Over the years, I’ve had discussions and debates with people who just don’t buy the “natural” approach or the idea that nutrition and food are our best weapons against disease.
There are many people I know who really, truly trust their doctors and the tenets of conventional medicine and science to give them medication, perform a procedure, or recommend surgery to solve their health problems. Some of them say they believe nutrition is important, but it seems to take a back seat to the foundations of modern medicine. In my opinion, this is a more reactionary approach to health.
I’m always puzzled, too, as to why people will vehemently defend industries and companies who sell food and products containing toxic ingredients that are making us sick. Just look at the numbers of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other degenerative disease conditions.
Something we are doing is causing it.
As a culture we have been producing, selling, and consuming products like this for a long enough time that a change in paradigm about how those things are produced and consumed cannot happen overnight. It takes time. But it will happen.
I certainly don’t want to try to tell someone else that their decision is wrong or that somehow they are less intelligent for making those choices. In fact, that’s not my intent at all. I simply want to present an alternative that will give people something to think about and become motivated to make their own choices and do their own research.
A change is occurring in the way we think about food
I’ve also noticed a growing number of individuals who are tired of not seeing results and are starting to realize that there really might be something to this whole natural way of living and embracing food as a way to improve health. This is not only encouraging, but exciting. A lot of people I talk to say they are also encouraged, and that they believe this philosophy is catching on. There are testimonies from numerous people who have given up processed foods and switched to traditional foods who are experiencing a major shift in their health conditions.
As a society, we’ve followed advice for some decades that has dismissed ancient wisdom and knowledge that people have used successfully for thousands and thousands of years to maintain and preserve health. Now we are starting to see the error of our ways and understand that if we don’t do something different soon, the future (whatever it might be) could be bleak if we aren’t mindful of our living habits – especially for those who come after us like our children and grand children.
I’d like to help people understand that although the way of preparing food traditionally may be a new idea to them, it is certainly not a new concept to the world. People have grown, prepared, and eaten food traditionally for thousands and thousands of years and it has been the foundation for nourishing the human race. Don’t forget that in the larger scheme, processing and industrialization has only come about in the last 160 or so years. Compared to the span of time where humans have cultivated and grown traditionally-prepared foods, these methods have only been around for a speck of that time.
My experience with conventional health medicine
One thing has remained consistent in my health and doctoring experiences: only in rare instance did I truly benefit from treatment or advice from medical doctors or conventional medicine. On a few occasions those individuals made incidental suggestions about eating a better diet, but there was never any conversation had about what that meant other than watch your cholesterol and eat low-fat foods. At least half of the time I saw a doctor, I’d leave the office with a prescription for some type of medication or drug.
I never took the prescription – like each time I’d go for the panic attacks and racing heart problems I used to have, my doctor would invariably write out a prescription for Xanax or Lexapro (anti-anxiety and anti-depressants). I knew I had a fair amount of anxiety, but I really wasn’t depressed, not that depressed anyway. And taking those medications without really knowing why I was having those reactions or what was causing it really bothered me.
After all the medical diagnoses and “scientific evidence” that my condition was caused by “anxiety” and “depression” and that nothing else was wrong, I was able to resolve over 95 percent of my symptoms simply by changing the food I ate and removing toxins from my environment. How can a person have dozens of symptoms and feel incredibly sick when “nothing is wrong”? I wondered that for many years and puzzled as to why everyone thought it was all in my head.
What eating right and complimentary medicine have done for me
In sharp contrast to my experience with Western Medicine, I have seen marked improvements in my health since I changed my diet and started using natural treatments (including colon hydrotherapy, acupuncture, naturopathy, chiropractic care, and nutritional therapy) for various health issues. If you are interested in learning about my personal health journey from sickness and back to health, read My Story – Why I Made a Lifestyle Switch to Traditional Foods.
Here are my basic criteria for deciding whether something is safe to use or good for me to eat – if it’s got ingredients in it I can’t pronounce or don’t recognize, I’m not eating it or putting it on my body. It’s the old wise and true statement: “if your grandmother doesn’t know what it is, it’s probably not good for you!”
Here’s my more recent story about how the GAPS protocol by Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride eliminated some serious health issues I’ve had for over 20 years, including recurring panic and anxiety symptoms, and insomnia.
