Diet aka the food we eat, is an essential foundation of health. We all know that. I have known that for as long as I can remember, and yet how seriously do we consider this on a daily basis? Few of us regard food as medicine, however it absolutely is! It is what feeds every cell in our body. I know, emotions, thoughts and the spirit all feed our cells too , but for today I feel it necessary to discuss nutrition, as I see so many people, myself included, getting stumped and some answers have recently come to light for me.
As Hippocrates (460 BC) said, “If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.” Food is more than the amount as I am sure Hippocrates was implying, as Food is Medicine! It nourishes, regenerates and heals us. Unfortunately, when eating the standard American diet, or even following the Canada Food Guide (a guide created with the animal & grain Lords’ best interests in mind.), it becomes poison to most people.
A couple of weeks ago I reviewed many patients’ charts. This combined with my own health issues and altering my diet recently, drove this point home even more to me. I could see clearly that the patients that followed my advice and altered their diet in certain ways had the most success. They noticed the relief of most, if not all of their minor and many of their major illnesses. One example was a patient who came in with pain in her hands. She had wanted Bowen treatment. I read in her chart that I discussed her diet with her first, as I often do on first visits with everybody. I then saw from my records that I had given her 3 Bowen treatments, however I had not even touched her hands. I was shocked to read this and initially thought how incompetent I was to not even touch her hands, when this is why she came to me! However she was completely better after the third visit. One could see this as one of the many miracles of Bowen. Believe me, I have seen many miracles after Bowen, and it is likely that it helped her, however this was not one of them. She had altered her diet significantly as I had encouraged her to do. This is what provided and continues to provide her with relief and good health.
An ancient Ayurvedic proverb says “If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. If diet is correct, medicine is of no need.” This is very true and powerful! While diet can cure most health issues, many people do not know what to eat or not eat and even if they do, they find it hard to obey/follow what they know to be best for them. It can do far more than we realize or give credit to and it is my understanding and experience that it is the foundation upon which further emotional, physical, spiritual and mental work can be done on. We are spirits in our physical body. We are here as the person we know because we have a physical body. Without it we are no longer here. We must learn to take very good care of the body that allows us to be here and do the spiritual work that we are here to do. When decline has been going on for too long unchecked, Diet Must be employed often in combination with other Naturopathic, Energetic, Emotional etc. treatments.
So, what is the best diet for you? There are thousands of ideas, books and studies about what foods are best to eat and what foods should not be eaten and by whom and on and on. The diets and theories about the best foods for humans range from Carnivores to Omnivores to Herbivores and many details in between. We can then customize this further for individuals based on everything from blood type to traditional Chinese syndrome to Ayervedic constitution and go on and on. Each of these approaches to diet has a great deal of merit and tremendous success in and of their own without a doubt. But how do YOU as an individual find YOUR way amidst all this information to the right diet for YOU? This is something that I have been working towards for longer than I am comfortable saying.
The tricky bit is that even when we think that we are good at listening to our body, by the time we begin to properly pay attention and care about our body it has usually already become accustomed to the wrong foods and has often long since given up signaling us not eat them. Typically, the first signals that our body gives us are pain in our stomach and changes to our bowel movements. We can override this over time as we continue to eat these foods in small steady doses. Eventually, because we’ve over ridden that mechanism our body starts to get toxic in other areas and gives us signals such as aches and pains, recurring infections, arteriosclerosis, skin conditions, allergies, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and so on. What causes the disconnect is that since we have ignored our stomachs and bowels they have in many cases stopped signaling us and the problems have been driven deeper to our joints, arteries, hormones, immune systems, nervous systems and so on. This impairs us from seeing the connection between the gut and other organs being healthy, when in fact this is the original case/cause. We naturopaths prefer to treat the cause! In order to treat chronic illnesses the diet must therefore be addressed as well as all issues pertaining to the digestive tract. (I will write about the digestive tract in more detail in another article)
A similar example is when we first try a cigarette. Immediately it causes us to cough and most people find it quite disgusting and nauseating. Often this happens in our teens where the will to fit in with our friends and rebel from our parents overrides the rejection from our lungs and nauseous feeling in our gut to the point that it becomes replaced with cravings, addiction and long-term negative health consequences. This is very similar to our relationship with unhealthy food.
I have heard patients say that they did not have a problem with wheat and dairy until they went off of it and then when they went back on it they had pain. They mistakenly and understandably assume that going off of it caused the problem. The reality is that it always was a problem but their body had just given up letting them know.
