HSA for America

How Your Diet Can Lower Your Lifetime Healthcare Expenses

May 7, 2009
Vol. 5, Issue 4

There are a lot of factors that affect someone’s health.  But contrary to common opinion, little of your health is genetically determined.  Your genes certainly influence your susceptibility to disease, but the trigger is almost always environmental.  The largest lifestyle factor is the way that you eat – get this right and you dramatically improve your odds of optimum health, and low healthcare expenses, as the years go by.

Wiley at Jazz Fest in New Orleans

You Are What You Eat (Really!)

We often think of food as fuel – which it is.  But it is also what makes up the structure of our bodies – our bones, our skin, our eyes, and our brains.  The body is quite amazing, and if you regularly feed it cracklins and fried sweet potato chips, you will get body in return.  It just won’t be the most high-functioning or long-lasting body.

Food does more than provide fuel and structure.  It affects what hormones your body produces.  It affects your acid/base balance.  It influences how your immune system works.  It even turns on and off certain genes, affecting who you are at a genetic level.

In studying health for a number of years, I have been amazed at how powerfully diet influences health and disease.  After many years of effort from the American Heart Association, most people know that diet can contribute to cardiovascular disease.  It is less well-known that almost half of all cancer is related to diet.  Fewer still know about emerging information indicating that many autoimmune diseases may be prevented, halted, or reversed by eating certain types of foods (and avoiding others).

How Diet Affects Autoimmune Disease

The new information about auto-immune disease is especially exciting.  Autoimmune disease occurs when the person’s immune system attacks its own body.  This happens with multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, rosacea, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and many more conditions.  15 – 25 million people in the U.S. have autoimmune diseases, and nearly 80% are women.

At least one third of all known or suspected autoimmune diseases are associated with a “leaky gut,” and the percentage is probably much higher.  When someone has a leaky gut, they absorb protein fragments and other large molecules that should not be absorbed.

“Molecular mimicry” is the idea that the immune cells become sensitive to these foreign protein fragments because they have amino acid sequences similar to human cells.  This causes the immune cells to eventually attack the person’s own body.

If you’ve been reading this newsletter for a while, you know that I often recommend eating according to the principles explained in The Paleo Diet.  By focusing a diet on foods that we evolved to eat – vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, and nuts – you can significantly reduce your risk of many diseases.

Because the Paleo Diet is low in substances called saponins and lectins, it significantly reduces gut permeability.  Foods to avoid include wheat, dairy, potatoes, beans, and alfalfa sprouts.  I have received some amazing feedback from people with various autoimmune diseases who have begun eating this way.

Drive Your Own Destiny

One of my goals is to help you find more ways to lower your healthcare expenses.  The very best way to do this is to require fewer medical services and prescription drugs.  This is one of the reasons I am interested in health and nutrition.  In fact, after being in the health insurance business for 15 years, a few years ago I went back to school and got my master’s degree in health and exercise science.

We have much more control over our health than most of us realize.  But if you don’t exert control over your own health and healthcare, then the laws of nature, overworked doctors, hospital administrators, insurance companies or government bureaucrats, and others certainly will.

Take care of your health by eating a diet focused on the types of foods our Paleolithic ancestors evolved to eat.  And maximize the contribution you make to your HSA each year.  The unspent money will grow tax-free, and years from now you should be healthy, with a lot of money in the bank.  That’s where we all want to be, and the actions you take today are what will get you there.


To your health and wealth! 

Wiley Long
President - HSA for America

P.S. – Next month I’ll talk about ways to use your HSA, based on your stage in life and your current financial situation.

* Wiley is also editor of The Paleo Diet Update, available at


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