Food for Wholeness
Doug Flack, Ph.D.
Wholeness is the full expression of our physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual potential as persons, as members of families and larger social groups and as caretakers of the Earth with all its other life forms and their and our environments. We recognize it by its beauty. The roots of wholeness are deep, complex and multigenerational. We have misunderstood the processes from which we develop, thinking little or wrongly about nutrition and incorrectly about how genes function. To reiterate, our genes require the cellular, physiological environment they are bathed in to be nutrient dense to function normally. So-called genetic predispositions to disease are not normally expressed in fully nourished persons. Optimal gene expression requires an optimal nutritional environment. The nutritional and emotional wholeness of both of our parents and their parents and their grandparents etc., plus our own uterine, birth experience, and infant/ childhood experience weigh very heavily. A stimulating balance of emotional, physical, mental, expressive, spiritual and dietary factors in infancy, childhood and beyond can swing development toward wholeness, beginning the process of healing the epigenetic damage handed down and often multiplied over the generations.
Traditional diets of isolated but hugely diverse peoples combined with wonderful natural and contrived experiments (see Stefansson, Pottenger, Price, Shananhan and Graham) and the best modern science give us a clear view of the fundamental and universal elements needed in diets for wholeness. Such diets were highly mineralized, high in fat soluble vitamins and their cofactors, animal fat, protein, fermented foods and appropriately prepared plant foods, and did not include any industrial age refined foods, which now dominate our diets. For immediate access to these common elements, see the list of helpful reading, resources and guidebooks.
Our current understanding of ourselves requires that we know our history. This includes us as Paleolithic beings and the shock of the dawn of grain farming about 10,000 years ago, and our adaptations to survive that change. As agriculture developed to the present, we must look at nomadic herders, hunter-gatherer peoples, and traditional isolated cultures not affected by the major features of developing urban cultures supported in large part by calories from grain farming.
The early grain farmers and their developing cultures completely altered the nature of our diet, but our Paleolithic physiological requirements were not fully met, and epigenetic damage occurred with characteristic health consequences. Interesting and useful ways of processing grains and adding complementary foods arose. Even so, our digestive and hormonal functions typically suffer from constant high carbohydrate input compounded by anti-nutrients and deficiencies. The industrial revolution has again assaulted our Paleolithic legacy through steadily declining nutrient content, not to mention environmental, social, and economic degradation. This revolution’s food processing, plant breeding, animal selection and food inventions, like vegetable oils, margarine, refined sugars, extruded cereals, refined flour foods, fruit juices and soft drinks, have inflicted the greatest dietary and nutritional shock of our entire history, all in a very brief time. Our current mass epidemic of reproductive failure, improper bone and dental development, and degenerative, developmental and behavioral diseases is the consequence. Today, health-span and lifespan are separate concepts. The former has become increasingly foreshortened instead of lengthened. Degenerative disease reaches back through our youth, children, infants and even pregnancies. Epigenetic research shows how damaged genetic expression is passed to future generations and can become magnified or reversed by diet. We will soon collide with real economic distress over health-span/ healthcare. Can we afford our massive breakdown?
Today we suffer from mass cultural confusion about diet and health. We must dismiss nearly all popular magazine articles, numerous books, newspaper reports, government decrees, industry reports and most university views. Our breakdown began generations ago. It is useful to follow the money, both historically and today. Our education is shallow and we have become culturally amnesic. The history of monetary systems, wars and their link to types of governance and farming are illuminating. There are feedback loops impeding our abilities to think, develop will and take creative and positive action. These feedback loops take many forms, social, political, economic, structural, etc. but Rudolph Steiner noted in 1924 that powerful degenerative forces also had their basis in nutrition, broadly defined. The powerful, rapid degeneration induced by modern foods and associated deficiencies and toxins has been demonstrated repeatedly, most vividly by Weston A. Price, but noted at least as early as the mid 19th century. The multigenerational effects were also understood by Stefansson a century ago and by W.A. Price, Francis Pottenger and others, and recently updated and summarized in Shanahan and Shanahan’s 2009 book about epigenetics, Deep Nutrition and Pottenger’s Prophecy: How Food Resets Genes for Wellness or Illness, Gray Graham, Deborah Kesten, Larry Scherwitz.
