What should I be eating?
Food is where my study began, along with my own healing journey, and nothing winds up my frustration more than finding food being the cause of suffering.
Its that old argument of what came first, the chicken or the egg, and as much as I love a philosophical debate, lets just get straight into sharing what I know from my own healing journey, and believe today to be beneficial for human health and wellbeing. I've never been out to reinvent the wheel, and what I had to unlearn to relearn was really all about letting go of what I was doing and learning what people used to do a long time ago. I grew up eating a healthy diet, well so I thought. Cereal or toast for breakfast with a juice, morning tea wasÂ a piece of fruit and a packet of chips, lunch a sandwich, afternoon tea a biscuit or 3 with flavoured milk and dinner was generally meat and 3 veg with dessert to follow.
This diet I grew up with is typically shared with the majority of the population. My early studies of nutrition also proved my childhood diet matched the standard nutritional pyramid and unfortunately it still does to this day. The more I learnt about what foods that made my body unwell, the more angered I became. My voluntary work for Nutrition Australia was very short lived as I couldn't share something I passionately did not agree with.
One of the first things I gave up was gluten. I was lucky I had a very caring manager in my first years of work, her daughters suffered with chronic illnesses. She could see similarities in me and suggested it would be a good idea to get off gluten for a while to see if I felt any different. So I did just that, and after trying to eat it again after having time off it, I realised how much pain it was causing my body, and I haven't had gluten now for about 12 years.
It is said an estimated 99 percent of people who have a problem with eating gluten don't even know it. They ascribe their ill health or symptoms to something else - not gluten sensitivity, which is 100 percent curable.
Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different diseases. To correct these diseases, you need to treat the cause which is often gluten sensitivity not just the symptoms.
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten. These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anaemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, autism and neuropathy. With understanding the effects of gluten on my body, I see the suffering of my nan with rheumatoid arthritis and my own dad who has suffered with digestive issues his whole life and has had several bowel operations and seems to fade away even further after each. Both of them are absolute sugar and gluten thieves, yet too stuck in their ways to stop, despite the knowledge I have shared with them.
The next thing I gave up on my journey to health, and one of the hardest things I undertook was giving up sugar. Back in the day I easily devoured a whole pack of mint slice biscuits in a day, a block of chocolate also. The routine was a sweet treat after every meal and in between. I thought it was harmless. My mind didn't understand the concept of food as medicine until I experienced the evidence. I was taught to look too medicine, just take a panadol for a headache or tummy ache or go to the doctors for a scripted solution. It was always a bandaid action, no permanent solution.
In the midst of giving up gluten foods, my sugary treats naturally decreased. The transition was helped when I discovered delicious paleo treats, from my now good friend Sara who is the creator of cream fork. I was so grateful for her creations that helped me give away the highly processed sugars that seemed to call out my name whenever I was near.
With my interest in nutrition being at the forefront of my everyday I studied further with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, and with that study I experimented with many different diets, including; Vegan, Vegetarian, Mediterranean, Pescatarian, Paleo, Ketogenic, Fruitarian, Breatharian, Low Carb and many more. I really put my body through the wringer. But with that I learnt invaluable information about what my body needed and thrived on.
Through my experiments of self I discovered dairy didn't work so well for me either. Physically I felt better not for having it, yet I was so worried about my body needing it I researched the hell out of whether dairy was necessary for optimal nutrition.
According to Dr. Willett, who has done many studies and reviewed the research on dairy, found that there are many reasons to pass up milk and be healthier for it. Starting with milk doesn't reduce fractures. My mum still does not believe in this notion. Yet I broke my wrist 3 years in a row and consumed at least a bowl full of milk daily. Contrary to popular belief, eating dairy products has never been shown to reduce fracture risk. In fact, according to the Nurses Health Study, dairy may increase risk of fractures by 50 percent. It was concluded that countries with lowest rates of dairy and calcium consumption (like those in Africa and Asia) have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. Studies revealed that vitamin D appears to be much more important than calcium in preventing fractures. I also found research shows that higher intakes of both calcium and dairy products may increase a mans risk of prostate cancer by 30 to 50 percent. Plus, dairy consumption increases the body's level of insulin like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) a known cancer promoter. Then finally, not everyone can stomach dairy. About 75 percent of the world's population is genetically unable to properly digest milk and other dairy products. The majority of humans naturally stop producing significant amounts of lactase, the enzyme needed to properly metabolise lactose, the sugar in milk, sometime between the ages of two and five. In fact, for most mammals, the normal condition is to stop producing the enzymes needed to properly digest and metabolise milk after they have been weaned.
I found all of this information so fascinating and with ease gave away my regular dairy consumption.
When I truly, 100% stopped eating gluten, processed sugars and dairy my anxiety significantly decreased, my skin cleared up, my moods were so much more stable that I felt in control of myself again, my digestive issues were no longer, my memory was better and I had so much more energy.
When it comes to your health dis-ease, whatever it may be, if diet was one component, if you had to give up one food group to reverse your issue would you do it?
It is often the simplest things that can feel like the hardest. My work in clinic proves again and again that gluten, sugar and dairy are trouble makers. All of my cases that have recovered from digestive complaints and hormonal issues have successfully given up one, two or all of these food groups. I have also seen cases of recurrent aggressive behaviour eliminated with changing how, what and when food was eaten.
For me, and my experience in helping people regain their health and wellbeing I find the pyramid below a wonderful guide to optimising food to be your medicine not your affliction.
If you need help working out what foods your body needs, come and see me so we can empower your everyday meals to give you the health and wellness you need.
I believe it would have been so much easier if I had someone capable to guide me in working out what foods were optimal for me.
You're not alone if the thought of giving up a favourite food seems impossible. My work includes understanding your mental and emotional wellbeing so we can also clear any road blocks that stop you doing what is truly best for you.
Nothing is as important as your health and wellbeing, and once you notice how much better you can feel, the changes moving forward become easier.