On “Food Matters:” Nighttime Ramblings of a Herbalist’s Daughter

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Tonight I watched a great documentary on Netflix called “Food Matters.” I liked it because while it addressed serious health issues related to poor nutrition, it wasn’t pessimistic or guilt inducing. Rather it focused on the amazing link between good nutrition and healing, and encouraged its viewers to be empowered to take their well-being into their own hands. The main message was: your body can heal itself if given the right nutrition.

Good nutrition heals the whole body, or rather allows the body to heal its whole self. Eating more fresh, raw, healthy foods is safe, effective and affordable, so barring situations of extreme poverty perhaps, we can all do it. And by doing so, we can treat and even prevent many chronic diseases like heart conditions and cancer.

This goes rather against the grain in our culture of specialized doctors and medications for every disease. The doctors and nutritionists in “Food Matters” sees drugs as toxins meant to target specific symptoms of disease, rather than heal the whole person. While very useful in some cases, the strong occurrence of serious and even lethal side effects from drugs make the return to overall vibrant health difficult when they are taken long term.

Here are a few tidbits from the movie I found interesting. The founder of Alcoholics Anonymous was very depressed. Upon recommendation he tried taking high doses of the vitamin niacin daily and recovered totally. He wanted this to be part of his program but was forbidden. Niacin is natural and safe yet doctors generally will caution against taking too much (ie enough to be effective) because they are not trained in nutrition. They’re trained, funded and promoted by drug companies who stand to lose millions if people cure themselves of chronic diseases, or better yet prevent them through good nutrition.

Another interesting fact was that various alternative health clinics have found giving large doses of intravenous vitamin C very effective for curing cancer. Vitamin C targets cancer cells without harming heathy cells, and has no bad side effects. We might be inclined to rebel against this because it seems too simple, but compare this to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation which harm all cells and cause nausea, hair loss, etc. Large doses of vitamin C kick starts the body’s natural healing process, without harmful side effects, while most typical cancer treatments are themselves carcinogenic.

Our bodies were made to be healthy, and good nutrition can keep them that way. We have the power to cure ourselves but must take responsibility for ourselves. We tend to flock toward the experts and feel we ourselves know nothing. This is a disempowered lie. As the movie says several times, we all know that we are what we eat. We can all take little steps to improve. We can listen to grandma and eat our veggies, and to mom and take our vitamins.

One of the huge problems we have today is absorbing toxins from our food (pesticides, fungicides, etc) and not eliminating them. This is why simple things like drinking lots of water and eating lots of fibre can help us so much. We enable our bodies to pull the toxins out through our guts and release them, instead of reabsorbing them into our blood.

This is especially relevant for me right now as I’m struggling with cholestasis, a pregnancy-related liver condition. In some women, high hormone levels mess with liver and gall bladder function and make it difficult for the body to process and eliminate toxins. The bile salts then get sent into the blood stream under the skin instead of eliminated, and make a person very itchy. Not fun! It took several pregnancies before an OB suggested bran flakes as a way to keep bad things from reabsorbing, and keeping up with them religiously makes a huge difference. As skipping them for a week or two can make the difference between getting this condition or not, I can only imagine that bran fibre must have great health benefits for others as well. The baby just kicked in agreement! Again, an affordable preventative nutritional solution with no harmful side effects.

A relative of mine was very ill with MS. The medication she had to take several times a week made her feel awful flu symptoms and did little to improve her situation, if anything. When she transitioned to a vegan no-oil diet upon recommendation of my Dad, a master herbalist who also studies nutrition, she had vast improvements. Her weight returned to normal. Her energy improved and she has been able to work part-time again and to come visit her nieces and nephew. Of course she still struggles, but it makes enough difference that she firmly sticks with her new diet, and has learned to make delicious food without the things that cause her body harm. She no longer has to give herself shots several times a week with drugs which make her feel terrible.

One of the things Iove about my Dad as a herbal doctor is that he is not an extremist. He’s all about baby steps. Make one little change at a time in order to reclaim your health and vitality. No crash diets. So here are some little health tips that seem doable to me, as a busy mother of soon to be six. I hope that means they are reasonable suggestions for you as well!

