Beyond a “Gluten-Free Diet”
Harnessing the Power of Traditional, Nutrient-Dense Foods—
the Keys to Maximizing Treatment Success for Digestive Disorders
Healing from any long term digestive disorder is a very complicated issue. For Celiac disease, eliminating gluten is, of course, the first step to recovery. However, following this protocol alone may not be entirely effective in helping to overcome intestinal damage and the resulting long term malnourishment that ultimately may lead to many more serious health problems. While avoiding gluten is essential, to build optimal health where nutrient absorption has been severely impaired, a nutrient-dense diet is the only approach that will lead to true healing.
This was my experience. I am a professional clarinetist with a national career. Although I had been playing professionally and teaching for more than 25 years, I had spent much of that time in pain. Beginning in my late teens and 20s, I experienced musculoskeletal inflammation and early symptoms of digestive troubles such as flatulence—a sign of poor digestion. I relieved my pain through physical therapy-type approaches common to the field of music—you name it; I did it! In my late twenties and throughout my thirties, I was constantly “chasing” pain from practicing and performing. When I would solve the discomfort in one area, another area would become irritated. At 40, I developed acid reflux and in the fall of 2001, at 45, I became chronically ill with an inflammatory condition in my spine that left me with debilitating pain in my shoulders, fingers, arms, and hands.
Ultimately, I was diagnosed with a long-term digestive problem, intestinal damage, and malabsorption—all the result of Celiac disease. I then 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.
What was I going to eat? I had cut out all the offending gluten foods plus sugar and didn’t even eat grains. My diet should have been completely therapeutic for Celiac disease but yet, I was still very ill as my intestinal damage had profoundly affected nutrient absorption.
I found the answers to healing through a dramatic change in my diet, adopting the principles of Dr. Weston Price, whose research on healthy cultures worldwide during the 1930s led to the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration and the Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org), a foundation that helps people understand accurate dietary principles of human health and is helping to improve the food supply in our country.
I learned that my diet was severely lacking in the foods and nutrients necessary to healing my digestive tract and malnourishment and that many of the foods I ate were difficult to digest—especially the raw vegetables and fruit—and were not healing to the intestinal tract. In fact, my low-fat, high fiber “healthy diet” was actually killing me!
I discovered that in order to maximize the nutrients I ate, that all the meat, eggs, dairy, poultry that I consumed needed to come animals eating their natural diets—ie. the cows had to eat grass, the chickens needed to eat bugs and worms, and the fish needed to be wild caught. I found these foods by locating a farm co-op that delivered these foods to our area through www.realmilk.com. The nutrients in naturally raised foods are immensely higher than even “organically” raised and especially factory farmed foods.
The first powerful food that I learned would help me recover was homemade bone-broth soup—traditional soup that people had made for thousands of years. I have eaten a bone-broth soup every day for the last seven years. There is a South American saying “Good broth raises the dead.” Good bone broth soup is loaded with easy-to-digest nutrients that will give the intestinal tract all the elements needed for repair and improvement of absorption. It is made by taking high quality chicken, beef or lamb bones, skin, tendons and ligaments–and simmering them in water with a little vinegar or wine for 12-36 hours, and then straining it. Soups can then be made by adding meat and vegetables to the broth and the broth can also be used in countless other recipes for added nutrition.
Next, through studying Dr. Price’s work, I found that all healthy cultures ate foods naturally high in vitamin A and D—such as cod liver oil, liver and egg yolks. They also consumed liberal amounts of traditional fats such as raw butter, cream, coconut oil and lard—fats that people had also eaten for thousands of years. Without both adequate vitamin A and D and traditional fat, you will not be able to absorb the nutrients in your food and your digestion can eventually be severely compromised. Thus, without adequate vitamin A and D and traditional fats in my diet, I was literally starving and chronic diarrhea was one of the symptoms. In fact, in historical records of expeditions to Antarctica and the lives of Indian tribes, when only lean meat was available, people starved to death.
I began to consume high-quality cod liver oil and butter oil (see www.greenpasture.org for more information). I also added raw butter, coconut oil, raw cream, egg yolks daily and liver twice a week to my diet for the first time in my life. Little did I know that adding fat and vitamin A and D were also the missing links to recovery.
I then learned the importance of traditionally cultured foods—like whole-fat, raw-milk kefir, homemade sauerkraut and beet kvass—that promote healthy intestinal flora and supply enzymes, without which our foods are not broken down properly and unhealthy bacteria can thrive in the intestinal tract causing bacterial fermentation and intestinal damage. When the intestinal tract becomes damaged, undigested proteins can “leak” through the intestinal wall, causing an immune system response, such as chronic inflammation and food allergies.
From his research, Dr. Price established a set of dietary requirements necessary for optimal human health that involve nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest foods with adequate traditional fats from pastured animals and wild-caught fish. These include:
• High-vitamin A and D foods—cod-liver oil, egg yolks, liver
• High quality traditional fats—butter, coconut oil, lard
• Bone-broth soups made from chicken, beef, or fish.
• Traditionally cultured foods such as whole-fat kefir, yogurt and homemade sauerkraut and pickled beets.
• High quality proteins—meats, raw dairy, poultry, eggs, and fish—from animals eating their natural diets.
Through this approach, I reversed my 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 I have had no pain or inflammation in my body for over six years.
Although finding high-quality foods and changing your diet may at first be complicated, your health is your most important asset—your health is your wealth! The dietary principles that Dr. Price found that supported optimal human health were the permanent answer to healing my digestive tract, and therefore, my long-term malnourishment. The exciting news is there is a growing movement of people across the country that is turning to these same foods to improve chronic illness of all kinds.
For more information on building health and healing with nutrient-dense foods see Performance without Pain and our new e-book on healing acid reflux.
Best in health,