It seems there is no end to the stream of different diets out there. Whether it is for losing weight or just being healthier I feel like every day someone is telling me all about a new dietary regimen. I've spent probably at least the last five years studying different diets.
When I first started my adventure into nutrition, I was trying to find the perfect diet. One that was the best for everybody. My naturopathic training led me to the Blood Type Diet. The blood type diet is based on the idea that certain foods contain lectins that react with the blood type antigens found on the surface of our cells. The result is similar to what happens when two conflicting blood types are mixed. The cells agglutinate (stick together) and many biological processes are inhibited. So the blood type diet allows only those foods that are "right for your type".
My fourth year research paper was based on the blood type diet. Because my husband is a type AB and I'm a type A, I wanted to create a personalized cookbook that only included foods we could both eat. The book contained eighty recipes, twenty per season to be repeated for the three months within that season. I tried to make the ingredients include those vegetables that were in season too. It was a great experience and my husband and I followed it for a whole year. It did open my eyes to other issues involved in food though. Like organic vs. conventional and local vs. shipped. I started to wonder if the blood type diet was missing something. Wouldn't an egg that was conventionally raised have a different nutrient profile than a pasture raised egg? Just because my blood type says I can eat turkey, does that mean it is okay to eat factory farm turkey? What about how far some of this food has to travel? My search for the perfect diet continued.
I came across the Nutrient Dense concept through the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions. This fantastic book opened my eyes to the work of Dr. Weston A. Price and introduced me to the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people find healthy nourishing food. My husband and I attended a local conference and shortly thereafter I signed up to be a chapter leader. This was also where I first heard Dr. Campbell-McBride speak although it would take several more years before I studied the GAPS diet in depth.
The Weston A. Price Foundation was amazing. From them I learned that soy is not as good as I thought and Saturated Fat and un-pasteurized milk was not as bad as I'd been taught. I quickly incorporated their information into my own teaching through bi-weekly cooking classes and as a new instructor at my alma mater. I began to think that maybe nutrient dense-local-beyond organic food was the perfect diet. But the forums for the chapter leaders showed me otherwise. There were just some people that couldn't handle soaked grains or raw milk.
This is when I began to see it. The fact that most of those diets out there that are supposed to be THE diet for everyone are really just a band-aid. If I have a gluten-sensitivity I may feel better eating a gluten-free diet but that doesn't mean that I'm healthy. The perfect diet really is individual because it depends on the health of that individual's digestive tract. Maybe eating things not allowed on the blood type diet wouldn't matter so much if a person had a sound digestive system that didn't allow lectins through into the bloodstream. Maybe food combining, alkaline diets, and all the others wouldn't matter so much if we were actually a healthy population. But we're not. Not by a long shot.
To most the GAPS Nutritional protocol may seem like just another fad diet but it does have one thing that those other diets do not - an end. It's a two-year program designed to heal the digestive tract. And yes, it can be a hard diet to stick to but at least there is an end in sight. There is a point when you are no longer lactose intolerant, or gluten intolerant. A point where your life-threatening allergy to nuts is just gone. Avoiding those foods that contribute to your symptoms may make you feel better, at least temporarily. But it isn't healing anything. It's just covering up the symptoms.
For the past few months I have seen the GAPS nutritional protocol perform near miracles for my clients. Once the body has healed then I still feel the Nutrient Dense diet suggested by the Weston A. Price Foundation is the best way to go but I'm not there yet. There is a big difference from just feeling pretty good and actually radiating health inside and out. I want to get there, I want to get my clients there, and I'm pretty sure the GAPS diet is the one that will make it happen.
To your health,
It is the key to any successful practice. As a Naturopathic Doctor I want to see that the remedies that I have suggested are having some positive effect on my client's health. This month I have been feeling very fortunate with all of the reports of progress from my various clients.
There was the underweight child who couldn't keep any food down who has now gained 2 pounds and an inch in growth. Or the man with the broken hand who used Birch essential oil and Symphytum homeopathic only to later astound his medical doctor when he couldn't find the fracture in a follow-up x-ray. These are the kinds of stories that keep me going and give me hope on those slow days when appointments cancel or clients don't come back.
Tolle Causam - It means find the cause. It is one of the main tenets of of naturopathy. If you find the cause and address it the body will heal itself with minimal effort. So if you have ADD you may know that your nervous system is out of balance. But why? Is it a nutritional deficiency caused by a lack in the diet? Or maybe the nutrient is in the diet but not being absorbed by the digestive tract due to gut bacteria being out of balance. Or is it a toxin irritating the nerves? Is it mercury? Is it Candida? Is it food dyes? You can see how complicated it can get but once you find the cause and address it the body starts to respond. A little sore throat, a persistent headache, a runny nose, digestive discomfort - these are all ways that the body cleanses itself and if we can get the body to do small cleanses on a regular basis then we can avoid the bigger, more intense cleanses.
So be kind to your body this holiday season. Remember that your body has an amazing ability to adapt and compensate for whatever we throw at it. And one of the ways it adjusts is by periodically cleansing itself. It may be inconvenient for us but it is exactly what our body needs to do. It is only when we ignore our body's small warnings for a long time that it knocks us down and out with the flu, a cold or chronic condition.
Here's to regular and efficient methods of cleansing. Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.