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  December 31, 2001

Homework That Heals - Diet Adjustment

This is an enormous subject, but an important one. To heal, the whole person must be attended to. It is counterproductive to see a psychotherapist for one hour a week if, for the rest of the week, you are eating nutrient-empty food that is throwing your entire system out of balance - including your emotions. Although I do not believe that diet alone can heal our personal dysfunction, it certainly plays a large part.

The biggest problem is that our traditional, time-tested, earth-based diets are virtually forgotten, and we have become accustomed to foods offered and prepared by agribusiness and food marketers. There are thousands of books and magazine articles that claim to offer "the perfect" diet, each one "proven" by scientific studies - that contradict the scientific studies listed in all the others! Choosing food has become more confusing than choosing religion.

Whether it's high protein, low protein, high fibre, vegan, raw meat, blood type, high carbohydrate, low fat, or some other variation, most modern diet approaches claim that their method is right for everyone. Once again, it's just more dogma and manipulation by the "experts." Even though the human body has certain basic needs and limitations, each one of us will find a moderate dietary balance that suits our unique requirements. Unfortunately, I have not found many authors with a basic, moderate approach to diet, so at the end of this article I only recommend a few books on the subject.

If you feel that your diet is not ideal, be careful not to change it too rapidly. It may cause more stress. Only make changes that seem reasonable and manageable. Also remember that by changing your "comfort food" habits, you may allow an upsurge of primal pain.

I am not a nutritionist, but I have been very involved in the study and practice of diet since 1972. With the following introductory guide as a yardstick, you may be able to find similar, but more detailed information elsewhere.

A) Eat whole foods

The organism we call human is the result of millions of years of development and real testing. The design and function of our cells and organs has been shaped by the action of living in a wild environment. The human body is built to work on foods that come from the earth in the forms in which they grow - whole foods. Wild humans didn't have machines to refine food, and our organs still don't have what it takes to deal with our modern, tampered menu.

Whole foods include whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables, fruits and free-range animal meats. Eat them as fresh and raw as you can, or with a minimum of cooking or baking (with the exception of the proper preparation of meat), because many nutrients can be lost during preparation and cooking.

B) Limit pre-cooked and prepared foods

Who knows where they've been! Pre-cooked foods are usually overcooked, which means much of the food value is lost. They are often full of an unnecessary amount of salt and a host of chemical additives. Read the labels carefully and be sure the ingredients are known foods. Ingredients are listed in order of amount, from the most to the least. Beware of excess sugar, and keep in mind that glucose, fructose, syrup, invert sugar, various glycols, etc. are forms of sugar. The producers are known to break down the types of sugars so that SUGAR doesn't appear at the top.

C) Limit salt (sodium)

Salt is a bonafide poison. It elevates blood pressure, and with prolonged use can cause a host of serious health disorders. There is usually enough sodium in our food and water to satisfy our nutritional needs, but we have been conditioned so that food appears dull without it. That usually changes over time if we give it up. Try flavouring food in other ways. Canned goods often contain salt and sodium in very high amounts.

D) Limit meat and animal products

Human beings are omnivores. For our entire history, wild human animals have eaten plants and animals. The variations and amounts of each depended on habitat and the seasons. In colder climates where plant food was hard to obtain in winter, our native peoples ate more meat. In tropical areas, they ate more fruit.

Previous to the industrial age, wild meat was as clean as the global environment itself. Now most meat is contaminated with industrial poisons in degrees greater than the contamination of water. When an animal drinks, eats and breathes, its body acts as a filter that gathers and collects the toxins. The toxin levels in an animal's flesh is often hundreds of times greater than the toxin levels in the water it drinks, the plants it eats, and the air it breathes. If you ate a Great Lakes fish, you would swallow the same amount of toxins as if you drank 100 times the fish's weight in untreated lake water. So although I believe that eating meat is a natural human habit, it is now wise to limit or avoid.

Another reason I'm unattracted to meat is that most of it is from enslaved, domesticated animals. Their bodies are neither happy nor vibrant. They're pumped full of antibiotics and hormones to fight the illnesses that their squalid living conditions cause. Their bodies simply aren't healthy.

If you do eat animals, eat wild, free-range, drug-free, or "organic" meat from animals in less polluted environments. Although the ocean is becoming increasingly more polluted, deep-ocean fish are relatively safe.

E) Eat a balanced diet

Use common sense and body wisdom to develop a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, fats/oils, and minerals. Proteins are the molecules that body cells are made of - the actual "building blocks" of DNA. They have to be available for new cells to be created. Carbohydrates and complex sugars are sunlight in "solid" form. The active energy of the sun is released for our use when we digest carbohydrates. Fats and oils are sunlight stored in a non-water soluble form so that the flow of water through the organism won't "wash" them away. When you eat more than you need, the body stores the food value in the form of fat or oil. Minerals are essentially tiny particles of rocks! The body requires minerals for various purposes, such as cell re-building and other organic functions.

Eating whole foods is simple and effective because they are entire plant and animal bodies - full of a variety of useful nutrients. Eat a broad spectrum of whole foods and your body is immersed in a complete offering of items - all for its selection and use. On the other hand, if you eat refined and/or enriched food, you only get what the producers decide to leave in, add, or take out. Products made with white flour, for example (bread, donuts, pastries, etc.), have most of the whole wheat grain removed. If you eat these refined products, your body will be deprived.