Scientific studies, observation, and data
As a culture that is not satisfied with experiential and observational evidence, we are stuck on “scientific data” and what doctors and scientists tell us and tend to not believe anything else about health or medicine. We have become mistrustful of complimentary and alternative treatments and philosophies – which have been used for thousands and thousands of years. Part of the reason we’ve been suspicious of alternative modalities is because the mainstream medical community has convinced us in large that these methods are unreliable and that they don’t bring results. In our fast-paced society where everything is hinged on convenience and quick-turnarounds, we’ve started to want a quick fix that removes symptoms, but doesn’t get to the root of the problem and solve what’s really going on.
I believe this notion of real scientific data can be quite subjective depending on who you ask. I can read all kinds of scientific data, but what makes the biggest impact on me is observational and empirical data. That speaks volumes about what’s going on.
If someone recommends taking medication to fix X, and you don’t take his or her advice because you wonder if something else is going on…and later you find out that by removing something from your diet was the cause, and that wasn’t even mentioned in the first place, that says something. By the way, that’s what’s known as cause-and-effect, which is an accepted and well-known scientific method of determining truth.
To me, it’s all about what’s best for my body. In other words, what is the way nature intended for my body to exist – is it with medications or drugs, or living as healthy and naturally as possible by eating good, nutritious foods? Some might argue that there are many things in nature that are natural, but are not good for us to use or ingest. My basic belief is that if you have to add something to your body or diet to make yourself healthier that’s synthetic, engineered, or artificially created in some way, it’s probably not good for you (there may be a few exceptions).
Our reliance upon mediations
If a practitioner recommends you take a drug or add something synthetic to your body – what is the reason? Is it because you will become more sick or die without it? Do our bodies have a “deficiency” in medication? Or, is there something you can do to treat yourself that might work as well or better that is natural? If you are being told to take heart medication because you have artery blockage, what is the reason your arteries became clogged in the first place? There could be many reasons, but I guarantee that eating the wrong foods plays a big role in the stiffening of your blood vessels and the decline of health. Real foods and real fats won’t block your arteries; instead, they will support good overall and cardiovascular health and function.
There is no way anyone is going to convince me that a medication is going to make my body healthier. Medications are synthetic, unnatural substances that have been formulated in a lab, and at the very minimal can cause liver damage – without even mentioning the known side-effects of all medications. Your liver is the organ that has to process the medication. It’s a powerful filter, but it can become bogged down and congested by artificial substances being put into it repeatedly.
Over time, processing synthetic substances affects your health adversely because the liver has one of the biggest jobs in the body – to process all the food and drink you consume, and everything you absorb through your skin as well. When the liver becomes toxic and unable to filter out toxins coming in through your digestive tract and skin, your health suffers due to a toxic load that has accumulated in your cells and tissues. There are more chemicals in the environment now than ever, and more are being added at an alarming rate. Our bodies can only take so much of this before problems occur. We can’t control many things in our environment such as what’s in the air, soil, water, or what our neighbors are doing around us. If you are watching your diet, you are at least giving your body that much of a head start.
Read this post about the toxic load in your body and how it affects your health.
There may be some point in my life where I need medication, and thank God it is available for when I might need it. But if I have an opportunity and knowledge of something else that might work instead of drugs or surgery, I’m going to try that alternative first. When and if those have failed and I’m not getting results, I’ll consider modern medical intervention. In addition to environmental problems and food supply toxins, I believe it’s the reliance upon drugs and surgery to solve our problems without considering basic things like nutrition and lifestyle first that have crippled us. It’s hindered our ability to overcome chronic health problems to such an extent that illnesses either don’t respond or simply have to be managed by drugs indefinitely to allow us to continue living – and with compromised quality of life.
Does science have our best interests at heart?
I know there are good, well-meaning scientists out there. The trouble is, most good, well-meaning scientists have to make a living, and to strike out on your own and go against common mainstream ideologies usually doesn’t pay well. Beyond that, many doctors or scientists who try to bring up a theory or finding that doesn’t fall in line with what is commonly accepted almost always receive harsh criticism and are shot down – some individuals have had even worse happen, such as their public credibility threatened, or even the well-being of their families and lives.
