This post SCREAMS what needs to be said about nutrition. The original blog post from Angela Bryant can be found here, on the CrossFit Retribution web site. Angela is a physician’s assistant and competitive powerflifter, expert enough for me!
I hear this from time to time. It makes me a little crazy. Not that there aren’t “experts” out there but by this statement, especially medically speaking, an incredible amount of assumptions are being made by all parties involved. And you know what assume-ing does…We as medical providers assume you are telling us the entire story and the truth and you assume we are telling you the entire story and that we know all there is to know about prevention, treatment and management of the reason for your visit. I will warn you this may turn into a three part series, mostly because I want to share a lot of information while debunking some SERIOUS misinformation.
If I had a dollar for every time I looked a patient in the eye while trying to obtain a medical history in order to help him or her and they flat out LIE to my face, I could have retired years ago. Seriously; and I hardly work, so that is a bold statement for sure. For example: a person shows up with complaints of fatigue and weight gain thinking they need their thyroid tested due to “slow metabolism” (no such thing)! It’s all so astounding because they always say, “I have a really good diet”, “it runs in my family”, “when I was in my 20s, I could eat anything I wanted”, “having kids really put the weight on me and it never came off”, etc, etc… Very mysterious, right? Wrong. Lies, whether they mean to or not. Simply put, you do not obtain a state of morbid obesity OR acquire a myriad of other diseases with a “good diet”, a “slow metabolism” or any of those aforementioned EXCUSES, which puts the blame on anyone/anything but you. Slow metabolism simply means you will NEVER (write this down) outrun your fork. Just because mom and Aunt Susie are obese, have a thyroid issue, high blood pressure, high cholesterol , IBS, crohn’s disease or colitis, (insert any familial malady here), this DOES NOT make it a certainty for you. Just because you inherit the genetic switch does not mean you have to turn it on.
Mom (or Dad) has a thyroid disorder and you do or will have a thyroid disorder only if you are exposed (what I mean here is expose yourself) to the same autoimmune triggers as she or he did to turn on the switch and destroy the organ of choice. This could be gut, rectum, pancreas, liver, thyroid, skin, tympanic membrane (chronic ear infections from an allergy to food or environment, resulting in tube placement) and so on. The body expresses the inflammation in a million different ways. So whatever the issue, by consuming dairy, gluten, corn, eggs, wheat mold (gluten), chocolate (God forbid), to name a few of the most popular allergens/sensitivities, what basically happens is the person EATS themselves into autoimmunity and organ disruption/destruction by continuous exposure to whatever the body and gut do not like.
The CFR community is a completely different story, where members come with minds wide open (mostly) and are making the commitment to change their lives. If you don’t believe what can happen to reverse disease processes in a willing subject, have a discussion with Jim Krajick about his lifelong asthma, or with Mrs. Jane Chadwick about her decades’ long ordeal with eczema in the first month she followed our dietary advice. Unfortunately, the rest of the universe MUCH to my dismay and frustration, live in a world of blame. “And by golly, there’s nothing I can do about it, mom and dad both have it and so does Uncle Pete, and I’m too busy to plan and prepare meals like that, and I can’t afford it because the disease is my destiny, and anyway, my diet is REALLY good.” Last time I heard this at work I forgot myself for a second and called the lady out by saying, “sounds great, tell you what, write everything down you eat in a week and submit if for my review next week”. Guess what?! She didn’t, which is shocking I know.
