When I began practice in the 1980s, people were different. And it made helping them less complicated. What I mean by that is people were literally made of different stuff than they are now. Oh, they all had the same basic material make up, but the quality was different. Back then I noticed that most people’s bodies began to break down in their late 50s or early 60s as they began to develop new health problems. “Don’t get old,” and “Ahh, the golden years” were sayings I heard frequently. As time went on this breakdown began occurring while people were only in their 40s… and then it was their 30s. Today we see patients in their 20s and even teen years experiencing what we used to see in people in their 50s and 60s. And I rarely saw sick children back then. I believe most practitioners who had already been in practice for many years by the 1980s would have made the same observation that I make today regarding people who they saw in their early years in practice in the 1930s and 1940s.
Today, chronic illnesses are ever increasing, affecting about half of all Americans. Cancer and heart disease were rare in the early 1900s. And regarding children, even in the 1950s, a physician was unlikely to ever see a child that would be diagnosed with autism. Personally, when I was growing up I knew of no autistic children. Now approximately one in one hundred and ten are diagnosed with autism. As Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, PhD write in the classic nutrition cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, “In America one in three persons die of cancer, on in three suffers from allergies, on in ten will have ulcers and one in five is mentally ill. One in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage and a quarter of a million infants are born with a birth defect each year. Add to that arthritis, multiple sclerosis, digestive disorders, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and chronic fatigue. Learning disorders such as dyslexia and hyperactivity affect five million young people. These diseases were extremely rare only a generation ago.”
Patients are presenting with many more health issues these days than they used to. A typical person who comes to see us for help is usually female, between the ages of 35 and 55. She has had at least one surgery which may include tonsillectomy, multiple root canals, Cesarean section, partial or total hysterectomy and may also have had her gall bladder removed. Common complaints are indigestion, bloating after eating, gas and constipation, afternoon fatigue, irregular menses, PMS symptoms, waking up in the middle of the night with her mind racing and difficulty falling back asleep. She suffers bouts of depression, complains of eczema that “just doesn’t want to go away,” and is using a prescription topical cream. She takes medication for thyroid, anti-acids and has been on, is presently taking or considering taking anti-depressants. Her mother passed away in her early 70s of an auto-immune disease that doctors couldn’t quite put a name on, her sister is undergoing treatment for breast cancer for the second time at age 49. Her older brother is overweight and diabetic takes insulin injections, a statin and two blood pressure medications along with eye drops for glaucoma and her father is starting to show signs of Alzheimer’s.
Does this sound atypical or can you actually relate to this personally or with people you know? Not too many years ago most of the above would have been considered rare to unheard of. So what happened? What caused all this? And more importantly what can we do about it? Let’s take a look at a few of the known reasons for all this health deteriorations before offering some solutions.
Understanding Human Nutrition
The works of Dr. Weston Price and Dr. Francis Pottenger are considered a must-read in understanding human nutrition and how we have come to find ourselves in this situation today.
Dr. Weston Price was a dentist in private practice in Cleveland, OH in 1930 when he began to see his patients were presenting with more and more degenerative dental related conditions including deformed dental arches, crooked teeth and multiple cavities, as well as systemic diseases that he reasoned were connected.
The clinical researcher in him got the best of him and he decided to travel the world to study the health of “primitive people,” as was the vernacular of the day, which were disease-free and leading productive lives. He had learned of different areas of the world where these people lived and wanted to know why these people were healthy and others were sick. He wrote that in areas where the “primitives” were sick, it was due to either their adopting of a modern “civilized” diet and/or as a result of famine or food shortage. In the healthy groups he found no heart disease, cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis or all of the other diseases that were beginning to be seen more and more in America.
He found that the Eskimos ate a diet of almost 100 percent fat and fermented meat. The Maori of New Zealand ate all sorts of seafood, fruits, vegetables, and lots of coconuts. The Masai of Africa did not eat plants at all but instead ate beef, milk and organ meats. Some other tribes ate different amounts of meats, fermented grains, fish, fruit and vegetables. The Bantu tribe ate mostly vegetables, fruits and grains and very little meat. The Swiss and isolated mountain villages mostly ate raw milk, cheese, butter, rye bread and occasional bone broth, pickles and meat. Almost all people he studied had diets rich in animal fats, eggs, fermented foods, cheese, butter, yogurt and for some, even insects. Seafood was especially prized. He noted that whenever these healthy groups of people were influenced by the outside “civilized world” and adopted their processed foods into their diet, their health deteriorated.
