I am very pleased to have as a guest today Kathryne Pirtle, a professional musician who struggled for years with debilitating health issues. She suffered conditions experienced by millions and millions of people – celiac disease, acid reflux, and chronic inflammation just to name a few. I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Kathy for allowing me to share her story here, and my hope is that it will provide a positive impact on those who have been suffering with similar types of issues in their lives.
We are discovering that more and more people have either grain intolerance or celiac disease. The signs and symptoms can be mild to severe, and sometimes an individual may not even know he or she has a problem because we have grown so accustomed to accepting health issues as “normal” – gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, inability to focus, headaches, anxiety, depression, dry skin, and many others.
This is a sure sign of trouble in our food supply. The bigger food corporations get, the worse this problem becomes. The focus is on profit and feeding more and more people, and in this process quality and nutrition have been compromised and lost. The emphasis on sustainable and local foods must be made a priority or these problems will only continue to mount in the future.
Kathy is a world-class clarinetist whose career nearly ended because of performance difficulties caused by celiac disease, acid reflux, chronic inflammation and other health problems. Performance without Pain, written with Sally Fallon, President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and John Turner, DC tells the story of her trials and recovery. As a health educator, she has given more than 50 workshops around the country with Dr. John Turner and appeared on numerous radio and television shows. She has been published in the International Musician, International Clarinet, Advance Magazine (a publication for Physical Therapy) and Wise Traditions and writes a blog on her website www.performancewithoutpain.com about issues relating to building health with nutrient-dense foods. She has also just published an e-book called Acid Reflux, A National Epidemic and Precursor to Chronic Illness – Achieving Lasting Healing with Nutrient-Dense Foods.
Pirtle is executive director of the Orion Ensemble, which gives three concert series in Metropolitan Chicago, presents a live internationally broadcast series on Chicago’s WFMT-FM Fine Arts Radio Network, and tours throughout North America. She is also is principal clarinetist of the Lake Forest Symphony and frequently performs with the Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra, the Grant Park Music Festival, The Ravinia Festival Orchestra, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Nutrient-Dense, Traditional Foods – The Keys that Unlock the Path to Healing and Building Optimal Health
Diet has been extremely important to me because I am a professional clarinetist with a national career. I play with the Orion Ensemble which tours throughout North America, am playing principal clarinet with the Lake Forest Symphony, and frequently perform with the Lyric Opera Orchestra, Grant Park Symphony and the Ravinia Festival Orchestra. In addition, I have taught for over 30 years and have served on the faculties of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music, Northern Illinois University, Indiana University, and Bradley University. For me, being a professional musician is like being in the Olympics and requires a very high level of health.
However, in the fall of 2001, at age 45, I became chronically ill for two years, suffering first from a severe inflammatory condition in my spine, which caused debilitating pain in my arms, shoulders, hands and fingers making it difficult to play. I then developed chronic diarrhea and my embouchure (the facial muscles I use to play my instrument) also began to shake uncontrollably. This was ultimately diagnosed as coming from a long-term digestive problem, intestinal damage and malabsorption as a result of following common nutritional dictates and Celiac disease—an intolerance to gluten grains.
Of great significance, despite the fact that I was chronically ill for two years, is that I had experienced ongoing musculo-skeletal inflammation, often of a severe nature, since my 20s and relieved it through physical therapy-type approaches common to the field of music – you name it; I became an expert at it! In my late twenties and throughout my thirties, I was constantly “chasing” pain and stiffness from practicing and performing. When I would solve the discomfort in one area, another area would become irritated. It may surprise you that I was very conscious of eating a healthy diet and closely followed popular guidelines for healthy eating – that is high fiber/low fat. My diet consisted of lots of salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, a little meat, eggs and dairy, very little sugar and no butter – only vegetable oils.