My delayed point is, when you are less than completely honest with your health care professional or specialist, 15 minutes is not enough time to come up with a differential diagnosis, treatment plan, explain it all so you understand and get into an in-depth discussion of how you “really” eat. A good example of this (true story) is telling the gastroenterologist/provider you are totally paleo/primal/gluten free (but failing to mention your daily sandwich, bagel and six pack of Coors light. FYI this does NOT = a gluten free diet; we’ll cover cheating later). Moreover, people aren’t often receptive to discussions on dietary and lifestyle modifications because it makes more work in an already BUSY life. When trying to get you to follow our immediate advice regarding your problem, if we start in on what you eat and you feel it has nothing to do with said ailment, then you won’t trust or follow any of our advice and we lose the potential for any future breakthroughs to change your life. It’s maddening. This is the reason why, when you get your diagnosis of IBS, eczema, psoriasis, colitis, crohn’s, diabetes, hypothyroidism, constipation, GERD (heartburn), arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ACNE, hemorrhoids , etc, etc, etc that for some crazy reason, the HCP (health care practitioner) failed to mention anything about what you are putting into your mouth. Specialists actually have even less time to broach the subject, yet people hang their hat on the fact they went to a specialist who told them to keep on doing what they’re doing and didn’t mention a thing about what they eat (remember, you said you were gluten and dairy FREE). Moreover, we as HCPs are conditioned by the experience that people refuse to believe it is dietary, simply because it makes life a little harder and it may cause them a little extra work and/or meal planning. Finally, you as the patient also have to understand your provider may differ philosophically from you. These are all part of the reason they simply hand you the pills.
For example, I believe in doing anything possible to change my diet and get appropriate physical activity to change my genetic destiny. In fact, the entire reason I eat the way I do and feel so passionate about our family’s lifestyle and training has zero to do with vanity and everything to do with a positive family history of pretty much every autoimmune disease imaginable on BOTH sides of our family. One ounce of prevention folks…Also, we want to live by example for our awesome kids. They have, unfortunately, been dealt the same genetic hand, but unlike us, they will have the information and education to make the choices to improve their health and hopefully prevent potential diseases life would otherwise have in store. This is where I base MY philosophy as a practitioner.
Alternatively, I work for one of the most brilliant physicians I have ever had the honor of meeting. He nearly scoffs at me when we discuss cholesterol, hypertension, bowel problems…his philosophy is, “Angie, life is short, eat what you like, take the pill, you have to die of something.” And trust me folks, I mean zero disrespect because I could only hope to one day be half the practitioner he is. But you see the disconnect, right? This is why I am bringing it up to this audience, because the fact is we who are willing to open our minds and change our food intake are in the vast minority. Most people feel much like my awesome boss. Therefore, it should be no surprise when you take your child to the pediatrician for that intractable diaper rash, “colic” or as a consult for recurrent /chronic ear infections and consider tube placement that they really don’t address whether your kiddo has a food allergy. They simply hand you the prescription. Because shockingly, for most folks, it is easier to get the tubes/surgery, use frequent antibiotics, treat the asthma, maintain chemotherapy for bowel problems or go ahead and get that bowel resection than it is to change a little ingredient in your diet! Right?!
I have seen many o’ baby with milk or other food allergy in my short time practicing and have probably had 2 moms out of 100 who actually get it. I used to be one of them who did not. Our Jagger didn’t sleep for the first 15 months of his life. And when I say this I am not exaggerating. His belly hurt, as did mine for the first 34 years of my life. I will spare you the functional details of the pain. But believe me when I say it was quality of life altering every.single.day. for a young, “healthy” woman. So when I switched him to lactaid and kept eating cheese, chocolate, low fat milk yogurts and foods with milk in the ingredients that transferred through my breast milk, I had no idea I was continuing the chronic inflammation and causing the poor guy so much discomfort. I thought the prescription acid reflux medicine was supposed to fix all that. It wasn’t until our third came along that I fully understood the extent of our issues with milk and probably gluten and began to feel what normal bowel and skin health were like, for all three of us. Our 4 and 2 year old are so smart about it now that they actually ask, “will this make my belly hurt” prior to eating something new or questionable. Are they paranoid or anxious? No, they are educated. Jagger draws the connection almost immediately. He’s FOUR. He’ll ask for a bite, we warn him it may hurt his belly and he chooses. Mostly he chooses not but occasionally he will go ahead and eat whatever it is and within hours, he will come to us and tell us how much his belly hurts and how he never wants to eat (insert the culprit here) again. Pretty simple huh? One would think, but people simply won’t swallow it.
