverse it,” Dvoretsky says. “I educate them about their condition and their medications and help them improve their diet in easy steps. There is no one-size-fits-all way to stay healthy. We tailor each diet to the individual, from their preferences to culture, age and budgetary considerations. When weight loss is the goal, we work together to achieve it.”

According to Dvoretsky, eating well does not mean giving up the foods that one loves. And diet is just one part of the equation. “We encourage patients to improve their activity level in incremental steps,” she states. “When appropriate, I recommend the latest technology such as insulin pumps, blood glucose sensors and inhaled insulin, and train patients to use them to stay healthy.”

For more information, visit our diabetes page or call 424-443-5535.

A version of this article appeared in an issue of the Palisades Neighbor.