"Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food." -Hippocrates
"The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease." -Thomas A. Edison
When reflecting on your health, and what changes need to be made in order to realize your full wellness potential, one of the first areas that usually come to mind is diet.
People usually associate diet with restriction. Restriction of calories, restriction of food types, etc. When I first started managing my food choices, I thought my newfound diet was healthy. In retrospect, I was judging the healthfulness of my meals by what I was excluding -- gluten and dairy. However, I was still substituting my usual meals with other processed foods (gluten free pasta, etc). I realized later that a truly healthy diet should focus more on what is included -- namely, an abundance of fresh produce. I also now prefer to replace the word "diet" with "way of eating," as healthy food changes should become a lifelong habit, not a 30-day punishment.
Well, what should we eat? My favorite "ways of eating" follow our ancestor's diets, which included an abundance of whole, fresh foods. The basic concept is this: if you can't recognize the food in its original form, don't eat it (i.e. processed foods).
Why do we need to eat like this? Autoimmune and chronic health conditions are on the rise, with first world countries having the most problems with these types of diseases (first world = more money and less time = more convenience & processed foods = more chronic health conditions). In first world countries we are becoming increasingly sicker, and at a much younger age, than previous generations. The number of middle-age parents having to care for their teenaged to 30-something children is becoming ridiculous.
Why are these younger generations getting diagnosed with debilitating autoimmune conditions at such young ages, compared to previous generations? I would say the last relatively healthy generation was my great-grandparents (mine were born in the '20's). They were raised eating whole foods, fermented foods (probiotics), working outdoors, and with a much slower pace of life than what we are accustomed to today. They did not start eating processed foods until later in life, and typically did not start seeing disease states until later in their lives. Their children (my grandparent's generation), were raised on mostly whole foods, then started eating processed foods at a younger age than their parents. They started, then, seeing diseases becoming common earlier in life compared to their parents (i.e. diabetes type 2 started to rise). Then, their children (my parent's generation) became increasingly raised on processed foods. The majority of my generation was absolutely raised on processed foods.
So, you have previous generations becoming depleted of vitamins, minerals, and overall health due to food choices, and giving birth, then, to a partially depleted generation, and so on, until we get to my generation of fully depleted individuals, then giving birth to depleted babies, who are raised on depleted / processed foods.
We must break the cycle and get back to focusing on whole foods, foods we were designed to eat.
For Chronic Health conditions, check out:
-The Wahls Protocol - This way of eating was created by Dr. Terry Wahls, who has reversed the majority of her Progressive Multiple Sclerosis symptoms by simply changing her diet. The basic premise is this: eat 9 cups of fresh produce per day (3 cups sulfur veggies, 3 cups leafy greens, 3 cups of colored fruits/veggies - the more variety of colors, the better). Add superfoods like organ meats, fish oil, and kelp. Avoid the foods that cause symptoms, such as dairy, grains, and eggs. This way of eating is based on the paleo concept.
For more information, check out the book on Amazon:
-Autoimmune Paleo Diet - This diet was created by Loren Cordain, to help reverse symptoms of various autoimmune conditions. This diet removes foods that aggravate autoimmune symptoms, including grains, legumes, eggs, nuts/seeds, dairy, and nightshades. It includes other paleo foods - grassfed meats, produce, and fats.
For more information, check out this book, here:
-The GAPS Diet (Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet) - This diet was created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride based on her longterm work with autistic children and their parents. This is a great "reset" diet and is recommended for those with digestive issues (including leaky gut) and many chronic illnesses, which are usually also gut-related. It focuses on removing foods that harm the gut and introducing foods that help rebuild your gut health, including probiotics / beneficial flora.
For more information, check out the book, here:
-The Ketogenic Diet - This diet is amazing for many different health conditions, including epilepsy (which it was initially designed for), and type 2 diabetes. I have a whole sister page dedicated to the keto diet - here.
For Achieving Optimal Health (with or without a chronic health condition):
-Try an elimination diet to see if there are any food types that cause you to feel suboptimal. Elimination diet how-to:
-Stop eating foods from the following food groups for 2 weeks: gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, corn, peanuts, citrus, and/or any other questionable foods.
-Include healthful, whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables (should be the majority of your food intake), grassfed beef and chicken, and healthy fats such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and avocados.
-After two weeks, try re-introducing one food. Eat the food daily for 3 days and record any symptoms. If symptoms arise, stop the food and give your body a 3 day "reset" time where you go back to the full elimination diet. Try another food group for 3 days, and so on. You can come back to a suspicious food after 6 weeks and try again, depending upon the severity of the symptoms you experienced.
Other suggestions for achieving optimal health via diet:
-Add fruits and vegetables to your meal plans, so that they are the majority of your daily food intake (aim for 9 cups, per The Wahls Protocol).
-Go for organic and grassfed beef / free range chicken (and eggs) whenever possible. And NO farmed fish. You can consider adding wild caught fish, depending on the type and where it was caught (this is a whole other subject!). If you are on a budget, linked below is a list of the top 15 produce items you should absolutely only buy organic (here), and which 15 produce items are probably ok if not organic (here).
-Add probiotics and/or probiotic rich foods (such as homemade sauerkraut or kombucha).
-Don't be afraid of fats. Cholesterol is a building block for our hormones. Eat plenty of healthy fats daily, including coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, and grassfed butter or ghee (if dairy is tolerated fine).
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