Today, let’s go beyond our normal point of focus on subjects like foods to help remineralize your teeth, how to balance your oral flora and traditional strategies to optimize your oral health like oil pulling.
A second title for this article could be “How to follow your heart to your optimal healing diet”.
As you’ll see below, our heart can literally tell us what the healthiest diet is for us. Talk about a super personalized approach to dialing in exactly what foods are best for each of us…
What is the healthiest diet for humans is a subject up there with religion and politics. Each side commonly takes up arms to ‘prove’ that ‘our side’ is right while exposing the shortcomings and vilifying ‘the other side’.
Plant based diet proponents argue that meat causes cancer and makes the body acidic while paleo leaning proponents argue that humans can’t get sufficient nutrition from eating plants alone and eating animals who bio-accumulate plant nutrition is the way to optimal health.
Even traditional diets seemingly disagree…
In India and other areas around the world, people have lived healthfully for many, many years on a traditional vegetarian based diet high in fermented dairy products. Traditional peoples living in the far northern latitudes who simply don’t have access to plant based foods for prolonged periods of time have thrived almost exclusively on an animal based diet.
In this article, we hope to get beyond the simplistic ‘right diet’ idea and find solutions that each of us can apply to help steer us toward a diet that supports our individual optimized expression of our genetic capacity.
Out beyond right and wrong…
The famous quote from Rumi seems applicable here… “Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is field. I’ll meet you there.”
I recently had the honor of interviewing ‘a rockstar’ in our world. Dr Brandon Brock is hands down the most knowledgeable person in medicine we have ever had the honor of meeting. The interview title is ‘the Connection Between Gum Disease, Mercury and Alzheimer’s’.
Being the lead clinician at Cerebrum Brain Centers, an internationally acclaimed functional neurology clinic based in Dallas, Texas, Dr Brock not only understands the brain but being a ‘functional neurologist’ has one foot firmly rooted in the interrelationship of the brain and rest of the body. Among many gems that he dropped in the short 8 min video interview, one in particular stood out to me.
When I asked him the question about best diets for humans, he said, “Basically, eat foods that don’t cause you irritation or inflammation”.
Is it really that simple?
Is finding the ‘right’ diet for each of us as simple as eating foods that don’t cause the body to have an inflammatory response?
And if so, is there a simple way to determine which foods cause inflammation?
Yes, there is!
And it’s free and very simple. And we will share this powerful strategy in a moment.
But before we share this simple strategy how to determine if a food causes your body to have an inflammatory response, let’s first lay down why inflammation is to be avoided as well as some foundations of a healthy diet.
Why do we want to avoid inflammation?
Simply put, chronic inflammation is the root of all disease.
Yes, acute inflammation is part of the body’s natural defense mechanisms. However, chronic inflammation is trouble no matter how you look at it. When we’re talking about foods that we eat, especially foods we eat regularly, acute inflammation quickly becomes chronic inflammation. And chronic inflammation is a major cause of all disease.
And what modern medicine calls chronic inflammation, traditional medicine calls ‘stagnation’. In fact, a fundamental premise of traditional Chinese medicine is stagnation is at the root of all imbalance (disease).
With this understanding of why we want to avoid eating foods that cause our systems to chronically have an inflammatory response, let’s quickly turn our attention to some essential components of a healthy diet.
On the hunt for minerals and fats…
One foundational contributing factor to disease is nutrient deficiency. Bottom line, it’s really tough for the body to function at peak potential without the necessary nutrition.
We know from the evidence based research of Weston A Price that traditional peoples living on their native diets consumed 4 times the minerals and 10 times the fat soluble vitamins as people living in the US during the 1930s.
So, where do we find these minerals and fat soluble vitamins in foods so we can increase our consumption of them?
Our friend Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness puts it so simply, just eat real food. While perhaps a bit more simplistic than we might state it, just eating real food goes a long way toward increasing the minerals and fat soluble vitamins in our diet.
The plant based proponents are correct. Fresh vegetables and fruits have lots of health giving nutrients, especially if you choose plants grown organically which have been proven to have a higher nutritional composition when compared to plants grown with commercial fertilizers (not to mention the benefits of avoiding the pesticide, herbicide and GMO issues).
Paleo based proponents are also correct. Eating animal based foods provides us with a highly available form of fat soluble vitamins as well as make more bio-available certain key nutrients.
What we are aiming for is what is called ‘nutrient dense’ foods.
To adjust Sean Croxton’s saying a bit, we would say ‘Just Eat Nutrient Dense Foods’. While we’re here, a couple of our very favorite places to find quality diet information online are friends of ours, Katie at WellnessMama and Christa at TheWholeJourney.
What not to eat…
While it’s important to know what foods to eat, we must also consider what foods to avoid.
You see, there’s only so much food we can eat in one day (and actually gain benefit from). If we consume foods that lack the nutrient density we seek, these ‘less than optimal’ foods will displace and crowd out the foods we must eat regularly to get the nutrition necessary to thrive.
