So you’ve transitioned away from processed foods and started eating healthier. That’s great!
You’re becoming more mindful of organic – maybe you’re buying more fruits and vegetables, and maybe even meat, poultry, and dairy products from sustainable sources.
Or, maybe you’ve made an effort to eliminate toxic vegetable oils and other artificial fats like margarine, shortening, or fake butter spreads.
You thought you were making some headway, but you’re not seeing as many improvements as you’d like. You’re still tired, have brain fog and inability to focus, or you’re short-tempered and have no patience. Maybe the weight is just not coming off like you wanted, or you are still having blood-sugar crashes and problems sleeping.
How could this be? Surely all the changes you’ve made should be making a difference and eliminating your health issues.
Don’t despair, there may simply be some very basic things you are missing. Here are some possible reasons why you may not be seeing the full benefits you’ve been hoping for:
1. You’re buying organic, but processed foods are still finding their way to your kitchen.
Just because the package says “organic” or “natural” doesn’t mean it’s not highly processed and full of non-food and toxic substances. If you are buying soups, salad dressings, marinades, sauces, macaroni and cheese, crackers, cookied, breads, chips, cereals, and other packaged carb foods, you aren’t doing your health any favors.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying foods at the store which are labeled “organic” but really might not be better for you because they are still high in sugar, contain foods that are subjected to high-heat or deodorization, contain modern, rancid oils like canola, soybean, or corn oil, There are other not-so-healthy ingredients in organic foods too such as various sweeteners like evaporated cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, brown rice syrup, oat, rice, and potato flours, “organic” and “natural” flavorings (which are just other names for MSG, by the way), “natural” colors and other ingredients that seem perfectly okay, but are highly processed and not natural at all.
Real foods made at home from scratch are what will help your body to heal and improve, but these highly processed foods, labeled organic or not, are just like conventional, processed foods and aren’t much better.
2. Maybe you are cheating more often than you should.
Okay, no one can be perfect all the time, and you’re doing much better than the past. You’ve started reading labels and being more mindful of organic and sustainable foods. But…maybe you are still eating out several times a week, or are still taking short cuts by buying processed foods, foods with pesticides/herbicides (commercially-grown produce, legumes, nuts, grains, etc.), or commercial meats/animal products that might have antibiotics/hormones? Eating healthy does cost more, but think of the cost savings you are doing for yourself buy eating better now for the future.
3. You’re skipping meals or not eating enough.
One of the biggest enemies of normal weight balance, normal blood sugar levels, consistent energy, and even moods is skipping meals or not eating enough. To keep your metabolism going strong, weight normal, and blood sugar even, regular meals are a must. Many degenerative diseases can be caused or made worse simply by not eating regular, nutritious meals such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other problems.
Try to make certain you eat at least three meals a day, and if you are battling adrenal fatigue, diabetes, weight issues, hormone, or blood sugar problems, you will probably need to eat more meals daily until those are ironed out…and with plenty of real, healthy fats.
4. Your digestive tract may need some assistance.
Like most people, you probably have some type of digestive issue. It’s also likely that at some point in your life you avoided real fats because mainstream health told you to do so. This has likely led to chronic digestive issues (and overall health issues too). Maybe you are now eating more full-fat foods than ever before, but are still experiencing digestive problems such as nausea or a feeling of indigestion, bloating, gas, abdominal discomfort, or diarrhea and constipation. But don’t give up! Real fats are critical to healing your body, so don’t make the mistake of returning back to low-fat and artificial fats.
If you are just starting to eat real fats again after many years of consuming modern, artificial fats or low-fat foods, it is beneficial to ease back into eating real fats again slowly to give you body a chance to adjust.
In general, I try to stay away from supplements. But some people need even more support because of failing health, and sometimes supplements are necessary. If after you have tried a healing protocol like GAPS and you find that you need something in addition to this, there are a few options available.
Good quality digestive enzymes can help. Our bodies need living enzymes to digest our food. When we’ve abused our bodies for years, enzyme production goes down significantly. Not any enzyme on the market will do. Many of these are expensive and the enzymes are not living. Taking dead enzymes will not only waste your money, but won’t heal your body.