So how do we learn to eat a balanced combination of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and oils? Check out solid and sensible whole foods or vegetarian cookery. Talk to other people who eat this way. Swap recipes. Join a food club or co-op. Pay attention to how your body feels as you try out different foods. Read the books listed at the end of the article, and keep searching until you find a way that fits.

If you switch to a totally vegetarian diet, without eggs and dairy, you have to be careful about complete protein. To build the DNA strand in a cell, all the necessary proteins have to be present. Animal flesh, being entire body cells with DNA strands, has all of these elements. That is why it's called a complete protein. Grain, beans, seeds, and nuts all have proteins, but in different combinations. To receive complete protein from these sources, you have to eat enough of each type, daily, to give your body the entire protein spectrum. Grains and beans are a classic complete vegetable protein combination. It was no accident that Native Americans ate corn (grain) and beans. With the addition of seeds and nuts, a vegetarian diet can be healthy and safe.

F) Avoid refined sugars

Sugars are simple carbohydrates and are very quickly transformed by digestion into glucose. Glucose moves rapidly through the bloodstream and is transformed into energy for cellular activity. The body gets a "quick hit" that immediately fades. Grains, which are complex carbohydrates, take longer to assimilate, resulting in a steadier supply of glucose over a longer period of time. It's a more balanced way to feed your body, and it avoids the "sugar high" and resulting hypoglycemia. If you do eat sugars, choose the unrefined ones - unpasteurized honey or maple syrup - and use sparingly.

G) Buy or grow your own organic food

"Organic" ideally means grown without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers in soil that is organically nutrient-rich. A vegetable is the Earth. The soil is "woven," with the aid of water and sunlight, into a new shape - a plant. It is only as good as the dirt it is made of. To eat non-organic vegetables is to eat chemicals.

It's not easy to find good organic produce, and it is usually more expensive. When making your decision, be sure to compare the cost of buying organic against the cost of future illness.

H) Use vitamins carefully

Due to the depletion of topsoil nutrients by the aggressive tactics of agribusiness, we are in danger of becoming vitamin and mineral starved. Some experts believe that vitamin supplements are a modern necessity, but I personally don't want to be dependent on a shelf full of pill bottles made by supplement corporations. There are times when it is advisable to take supplements as part of a nutritional therapy program, but I believe that eating a balanced diet of organic produce is sufficient once optimum health is reached.

I sometimes use a reliable multivitamin and vitamin C when I feel run down, or start to get a cold. More information on basic vitamins and Vitamin C is readily available.

I) Use cold-pressed oils

Oils are a complex topic. Oils and fats that go solid at room temperature (butter, lard, shortening) are often hard to digest, and being animal fats, carry substantial toxins. If, for baking etc., you need something of this sort, use organic butter from free-range cows. Clear oils like olive oil, sunflower, and safflower oils are unsaturated and easier to digest. If you buy olive oil, buy "extra-virgin," which is the first cold pressing. Heat extraction results in a loss of nutrients and a change in chemical composition that renders many oils indigestible and toxic.

J) Eat only natural organic peanut butter

This may seem overly specific, but peanut butter is a very popular item amongst health-conscious people. Peanuts are part of the peanut plant's root system, and act as effective filters. If they are grown in chemically treated soil with pesticides and fungicides, the peanuts soak up highly magnified amounts of toxins.

K) Water

Most of us drink a great deal of liquid (soft drinks, tea, coffee, and milk) but not enough water. Increase your intake of water to about 6-8 glasses a day (about 6 small plastic bottles). Increased water intake can curb appetite and help balance weight. It also aids in everything cells do to restore and maintain health.

Drink room temperature water. Drinking hotter or colder liquid causes your body to lose energy in balancing the temperature change.

Avoid carbonated drinks. Our bodies do not need extra carbon dioxide.

Make sure you're drinking the purest possible water. Unfortunately, all water on Earth is now contaminated with some level of chemicals or toxins. City tap water is usually unsafe. The chlorine kills bacteria, but is a toxic chemical itself, and does not remove organic chemicals like PCBs and pesticides (pure poisons).

From my research, I have found that most serious bottled-water companies have a relatively safe product. Be cautious about distilled water. In the distilling process, some volatile chemicals evaporate and re-condense in more concentrated forms in the distilled water. Reverse osmosis, in a good working system, is very thorough, but like distilling, leaves no minerals.

Even if you have an artesian well, it could be contaminated. Make sure you test, not only for bacteria count, but for some of the most dangerous chemicals and heavy metals.


Suggested Reading

My own eating habits are based on careful selection from a wide range of dietary information coupled with years of trial and error. Although there may be some conflicting information in the following books, I find that they tend to be fairly balanced and not attached to any narrow "fad" diet program.

Eating Well For Optimum Health: The Essential guide to Food, Diet, and Nutrition
Andrew Weil, M.D.
2000, Knopf Books, NY

Prescription for Nutritional Healing: Second Edition
James F Balch, M.D., Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.
1997, Avery Publishing, NY

Prescription for Dietary Wellness
James F Balch, M.D., Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C.
1998, Avery Publishing, NY

* * *

Homework That Heals - Introduction
Homework That Heals - Journaling
Homework That Heals - Meditation
Homework That Heals - Reading
Homework That Heals - Movement
Homework That Heals - Diet Adjustment
Homework That Heals - Expression
Homework That Heals - Rest

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