And being a dentist, he observed in all adopting the “diet of commerce” as he called it a tendency toward narrowed facial structure, crowded and crooked teeth, thin facial bones and overall loss of strength. He concluded that in order for humans to survive and thrive, they must eat a diet of real food, unprocessed and fresh or fermented.
Francis Pottenger, M.D., is the author of the famous study “Pottenger’s Cats: A Study in Nutrition.” Dr. Pottenger was a physician who successfully applied the findings and principles of Dr. Weston Price in his hospital in Monrovia, California in the 1930s and 40s with an emphasis on treating the respiratory diseases of the time, mostly Tuberculosis. He served high fat animal products like raw cream, butter eggs and liver to his patients. He was also a researcher and experimented with the effects of administered adrenal cortex extract to cats that underwent removal of the adrenal glands.
Unfortunately, most of the cats died from the operation. He then began investigating how to increase the cat’s pre-operative health so that he could continue with his experiments. He was perplexed as to why his cats were dying, as he was feeding them raw milk, cod liver oil and cooked meat scraps which included liver, tripe, heart and muscle, all considered appropriate nutrition for his cats. He also noted that cats on his diet began to get sick and develop diminished reproductive capacity along with skeletal deformities in their offspring. As his experiments grew he needed more food for the cats and he began obtaining meat scraps from a local meat packing plant, only this time the meat scraps were fed raw. Shortly afterwards he realized the group fed the raw scraps were in better health than the cooked meat fed group. Those fed the raw scraps survived the operation.
At this point his experiment expanded to over 900 cats between 1932 and 1942, enabling him to study the nutritional effects on cats over multiple generations. He divided the cats into 5 groups, two of which were fed all raw foods consisting of raw meat and raw milk. The three other groups were fed raw meat plus cooked foods of pasteurized milk, evaporated milk or condensed milk. All the cats were also fed cod liver oil.
Only those cats that were fed an all raw diet survived the adrenalectomy surgery. He made interesting observations of all the group’s successive generations. The first, second, third and fourth generations fed the all raw diet all remained healthy, “they had excellent bone structure, freedom from parasites and vermin, easy pregnancies and gentle disposition.” The first generation of cats that were given the cooked food diet developed diseases and illnesses near the end of their lives. The second generation that was given the cooked food diet developed diseases and illnesses in the middle of their lives. The third generation that was being fed the cooked food developed diseases and illnesses in the beginning of their lives and many died before six months of age. No fourth generation was produced: either third generation parents were sterile or fourth generation cats were aborted before birth.
From author Sally Fallon: “all the groups whose diet was partially cooked developed facial deformities of the exact same kind as Dr. Price observed in human groups on the ‘displacing foods of modern commerce’ – narrowed faces, crowded jaws, frail bones and weakened ligaments. They were plagued with parasites, developed all manner of diseases and had difficult pregnancies. Female cats became aggressive while the males became docile. After just three generations, young animals died before reaching adulthood and reproduction ceased.”
The cat study of Dr. Pottenger is unique and there has been no similar study done. Also, the results of the study of the cat experiments have sometimes been misinterpreted. Humans are not cats. The findings do not mean we should only eat raw foods. The Price-Pottenger Foundation states that “Pottenger’s findings must be seen in the context of the Price research and can be interpreted as follows: when the human diet produces ‘facial deformities,’ progressive narrowing of the face and crowding of the teeth, extinction will occur if that diet is followed for several generations. The implication for western civilization, obsessed as it is with refined, highly sweetened convenience foods and low fat items, is profound.
Dr. Pottenger stated, “While no attempt will be made to correlate the changes in the animals studied with malformations found in humans, the similarity is so obvious that parallel pictures will suggest themselves.”
The Change to Better Health
So now we have a basic understanding of how our diet has played a major role in getting ourselves into a state of ill health. So how do we begin to make a change to better health? For most of us it can seem so overwhelming that we get stuck and do absolutely nothing about it.