How can an individual who comes up with a new theory or research that goes against mainstream beliefs effectively counter themselves against big industries and businesses who can shut them down in the blink of an eye? It’s very difficult to do. It’s much easier for a big industry to bring down an individual who presents a discovery that could possibly affect the sales of a product or service the big industry is trying to make money from than the other way around.
When I read studies or “scientific data”, I always ask, “who’s to profit? Who’s funding the research?” Because if it’s a big company or conglomerate, you can bet I’m going to ask whether they have a profit to be made (and how large) and what ties they might have to other organizations or companies. And you know what? In many cases, I have been right. I do the research about the company, and it turns out that the company has something pretty tremendous to gain by selling a product or service that is not necessarily healthy or good for people to use. So research is really important.
If the source is from an individual or a smaller organization, again I ask the important question “what’s to gain from their efforts?” It could still be suspect, but an individual or a smaller organization or agency is simply not going to benefit as much monetarily by an effort because they lack the funding to get their idea or product out there to the public in ways that bigger companies with a lot of capital would.
When a claim is made that some natural remedy or food can cure something, it’s always important to find out the background, motive, and methods used to determine these assertions. Everyone should be entitled to make a living, but that living should be honest and not have the potential to cause illness or death from the effort of which they are engaged. How many natural cures, dietary supplements, or real food can be proven without a doubt and reliably documented to cause sickness or death? If someone says there are any, I’d challenge that individual to prove their claim with sound evidence. Can we honestly say that about products from over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications?
Although not ALL individuals who are selling something or have done research fall into this category, there are people who learn something valuable enough that they want to share with others because they may have had a startling experience about something that goes against what common knowledge teaches. This occurrence has perhaps been so important and useful, the individual wants others to benefit from his or her experience. Many of these individuals are making money from their discovery, yes, but are they getting rich? Probably not.
The synthesis of science and nature
I believe with careful attention to sustainable methods, we can use science and nature together to produce a healthy outcome for everyone. Advances in technology can be beneficial to humankind, and are not necessarily negative. I believe it’s extremely important to be able to differentiate between, “doing something because we CAN do it” versus, “doing something we can do where the outcome is good for us”. These are difficult questions to ask that usually don’t have easy answers but they must be asked if we are to get to the bottom of what exactly would be the outcome of something being sold to consumers – whether it be food, drugs, books, literature, medical services, procedures, and other products on the market.
To believe scientific data…or not – and where I believe science and conventional medicine fall short
“Scientific data” is something to be careful with because it is always subject to change. Here are just a few health issues I’ve changed my mind about over the years due to a preponderance of evidence suggesting mainstream ideologies weren’t getting it right:
Mammograms My experience with fibrocystic breast disorder and two mammograms has caused me to think twice about how conventional medicine treats cancer and degenerative disease. I’ve realized that this disease is most certainly affected by lifestyle and diet. For years, medical professionals have advised women to obtain annual mammograms that women beginning at age 40. Now, doctors have revised their recommendations to women over 50 should get them instead. The concern is due to over-exposure to radiation. And I’m wondering why this was apparently acceptable before and not now.
Most medical professionals understand that radiation is cumulative, meaning that each time you are exposed it increases your risk of developing a fatal disease like cancer – which is what you are being checked for in the first place (ironically). According to Radiation Information Network (from Idaho State University):
“The average person in the United States receives about 360 mrem every year whole body equivalent dose. This is mostly from natural sources of radiation, such as radon. In 1992, the average dose received by nuclear power workers in the United States was 300 mrem whole body equivalent in addition to their background dose.”
In modern life, we are exposed to more radiation daily than people were just over a hundred years ago. We receive radiation exposure from cell phone towers, televisions, computers, microwave ovens, power lines, wireless Internet facilities, clock radios, and a variety of other electronic devices and home appliances.
It just makes good sense to me to avoid more procedures that expose me to radiation with our levels being what they are in modern life. If I get cancer, I’m not going the conventional route anyway. I’d rather eat healthy and give my body what it needs to fight off whatever is making me sick, detoxify myself, and avoid costly procedures like mammograms, CT scans, and x-rays using radiation for diagnosis.
And, now there is an exciting FDA approved technology that has been used in Europe for many years that can diagnose malignant changes in the body years before mammograms (which can deliver false-positive and false-negative results). It’s called Thermography. In most places, you can get a breast thermogram for about $100. That’s a great deal when you consider the cost to your pocketbook and health from obtaining a mammogram or other procedure (neither of my mammograms were covered by my insurance and they cost over $1000).