We are faced with a paradox and choices both as individuals and as a society. The paradox is that most of our calories come from carbohydrates, largely grains (70% worldwide), but physiologically carbohydrates, when they are our principal foods, even properly prepared, subvert our hormonal balance and fail to provide the minerals, complete proteins, animal fats and fat soluble factors, making us vulnerable to a shorter health-span. Additionally, if we become unwell, healing efforts are much less effective until we address the negative effects of incessant blood sugar spiking, causing insulin driven rather than leptin driven hormonal function. Leptin is a kingpin hormone secreted by fat cells that conducts all other hormonal systems, but is derailed by insulin surges from constant carbohydrate inputs. Leptin, among other things, stimulates the positive use of fats as cellular fuel while insulin stimulates fat deposition and has numerous damaging side effects! We were not designed as carbohydrate driven organisms (see Gedgaudas 2009).
To head off this fast-moving degeneration we need a new Vermonters feeding Vermonters diet. Modern processed foods must be eliminated, leaving dollars to purchase real foods. The key elements are raw milk, raw cream, raw butter, raw cheese, eggs and meats, and especially organ meats, from pastured poultry, fresh, grass-fed beef, goat and lamb served in old fashioned traditional dishes and combinations with their full complement of fats. Lard from properly fed, outdoor pigs is very high in vitamin D and will be Vermont’s cod liver oil. Meals start with gelatin rich bone broth soups. Liquid milk consumption should be in raw forms, preferably lightly cultured or drunk warm and lightly spiced. Local fruits would be eaten with cream or cheese. Numerous local vegetables, including bitter varieties, herbs that are important to fat digestion and non-starchy roots would be eaten in various appropriate traditional ways, that include a healthy fat and most importantly in fermented forms. Local nuts, beans and grains will be soaked or sprouted to release phytic acids and enzyme inhibitors. The power of gluten to damage intestinal structure and function necessitates that many people will need to eliminate grains entirely and adopt healing protocols. For most of us, grains will be a secondary or minor food. Fruit juices will always be fermented to reduce sugars and add microorganisms and enzymes, and the only sweetener used will be raw, unheated honey and occasionally maple syrup. Seasoning will be achieved with the use of numerous herbs and spices as well as sea salt. When we feel the rare need for a little decadence we will only fry foods in tallow, lard, or coconut butter. Vegetable oils from grains will be forgotten except for a bit of sesame oil, while warm and tropical environment fruit oils from olives, coconuts and palm could be traded for maple syrup. Our foods will never be lean or fat free and will change with the seasons and our water will be free of fluoride, chlorine and other toxins. Nourishing Traditions is the most complete and accurate guide.
Healing diets will emphasize mineral rich, live probiotic foods high in the numerous fat-soluble factors so deficient in today’s diets. Carbohydrate foods will be very reduced or absent enabling leptin to function normally. By the 2nd generation of the Vermont diet the need for dentistry and much of internal medicine will be greatly diminished. Health care, separate from accident care, will become care by prevention. The great pioneering experiences and work with healing serious illness with foods is contained in books by Stefansson, Price, Pottenger, E. Howell, Porter and numerous 19th and earlier 20th century physicians. Several 21st century medical books and websites now expound these approaches. Other healing and preventative arts from Hahnemann’s homeopathy, through herbalism and numerous modern forms will predominate and save us vast amounts of resources and pain. We ignore this to our great peril.
Notes on References
The rapidly increasing transgenerational (epigenetic) physical degeneration and disease we are experiencing means there is more than urgency that modern peoples regain the deep wisdom about food and wholeness developed and accomplished by former cultures all over the pre-industrialized world. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is the single most complete examination and compendium of this diverse wisdom. It is highlighted in fourteen 1930’s cultures completely isolated from modern processed so called foods. It is truly a must read. Adult friends have shed tears while reading this work, reflecting on their family and friends lives and their suffering from the empty calories, anti-nutrients, imbalanced nutrients, and toxins in the dead, contaminated modern diet. If you won’t read it, an excellent, readable, detailed, referenced summary is given in the first 78 pages of Nourishing Traditions. Please read it.
