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Does Food Heal?

(This article is an excerpt from Kristina Amelong's book, Ten Days to Optimal Health.)

"You've heard it before, but it bears repeating: nothing in life is more precious than your health. If you take care of your body, not only do you prevent disease and illness and prolong your life, but you also vastly improve the quality of your life."
— Dr. Joseph Mercola

It is human nature to want to be healthy, vibrant, and energetic. It is human nature to love life from the moment we are born until the moment we die. This innate desire to live well doesn't change as we age. It is clear that people do not want to lose their health, ever. Why, then, are so many people struggling with illness?

The Role of Genetics

To begin our exploration of what influences our health, let us look at what role our genes play. Many people think that our genes fully determine our health, or at least determine the risk of such diseases as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. What we are certain of is that our genes do have an effect on our aging process. However, the extent to which our health status is inherited is not fully determined.

Certainly genetics play a role in how we age, as well as the diseases that we struggle with. However, our focus on hereditary as the reason for our health woes needs to be examined in the light of our environment.

Linus Pauling

Linus Pauling's Thoughts on Genetics

In 1949, Linus Pauling, the founding father of molecular biology and author of Vitamin C and the Common Cold, Cancer and Vitamin C , and How to Live Longer and Feel Better, made public his theory that the origin of disease is based on specific changes in genetic materials due to environmental influences, which in turn modify physiological function. In other words, Pauling's theory states that disease is not solely caused by genetics, but rather due to the interaction between an individual's genes and his/her surroundings. Bishop and Waldolz point out in their book, Genome, that "aberrant genes do not, in and of themselves, cause disease. By and large their impact on an individual's health is minimal until the person is plunged into a harmful environment" (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1990). To clarify, it seems that each person's gene pool has the flexibility to express itself with health and longevity, or with illness and degenerative disease, depending on environmental conditions. Unfortunately, we take for granted that when a person's genes do express sickness, or even early death, these diseases are genetic, or destined to occur.

Environmental and Political Factors

It is oppressive the way in which all people are systematically hurt by the belief structures and behaviors of their society. People are forced into decisions that cause their bodies to express disease. We are lied to and made to believe that things that are harmful to health are actually good for us. Why? Because our culture is fixated on profits. In his book, Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About , Kevin Trudeau explains why the United States government, the major food companies, and the drug companies systematically promote ideas that may cause people harm.

Our current societal structure prioritizes profit above health. Health is created or destroyed by the way we set up our lives. If we eat well, we tend to be healthier. If we rest deeply and daily, we tend to be healthier. If we are close to other people, we tend to be healthier. If we exercise and spend time outdoors, we tend to be healthier. If we have a rich spiritual life, we tend to be healthier. If we nourish our emotional selves, we tend to be healthier. When all of these activities are combined, most people are going to express health genetically and not disease. Unfortunately, most of us aren't able to pull all of those elements together.

Profitability Before Health

For example, most people don't eat foods that support their optimal health. Most of us don't even know what it means to eat well. Foods and all other ingestible products are produced to have long shelf lives, be conveniently transported, and to be produced with the lowest overhead and the highest profitability. Very few producers of foods, supplements, pharmaceuticals, and other bodily products place health above profitability. Most foods are available primarily for the purpose of the suppliers to make a profit and not for their high nutrient content. Diet ought never be based primarily on the needs of the economy and the way in which the economy encourages people to eat. For example, one in four people in the developed world eat at McDonald's every day.

Limited Access to Quality Food

The average person has very little incentive or education that would lead them to seek out and to choose optimally nutritious food. Most people have limited opportunities to choose the best possible nutrition for their body. How many people have access to organically grown food, high-quality meats, and raw milk from pasture-raised animals? Not many. In our family, we have had to go to great expense to obtain the foods that have assisted my healing, like raw milk and butter and grass-fed meats, even though we live in one of the finest metropolitan areas for organically grown and local food. By understanding how environmental and political factors influence our lives and our cultures, and by healing those scars of oppression, we will be more fully able to eradicate degenerative disease and be optimally healthy.