I take Enzyme Formulations by Loomis Enzymes. Dr. Loomis, a chiropractor, was the original creator of enzyme for human beings. These are live digestive enzymes that everyone needs (and many are lacking in due to poor lifestyle and diet), and are accompanied by healing herbs. The blend of these two substances together combines a powerful healing action in the digestive tract and helps you to be able to absorb the nutrients in fats you eat while healing your gut at the same time.
To find out which enzymes are right for your body, it’s a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable practitioner who can test to find out what you need. The link provided above can tell you about practitioners in your area.
Another good choice is Swedish Bitters. Some people find that these are a great help to digesting fats, and that they only need to take them for a period of time until their digestion is healed. Read this helpful post from The Healthy Home Economist about Swedish Bitters.
Probiotics are really important too…that is, friendly bacteria. We have trillions upon trillions of cells in our bodies, and we need a good supply of beneficial bacteria to support the life of those cells. Most foods we eat are dead, and even those which are living are still probably lacking enough healthy flora for our guts and digestive systems. There is a lot of debate about probiotics, but from what I have researched, I understand that it is best to get as many of these little critters into your system as you can, EVERY DAY. That means eating fermented and cultured foods as often as possible, and a variety of them to create a diversity of bacteria. Home-made versions of these foods are superior to what you can buy in the store. And for some, that also means taking a therapeutic grade probiotic that will boost your numbers of good bacteria. Here are my picks:
5. You are still avoiding meat and animal products.
Meat, dairy products, and cheese have received a bad reputation for many years. The real culprits of disease and bad health are the commercial versions of these foods. Grass-fed meats & poultry, eggs from hens on pasture, and raw dairy foods from healthy cows provide critical fat-soluble vitamins not found elsewhere in our food supply. These are Vitamins A, D, E, and K2, also Omega 3s, a variety of minerals, and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid, an important antioxidant).
Fat-soluble activators A, D, and K2 allow the absorption of minerals into the body. Avoiding these foods will continue to lead to nutritional deficiencies over time, which will only get worse. So if you are still on the low-fat track, all bets are off that you’ll be able to overcome health challenges.
A diet that includes low-fat foods is not healthy. Those foods are still processed and don’t contain all the nutrients, enzymes, and co-factors you need to help you absorb and reap the benefits of what you are eating. So even if it’s organic, if it’s low-fat or reduced fat milk or cheese, or lean meat, all bets are off about it really giving you health benefits.
Dr. Weston A. Price discovered in his travels that all healthy populations he encountered consumed TEN TIMES the amount of fat-soluble vitamins than populations from developed countries. These groups of people enjoyed robust health and the presence of many modern diseases we are now very familiar with such as heart disease, obseity, cancer and diabetes were virtually unheard of. It was very common to see individuals living well into old age with no health problems, ease in conception and pregnancy, the ability to resist infectious and chronic disease and tooth decay, and children that were healthy without the chronic health issues we see today such as autism, ADD, obesity, frequent colds, ear aches, flus and other infections, tooth decay, and crooked teeth.
If you want to see big improvements in your health, increase your intake of healthy fats – butter, cream, sour cream, yogurt, kefir, lard, tallow, olive oil, coconut, palm oil, and fatty cuts of meat and poultry, bone broths, and organ meats from sustainable sources you trust.
Try buying meats and animal products from a local farmer that uses safe practices with raising their animals and birds. Here’s a helpful post about Questions to Ask Your Farmer.
Here is more information on the health benefits of real, grassfed meat: The Grassfed Meat Challenge: Busting Myths About Meat.
6. You are still eating grains (maybe even properly prepared), but your body is not doing well on them.
Many people in the real food community have advocated sprouting, soaking, and fermentation or souring as a way to prepare grains for consumption, as our ancestors did. Dr. Weston A. Price did find evidence of populations who consumed grains prepared this way.
Despite what has been written and postulated about eating grains properly prepared, there are reasons why even doing this may not render grains healthy to eat. There are various factors occurring in modern times which were not present during the time of Weston A. Price:
- Lectins, found in grains, are often linked to auto-immune disorders, which are prevalent and becoming more common in modern society.