The secret to approaching this is by using a gradient scale, gradually decreasing foods that are detrimental and we know we shouldn’t be eating and gradually increase eating the foods that are good for us. You would think that in an ideal world we would just be able to make a list of real food and easily switch over to it and leave all the unhealthy foods behind. Unfortunately this is a sure-fire formula for failure. Dr. Freddie Ulan, the developer of Nutrition Response Testing, states, “In 1993 I made a big breakthrough in this subject when I realized that the only way to bring about real lasting improvement in anyone’s health was to use an intelligent, gradient-scale approach to dietary improvement, while supplementing with the exact right nutritional supplement formulas as determined by an accurate nutrition response testing analysis.”
Whenever I ask someone to change their diet immediately and give them an exact diet program to follow, some would follow it faithfully for 3 or 4 weeks, maybe even more. And then? Crash, burn, down and out for good. So, unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. In fact, that is the perfect setup for the yo-yo diet. You’re up, you’re down, you’re on this diet, you’re on that diet, then no diet. In addition to this many people have a misunderstanding of what good food is and what it isn’t. There is much misinformation and unethical advertising out there.
People are not differentiating between real food and food products. Add to that a lack of understanding of nutritional basics, including terms we use all the time like proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates, starches, fats, etc.
Before making a change you first have to know what you are eating now, therefore, a food journal is an indispensable tool. Just write down everything you eat for a few weeks to give yourself a baseline to which you can apply a gradient scale of improvement. This will also force you to confront what you are really eating and drinking. If you are like most people, after the first week you will tell yourself, “that was an off week; I’m not really doing that.” And after the second week you’ll say, “Oh that was an off week, I’m not really doing that.” Around the third week, reality just may just sink in, “hey I really do eat like this!”
You should carry this diet journal with your every day and fill it out as you eat, not afterwards, and definitely not at the end of the day or week and trying to do it by memory. There is also new apps out there to help make this easier that keep track of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats consumed. The more accurate your journal is, the more you can help yourself. So in applying a gradient scale, let’s say that you find yourself drinking 12 cans of soda a day. You know you have to stop this if you desire even a chance of improving your health. The first week you would drink 11 sodas a day, the following week you would go for 10 sodas a day, and the following week 9, etc. Then let’s say you are at 6 cans a day and you completely lose it and start drinking more cans of soda. Simply go back to the amount you were drinking before you went off your program. In this case go back to 7 or 8 cans a day and do that for a couple of weeks. Then you can go back to dropping down to 6 cans again and continue decreasing until the sodas are eliminated from your diet. You can apply this technique for getting off of anything really; candies, cookies, cigarettes, alcohol. It keeps you from shocking your body from withdrawal and allows you to experience small wins which will help you gain confidence to keep improving. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect with this. We all mess up. When you fall off the wagon, keep getting back on. In time, you can turn your diet around and have a profoundly positive effect on your health.
In addition to diet, unfortunately, in this day and age we may have to effectively deal with some or all of the barriers to the healing process. These may include structural interferences such as vertebral subluxations which interfere with proper communications of the nervous system. We may unknowingly have metal toxicities such as mercury, aluminum, arsenic, lead or other heavy metals and there are other environmental toxicities including chlorine, formaldehyde, medications, plastics and other chemicals. There can be immune challenges that may need to be addressed such as viral, bacterial, parasites, yeast and fungus. Surgical scars may cause interferences in the function of the sympathetic nervous system. EMFs which include dirty electricity, cell phones, computers, WI-FI etc., may need to be dealt with. And there are problems with food itself which includes pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, food intolerances and allergies. There are emotional issues which make up the underlying root cause of ill health that need to be handled.
Confused? Head Spinning? All of this can seem overwhelming but it really can be handled if taken one step at a time. So go easy with this. Obviously most would need professional help in many of these areas but anyone can begin the process of rebuilding health through diet. You may be amazed at how switching to a real foods diet can improve your health. Real food is not found in the fat-free aisle, cholesterol –free aisle or the gluten-free aisle.
Begin with a simple step, gradually reducing unhealthy foods and gradually replacing them with healthy foods. It takes time and a willingness to do what it takes to make a change.
For a free copy of our “Good Foods” list, click here. Recommended readings include “The Great Health Heist” by Paul Rosen, “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon, “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and “The Emotion Code” by Dr. Bradley Nelson.
Dr. Donald L. Piccoli is a chiropractic physician certified in advance Nutrition Response Testing and is the director of Holistic Solutions health center in Kensington, CT.