Along with inflammatory conditions, I also had ongoing digestive illness symptoms starting in my childhood. Beginning in my youth I had ongoing flatulence, which is a sign of poor digestion and intestinal bacterial flora imbalances. When I was 42, I began to experience acid reflux disease. A very distracting problem for a wind player, I felt a constant pressure in my throat and the sensation of wanting to burp. Of course, when I did burp, acid would be released into my esophagus. This was very frightening and I sought answers to this problem. At this point, my solution was to stop eating wheat, which was quite helpful for the time being. However, several years later, I developed a spinal inflammation followed by a severe digestive disorder—life-threatening chronic diarrhea and mal-absorption. Obviously, cutting out wheat was not the full answer to acid reflux, as my digestive disorder, unknowingly to me, continued to develop.
Upon discovering my gluten intolerance, I strictly followed a gluten-free diet. In fact, after my diagnoses, I ate only meat, eggs, vegetables and salad, fruit and olive oil—I ate no sugar or grains. My pain disappeared within a month, but six months later, my illness worsened and I suffered from chronic diarrhea. I thought would not survive.
In order to not only save my career, but also save my life, I needed accurate information. This complicated puzzle was solved through a radical change in my diet based on studying the work of Dr. Weston Price that reversed my acid reflux and intestinal damage, and provided my body with the nutritional elements necessary for building health. I am now recovered and vibrantly healthy! For the first time in 25 years, even with a full performing, practicing and teaching schedule, I have had no pain or inflammation in my body for over seven years. My embouchure is completely strong and I have excellent stamina and muscle strength.
The Work of Dr. Weston A. Price
Dr. Price was a prominent dentist in the 1930s who was baffled by the large percentage of degenerative illness in his patients – chronic ailments of all sorts such as arthritis, inflammatory conditions and digestive complaints, fertility problems, cavities, crooked and crowded teeth and behavior and learning problems in children. He sought answers to these problems by traveling worldwide to see if there were cultures free of these types of conditions. He found 14 vibrantly healthy isolated cultures that had no signs of degenerative illness and had eaten the same foods for centuries from generation to generation. Although their diets were completely different, he analyzed their foods and found common characteristics that determined their diet’s ability to promote optimal health and genetic potential in humans. He was able to cure chronic illness in his own patients through his findings. He wrote an incredible book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. Through his unprecedented work and the development of the Weston A. Price Foundation, (www.westonaprice.org.) there is a growing movement of people who are finding answers to healing chronic conditions and serious illness through traditional foods.
In his comparative analysis of the different diets of healthy populations worldwide, Dr. Price found key principles to be absolutely essential to optimal human health. The surprising traditional practices involve high-fat nutrition and nutrient-dense products from pastured animals and wild-caught fish and seafood. A nutrient-dense diet is a diet consisting of foods that contain the maximum nutrients per mass along with all the elements necessary for good digestion and optimal health. Foods that contain these attributes include:
- Nutrient-dense, high-vitamin A and D foods, such as cod liver oil, liver and organ meats, and egg yolks – essential for nutrient absorption, gut health and brain function, immune function, calcium absorption, proper development of children and the perfect expression of the genetic code. Price found that healthy populations had 10x the amount of Vitamin A and D from natural sources in their diets. Without adequate vitamin A and D in the diet, a person will not absorb the nutrients in the foods they eat no matter how good the diet. The best cod-liver oil is made the old-fashioned way – fermented – not available in the store (see www.greenpasture.org. Store-bought cod-liver oil has the natural vitamin A and D taken out of it.)
- Vitamin K2 foods- Vitamin K2 was discovered by Dr. Price and was labeled as “activator X.” With vitamin A and D as the bricks, vitamin K2 acts as the mortar in the body to put calcium in the right places – like the bones and teeth and not the arteries. Vitamin K2 comes from the fats of animals on pasture. Because of factory farming, most people suffer from a vitamin K2 deficiency and have problems with calcium absorption.
- High quality traditional fats such as raw butter, coconut oil, palm oil and lard. Critical for digestion and nutrient absorption, brain function, hormone regulation, immune function, cell integrity and calcium absorption.
- Bone-broth soups made from chicken, beef, or fish, simmered up to 36 hours that heal the intestinal tract and provide essential nutrients in an easy-to-assimilate form, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other amino acids. Secondly, they provide important bone and tendon-healing components. They say “Good broth raises the dead!”