Nutritional Content of Food

What are the nutritional resources that your body needs in order to be optimally healthy? What is optimal nutrition? Is it possible to practice an optimal diet within a culture that values food for profit over food for health? Through my experiences with healing and working with clients, I have come to believe that we can identify nutritional resources and head ourselves toward optimal nutrition.

Nutritional researchers have studied cultures whose entire population was much healthier than ours is today. Dr. Weston A. Price analyzed the nutritional content of the diets of our healthiest ancestors to decisively identify foods that create environmental conditions for their bodies to genetically express health and not illness. Looking at our healthiest ancestor's food to determine what foods are therapeutic is turning out to be enormously successful. Well-known nutritional experts Sally Fallon, Dr. Robert Atkins, Donna Gates, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Andrew Weil, and Dr. Jordan Rubin all share a common theoretical premise: many of the foods our healthiest ancestors ate are now so vital to the wellbeing of our bodies due to their nutrient content, that they can be considered healing to the body, or medicines.

Weston A. Price

Principles of Healthy Diets and the Work of Dr. Weston A. Price

What scientific evidence supports the argument that the diets of our ancestors were therapeutic and could assist us to optimal health? To answer this question, I will cite the work of Dr. Weston A. Price. Dr. Price was a prominent dentist and researcher who conducted studies during the 1930s and the 1940s regarding the prevention of tooth decay, gum disease, and orthodontic troubles. Within this context, he sought to understand what makes humans healthy and what allows humans to have perfect teeth -- not what pushes people toward illness. His determination to study what makes humans healthy and not what makes humans ill makes his works an excellent source of insight. He details his research methods in his book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration:

"Primitive man** did not have the same disease pattern as modern man. Primitive man suffered from infectious disease but was almost free of degenerative diseases. Modern man has almost eliminated infectious disease but is suffering from an epidemic of degenerative diseases."

** Weston A. Price first published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration in 1939. At that time in history, European writers commonly used the term "primitive racial stocks" to denote indigenous peoples, which I see as offensive and dated. Price uses the term "primitive racial stocks" to mean people, whether European or indigenous, whose diets were untouched by the "foods of commerce." Foods of commerce are foods whose value is seen in terms of profit and not health.

"In my search for the cause of degeneration of the human face and the dental organs I have been unable to find an approach to the problem through the study of affected individuals and diseased tissues. In my two volume work, Dental Infections, Oral and Systemic and Dental Infection, and the Degenerative Diseases , I reviewed at length the researches that I had conducted to throw light on this problem. The evidence seemed to indicate clearly that the forces that were at work were not to be found in the diseased tissues, but that the undesirable conditions were the result of the absence of something. This strongly indicated the need for finding groups of individuals so physically perfect that they could be used as controls. In order to discover them, I determined to search out primitive racial stocks that were free from the degenerative processes with which we are concerned."

He continued, "To accomplish this it became necessary to locate immune groups which were found readily as isolated remnants of primitive racial stock in different parts of the world. A critical examination of theses groups revealed a high immunity to many of our serious affections so long as they were sufficiently isolated from our modern civilization and living in accordance with the nutritional programs which were directed by the accumulated wisdom of the group."

