As someone who grew up on the most delicious chocolate in the world (Belgian Chocolate of course : ) and who does not consider a day being normal if I have not ingested a decent amount of chocolate, I desperately would like my food choices to not be that important to my health.
And yet, as Hippocrates taught humanity in 431 B.C., the most important element of health and healing is the food we choose to eat.
Although the advice of the father of medicine is no longer followed by our Western medical school trained professionals, this is the first aspect of our life that will be investigated and modified if we go see a holistic health practitioner.
Note: a holistic health practitioner is a health care professional who considers a person as a whole organism with all its parts connected and integrated, by opposition to our Western-trained medical doctors who see each body part or organ as a separate entity to be fixed in isolation of the others. Examples of holistic health practices are Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda Medicine, Homeopathic Medicine, Energy Medicine, and Functional Medicine.
Whereas Western medicine is truly exceptional when it comes to treating acute conditions and life-threatening emergencies, I believe that we can better succeed at treating abnormal symptoms and keeping ourselves healthy when under the care of a holistic health care professional.
Which brings me back to food.
Last month, I went to see a doctor practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine. I had not been feeling well on and off and I knew that my “normal” primary care doctor would either tell me that there was nothing wrong with me or prescribe me some medication to counteract the most obvious symptom. To me, suppressing symptoms is like removing the batteries of a smoke alarm going off. It sure stops the annoying beeping, but what about the smoke and the fire raging in the background? What if my symptoms are actually gently alarming me of something to correct now before my condition becomes a serious illness?
The Chinese Doctor asked me many questions about my lifestyle and diet, looked at my tongue, my eyes and my skin, took my pulses (all 12 of them!) before giving me an Eastern-style diagnostic followed by diet and herbs recommendation. I left her office with herbs, tea packets, and… black mushrooms and beets plus a list of other ingredients to purchase and eat as soon as possible.
My most uncomfortable symptoms were gone after following the diet modification for three or four days and taking a few servings of the Chinese herbal supplement.
As a continued to feel better, I became complacent, fell off the wagon and went back to my usual diet, which while not terrible lacks what my Chinese doctor recommended and is also too rich in foods that I’m sensitive too. Needless to say, I went back to not feeling well in just a few days.
We are what we eat.
For some people like me, food choices have a relatively immediate impact, positive or negative, on their physical and emotional health. For others, imbalances might take longer to show up and sometimes they never do before a serious illness develops. In many cases though, what we eat and don't eat is the foundation of our health or lack thereof. Mental health too.
What’s hard is that eating is a highly emotional affair. Food choices and habits around eating are also inherited from our family of origin. We associate some foods with good feelings, and we avoid foods that we don’t like even if they are necessary to our health. We use food to cope rather than engage in adequate self care. It takes a huge amount of discipline to design a diet abundant in the foods we need and light in the foods that are not good for our health... and then resist all the temptations that we run into during the day.
The good news is that just a few diet changes can makes us feel better physically and emotionally pretty quickly and inexpensively.
Let's take responsibility for our health by nourishing our Body, Mind, and Spirit with what nature has intended!
As with anything, the key to success is implementing positive change little by little and consistently:
1. Consider watching “Food Matters”. Very interesting and encouraging documentary available on Netflix!
2. Add raw fruit and raw veggies to your meals, in the form of a piece of fruit as a snack and a small salad before dinner for example.
3. Progressively decrease the amount of processed foods you ingest. Replace them little by little by their “whole food” equivalent.
4. Make sure to eat enough protein from various sources.
5. Limit the amount of saturated fats and added sugar you eat. Choose foods naturally rich in healthy oils (oily fish, nuts, and seeds) and naturally sweet (fruits).
6. Increase the amount of meals that you cook yourself. Decrease the amount of food that you eat at restaurants.
7. Limit (or quit!) alcohol and caffeine.
8. Take a daily good-quality multivitamin.
- How am I feeling physically and emotionally? Am I dealing with any uncomfortable symptoms or do I have any illness?
- What kind of health care have I explored so far? What has helped me? What new type of health care would I be willing to try out?
- What does my diet consist of? What do I typically eat in a day?
- How do I relate emotionally to the food I eat? To which foods am I drawn? Which food do I avoid? What is that about?
- What could be one positive diet change that I would be able to make right now?