For example, we all know how eating something sweet can push back hunger cravings and ‘buy us some time’ until our next meal. One of the problems with eating sweet snacks is the sugars literally suppress our body’s hunger signals for real food. So, we always have to be wary of the ‘sugar demon’ trying to work its way back into our daily diet as eating sugar is an easy way to displace nutrient dense foods from our plate.
Add to that the fact that some foods actually can inhibit the absorption of critical minerals and knowing what not to eat becomes even more important.
The good news is this concept of ‘food displacement’ works both ways. In other words, the more nutrient dense foods we eat, the less ‘space’ we have for foods that really don’t help us achieve the mineral and fat levels our ancestors thrived on.
If you want to really ramp up your ability to fix existing decay and protect against future decay with diet, we invite you to download our FREE resource guide, “How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth”. It’s loaded with easy to apply strategies to help anyone interested in making tooth decay a thing of the past. Plus, you can’t beat the price. 🙂
With these broad brush strokes in place, let’s turn our attention toward a simple yet powerful feedback tool anyone can use to determine if a certain food causes an inflammatory response when they eat it.
The Food Inflammation Feedback Loop…
We first heard of this simple tool from the late Dr Hal Huggins. Knowing that Dr Hal could have some pretty ‘out there’ ideas, we confirmed this strategy with Dr Brandon Brock. Dr Brock explained very clearly, the following strategy works very, very well to help anyone to determine how their body reacts to a specific food.
There are lots of feedback loops like this including other simple strategies like kinesiology (muscle testing). While muscle testing is a very valid tool, we really aspired to find a feedback tool that was more objective and quantitative.
Here’s how to test…
1. Plan on what food you are going to test and set aside 15-20 min of time where you can just relax. Surfing the net or watching tv are perfect times for this test.
2. Take your resting heart rate and make a note of the rate.
(You can simply find your pulse with two fingers on the side of your neck or if you have a smart phone, you can download a free heart rate app that are pretty darn accurate to keep it really simple. Another cool function of these apps is they track your heart rate and you can tag them with ‘resting’ or ‘just woke up’ of whatever you want to track.)
3. Eat some of the food you want to test.
(It’s very helpful to isolate a specific food you want to test as testing a complex meal won’t give you the feedback on which ingredient may be causing an inflammatory response in your system.)
4. Continue to sit in the same location avoiding anything that would cause a raise in heart rate for 15-20 minutes.
5. Take your resting heart rate again and take note of the rate.
How to measure the test…
If your heart rate stayed the same after eating the food being tested, then this food most likely does not cause an inflammatory reaction in your body.
If you had a 5 beat per minute increase, this suggests a small inflammatory response and would be worth retesting to see if it was a fluke or if you indeed have some reactivity to that food.
If you have a 10 best per minute increase, this clearly shows an inflammatory response to that food and bears keeping track to potentially avoid this food until you get on top of why this food is causing your system to ‘run hot’.
An increase greater than 10 suggests a strong reaction (I’ve personally seen increases over 15) and it’s wise to avoid these foods until you have addressed any underlying digestive issues.
How does the test work?
I love the eloquence of this feedback loop. Here’s our understanding of how it works…
1. When we consume a food, it goes into our stomach for digestion then ‘south’ to our small intestine to be absorbed. Food particles begin to pass through the small intestine and be absorbed into the bloodstream as the normal course for nutrient assimilation. As the food particles are absorbed, they come into contact with our white blood cells, the front line of our immune system.
2. As our immune system engages with the food, our white blood cells determine if this food is good for us or is a problem. If the food in question is good for us, our immune system doesn’t sound the alarm. However, if our immune system has identified this food as trouble, white blood cells will send out messengers to stimulate the immune response (aka inflammatory response).
One of these messengers is called interleukin-6 (IL-6).
3. IL-6 is a proinflammatory cytokine. A messenger which alerts the whole immune system to get busy because there’s something in the body that needs to be defended against. One of the primary ways our immune system responds to an alert is to inflame the region to restrict ‘the invader’ from moving around and causing more trouble in other areas of the body. (Like locking down a prison or closing the gate to the castle)
4. When IL-6 is released, it stimulates our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) which raises our heart rate.
So, this is the inner workings why testing your heart rate before and after a meal can offer profound feedback whether your system has identified a specific food as troublesome for your body.
Incidentally, just because your body may be reactive today to a certain food today doesn’t mean you should avoid that food forever. Other factors like the state of health of your small intestine and whether your immune system is just too high strung also play important roles in this scenario. Going into these details will have to wait for other discussions.
However, if your heart rate goes up after eating a specific food consistently, it may be best to avoid that food for the near future to give your body a break from the chronic inflammatory response provoked from that food. It’s also helpful to retest soon just to confirm that the raise in heart rate was from eating the food in question.
Was this helpful for you? Do you have another feedback loop you use to determine if a food is health giving or causes you problems?
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