- Easy-to-digest, high-enzyme, traditionally cultured foods to help develop a healthy intestinal flora, such as homemade sauerkraut, pickled beets, and raw milk kefir and yogurt from grass-fed cows. A diet high in enzymes from cultured and fermented foods will aid in digestion and healing. By eating these foods, the pancreatic enzymes for the repair and maintenance of the body will be spared.
- High quality proteins – meats, raw dairy, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood—from animals eating their natural diets.
By focusing on eating ample nutrient-dense, traditional foods that support good digestion, such as easy-to-digest raw milk from grass-fed cows cultured into kefir or yogurt, traditional lacto-fermented vegetables, egg yolks, meats and poultry from pastured animals, liver and organ meats, wild-caught fish – especially salmon and seafood, bone-broth soups daily, cod liver oil, and ample traditional fats, the body and mind will have the nutritional elements available to heal the digestive tract, correct malnourishment, and improve both physical and mental health.
As digestion improves heals and improves with these foods, so will your health. In fact Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” If your gut health is poor, you will not be able to absorb the nutrients from your food and detoxify toxins properly, and you will eventually suffer from malnourishment. Malnourishment leads to illness and disease. This is also what Dr. Price said -“All disease comes from malnourishment.”
According to Price’s work, the exponential rise in so many diseases of our population is coming in part by our depleted food supply. Along with the toxic burden of mercury from vaccines, amalgams and our environment, other heavy metals along and chemical toxins, our population is experiencing an increasing risk of disease.
Here are just some of the most common illnesses that we are seeing that may be linked to issues of poor digestion, malnourishment and environmental toxins:
- Acid reflux
- Irritable bowel
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Ear infections
- Bi-polar disorder
- Arthritis/ Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Heart disease
- Skin problems
- Poor dental health
- OCD disorders
- Developmental delay
We also have many modern food trends that are greatly impacting our food supply and health as well. These are just a few:
- Factory farming – has produced low quality, nutrient-poor food and soil. Profit is the only important guiding principle of this system.
- Substituting vegetable fats for traditional fats/ low cholesterol diets – causes problems in nutrient-absorption, digestion, hormonal balances, cell-membrane integrity and brain function
- Increased soy consumption – soy is difficult to digest and causes severe problems with hormone balances and digestion. Has been promoted by the soy industry.
- Vegetarian diets – unfortunately, to his surprise, Price found no cultures with vegetarian diets to have optimal health. Vegetarian diets are missing vital components necessary to human health – namely adequate vitamin A and D – only available from nutrient-dense animal foods. Vegetarian foods are much lower in nutrients than the nutrient-dense foods Price found necessary to optimal human health.
- Pasteurization – today we pasteurize foods that historically were among those that helped to support good digestion and health. Without these probiotic foods – cultured dairy, lacto-fermented vegetables and drinks – our digestive tract lacks the probiotic bacterial flora necessary for digestive health.
- Over-processing of foods -takes out the nutrients and makes them difficult-to-digest.
- Refrigeration – before refrigeration, we preserved foods through lacto-fermentation. These foods provided our intestinal tract with the proper flora necessary for good digestion.
These trends are just a sample of the changes in our food supply and health dictates. Many of these trends are based on “Profit at ALL costs.” However, we can no longer continue to place profit as the first priority of decision-making when it comes to our food supply. With new hospitals appearing every day dedicated to severe illnesses in our children – the wake-up call is right before our eyes. Folks – this is not normal – and we have just seen the beginning. Do we wait until things get worse to improve our food supply? What would “worse” look like? Would it mean that most children would not have a chance to live a healthy life and die well before their time? I suspect, if things do not drastically change that this is what we will face. Please become an advocate for real food. Purchase real food whenever possible. We can change our food supply if we vote with our pocketbooks. The time is now!
My story – why I made a lifestyle switch to traditional foods – Raine’s personal account of a return to health
Would you like more information on The Weston A. Price Foundation? Visit their web site and learn how you can change your eating habits and experience vibrant health!