Other remarkable 20th century researches are summarized in Fat of the Land, and Potttengers Cats. The remaining references cover special issues of diet and health, many with recent scientific and clinical bases. Each of these challenged the badly executed or wrongly interpreted so-called science the led to or excused modern eating habits. Many are guidebooks to health restoration by exceptional practitioners, not hacks and authors with poorly grounded theories, philosophies and words rather than excellent scholarship, science and actual practice.
Only two of these references do not get my wholehearted endorsement, Deep Nutrition, and also Pottenger’s Prophecy.
- Deep Nutrition is an easy and informative read. However, it does need revision; remarkably, it does not use all the excellent existing traditional foods information but invents its own four pillars. There are factual inaccuracies and omissions of great earlier research.
- Pottenger’s Prophecy is not so well written, often repetitive, and uneven in content and factual accuracy. It needs some serious revision concerning foods, fat and milk in particular. It does present really interesting research findings on epigenetics and diet and multigenerational effects. It also brings in mind/body/social epigenetic impacts. I lament the absence of many important references and the occasional shallow coverage as in chapter 7. Primal Body, Primal Mind is far superior as a new resource and Nourishing Traditions is indispensable.
Helpful Reading, Resources and Guide Books
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, Weston A. Price 1939 (revised 1945; reprinted and expanded 2009)
- Weston A. Price foundation website, and Wise Traditions magazine back issues. Also, chapter leaders to call to locate local foods and other healing resources.
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, Ph.D.
- The Price- Pottenger Foundation
- Eat Fat, Lose Fat, Mary Enig PhD and Sally Fallon, 2005 (chapter 7- Health Recovery
- Know Your Fats, Mary Enig, Ph.D. 2000
- The Cholesterol Myths, Uffe Ravnskov, MD PhD
- The Untold Story of Milk, Ron Schmid, ND (revised 2009)
- OrganicPastures.com for great current information on raw milk, safety, etc.
Handbook of Milk Composition, Robert Jensen 1995
- Life without Bread, C. Allan, Ph.D. and Wolfgang Lutz, MD 2000
- Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Natasha Campbell McBride, MD, MMed (neurology), MMedSa (nutrition)
- Put Your Heart in Your Mouth, Natasha Campbell McBride, MD, MMed (neurology), MMedSa (nutrition)
- The Fat of The Land, Vilhjalmur Stefansson 1956
- Cancer: Disease of Civilization, V. Stefansson 1960 (also on this topic, Andre Voisin Soil, Grass and Cancer and Albrechts write up on soil and cancer)
- Mycomedicinals, Paul Stamets 2002
- Milk Diet as a Remedy For Chronic Disease, Charles Sanford Porter, MD(11 editions 1905-1926 available from Organic Pastures 1-877-729-6455 or 262-692-3086)
- Pottengers Cats: A Study in Nutrition, Francis M. Pottenger, MD
- Several recent books by Nicholas Gonzalez, MD
- The Fourfold Path to Healing, Thomas Cowan, MD 2007
- Primal Body, Primal Mind, Nora T. Gedgaudas 2009
- Pottenger’s Prophecy: How Food Resets Genes for Wellness or Illness, Gray Graham, Deborah Kesten, Larry Scherwitz 2011
- Deep Nutrition, Why your Genes Need Traditional Food, Catherine Shanahan, MD, Luke Shanahan
- Sulfur Deficiency, Stephanie Seneff Ph.D. (Wise Traditions mag. Summer 2011 pages 17-28)
- Meat, a Benign Extravagance. Simon Fairlie 2010
- Fixing the System, Adrian Kuzminsky, 2008
- Web of Debt, Ellen H. Brown, 2010