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1. Drink more water, especially first thing in the morning. Flush out what’s been sitting inside all night. If you need a swanky new water bottle to remind yourself to keep sipping though out the day, go for it. Fancy it up a little sometimes by adding a squeeze of fresh lemon, which is a great cleanser and liver tonic.

2. Eat more fibre. This is the powerful partner of water that will scour your guts and scrape out those pesky toxins, allowing your body to absorb the good nutrients you want it to. One super simple but effective fiber is All Bran Flakes. You can also get powdered bran to add to homemade pancakes, muffins, etc. Oats are good, too, and brown rice. If your kids won’t eat while wheat pasta, try Cattelli’s Smart Pasta, which looks white but has a higher fiber content. You can also throw nutritious quinoa in stews, wraps etc, without it being too noticeable.

3. Cut down on fried oils. Many dishes are just as delicious when you satay the onions etc in a few tablespoons of veggie broth. Or try a little coconut oil, which endures heat well and adds a nice flavor. If you’d like the omega-three benefit of olive or flaxseed oil, try adding it to your stew or other dish once you’ve finished cooking it, to preserve its goodness.

4. Eat more raw foods. The live enzymes in uncooked fruits and vegetables are so good for you, but are largely destroyed by cooking. How about a fruit and veggie platter at snack time, or on the table before a meal? Or some baby carrots and cucumber served with hummus as an appetizer? Of course salad is fantastic, and if you dislike all the washing and chopping involved, it’s worth it to grab a nice salad mix or some prewashed organic greens. There are all kinds available now, and it’s easy to fancy up your baby lettuces or spinach by throwing on silvered almonds, sliced strawberries or dried cranberries, and a sprinkle of feta cheese.

5. Eat less prepackaged foods and read nutritional labels carefully. The salt content alone in many pre made foods is rather frightening…like a frozen meal that has 30% of your daily sodium….sometimes in half a portion! Not that I’m a queen of this…the other day my kids had alpha-getties for lunch, but it’s good to be aware…and save stuff like this for days you have the flu and can’t cook. It’s good to teach your kids to read the labels, too, so they understand why you say no to certain things. Recently my 8 year old read the pop bottle and exclaimed “Oh, 7-Up has 41 grams of sugar in it, Mummy, that’s why you don’t let us get it much!” “Exactly!”

6. Even if it’s just sometimes, perhaps when on sale, buy some things organic. We can remember the favour we are doing our bodies in not having to spend energy removing extra toxins from pesticides from their systems. I didn’t say always or everything, because that can be expensive, but getting some organic veggies or fruit as a treat is surely a worthwhile investment in our health and that of our families.

7. Portion your treats. I bought some pretty little metal bowls at an East Indian store recently, and though they are likely meant for chutney or other sauces, they are great for little portions of ice-cream or pudding, or even for a handful of trail mix or a few pieces of dark chocolate…instead of munching the whole bag or chocolate bar by mistake while you watch tv!

That’s enough for one day! You’ll likely be hearing more from the herbalist’s daughter…doesn’t that sound like a fun medieval novel? 😉

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6 thoughts on “On “Food Matters:” Nighttime Ramblings of a Herbalist’s Daughter

    1. Thanks for your input and for reading my rather long post! 😉 I think baby steps are a good way to make progress without getting discouraged or overwhelmed. One heathy bite at a time…even if it’s apple slices with the fishy crackers for snack!

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  1. I recently watched this documentary too! Isn’t that funny? A friend loaned it to me and I found it fascinating (even though I wasn’t expecting to!). I picked up the idea of starting the day with lots of water too (though I often forget) and I try to drink mineral water instead of soda (it’s still cold and fizzy). I agree with the idea of baby steps!

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    1. That’s so funny you also just watched it! Good idea with the mineral water; it feels fancy (i.e. worth drinking) without being sugary. Here’s to remembering many sips…I know my attention span is about 0.5 seconds these days so it’s easy to forget! 😉

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