The Recipe for Achieving Optimal Health and Wellness
Changing our diet is one of the most difficult but arguably the single most important thing to do to achieve good health. But often times people don’t even realize that their diet is harmful. For those who consume a Western diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, the stakes are particularly high. Side effects include a significant increase in weight gain, feelings of fatigue, and an increased risk of being diagnosed with heart disease, cancer, or dementia – among other illnesses.
So, if the Western diet is the root of all health problems, what diet should we be following?
The following excerpt is from Sustainable Medicine by Dr. Sarah Myhill. It has been adapted for the web.
People initially complain that the Paleo-ketogenic diet is boring. Actually, it is far more varied in composition, texture and flavour than any contemporary Western diet as these actually rely on remarkably few foods – and a lot of artificial flavouring. What gets in the way is addiction – people subconsciously recognise the addictive hit they get from high carbohydrate diets and mistake the absence of this for boredom. The convenience of modern Western diets is also a major factor.
There is no one-size-fits-all Paleo-ketogenic diet, but general principles that need to be honed to individual needs. The basic diet is as below, but changes may need to be made if there are allergies to foods or problems with the fermenting gut.
Meat: Choose from chicken, beef, lamb, pork, turkey, duck and ‘game’ meats, such as venison, pheasant, rabbit and so on. Liver, kidney and offal generally are excellent foods. Fatty meat is ideal and tastes wonderful! Use preserved meats such as bacon, ham and salami in moderation and try to avoid nitrates and nitrites – they do not all contain these.
Eggs: These are an excellent source of lecithin (eat soft yolks).
Fish: Choose especially from salmon, mackerel, cod, haddock. (Take care with smoked fish which often contains dyes). Tinned fish in brine or olive oil is fine.
Shellfish, including tinned shrimps, prawns, mussels, cockles, etc.
Salad vegetables, including avocado, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, celery, peppers, onion, cress, bamboo shoots, mushrooms.
Olive, nut and seed oils, such as sunflower, olive, sesame, grapeseed, hemp, linseed, rape.
Spices and herbs, including chilli, cumin, ginger, coriander, pepper, cloves.
Fermented foods are ideal – for example, kefir fermented on soya, coconut, almond or rice milk.
French dressing – make your own from olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard.
Salt – this needs to be added to a true Paleo-ketogenic diet; suggest sea salt 4 grams (a teaspoon is about 5 grams) daily.
It is vital to recognise that we need to power our bodies with fat – firstly, medium-chain fats – that is, animal fat (lard), coconut oil, cocoa butter fat. Butter is an excellent fat so long as there is no dairy allergy. Eat these medium-chain fats in abundance to fuel your body and brain – in particular, the brain is in need of these. Secondly, we need short-chain fatty acids from the fermentation of vegetable fibre. Vegetable fibre and prebiotics are fermented by friendly bacteroides in the lower gut to short-chain fatty acids. Indeed, these ferment to produce n-butyrate to fuel the lining of the large bowel directly. Absence of bacteroides results in major gut pathology.
We also need fats as building materials for cell membranes. These are the long-chain fatty acids (vegetable, nut, seed and fish oils). The ideal proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is four to one. Hemp oil is very close to this.
Fermented foods are excellent because the carbohydrate content has been fermented out and gut friendly microbes grow. Sauerkraut is an example of a fermented vegetable. Kefir can be used to ferment nut or bean milks and is very easy to work with – one starter lasts a lifetime since new cultures can be grown from previous ones.
The following foods are low in carbohydrates. With a serious fermenting gut even they may need to be avoided but most people can eat them without problems:
Dark chocolate: at least 70 percent cocoa solids
Berries: avoid high-sugar fruits and fruit juices which are as dangerous arguably more so, than table sugar
Seeds: sunflower, poppy, sesame
Nuts: peanut, Brazil, hazel, cashew, pistachio, walnut, etc; nut butter spreads, tahini (sesame seed spread)
Pulses: when cooked, these are rich in starches and vegetable fibre; the latter is excellent, but some people will ferment the starch in pulses and suffer bloating; this is a good indication to address the fermenting gut
Some young people with excellent gut function, no allergies and no fermenting gut may be able to tolerate modest amounts of whole grains.
Remember ‘fats good, carbs bad’ as the source of energy.
Bottled water (ideal) or filtered water (second best). When water is lost during hot weather or athletic performance, or gastroenteritis, additional minerals should be taken. My standard recipe is 1 gram of my multi-mineral mix (see below) with 2 grams of salt in 1 litre of water taken ad lib.
Herbal teas: redbush, rosehip tea, peppermint, etc.
Tea and coffee in moderation are fine so long as caffeine is tolerated.
Principles of a healthy diet
In order of importance, the aspects of modern Western diet and gut function which commonly cause symptoms – from irritable bowel syndrome to fatigue – and disease – from metabolic syndrome to cancer and dementia – are:
Sugar, refined carbohydrate, fruit and fruit sugar – which are addictive, convenient and cheap.
Fermentation of these carbohydrates in the upper gut by unfriendly microbes – very common in modern Westerners. Live, actively fermenting probiotics, such as kefir, help to protect against this problem.
Insufficient fat – we have been brainwashed into believing fat is bad. Meat fat is the perfect fuel for our tiny guts.