- Ramiel Nagel, author of Cure Tooth Decay, has written extensively on the subject of how soaking and sprouting alone does not eliminate phytase sufficiently. Souring or fermenting the grain, as in making sourdough, is the best method for removing phytase.
- Since the inception of GMO foods, digestive and auto-immune disorders have began to skyrocket (1996). Digestive disorders such as Crohn’s Disease, Leaky Gut, various forms of colitis, chronic abdominal issues such as cramping and bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation. The poor state of the average person’s digestive health is reason enough alone to abandon grains for at least a period of time. When you eat foods and cannot digest them, it causes further damage to the intestinal and digestive tract. Grains contain phytic acid and will actually cause leaching of minerals in the body.
GMOs are produced with a pesticide originating inside the DNA of the plant (which is inserted into the seed in the lab). When insects eat this substance, it causes their internal organs to rupture. In the movie, Genetic Roulette, Jeffery Smith from the Institute for Responsible Technology talks about how these substances are causing irritation and are punching small holes in the intestinal linings of those consuming them (not just grains, but soy, corn, cottonseed oil, etc.). Monsanto and other seed companies who produce these crops have not yet officially approved GMO grains for the U.S. market. But they have test plots in varying locations around the country. Contamination of non-GMO grains is eminent and likely has already occurred. If you are eating wheat, even organic wheat and other related crops such as kamut or spelt, you have likely consumed contaminated grains.
Read this informative post by Mark Sisson at Mark’s Daily Apple which discusses misconceptions about grains and why they may not be as healthy for us as we are taught by mainstream health and nutrition experts: Top 8 Most Common Reactions to Your Grain-Free Diet (And How to Respond).
7. Your foods may be coming from a GMO source.
You may be buying farm-fresh eggs and locally-raised meats, but have you checked to see if your farmer is using GMO (genetically-modified substances) in the feed given to animals or birds?
Foods grown or fed with genetically-modified substances – commonly soy, corn, cottonseed, salmon, dairy foods, and some other foods can cause serious health issues for those consuming them – the animals, birds, and human beings too. Animals are experiencing higher rates of miscarriage and infertility than those who don’t, and human infertility rates have been on the increase dramatically over the last two decades. There are other issues as well:
- Food allergies – according to the Institute for Responsible Technology: “Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced. A human subject showed a skin prick allergic-type reaction to GM soy, but not to natural soy. The level of one known soy allergen is as much as 7-times higher in cooked GM soy compared to non-GM soy. GM soy also contains an unexpected allergen-type protein not found in natural soy”.
- Liver problems – according to the Institute for Responsible Technology: “Rats fed GM potatoes had smaller, partially atrophied livers. The livers of rats fed GM canola were 12-16% heavier. GM soy altered mouse liver cells in ways that suggest a toxic insult. The changes reversed after they switched to non-GM soy.”
For more ideas about how to avoid GMOs, read 4 Ways to Avoid GMOs in the Foods You Buy.
8. Other factors might be affecting you besides what you are eating or not eating.
What about a toxic environment in your home or place of business? Do you have a lot of chemicals or toxic substances near you? What about carpets, paint, cleaning solutions, air fresheners, personal care products such as deodorant, toothpaste, hair sprays, shampoo, conditioner, clothing and dishwashing detergents, dryer sheets, perfumes, etc.?
What about toxic relationships or situations with people in your life? Are you in a situation where you continually feel guilt or accountability for something that isn’t your responsibility? All these things can affect your health adversely, and should be taken into consideration. These can contribute to stress and strife that is very depleting of nutrients and especially valuable minerals your body needs. At all costs, absolve yourself of obligations or connections to toxic people, whenever possible. They are not doing you or your health, any good.
9. You aren’t getting outside enough and exposing yourself to the sun.
If you are trapped behind a desk in front of a computer or work in some other industry requiring you to be inside every day, or are in the house doing chores, etc. you are probably not getting enough sun exposure. The sun provides Vitamin D in its most elemental and well-absorbed form. Contrary to popular belief, sun exposure is critical to our health and if you don’t get it, your immune system is probably getting weaker every day.
