The largest categories of nutrients that we need are carbohydrates, protein, fat and fiber (which is an indigestible carbohydrate). We need carbohydrates because they are the fuel that our cells rely on. We need amino acids (the building blocks of protein) because 40% of a healthy human body is protein. Most people think we should avoid all fat because fat makes us fat, but the truth of the matter is that we need a certain amount of fat. Every cell in the body has a phospholipid layer. This fancy term means that fats are needed to coat every cell. Nerves require a fatty sheath around them to insulate them (so the nerve doesn't "short out"). Women need a certain amount of fat reserve or they stop menstruating (and become infertile). The essential fatty acids (essential fatty building blocks) are alpha linolenic acid and gamma linoleic acid.
Compared to the above macronutrients, we need very small amounts of vitamins and minerals. These, however, are critical to helping the body manufacture things, repair things, fight infections, detoxify, process carbohydrates, etc. Examples of minerals are calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, and chromium. Vitamins are broken down into water soluble (dissolves in water) vitamins and fat soluble vitamins. Fat soluble vitamins consist of: vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Water soluble: vitamin C, B-vitamins (like vitamin B12, pyridoxine, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, and pantothenic acid), and folic acid. We've also categorized many other biochemicals found in food like lutein, lycopene, resveratrol, inositol, choline, lecithin, alpha lipoic acid, carotenoids, bioflavonoids, as well as many others.
Nutrition: The word "nutrition" describes those nutrients that the human body needs to carry out its functions. Let's first discuss what nutrition is not. Herbs are not nutrition. Dr. Berglund will often describe herbs as God's natural pharmacy. Sometimes the herbs contain ingredients like minerals and vitamins, but most times, herbs are meant to help the body heal from a problem. Saw palmetto extract is not a nutrient, but can be very helpful for some men with swelling of their prostate resulting in difficulty draining their bladder. Homeopathic remedies are not nutrition. Just because something is natural, doesn't mean it's a nutrient. It can be very helpful in restoring people to health, but it doesn't fall under "nutrients the body requires to live" category.
In the following sections, Dr. Berglund describes what nutrients are (including the difference between macronutrients and micronutrients), the role of nutritional supplements in conjunction with a healthy diet, and how nutrition can play an important role in helping us maintain our health and prevent disease.
Nutrition should come from food...ideally
We've heard it many times. "If people would just eat healthy, they wouldn't need any nutritional supplements." Dr. Berglund agrees. If we had a world without all the toxins, junky processed foods, and farmers fertilized their fields properly more than just with nitrogen/phosphorus… then sure, he'd agree with that. But our world is not ideal. Therefore, asking food to be ideal for us, is not realistic.
At this point, you might be thinking "Alright, give me your nutritional protocol. What should I be taking?" Dr. Berglund doesn't have a nutritional protocol. He believes that people have varying needs because each of us is unique. He also doesn't have formulas that dictate how much of a particular nutrient he gives to a patient. Should calcium and magnesium be in a 2:1 ratio? He independently assesses the need and dosage, and in the case of calcium:magnesium, they rarely end up exactly in a 2:1 ratio. He has patients come in with boxes of supplements they are currently taking or have taken wondering what they should be taking. His goal is always to have them take what makes sense for them and to have them stop taking things that are of only a theoretical benefit. If your weak area is your immune system, he's going to try to boost your immune system. If it's your thyroid, then he's going to work at improving your thyroid function.
When disease is not disease
We like the idea of disease. There are people out there that are not happy unless their condition has a name. Unfortunately, disease is a man-made term to describe the human condition. Therefore, the best way to assess a problem is by assessing the dysfunction, rather than by the resulting disease. For instance, irritable bowel syndrome describes a condition where the colon is irritated. Wouldn't it make more sense to diagnose the cause of the irritation? If we can figure out the reason why the colon is inflamed, then we are one step closer to solving the problem. This is one of the problems why double blind studies are not helpful with regard to nutritional treatments. Let's say that a patient has high blood pressure. The research dealing with blood pressure medications may show diuretics and beta blockers to be the most effective. However, if the reason that patient has high blood pressure is because they have a magnesium deficiency (which is possible because magnesium helps muscles relax and when arteries contract they raise the blood pressure), then the most effective course is magnesium. However, the studies don't agree with that. The problem is that MOST of the cases of elevated blood pressure have nothing to do with magnesium deficiency, so the number of people that respond to magnesium as a antihypertensive "drug" is statistically insignificant and magnesium as a treatment option is disregarded.
Dr. Berglund is about making people better. He uses research to evaluate the options, but he also uses his knowledge of anatomy and physiology to figure out what could be causing the problem and how to correct the dysfunction.