Step 3: Eliminate. HEAL. Test.
"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."
Were you aware that your body can literally heal itself? It's true. Given all it needs, your body was created with the innate ability to regenerate and heal from the inside out. That's not something you hear often. Most people are told that their ailments are genetic and will likely need to be managed their whole lives through. That's a shame. Because in most cases, that snatching of hope and empowerment is just plain wrong and furthers harm. Really, genetics are like the gun and your lifestyle is the trigger.
So what does your body need? It's more simple than you think.
Now that we've done our share in previous posts of knockin' modern society and it's unnatural, ridiculous ways of approaching nutrition and the human body, it's time to embrace where we're at and use it to our advantage. We live in an amazing time. When REAL food of all shapes and sizes is available to us at our fingertips. That's a far cry from how generations before us lived. They HAD to live seasonally (and so should we--more on that later) with or without harvest based on how their crops had done that year, with or without game available depending on migration patterns and if they were in the right place at the right time. But us? We can pretty much speak the name of just about anything that suits our fancy and it'll appear at our doorstep. Literally.
Just as the Samurai understands how to wield the sword in all different ways to his advantage, we can wield this wealth of food sources to ours. But we have to become expert swordsman, if you will. Otherwise, we'll confuse our God-given intuition with the nutritional dogma we've heard our whole lives, and knife ourselves to death using it in all the wrong ways.
This is where the hard work comes in. It's going to take extreme focus, self-reflection, and time to navigate. This part is absolutely a game of trial and error, but I'm going to help you win that game with the most ease possible. Before we dive in, let's do a little review so we're all on the same page.
No one knows your body like you do.
Even if you don't think you know it very well, there is no doctor, friend, lover, or parent who knows it the way you do. If you're perfectly in tune with your body, then you know this is true--YOU are your own body's Samurai. If you're not in tune (yet), this means that locked away deep down inside somewhere is your natural intuition regarding your own body--and it's constantly sending you messages. The overarching goal behind everything I say is for you to unlock it and become fluent in its language. So keep that in mind as we move further into this journey.
In the last few blogs, you'll find detailed information on:
Now I want you to answer some questions. A lesson in thinking critically. Are there any foods that you're suspicious of being harmful? What are they? And why do they make you suspicious? The why is a very important place to hit pause. Maybe you're suspicious of red meat or pork. Why? Maybe you're suspicious of wheat (gluten) or white rice or dairy. Why? Maybe you're suspicious of anything that's been genetically modified. Why? Or maybe you're just suspicious of raspberries because you feel like horse crap after eating them.
We need to understand the why behind our reasoning. We're emotionally driven whether we want to admit it or not, so this tends to be an uncommon skill. Maybe some of these statements I often hear will resonate with you. Come up with a list of your own and please share them with me. We're peeling layers as we speak.
"I heard saturated fat was bad for my heart and clogs the arteries,
so red meat and egg yolks are not health foods."
"I heard gluten is poisonous to the body and can cause "leaky gut"
even in people without celiac disease."
"I heard white rice is full of arsenic and is high on the glycemic index
making my blood sugar skyrocket."
Notice all these statements begin with "I heard..." Most health-conscious people listen closely to what's coming in from the top down. But we need to be smarter than that. Because believe it or not, information coming from the top down is usually:
Sorry to break it to you. Now, that doesn't mean we immediately disregard it all, but it does mean that we TEST everything against reality. This can be done a variety of ways. Let me enlighten you.
Step 3: Eliminate. HEAL. Test.
The most supreme way is to test real food through your own experience. In order to do that and actually make sense of the data, however, you have to first eliminate various foods to see which, if any, is assaulting you. Why? Because done properly, it can lead to the revelation of the root issue and ultimately bring healing. Once you're healed and you know how it FEELS to be healthy, then you can accurately test any real foods you previously eliminated and see if you're body can tolerate them again. (Yes! You CAN overcome food intolerances and even serious allergies. It's real.) Using the process of elimination, you'll be able to differentiate your optimal, life-giving foods from the ones not doing you any favors. (Note: We've already covered eating real food versus edible food-like substances, so we won't waste anymore of our precious time there. No more twinkies, my friend. We're past that.)