Have you ever wondered why people seem to get sick during the winter? It’s no coincidence that when we are lacking in Vitamin D, our immune systems are vulnerable to bacteria and viruses that make us sick. Some years ago, Dr. R. Edgar Hope-Simpson confirmed this during decades of research and believed there is a reason for flu outbreaks that comes in the form of a “seasonal stimulus”. But it is also true that not everyone comes down with the virus.
As research has continued through others such as John Cannell of the Vitamin D Council, it is now apparent that low levels of Vitamin D are indeed this “seasonal stimulus” which is not only triggered by a weakening in the immune system, but also greatly impacts our susceptibility to infection. Vitamin D has extremely powerful influence over the immune system, and the presence of it can prevent sickness. When we are exposed to a virus, our immune system produces broad-spectrum antimicrobial elements – antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). We also have this ability in our skin cells and the cells lining internal openings and passageways, and also a varying amount of immune cells to produce AMPs after exposure to harmful microbes. But in order for this response to happen, there must be sufficient Vitamin D in the body.
In Nature Immunology, a study was produced discusses how Vitamin D must be present for proper signaling and activation of T-cells, our immune system’s guard against damage by foreign pathogens. T-cells cannot activate without Vitamin D. Vitamin D is actually a precursor to our bodies’ ability to produce a natural antibiotic which are responsible for protecting us against pathogens – bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
For more information, read Get Your Sunshine While You Still Can – Prevent Flus and Colds!
Vitamin D Crucial to Activating Immune Defenses – Science Daily
10. You’re not getting enough rest/moderate movement or exercise/stress relief.
Never underestimate the positive effects of getting enough rest – which means going to bed by 10 or 10:30 most nights and sleeping a full 8 hours or more – and making sure you aren’t over extending yourself in terms of obligations and tasks. These are both instrumental in healing.
If you stay up late regularly and don’t allow your body the rest and recharge it needs…or if you are constantly on the go and being pulled every which way, you can expect your body to be worn out, tired, and not capable of handling the demands of your day-to-day life. Your immune system will not be strong and you can easily fall prey to chronic health issues, colds, flus, and infections.
Getting outside and moving is important too, but over exercising (which many people in our culture do) without proper rest, nutritional, and lifestyle support is a recipe for adrenal exhaustion and body burnout. Dr Mercola talks about how too much cardio can actually damage your heart. Dr. Lawrence Wilson says that too much exercise can lead to severely damage the adrenal glands and damage your health. When this happens, your hormone levels are not normal and your immune system becomes overwhelmed. Then you are vulnerable to disease and illness.
Cortisol levels which are normally released only on occasion for helping your energy levels and appetite to increase and keying down allergic and inflammatory responses in the immune system. It also maintains and releases energy in the body to allow it to overcome negative effects of illness and disease, trauma, extreme temperatures, and also helps maintain balanced moods and emotions.
Cortisol goes out of balance when used too often. This is what happens when the body is dealing with too much stress or demand without proper support. When cortisol levels in your body stay high for too long a period of time, the results are: weight gain, a decrease in bone density, loss of muscle mass, decreased ability to produce protein which leads to kidney damage, retention of fluids, thinning of the skin, up and down blood sugar levels, and increased susceptibility to viruses, bacteria, fungi, allergic response, yeast overgrowth, parasites, and cancer.
Stop doing so much, avoid working over time whenever you can, and in general do less. Most things can wait until tomorrow, and if they can’t, it may be time for re-evaluation of your priorities.
For more information, read What is Adrenal Fatigue and Do I Have It? Keeper of the Home
11. Healing takes time. Be patient.
We often want progress much sooner than it actually happens. The reality is, our bodies became sick over a period of years, probably decades of time. Healing can take months to years to accomplish, and if we slide back too often, longer. But if we are on a steady course, we can notice improvements and signs healing in a fairly short amount of time – days, weeks, or months.
Less fatigue, more energy, better sleep, less pain in the body. These are all things we can expect if we stay on a regular effort of eating well and treating our bodies with care and kindness. But don’t give up if you feel like you have plateaued and aren’t progressing. It may just take more time than you believe it should, and with lifestyle changes you will eventually see a difference and reap the rewards of your careful attention to your body and what it needs.