Fluoride for reducing cavities Another example is fluoride added to the water supply for purposes of reducing cavities. Unlike the United States, the majority of European countries have rejected fluoridated water as a means to combat tooth decay. This is because there has been a consensus that delivering medication via the water supply is not an appropriate way to administer a substance such as fluoride.
In the United States this has been an accepted practice for many years. And yet according to the World Health Organization, there have been similar decreases in tooth decay in virtually every other western country – the majority of which don’t add fluoride to their water supply. Many reports have been released detailing the toxicology of fluoride from over-exposure to this element due to its presence in the water. Yet, the American Dental Association persists in recommending its use for one of the primary methods of preventing cavities.
In the state of Utah where only 2.8% of municipal water supplies have fluoride added, residents show the lowest rates of teeth decay and gum disease in the nation. Utah scores as one of the highest in state health rankings by United Health Foundation and are among the least likely to develop cardiovascular disease – a measure of obesity, hypertension and sedentary lifestyle. Utah also ranks as one of four states with the lowest rates of diabetes.
Reports from The Centers for Disease Control show that fluoridated water saves from $7 to $42 in dental care for every fluoridation dollar spent. For decades, virtually all Americans have consumed a fluoridated food and/or water supply. Despite the claim that fluoride reduces tooth decay, “dental spending outpaces economic growth, continuing a trend,” from the American Dental Association.
I’ve read a variety of reports stating that the most beneficial application of fluoride is not in adding it to the water, but in topical application (as in fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office). Now, I don’t necessarily agree that fluoride treatments are necessary, but the idea that a person can decide whether to do fluoride treatments at his or her dentist’s office seems much more reasonable to me than adding it to all municipal water supplies where people don’t have a choice. Just like the notion of mandatory vaccines, I believe that mandatory adding of fluoride to water doesn’t give people a choice – which they most certainly should have about a chemical or foreign substance going into their bodies. And both fluoride and vaccines fall into that category.
Allergies When people get allergies, they take allergy medication. But what’s really causing the allergies? The immune system becomes over stimulated when too many toxins and/or foreign substances are in the body. When you have an allergic flare-up, your body is saying, “I’ve had enough”. And even non-harmful substances will cause your immune system to react – like pollen, dust, and dander from pets. The immune system becomes super-sensitive to everything in the environment because it’s working overtime to remove internal toxins and foreign substances in the body that it doesn’t need.
Will taking a medication that stops your symptoms solve the problem? If a medication is effective in stopping your symptoms for 8 hours, and then after that time your symptoms return, the medication isn’t eliminating the cause of the symptoms. It’s really just causing them to go away for awhile.
Years ago my husband had allergies every day, 365 days a year. When we were in college, he kept going from prescription to over-the-counter medication and back to prescription. The medication worked sometimes. After nearly 10 years of taking medications, the efficacy of these substances became less and less potent. We talked about elimination of certain foods from our diet – one of them was dairy. For some time, my husband wasn’t willing to do this. Finally, he decided to make the change and his allergies almost completely subsided. Whenever he doesd have symptoms again, they are always very mild and short-lived.
In 2007 we started hearing about raw dairy. Since our son was diagnosed with a dairy intolerance and we knew that many people who couldn’t consume pasteurized dairy successfully consumed raw dairy with no problems, we knew it was worth a try. All three of us now drink raw milk and eat fermented dairy foods from the raw milk, and have never had any issues whatsoever. And yet, the doctors would have had my husband and probably my son on medication for the rest of their lives had we not made this change.
What health decisions should YOU make?
These are just some of the reasons why I tend to trust natural cures and remedies, and use real food for my overall health. We can agree to disagree if you are still not convinced. But I also would challenge you to think about how you treat your body and your health. Do you live reactively or proactively? Do you try to prevent problems before they start by eating real food and avoiding chemicals and toxins as much as possible? Or are you a person that doesn’t give these topics much thought and perhaps waits until there is a problem?