The Traditional Diet

Once Dr. Price determined that he needed to study isolated people who appeared to be the healthiest of the peoples on this planet, he spent several years conducting research in his Iowa laboratory before he went into the field. He analyzed the nutrient content of different foods to communicate to the world what nutrients gave health to whole populations of people. As soon as he established his laboratory support, he and his wife set off to learn from the diets of these isolated groups. Every summer, they traveled to remote places and in the end, visited over fourteen tribes, clans, and villages whose members all displayed remarkable freedom from mental, physical, and emotional imbalances. Whether they were investigating the Maori of New Zealand, Irish fishermen, Native Eskimos, the Swiss, Australian Aborigines, African tribes, or Pacific Islanders, they came upon vibrantly healthy people, as long as they were eating traditional diets. This most important discovery was duplicated in all cultures: If the people were eating their traditional foods, they had very little or no tooth decay or physical degeneration elsewhere in the body. Through his continuous research, Dr. Price concluded that tooth decay and degenerative diseases were irretrievably linked and stemmed from the same cause — one's diet. When people cease to eat the traditional, nutrient- rich diet of their native culture and choose instead the "displacing diets of commerce"**, there is a high correlation with illness and disease. It is by eating the simple, basic, nourishing foods indigenous to native culture that individual populations thrive and live long, disease-free lives.

** The "displacing diets of commerce" are diets that are driven by commerce. These foods are available primarily for the purposes of the suppliers to make a profit and not for their high nutrient content. Diet ought never to be based primarily on the needs of the economy. The fact that this has happened is a flaw in our current capitalistic social structure. Dr. Price had the wisdom to strengthen his argument that the body does indeed have requirements for certain nutrients by examining the health status of the same races of people who had changed their dietary ways away from the traditional foods to the foods offered by modern commerce. This gives his work the true gauge of scientific validity. He writes, "In every instance where individuals of the same racial stocks who had lost this isolation and who had adopted the foods and food habits of our modern civilizations were examined, there was an early loss of the high immunity characteristic of the isolated group."

Price's Dietary Principles

Fortunately for us, Dr. Price left detailed records of his research in his landmark work, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. From these records, health professionals and scientists have identified particular foods and particular methods of preparation that are common to each culture. The dietary principles of the fourteen cultures that Weston A. Price studied serve as a guide today in whatever diet we choose. Listed below are eight universal dietary principles that Dr. Price witnessed in every society that he studied. Some aspects of the following principles may not be familiar to you; please know that I will go into further detail on each principle later in the book. The principles that each culture followed are:

  1. Ate up to ten times the amount of natural, non-synthetic, vitamin A, vitamin D, and Activator X in the diet as did most people of Dr. Price's day.
  2. Never consumed refined or denatured foods including: protein powders, high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, white flour, or fruit juice.
  3. Used both cooked and raw foods in their meals, especially animal foods.
  4. Ate raw foods high in enzyme content: dairy, meat, honey, cultured vegetables and tropical fruits like papaya. Furthermore, consumed lacto-fermented foods and drinks such as kvass, yogurt, and kefir.
  5. Always fermented, soaked, sprouted, or naturally leavened their seeds, grains, and nuts.
  6. Ate significant quantities (30%-80%) of their total diet in fat. In every case, polyunsaturated fats comprised only 4% or less of the fat in the diet. Omega 6 and omega 3 fats were in a ratio of 1:1, and generous amounts of saturated fats were also eaten.
  7. Included unrefined salt in their diets.
  8. Used bones for broth.

Now, with the principles of traditional diets in mind, let's explore my basic program, the Optimal Health Center (OHC) plan. The OHC plan is an easy-to-follow, clinically proven, traditionally based, and solidly researched dietary program. Enjoy. And feel free to contact me if you need support. I want you to be successful! And, most importantly, I want you to be able to intelligently choose a healthy diet for yourself.

You ask, "What if I descended from people with very different cultures and eating habits? Do I eat the foods indigenous to where I live now or where my ancestors lived?" I propose that instead of thinking rigidly about the foods your ancestors ate, you take the common dietary factors from each of the healthy cultures that Dr. Price studied to determine your optimal foods. The foremost point to keep in mind is that no matter what 'diet' you choose, you need to eat foods that are rich in specific nutrients in order to be optimally healthy. I will highlight these nutrients as I explain my OHC plan.

(This article is an excerpt from Kristina Amelong's book, Ten Days to Optimal Health.)

By Kristina Amelong