Healing With Food
Food assures nourishment and growth, supports function and provides us with fuel. However, humans also find tremendous pleasure in food, which can lead to a series of health problems.
What we consider food today most likely would not be recognized as food by our ancestors — processed, artificially sweetened, flavored and packaged. So, how can we figure out what to eat to heal our bodies, to prevent degenerative diseases, slow down aging and maintain functionality for as long as possible?
Let's understand the three categories of food:
1. Ancestral food goes back about 200,000 years when our ancestors migrated to hunt, fish, gather roots, berries and edible greens. Food was scarce, whole, local and seasonal. It included animal protein and its natural fat content, little variety, and not many vegetables, starches or fruits.
Food required extreme physical effort to gather, and there were no regular set meals or snack times. Fast to feast was normal.
2. Agricultural food goes back about 10,000 years, when humans started to grow crops like corn, wheat, potatoes and began to domesticate animals. Food wasn't scarce anymore. It was still local and seasonal and it still required physical labor, but not as much or as intense, and the famine feast cycles were rare.
Fermenting, smoking and salting were used to preserve foods. Traditional foods unfortunately got lost after pasteurization and refrigeration. Some processed food also started to appear.
3. Industrial/modern food only goes back 250-300 years, and implies a drastic change in our food supply. What we see on supermarket shelves — packaged, refined, highly processed “food-like substance” — is a huge contributing factor to chronic disease, from cancer to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, autoimmunity, Alzheimer's and more.
How can food help us heal?
Food is a powerful agent that interacts with our genetic blueprint, and when combined with other environmental factors, can alter the expression of genes (epigenetics).
In simple terms, healing with foods mimics ancestral eating — whole unprocessed local and seasonal foods. It lacks agricultural and industrial carbohydrates and includes more whole fats. Fast-to-feast cycles are “normal.” By adopting this dietary approach, we not only heal on three layers but we also suppress low-grade inflammation, the common denominator of all chronic disease.
We can return to real food to achieve optimal health through three layers of health and healing.
1. Cellular and microbial.
We are only as healthy as our gut and its microbes. This means healing the enterocytes (cells of the small intestine, where the final steps of digestion and absorption of nutrients happen) and supporting a good gut flora ecology (microbiome health).
If the gut is unhealthy, we’re unable to properly absorb nutrients from food, leading to ill health. Gut health is achieved through removing, rebuilding and re-inoculating.
* Remove: Eliminate all processed foods and complex carbohydrates: sugar, milk, grains, starchy vegetables and legumes.
* Rebuild: Nourish the gut lining and immune system with animal fat and protein. Mainly we need the amino acids and fatty acids that are provided by cooking joints, bones with marrow, and organ meats.
* Re-inoculate: Add fermented foods and therapeutic strength probiotic supplements.
2. Systemic, metabolic.
This healing involves the interaction of macronutrients with the main energy regulatory hormones, insulin and glucagon. The food-hormone interaction is important when it comes to weight loss, energy production and the management of metabolic disorders including type 2 diabetes.
Insulin is our storage (fattening) hormone. Glucagon is our burning (slimming) hormone.
The macronutrients from food demand one or the other of these two hormones.
* Carbohydrates demand insulin so they can be used by our cells as energy. Insulin activates fat storage.
* Protein demands glucagon. Glucagon activates fat breakdown.
* Fats are neutral and do not demand any metabolic hormones in order to be metabolized.
If you are overweight or obese, prediabetic or diabetic, store fat around your waist, have elevated triglycerides, feel fatigued, and need to eat every few hours to keep your energy up, chances are you are carbohydrate intolerant, which means you can benefit from carbohydrate restriction in a similar way a person who is lactose or gluten intolerant benefits from dairy and gluten restriction.
By restricting carbohydrates found in sugar, milk, grains, starchy vegetables and fruits, you perform a metabolic reset, and reverse the cycle of insulin resistance. During a metabolic reset, your source of carbohydrates becomes non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, okra, and asparagus.
When we restrict carbohydrates that easily absorb as glucose, the body starts to burn the stored fat and generates energy in the form of fatty acids and ketone bodies. It enters a fat-burning state, which facilitates weight loss, and the reversal of all metabolic disorders mentioned above.
The Metabolic Reset Protocol (MRP) has three points:
* Carbohydrate restriction (dial them down)
* Fat liberalization, guided by satiety level, (dial them up)
* Protein adequacy, just enough to meet needs (fine-tuning).Caution! Fat quality is just as important as quantity. Eating whole fats like grass-fed butter, ghee, coconut oil, olive oil, olives, avocado, nuts, and seeds while avoiding industrial vegetable oils and margarine is paramount.
3. Intracellular, mitochondrial.
Mitochondria are the organelles inside our cells responsible for energy production. The mitochondria are where nutrients absorbed from food combined with oxygen are converted into energy, which is measured as ATP (adenosine triphosphate).
The more mitochondria we have, the healthier and higher performing they are, the more effectively we generate energy and maximize the function of our cells. Our brain gets sharper, our muscles stronger and more powerful and our organs function optimally.
When it comes to food and mitochondrial health, just as with gut and metabolic health, eating fewer insulinogenic carbohydrates and more fat is the “healing with foods” approach.
An even more powerful strategy that leads to a boost in mitochondria number, health and function is the absence of food. Yes, fasting is a powerful healing and energy producing practice.
The fastest way to boost intracellular health (mitochondria function) is to combine the MRP with fasting; intermittent fasting and prolonged fasting. Of course, you will want to do this with your doctor's permission and supervision, especially if you are taking medications.
Healing with foods is simple. It may not be easy to make those changes, but it's worth using food as medicine.
Mihaela Telecan, DVM, MS, RD, is the author of MAKE PEACE WITH FAT and the founder of Healing With Foods, a wellness coaching practice. Dr. T is truly passionate about empowering women to take charge of their own health and happiness so they can live their full life potential.
For a more in-depth look at the concepts discussed in this article and a step-by-step action guide to implementing the Gut Reset and the Metabolic Reset Protocols, refer to the book, Make Peace With Fat. Applying ancestral wisdom and modern nutrition to reverse metabolic diseases, reset hunger and maximize performance, by Mihaela Telecan, DVM, MS, RD. Available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2KJwyd8
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