I’ve shared my experience, my determination, and reasons behind why I don’t go with common medical rhetoric the way I used to…and it’s by and large because I have achieved results I never got from the conventional approach. Some people may have a different experience though. But the bottom line is this – it’s up to you to take charge of your own health. Don’t take your doctor’s final word for something until you have tried other things and done your own research. The great thing about natural health care and eating real food is that so much of your health care choices become yours instead of someone else’s. It takes some motivation, research, and diligence, but it is well worth it to empower yourself to know your own body, trust nature, and give yourself the best health care you can.
What if you are on a budget?
Almost everyone I know is on a budget of some type or another. Many people have the impression that if they are on a budget, that means they can’t possibly eat healthy. Our family can’t afford to eat organic foods everyday, and there are many things we have to do without in order to eat as healthy as we can and to be able to afford certain healthy foods that are more of a priority than others. We have to prioritize and sacrifice, just like many other people. Don’t adopt the philosophy that if you can’t do it all, you can’t do anything. There are many things you can do. And many of them are easier than you think! Here’s some changes you can make right away that won’t cost more money and will make a big difference:
- If you are buying processed products like cereals, breads, pastas, etc. start buying cereals and grains in bulk. You can eat oatmeal and soak it overnight. Cook the next morning and serve with raisins, a bit of honey or maple syrup, fruit and/or whole milk yogurt.
- If you can’t buy organic, at least buy real, whole food counterparts of those same foods. By checking around you should be able to find local foods in your area that are cheaper than buying at your grocery store – direct from the source. Many foods are cheaper when purchased at the farm because transit and shipping costs are not charged.
- Avoid packaged and prepared organic foods (a few exceptions might be frozen fresh vegetables and fruits with no other ingredients). Many of those are no better for you than their conventional counterparts and can be just as processed as their conventional counterparts.
- Consider cutting back on your grain consumption. Grains cause many people health problems, and unless they are properly prepared through soaking, sprouting, and fermentation they will be a major culprit of degenerative disease.
- Stop buying low-fat meats, dairy, and other products. Buy full-fat products. They are healthier for you and in some cases are not nearly as processed as their low-fat counterparts.
- Don’t buy anything with more than a few ingredients – that pretty much means all processed foods – cereals, crackers, cookies, many breads, bottled beverages including soda pop, juices, teas, energy drinks, and others.
- Instead of buying vegetable oils like canola, peanut oil, cottonseed, soybean, sunflower, or safflower oils buy real olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, butter, tallow, and lard. These are healthy fats to eat and cook with. All of them have saturated fats (except olive oil which should be eaten raw) which remain stable at higher temperatures and contain a variety of important nutrients you need to be healthy. Read this post about the Importance of Dietary Fats.
- Consider removing artificial sweeteners (Splenda, saccharine, aspartame, corn syrup, agave nectar) and refined sugars from your house. Not only are they expensive but they damage your health tremendously. Instead use real maple syrup, palm or maple sugar, sucanat, Stevia, and real honey. Consider also cutting down on the use of sweeteners to occasional if you use them daily – this will be healthier and conserve money spent on sweeteners.
- Make foods from scratch – not only will you save money but you will be able to control the ingredients used and make sure they are healthier. When you make foods at home, you can also make extra and freeze it for later to reheat on the stove or the oven. If you are not used to cooking and need some inspiration, here are a variety of different recipes and ideas to get you started.
- Remember that transitioning takes time. Don’t give up if your family doesn’t take to new foods right away. It takes a lot of repetition to acclimate people to new foods. If you believe your family won’t eat something, then you will never try anything new. By removing unhealthy foods and replacing them with healthier choices, you are making changes not only to what you eat but to your family’s sense of taste and palette. The key is to eliminate the unhealthy foods from your home. Keep in mind that if those unhealthy choices are not around for people to eat, eventually they will come around to eating the healthier choices you provide and will not only enjoy them, them but expect to have those foods regularly.
- If you are interested in changing your diet to more sustainable foods, consider buying direct from your farmer and the farmer’s market. Ask the farmers questions about their growing practices and farming methods. They are important.
- The more you adhere to eating real, natural foods and avoiding processed ones and chemicals in your home and other environments, the healthier you really will be. That means less spending on drugs, medications, doctor visits, and other expensive medical intervention – much of which can be avoided. The bottom line is that living healthy on the front end will save you money on the back end.
What are your beliefs about health, food, and nutrition? Do you agree that natural health care is the best philosophy, or are you still faithful to conventional medical wisdom?