While many real foods certainly have lots of nutritional benefits in theory, they can actually be detrimental to some people's bodies. You know this to be true if you have any allergies to food. Let's take dairy for example. Unpasteurized, non-homogenized dairy products from 100% grass-fed cows are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available. Find out more about that here. But if you're truly allergic or intolerant to lactose, then it's not going to matter how many nutrients it has because your body only sees it as poison. The same applies to kale, seafood, nightshades, eggs, those damned raspberries...you name it.
Because our diets are so complex and unnatural here in the western world, I highly recommend an extreme elimination diet for a short amount of time to begin. This means that you 1) understand what is essential for your body to survive and function well, and 2) cut out everything else.
And now for a little lesson. What is an essential nutrient?
An essential nutrient is a building block necessary for optimal human health that cannot be made within the body at all, or at least not in adequate amounts. These include water, certain amino acids (from protein), certain fatty acids (from fat), and a variety of vitamins and minerals.
The rough consensus in the scientific community of human biology is that there are about 41 essential nutrients you need to get through your diet in order to thrive, give or take a few. You can find them here. If you do a quick scan through each, you'll find that nearly every single essential nutrient we need can be found in animal products (particularly organ meats). Even better, they're bioavailable. That means the nutrient is readily available for use and your body doesn't have to spend extra energy converting it.
I know that might come as a serious shock to some of you. We are told by "The Man" to eat our nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily, include loads and loads of whole grains, and limit the consumption of meat or else die of a heart attack. Interesting. Where did they get that from? I encourage you to go looking and then look some more. But in the mean time, you need to know that meat is some of the MOST nutrient dense food on the planet. This means that if you want to scale WAY back and eliminate everything but quality animal foods for a couple of months, you'll be well on your way to healing.
I recommend meat, salt and water. That's it.
If that sounds too extreme for you, ask yourself why and test your reasoning. If you're still not on board, fine--listen to yourself and broaden your scope a bit. I know for me that keeping it that simple during the elimination phase made the whole process SO much easier.
In other words, you're going to give your body only what it NEEDS in the most basic sense, in the easiest way possible, and allow it to fully heal itself. By doing this, you'll arrive on the other side where your intuition is fully alive and active. You'll know what it's actually like to have a clear head, a comfortable gut, a smooth-sailing digestive tract, mental calm, and high energy. And then you'll be able to spot those red flags we discussed earlier miles away.
So now that you know to add in what's necessary, you need to take out everything else. Here are the most common offenders, but be sure to eliminate anything you're suspicious of.
-Vegetable and seed oils
-Sugars, real or artificial
-Grains (including corn)
-Soy (and other legumes)
Stick to it for at least 30-60 days and allow your body to heal wherever it needs to. Make sure you're using your brain and paying attention to your why. And if you're the kind of person who likes detailed guidance, I recommend following some version of the GAPS diet or the Whole 30 Program during the elimination and testing phase.
Once you have gotten rid of all unnecessary foods and given your body the chance to overcome, you test. As you add food back in, do it methodically and pay attention. Did adding in the dairy make you constipated again? Did adding oatmeal increase your tooth decay? Did adding grains cause you to start gaining weight or give you migraines again? Keep in mind that symptoms from food (bloating, fatigue, headaches, rashes, anxiety/depression, low libido) can show up immediately or even up to 10 days later. Feel free to keep a log.
You can also get a variety of tests done by a functional medicine doctor or naturopath to see what foods your body rejects. These include blood testing, barometric testing, HRV testing, and at-home food sensitivity testing. The problem with these methods used in isolation is that you are personally removed from the process in general, and again someone else is telling you what is good or bad for your body.
Instead, use these things only to affirm your own experience. No body is the same. There is no single formula. Do what works for you.
Hippocrates summarized it all very nicely for us. Let food be thy medicine. That means you get to manipulate your diet to treat your ailments as you see fit. Does that mean it's forever? In most cases, no. Remember, the body can and will heal itself when it's given all it needs. But either way, own your journey and do the hard work. Embrace your body and treat it right. It'll make you a happier person.
One last thing. You may be wondering why you'd bother adding back in the foods we've deemed "unnecessary" for survival. Well, next up is the last step in this series of unlocking your body's intuition and we're going to explore that very question. I think you'll be happily surprised because the answer is the sealant to potential future leaks in vibrant health. And it'll make you stronger than ever.