Back in the day, I had a go-getter of a boyfriend who took shipping companies (like UPS) out of financial problems with his logistical smarts. I asked him how he did it, and he responded with two words: “gut check.”
He listened to how a decision felt before he made it, and ever since then I’ve tried to do the same. But now, 2 weeks after returning from the Revitalize Summit at Miraval, “gut check” has taken on a whole new meaning.
I now think about how food will affect my gut before I eat it.
Here’s the deal: Today is the first generation of kids that are expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. And our diet is to blame.
Hippocrates was bang-on when he proclaimed, “Let food be thy medicine.” That wisdom still stands ever-more-true in the age of ever-growing pharmaceutical tech and processed things that masquerade as food.
All the doctors that spoke at Revitalize — and there were many, many respectable doctors — said that medicine is failing us. You see, most of our doctors were not trained to think of the body as a whole, and only trained to treat the symptoms. So what did we expect? A public health failure.
I think we all know at a, um, gut level, that this is the case. I mean, how in the world could we thrive on a diet of primarily corn, soy, refined flour and sugar? What’s exciting, though, is that there seems to be a wide-spread awareness growing about the importance of our food. Maybe soon even the folks that Jamie Oliver visits will no longer need him, and KFC will go out of business. (Hey, one can dream.)
Today you’d be hard pressed to meet someone that hasn’t at least heard of Holistic / Integrative / Functional Medicine. And us Revitalize attendees were treated to the wisdom of some of the biggest brains in the biz.
First we had Dr Robynne Chutkan – aka “the gut doctor” – who explained the new health buzzword: microbiome. Your microbiome refers to the bacteria in our bodies and primarily our guts which can switch diseases on or off.
Now take note all you clean freaks: for our gut to function properly, we NEED bacteria. For example, in America today, 24 million people have an autoimmune disorder such as lupus, MS and Type 1 diabetes. In the developing world, where there is more bacterial diversity, there are lower rates of autoimmune disease. (See! I always knew Clorox wipes were evil).
Apparently a lot of the bacteria get there in the first place with our first gulp of life while shooting out of the vajayjay. I, of course, had to hunt Dr. Chutkan down after her talk to find out about C-section babies (like Baby Sky). She said a carbohydrate in human breast milk was recently discovered to help encourage growth of good bacteria in babies’ guts to strengthen their immune systems. Well! That’s great news, but there go my plans to wean him at 6 months; however, I still probably won’t be that mom that gives her 4-year-old a drink on the playground by lifting her shirt.
Dr. Terry Wahls was the showstopper for me. I mean this woman couldn’t walk because of multiple sclerosis and now she not only walks, but also bikes to work EIGHT MILES every day. And she made this dramatic change just by changing her diet.
Dr. Wahls first threw all the meds she could at the disease (and why not? she was a medical doctor) until reaching desperation. So after digging deep into experimental research, she ended up creating her own food based Rx, and she’s going to tell us more about her story and food choices in an upcoming episode. (Sign up to get the email reminder so you don’t miss it.)
So where does that leave us? What can we eat, well, besides the almighty super food, kale?
One idea I have for my own life is to replace as many processed foods and refined carbs with sweet potato (and I am guaranteed success if Trader Joe’s Sweet Potato Fries count). Most centenarians site sweet potato as a main staple in their diet, and in fact it makes up 65% of what the very, very old folks on the Japanese island of Okinawa eat.
What else can we eat?
There is a God: we can eat fat. Flawed research in the 50’s brainwashed us to think fats are bad. Even Dr. Frank Lipman had to get over his fear of eating fats in the face of more accurate research. The truth is people that eat more fats and less refined carbs lose more weight. It’s key to bear in mind that there are good fats and bad fats. We can sum it up with this: processed or “manmade” fats are bad (like butter from factory-farmed cows, or the highly processed vegetable oil in margarine), and natural sources are good like avocados, nuts, oily fish, and even butter from grass-fed cows.
Our unhealthy fear of fat has pushed us to be a sugar-addicted society. Take the “healthy” breakfast cereals marketed to move us away from the “dangerous” fat in eggs. Breakfast cereal is usually about 75% sugar. We are programmed to love it because anything that is sweet in nature is safe to eat; however, sugar slows down metabolism and has been linked to a bevy of health issues. For more on this, you can listen to why Dr. Mark Hyman says sugar is like a recreational drug.
If all of this is sounding vaguely paleo-centric, you’re right. I had hoped to stay blissfully ignorant to the whole paleo craze, but now I get the logic:
You see, apparently we didn’t have heart disease and a whole host of other problems back when our knuckles were almost dragging on the ground. In addition to only being stressed when a wild animal was chasing us, we were in synch with the sun, and we ate locally, organically, and what was in season.
While many fad-followers of paleo get it right by eating real food (not processed), the importance of eating what’s in season is too often overlooked. Think about it – our bodies did not evolve eating tomatoes in fall, or wheat in the winter. “Rotational diets” that change with the seasons are mostly prescribed for food allergies but are also a smart choice for general good health. Why? Because you’re not supposed to gorge on the same thing 24x7x365.
When you eat seasonally, no single type of nutrient becomes “the enemy” according to YOUR body. Ya see, some people do well on a vegan diet, while other thrive from having animal-based proteins and fat in their diet. The important thing is that you eat a variety of whole foods and find the right diet for you personally.
It’s all (sort of) starting to make sense.
But what doesn’t make ANY sense is why we went from eating what’s good for us to eating what’s killing us. Might have a bit to do with the monster research and marketing budgets of big packaged food companies who have lots of cheap corn, soy and sugar due to government subsidies. That highly-researched, magic blend of fat and sugar equals “hyper-palatability”, meaning it’s completely irresistible to our lizard brains. (But that’s a story for a different day).
And what about modified foods? Inflammation is at the root of many diseases, and so it’s possible that our bodies become inflamed when they don’t recognize the Frankenfoods that now make up the bulk of our diet. (For a booster shot on that topic, check out last week’s episode, What You Need to Know about GMOs with Robyn O’Brien.)
The best way I can think to sum it up is with this quote from Dr. Mark Hyman:
“Eat what God made, not what humans made.”
Now that’s something I can wrap my lil’ lizard brain around.
Thanks Docs, Thanks Jason of MBG for assembling these great speakers, and thank you Maximo for watching baby Sky while I was gone, errr, I think.
PS: My husband just saw a “functional medical doctor” because of hitting rock bottom with his asthma and allergies. In my next blog I’ll share the results, and one HUGE lifestyle change that we both had to make.