Funnily enough, despite what I know dairy does to our boys and what it did to me my whole life, our pediatrician urges me to give it to both boys every time I take them for a well visit. She’s a brilliant mind, but imagine what would happen to their gut, skin and who knows what else if I followed that advice! The point I am trying to make is that you have to be your own advocate; moreover, you MUST be honest with yourself. It’s all about being proactive folks and becoming an avid label reader. It’s also about thinking outside the “box” and knowing even the “experts” are human and simply because they don’t address your diet does NOT mean it isn’t important or even possibly the SOLE cause of your problem or disease. It’s just easier to give you the pills. It’s sad, but so true. Am I saying 100% of diseases can be cured by changing your diet and lifestyle, absolutely not, but damn close. And really, what in the world could it hurt? There will be the high cholesterol or high blood pressure that comes along in adolescence or early 20s that will likely always need to be medicated. But chew on this…all these allergies and food sensitivities are a spectrum, much like autism. So if you have a serious sensitivity to a food or ingredient, your disease process may show up earlier in life, like Type I diabetes mellitus (DM) that presents in the first five years of life, or juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which comes on later in childhood, or this crazy new hybrid diabetes that is presenting in teens and early 20s.
I saw a real world example of how this applies the other day in Coop’s classroom. He has a sweet little classmate with Type I DM. It’s sad, she wears the pump, carries around a thermos of water, and the class can’t have treats for any occasion. Poor baby probably knows more about diabetes than I do. Coop’s teacher mentions the mom would like to talk to me because she knows I eat a gluten free diet. Amazingly, this little one was recently diagnosed with celiac disease. How about that? Do you think perhaps the gluten fried her pancreas before they figured it out? I would be willing to bet she is at the extreme end of the spectrum (of gluten sensitivity/allergy) and if she doesn’t get on the ball it will wreak some terrible havoc in the next decade. I wonder what would’ve happened if they had caught the celiac disease as an infant. Maybe it would’ve prevented her diabetes. I am anxious to speak with her mom because I would love to know her eating and sleeping habits as an infant, if she had skin issues, reflux, diaper rash, eczema, flatulence, “colic”. I’ll keep you posted. For the record, nothing drives me crazier than the word “colic” (except maybe people calling all headaches “migraines” but that’s a food allergy related story for another day). You’d scream your ass off and be miserable too if someone kept feeding you something that made you feel like you needed to poop and puke at the same time and felt like a chemical when it entered your stomach, when it left your body, and pretty much the entire time in the interim.
I am not trying to be condescending. I am not saying you’re weak or lesser of a person if you eat gluten or dairy or whatever else. All I want to do is help you and hopefully get you thinking. Because here is the deal, IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM ANYWHERE FROM YOUR LIPS TO YOUR ANUS, IT IS SOMETHING YOU ARE PUTTING IN YOUR MOUTH. THE END. If you have no problems, drive on. And for those of you who have taken the plunge and went paleo or primal, I salute you. And I hope you’ll post to comments how it has changed your quality of life and reversed any long suffered maladies. I also mentioned a quick word about “cheat days”. I used to do this too until I realized it made me feel so crappy I was better off never to eat certain things. For me that hard rule is gluten and dairy. For you, it may be different. But my word of caution is this: one dose of whatever your nemesis is is enough to maintain the low level of inflammation and keep you screwed up. So if you cheat and still suffer, stop with the cheat day. If it’s really a problem for you, you might as well eat it all the time as eat it once a week.
Hopefully I haven’t gone on too much and more hopefully I have given you some serious ‘food for thought’. If this helps even one person reading enjoy a healthier, happier life, then it was completely worth it. Not sure where to start your change? This is the information age, get to researching. Read Mallory’s invaluable blog posts. Check out the Westin A. Price foundation. Buy Robb Wolfe’s book on Amazon or borrow one from one of your awesome CFR friends. We are incredibly fortunate to have an amazing community of folks who are open and receptive and would be more than happy to discuss this with you if you have questions or simply want to share. And it is such a learning process. Each week, even years into it, I learn something new and try to either integrate it or delete it from our lifestyle in hopes to feel better still. Finally, don’t be surprised if your doctor or hcp doesn’t entertain a conversation about it. Don’t hold it against them. But when they give you a stellar blood work review, be sure to tell them what you have done to change it, lower your blood pressure, control your IBS or colitis, or maintain better blood sugar control. There is nothing better than spreading the good word. You never know when this may start the ball rolling in the right direction and translate into them helping the next patient who comes after you, a win-win for all of us.
Please stay tuned for an upcoming article regarding how stress impacts all of this. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to share your thoughts. Until next time…