Lack of micronutrients in food because of modern agricultural techniques.
Allergy to foods – most commonly to grains and dairy products.
Toxins in the diet – such as colourings, flavourings, artificial sweeteners, pesticide residues, plasticiser residues.
Burnt fats – friendly oils and fats can be twisted into unfriendly trans-fats by heat and hydrogenation. (The latter is the technique for making margarine.)
Socially acceptable addictions in excess (alcohol, caffeine, tobacco) which increase needs for micronutrients and add to the toxic burden.
Genetically modified foods – most genetic modification is aimed at making crops pesticide resistant, so more sprays can be applied, or sprays that are intrinsically more toxic to pests are applied, but in either case that puts a detox burden on the human liver.
There is no one-size-fits-all diet. The starting point for all healthy people is to observe all the above rules. However, for patients who come to see me with some health problem, the diet may have to be further honed according to other factors. The common starting points I use are as follows for otherwise healthy people with no symptoms and no disease:
No added sugar or refined carbohydrates. However, the occasional carbohydrate feast will not upset a healthy gut. Indeed, primitive man would have had such during the autumn to fatten up prior to winter.
No dairy products, except butter, ideally ghee. It is milk protein which should be avoided as it contains growth promoters and may be carcinogenic.
Initially avoid addictions, such as alcohol and caffeine. (Dry cider in my case!) Then use judiciously.
No fruit juices which are rich in addictive sugars, especially fructose. High- sugar fruits should be avoided. Berries are usually fine; however, even strawberries are being so cultivated that they are becoming too sweet.
Eat fermented foods such as kefir and sauerkraut.
Avoid chemical additives. Eat as organically as possible. Eat foods in season, locally grown for freshness.
My advice on meals is:
Breakfast like an emperor, lunch like a king, sup like a pauper.
Only eat at meal times, with a knife and fork. Eat slowly and chew. Snacking means the stomach never has a chance to become fully acid. We need an acid stomach to prevent upper fermenting gut and to protect against infection.
One day a week of fasting or major calorie restriction – for example, 500 kcals at breakfast and none for the rest of the day. This is highly protective against metabolic syndrome (and weight gain) and is of course evolutionarily correct. Primitive man did not eat three regular meals a day.
As you start to switch to the Paleo-ketogenic diet you may feel worse initially. This is to be expected for the following reasons:
Hypoglycaemia symptoms – This is the commonest reason for worsening and may take weeks to settle. It is difficult for the body to switch from fuel delivery by carbohydrates to fuel delivery by fats.
Caffeine withdrawal – Again, this is common and usually results in a headache which clears in four days.
Food allergy withdrawal symptoms – Coming off foods for which there is an intolerance may cause many different symptoms. Some people report feeling ’ flu like. Typically this lasts four days, but symptoms like eczema, arthritis, allergic muscles and fatigue can take weeks to clear. One patient with enlarged prostate took four months to clear his symptoms.
Herxheimer reactions – These are allergic reactions to gut flora detritus as fermenting microbes die off.
Possibly, detox reactions as the body gains the energy and reserves to offload some toxins. Weight loss results in the same since many chemicals are mobilised.
Perhaps to allow the gut flora to change. Carbohydrate-based diets result in high levels of prevotella; fat- and protein-based diets result in high levels of bacteroides.
I advise patients to go into the diet gently, perhaps over several weeks. Start with establishing a good cooked breakfast, using nuts and seeds for snacks, then establish supper and finally lunch. The diet needs to evolve slowly so that it becomes sustainable for life. The occasional indiscretion is acceptable; it is the everyday insults which damage.
A useful clue to knowing you are on a low-carbohydrate diet has to do with the mouth. Teeth will feel glassy smooth, as if they have been polished at the dentist. They will be free from plaque (bacteria colonies).
B. Micronutrients: multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids
Westerners all need to take supplementary micronutrients for life for the reasons given previously. My standard package (what I call MMM) is:
Multivitamins – containing at least 25 mg of B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 vitamins, 1 mg of folic acid, 1 mg of B12, vitamin A 2,000 IU, vitamin E 50 mg and vitamin K 0.2 mg.
Multi-minerals – The following doses of elemental weight are per 2 stone (12.5 kg) of body weight: calcium 60 mg, magnesium 70 mg, potassium
40 mg, zinc 6 mg, iron 3 mg, boron 2 mg, iodine 0.3 mg, copper 0.2 mg, manganese 0.2 mg, molybdenum 40 mcg, selenium 40 mcg, chromium 40 mcg. These doses should be taken up to a maximum dose for a 10 stone (62.5 kg) person – that is, up to ve times the amounts listed above. Use 1 gram of mix per litre of water; this can also be used to make hot drinks. I do not include sodium chloride (salt) because this is contained in so many foods. If absent, then sea salt should be used, approximately 1 gram per 2 stone of body weight per day and capped at approximately 2 grams per day.
Vitamin D – at least 2,000 IU daily, but up to 10,000 IU daily.
Hemp oil – one dessert spoonful, together with two capsules of fish oil.
Vitamin C – at least 2 grams, possibly up to 10 grams at night.
These doses assume that nothing comes from the diet. However, as the Paleo-ketogenic diet is adopted and when sunbathing is possible, these doses can be reduced.
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