When I was in Naturopathic College, our nutrition instructor challenged us to do a 21 day “brown rice cleanse”. We were to only eat raw or lightly steamed vegetables, brown rice, healthy oils and minimal fruit. The changes that we all experienced were truly remarkable! Allergies, pain, energy, sleep, mood all improved. Mind you, we were mostly in her 20s and quite a lively to begin with. When we were permitted to return to our previous diet, immediately symptoms such as stomach pain, nausea, altered bowels, all began to happen, almost universally with wheat, dairy, and sugar. I remember clearly the pain and nausea in my stomach with one cookie, when previously while cramming & pulling an all-nighter (I am embarrassed to say this) I could eat a whole box and feel no pain. Then, with some perseverance and continued use we were all able to override those feelings and enjoy those foods again. But at what cost? Once you have learned what foods are not good for your body it is impossible to forget. So in order to make our lives easier, healthy-ish and more manageable most of us just minimized those items as much as possible. This is the approach most people take after seeing a naturopath. It is challenging to maintain a restricted diet in today’s society. Virtually every processed food contains several items humans should not consume. On the bright side, it is becoming far easier than it was 20 years ago to purchase healthier and less processed foods as well as organic food.
I am getting a bit off track, so back to the point I’d like to make is that YOU need to find what foods are best for YOU. How to do this? There are many ways available to us now as consumers to test and determine which foods are best for us. In previous articles I have mentioned muscle testing, the elimination diet, ElectroDermal screening and blood tests.
Recently I decided that I was worth the $300, and ordered an IgG (blood) food test on myself. IgG stands for Immunoglobulin G. I will endeavor to explain this simply, as I feel it is important for you to understand the basics. Immunoglobulins are relatives of antibodies made by your body’s immune system to rid the body of substances that do not belong or pose a threat. For example, IgE is responsible for dealing with invaders like parasites and pollen. When IgE binds to certain items like this, they trigger your basophils and mast cells to release histamine and the result is what we know as an allergic reaction. This is what is tested on the skin scratch test, performed by medical allergists. Our bodies remember the invaders so that if we come in contact with it again, the antibodies will recognize it quickly and bind to the foreign substance/antigen, immobilizing it and then ridding it from the body. There are many kinds of antibodies and some are fast acting and others slow. The majority (80ish%) of Immunoglobulins are IgG, which are much smaller and responsible for many things, one of which is delayed sensitivity reactions through the digestive tract. Thus, if they are elevated in connection with certain foods, it means that our bodies are reacting against those foods. Basically when our bodies are making antibodies against the foods we eat there is a problem! Since over 70% of our immune system lines our digestive tract as this is where we come into contact with the outside world the most, we cannot afford to have this much energy going against the food we eat. Our immune system is supposed to be ready to protect us from foreign invaders, to clean up cancer cells and so on, not clean up our food. This test is so important in that it helps us to recognize the foods that we need to avoid in order to take the load/irritation/cause of inflammation off of our systems and then we can begin to address the other contributing factors such as parasites, yeast, and general organism balance, liver, adrenals, etc. This is the early part of my program, as it is with my patients who are willing to take this path. I find that many people start with elimination of the foods but never go deeper. The healing of the gut after elimination of the foods will happen naturally, however there is much that can be done to assist and other contributing factors that are best to be exposed and treated during this healing process in order to allow the reintroduction of foods later, and to feel even better than better.
Now I know exactly how my patients feel when they are given a list of foods not to have. All of the stages of grief were certainly experienced; shock, denial, anger, sadness, bargaining and finally acceptance. Acceptance is certainly the easiest way to go, and why not, with so many possibilities available, I am being forced to do more of what I already like to do – be creative in the kitchen! I absolutely love food and most times really enjoy cooking. I get a lot of inspiration these days from the internet. I seem to get lucky when I type in a couple of items I am hankering for and the type of meal I want and out jumps a half dozen recipes to peruse and see what tickles my fancy. So far my body is happier and my family is slowing down to taste the new and different flavor combinations that are entering their mouths. It certainly is easier to accept something when you know that it is all for the best and you actually feel better! As Luciano Pavaroti said “One of the nicest things about life is that we must regularly stop what we are doing and devote our attention to eating”. Let’s make it delicious with love and care for the ingredients, ourselves, each other and for the planet too J
Dr. Melissa Howe, ND. December 1, 2015