Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Bring on the Fat! (Really!)

When my youngest son was first diagnosed with alopecia areata, we desperately sought answers. All the traditional doctors at the esteemed hospitals told us there was nothing we could do. I refused to believe that and sought alternative treatments. This led us to a doc in Lancaster who practiced what I’ll call ‘wellness medicine.’ He doesn’t have a sign and he isn’t in the book, but through combing the internet, autoimmune message boards, and facebook, we found him.

We waited nearly six months for our appointment. It was pouring rain on the day that Ian and I set out for his office. We found it deep in the heart of the city of Lancaster in a basement of an unmarked old house. I was anxious, but committed to seeing it through so we waited in a damp, dimly lit room for over thirty minutes. The only literature available to read consisted of hippie newsletters full of information on making your own kefir, recipes for bulgur (what?), CSA’s, organic farms, and endless rants against the corrupt food system controlled by our even more corrupt government.

When the doctor appeared, he was a friendly bear of a man and Ian took to him immediately. He talked to us extensively about what Ian currently ate, looked in his mouth, felt his glands, scraped his skin, and took a saliva test. Then he overwhelmed my mind with his talk about how upside down our government’s nutritional standards are. He said Ian needed more animal fats and salt in his diet. He prescribed homeopathic remedies like butter capsules and vitamins he had specifically developed for kids in today’s American food culture. While Ian munched on a piece of beef jerky from the jar on his desk, I frantically wrote down everything he said about raw milk, grass-fed meat, full-fat cheeses, and bacon grease.

He recommended the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, a 675 page tome I would tear through in just two days. To put it lightly – he altered my reality. We didn’t talk about curing alopecia, we talked about making Ian healthy. The rest would happen, or not, but wouldn’t have a chance until Ian’s system was in working order. The processed food and low-fat selections I’d been pushing on him were taxing his system to the point of breakdown.

I remember my husband’s joy when I brought home bacon and sausage, began buying whole milk and full-fat cheeses, and slathering butter and olive oil on everything. Pie crusts made with real lard were out of this world, as was the grass-fed, dry-aged angus beef we bought directly from the farm that raised it.
My trust in what the doc had told us only grew as I began reading confirmation of his claims hidden beneath the popular media. It was there in unheralded studies not funded by the food industry and reports from governments other than the US. My family’s health improved dramatically within weeks and remains far above average to date.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article entitled, “The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease” which exposes the sham our country has been living ever since a charismatic and persuasive, but scientifically inept man named Ancel Benjamin Keys championed the idea that saturated fats raised cholesterol and caused heart attacks.

The food industry jumped on this research, encouraging Americans to give up their butter and lard, and switch to vegetable oils and margarine made with soybean and corn (not olive) oils. Now the average American’s diet is made up of 7-8% of these oils, from about zero in 1900. This is the biggest increase of any food in the past century.

Soon research revealed that people eating diets high in vegetable oils had higher rates of cancer and gallstones. They were also likely to die violent deaths from accidents and suicides. No one could explain these “side effects.” 

We clung to low-fat carbohydrates which loaded our bodies with glucose and fructose which led to the obesity epidemic and increases in Type 2 diabetes.

Next came hydrogenation, a process which stabilized these oils creating an explosion in products loaded with transfats which soon were proven to interfere with basic cellular functioning and raise cholesterol. The condemnation of tranfats sent restaurants back to using liquid vegetable oils, which when heated create oxidation problems long known to generate inflammatory effects, raising the incidence of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

I have to wonder if scientific research creates as many problems as it solves. We’ve spent over 60 years trying to prove Ancel Key’s bad hypothesis right. Countless lives and dollars have been spent on it, yet we are back where we started.

It seems to me that many of the “new” studies are actually directing us to eat the way we ate one hundred years ago. Somehow we can’t leave well-enough alone.

I think the advice I got from my alternative doc (who, by the way, is actually a real MD) in that dank, dark basement office eight years ago, is worth passing on.

Eat like your great grandparents – real food made and grown naturally.

Feed your body the foods it was made to live on.

Don’t shop at the grocery store.

Make your own foods.

Eat plenty of good fat (fats from animals, coconut oil, olive oil – cold-expeller pressed) and plenty of salt (Celtic salt – unprocessed).

Drink A LOT more water.

Don’t eat white sugar or white flour.

Listen to your body – once it’s healthy, it will ask for what it needs. This was probably the scariest thing I learned. How could I trust my body which craved M&M’s, Doritoes, and Diet Coke? Truth – once I started eating differently, I no longer wanted those foods. Now I crave really good olive oil, fresh asparagus, artisan cheeses, dark chocolate, and breads made with so many seeds, nuts and grains you can barely pick them up. Oh, and anything with coconut oil in it, seafood, and fresh tomato pie. I’ve never eaten better in my life and I’ve never felt better.  You can, too. You just have to trust your own body with real food – fats, salts, and all.

 Yummy steaks, asparagus with walnuts (check out the recipe under the recipe tab), oh, and a glass of red wine. Hungry yet?

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